Tribeca Film Festival 2011

Updated through 5/5.

"At first it was about neighborhood," begins Eric Hynes in the Voice. "Then it was about stars, parties, and supersizing. But finally, for its 10th incarnation, the Tribeca Film Festival (April 20-May 1) seems to be about movies. Gone are the superfluous, attention-sucking Hollywood premieres (Tom Cruise on a Jet Ski, anyone?), and few are the big-name, low-quality vanity projects. Several years into a vital slimming of the slate — the fest topped out at 176 films in 2005; this year, it's a manageable 93 — TFF remains New York's largest film survey."

To celebrate Tribeca's 10th, we're running a retrospective of some of the best films the festival's shown over the past decade here at MUBI. Happy viewing.

"A notoriously uneven assemblage of titles, Tribeca aspires toward something like a mini Toronto, but despite, in recent years, bringing such important films as Jia Zhangke's Still Life and Mohammad Rasoulof's The White Meadows to Gotham for the first time, it lacks not only the cachet, but the quality of offering, of its similarly overstuffed counterpart to the north. All of which can make the pleasure of discovery that much more satisfying." Introducing Slant's special section on the festival, where reviews are stacking up day after day, Andrew Schenker recommends concentrating on the Viewpoints and Cinemania sections.

"Nowadays Tribeca is not considered a threat to the status quo but a useful cultural stimulant that has been good for movies and good for New York, particularly the Lower Manhattan neighborhood left broken in the wake of 9/11," argues Stephen Holden in the New York Times. "Estimates of the economic activity it has generated since its inception exceed $600 million… The selections, however quirky, offer crucial exposure, as well as a marketing platform, for serious independent filmmakers from around the world… Tribeca Film, the festival's movie releasing arm, will also introduce 26 films via video on demand over the coming months. Among more than 5,600 submissions from 40 countries, this year's crop includes 47 world premieres. Of the 104 feature film directors represented, 27 are women." Also at the NYT, Mike Hale previews the ESPN Sports Film series.

"Through the efforts of [executive director Nancy] Schafer (who was a head programmer before becoming executive director in 2007), director of programming David Kwok and senior programmer Genna Terranova, the festival prides itself on searching the world for titles that will resonate with New York City's multicultural audiences," writes Jason Guerrasio for Filmmaker. "Though complaints about Tribeca have often focused on its programming being too broad in scope, or, more recently, its lack of screenings in its former home base of Lower Manhattan, Schafer believes the long lines at their main hub in the Chelsea section of New York prove people like what Tribeca is offering. (Schafer on the lack of screenings downtown: 'If I can have someone build me a multiplex like they did in Toronto I would be so happy, but it's not going to happen anytime soon, so we're fixed where we are.')"

"We are part of the DNA of New York City, and I believe that our festival is helping to address the concerns of the city and the industry that is so much a part of it," writes Schafer at indieWIRE, where Peter Knegt has the full list of all the members of all the juries: "David O Russell, David Gordon Green, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson, Christine Vachon, Souleymane Cissé, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Rainn Wilson, Anna Kendrick, Michael Cera, Denis Leary, Atom Egoyan and Fran Lebowitz are among the 38 Festival Jurors, which will together award $175,000 in cash and prizes." IndieWIRE's also been interviewing directors with films at the festival.

Umpteen publications have been posting lists of "must-sees" over the past days and weeks and, with an eye on the titles most often mentioned (as well as on those that, sight unseen, simply look the most promising), here's a sampling from those lists:

 


Nick Schager in the Voice on Beyond the Black Rainbow: "Panos Cosmatos's sci-fi saga is a head-scratcher, a patience-tester, and a mind-bender. Set in an alterna-reality 1983, its tale — of a lunatic research doctor, his young female patient/captive, and happiness-producing pills that lead to alien madness — is unadulterated oblique insanity told via a pastiche style indebted not just to famed auteurs like Kubrick and Argento but also 70s and 80s future-fantasy B-movies. Whether it all makes sense is irrelevant; it's a dystopian nightmare of inkblot hellholes, psychic powers, and bald demons into which one doesn't enter so much as plummet." More from Simon Abrams (Slant, 3.5/4) and Ben Umstead (Twitch). Update, 4/25: "What Amer was to giallo, this menacing low-budget acid trip is to 1960s and 70s sci-fi movies," writes Steve Dollar at GreenCine Daily. Update, 4/26: Nick Schager interviews Cosmatos for GC Daily.

Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York on Bombay Beach: "The California town of Bombay Beach — a ravaged relic of the 1960s development boom located on the environmentally erratic Salton Sea — is the setting for Alma Har'el's lyrical documentary. We meet an unsurprisingly eclectic group of subjects (a bipolar seven-year-old; a grizzled eightysomething poet). Yet the movie constantly upends all the usual nonfiction tropes, from its sweepingly elliptical imagery (there are barely any talking heads) to several lovingly improvised musical numbers set to tunes by Beirut and Bob Dylan." TONY also looks back on the best of ten years of the festival. Update, 4/21: Pamela Cohn interviews Alma Har'el at Hammer to Nail. More from Andrew Schenker (Slant, 2/4). Updates, 4/25: More from Eric Kohn (indieWIRE) and Anthony Kaufman.

Bilge Ebiri for Vulture on Let the Bullets Fly: "Chinese actor-director Jiang Wen made one of the last decade's most corrosively brilliant and despairing films, 2000's grim Japanese-occupation drama Devils on the Doorstep. On a very obvious level, his latest historical epic-action-comedy, with its breakneck pacing and go-for-broke humor, is nothing like that earlier film. But with its generous heaps of ghastly violence and cavalier willingness to kill off major characters, this new one is in some ways even more disturbing. Utterly insane." Update, 4/25: More from Steven Zeitchik (Los Angeles Times).

Spout's Daniel Walber on Cinema Komunisto: "The films of 1960s and 70s Yugoslavia are not the sort of thing even most hardcore cinephiles are familiar with, but this documentary seems determined to change that. A history of Marshall Tito's grand and state-subsidized production city (think Cinecittà but with more Communist kitsch), it is not only informative but surprisingly entertaining. Driven by interviews with directors, producers, actors and the like (even the dictator's personal projectionist) and some fantastic clips of the period's greatest films, Cinema Komunisto sheds light on a much-forgotten chapter in European movie history. Also, there's footage of Orson Welles acting in Serbo-Croatian that really must be see." More from Lauren Wissot (Slant, 3/4).

Jason Guerrasio for Cinematical (or Moviefone or whatever) on Treatment: "The producers of 2009 Sundance hit Humpday reunite with one of the film's stars, Joshua Leonard, to make another low-budget comedy that deals with male relationships and growing up. Leonard (Leonard) and Nelson (Sean Nelson, who's also the co-director) are a best-friends-screenwriting-team who are now in their 30s and are desperate to sell their work. Leonard decides to get their latest script to a huge star, the only problem, she's in rehab. With Nelson's backing, Leonard gets into the same rehab facility leading to comical yet poignant situations that will test Leonard and Nelson's friendship."

"What's a film festival good for if not to explore narrative world cinema that offers insight into current events?" asks Vanity Fair's John Lopez. "Considering that Egyptian youth just toppled one of the Arab world's longest-standing leaders, Hesham Issawi's Cairo Exit seems like a good opportunity to zero in on what it means to be young, pregnant, and anxious in modern Egypt."

"While music has cropped up in past editions of Tribeca, with movies about the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, this year's installment has a particularly tuneful focus and kicks off with an outdoor screening of Cameron Crowe's The Union, a documentary about Elton John [and Leon Russell]," writes Stephen Zeitchik in the Los Angeles Times. "There are documentaries about mainstream rock stars (Talihina Sky, which looks at the band Kings of Leon); aging metal icons (God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, a take on his background and current life); niche acts (The Swell Season, about an Irish folk duo [Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová of Once]); the 1990s club scene (Limelight, about the music and drugs of the legendary New York hotspot); and timeless divas (Carol Channing: Larger Than Life)."

 


Back to Eric Hynes in the Voice, here on "six more not to miss": "In The Miners' Hymns, Bill Morrison elegantly arranges archival footage to eulogize a lost way of life for English laborers and their communities [Update, 4/23: Nicolas Rapold talks with Morrison for the Wall Street Journal; Update, 4/25: A bit more from Ben Umstead (Twitch)], while Nancy Buirski combines vintage footage with reflective interviews to tell The Loving Story, the interracial romance that defeated America's miscegenation laws. Turn Me On, Goddammit is a Norwegian coming-of-age comedy about a sex-ready teen girl, while She Monkeys refracts those same life changes through a moody thriller; and as doc The Bully Project gives a gut-wrenching eyewitness account of the evil that today's American school kids do to one another, Peter Mullan's NEDS is an unsparing fictional journey back to the ceaseless corporal brutality of the Glaswegian 70s. Mullan offers no false hope in the end, but rather a lovely little allegorical flourish, a brief moment of beauty after all that horror — which is the least we can ask for from life, or film festivals."

Updates: Movieline's ST VanAirsdale talks with Adrien Brody about Detachment: "Brody's collaboration with maverick director Tony Kaye (American History X, Lake of Fire) features the Oscar winner as a substitute New York public school teacher in the throes of a crisis vaguely mirroring those in the education system around him. Also included in the ensemble cast are Christina Hendricks, Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Bryan Cranston, Tim Blake Nelson and Blythe Danner." Updates, 4/26: "Kaye's worldview remains unpleasant and decidedly un-PC," writes Stephen Saito for IFC, "but all with the sole intention to provoke. African-Americans are portrayed as animals that need to be tamed, Christina Hendricks appears in the film mostly to be spat on (by a black student, of course, who is 'going to get my n***ers to gang-rape you') and serve as female company for Brody, and nearly every situation is taken to its extreme (and mostly predictable) end. However, Kaye's lack of subtlety is made up for by his facility with images, which even as they include Nazi propaganda and gonorrhea-infected vaginas (in the film's funniest scene, no less), somehow work in that indescribable harmony that's the mark of a true artist." More from Eric Kohn (indieWIRE).

Back at Vulture, Bilge Ebiri talks with Sam Shepard about Blackthorn, which "marks the welcome return of the actor-playwright-director and all-around Renaissance man as a leading man, playing an aging, grizzled Butch Cassidy hiding out in the mountains of Bolivia under an assumed name. Directed by Mateo Gil (perhaps best known to American moviegoers as the Spanish screenwriter of the Alejandro Amenábar films The Sea Inside and Open Your Eyes), Blackthorn is, like much of Shepard's own work, deceptively complex." Update, 4/26: More from Henry Stewart (L). Update, 4/27: More from Nick Schager (Slant, 1.5/4).

"Pierre Thoretton's L'Amour Fou "is a consummately clear-headed documentary that honors the allure of its subject by being personal but never intimately so," writes Simon Abrams. Thoretton's directorial debut "uses the posthumous auction of Yves Saint Laurent and business partner and lover Pierre Bergé's enormous art collection as a very basic lens through which to view Saint Laurent's life as an enigma."

 


Also in Slant, Lauren Wissot: "The Good Life is a perfect wedding of dynamic characters and subject. Though Eva Mulvad's delightful study of the Beckmanns — a once-wealthy Danish mother and her middle-aged daughter, Anne Mette, now living together in a small apartment in Portugal with only the elderly woman's pension as income — is being touted as a modern-day Grey Gardens, that comparison is misleading. Whereas the Maysles were accused of exploitation for training their lens on a squalor-dwelling, mother-daughter duo whose sanity could be called into question, these snappy dames, whose back-and-forth banter has the comedic timing of a vaudeville act, are undeniably of sound minds — which makes their fall into hard times all the more poignant."

"As good as the festival has been for De Niro's community, it's probably been even better for the actor's bank account and investment portfolio." Ray Gustini explains at the Atlantic Wire.

Updates, 4/21: IndieWIRE presents "A Guide to All the Films."

Opening with Crowe's The Union, "Team Tribeca nailed it," argues Movieline's ST VanAirsdale. The doc "is a success if only because it had a whole riverfront terrace full of New Yorkers walking away saying, 'Wow. Leon Russell, huh?' Whatever Elton John's emotional payoff, that's the film both Russell and Tribeca needed more than anything at this point in their histories."

Henry Stewart for the L on Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado's horror film, Rabies: "The subtextual implications are glaring. Sure, a real external danger threatens these Israelis, but the immediate threat is each other, and a landscape of their own design, scarred by decades of war. (The film is relentlessly depressing, cruel even, and so mean to its characters that you have to start laughing.) There is no Cujo here — the title is metaphoric, encapsulating the film's frothing mad Israelis hellbent on a brutality so ubiquitous it seems contagious. The last line? A character bemoaning that his country is 'full of shits.' Take that, Netanyahu." Update, 4/26: Salon's Andrew O'Hehir finds it "takes the standard stupid-kids-in-the-woods formula and inverts it to delicious, hilarious and extremely mean effect." Update, 4/27: More from Matt Singer (IFC).

Update, 4/22: Mike Hale in the New York Times on the Cinemania section, "a catch-all category for horror movies, over-the-top crime dramas, sex farces and other disreputable fare — the fun stuff, in other words": "And every year, there are a few that hit dead center. Taking the honors in 2011 is the Dutch film Saint, a smart and consistently witty horror comedy that features a ghostly St Nicholas — that's Santa Claus to us — as a horse-riding, lance-wielding mass murderer of naughty children. The director, Dick Maas, made a small splash in the United States in 1988 with Amsterdamned, about a canal-dwelling serial killer. In Saint he plays off of Dutch traditions — the homicidal St. Nick arrives in the Netherlands by boat from his home in Spain on Dec 5, St Nicholas Eve, as he should — but throws in infanticide, SWAT teams, Ugly-American tourists and a long-term government-church cover-up of the saint's true nature." And, as Steven Zeitchik reports in the Los Angeles Times, IFC Midnight has picked up US rights. Update, 4/27: More from Chris Cabin (Slant, 1/4).

Updates, 4/23: "Underwater Love, Shinji Imaoka's deliriously loopy creation, is a self-described 'pink musical,' but it soon becomes clear that even that compound descriptor won't begin to do justice to the film's nutty reach," writes Andrew Schenker in Slant. "Opening on a lavender screen that signals the director's intention to riff on the softcore pinku eiga genre of Japanese cinema, the film quickly moves into far more outré territory as all-star cinematographer Christopher Doyle frames a lotus field from which emerges an odd creature that looks human but has a small tortoise shell on his head and a beak for a face that's very obviously a plastic mask. As it turns out, this creature is the folkloric Japanese being known as the kappa, a mischievous man-beast hybrid whose appearance establishes the film's fantastical side. What isn't immediately clear is that, for all its intentional silliness, Imaoka's movie is really a love story — and a halfway convincing one at that." Nick Schager gives it a B+.

Back in Slant, Nick Schager argues that Fred Cavayé's Point Blank "is at once poised and perfunctory, aesthetically assured but narratively challenged — a lean B-movie ride that never manages to transcend its inherent status as a tension-free fairy tale about men's inherent roles as heroic spousal and paternal saviors."

"Claudio Cupellini's A Quiet Life works best if you think of it as a divergent alternative scenario for Toni Servillo's character in The Consequences of Love," suggests Simon Abrams. "Servillo plays Rosario, a gangster that flees to Germany so that he can leave his past life behind him and start over again. The idea of self-imposed exile is central to all of Paolo Sorrentino's films, but a unique parallel between The Consequences of Love and A Quiet Life exists, since Servillo's character in the former chooses exile under the watchful eyes of his captors instead of exile abroad like Rosario does." More from Daniel Walber (Spout).

 


David Gelb's documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi "is food porn par excellence, and there's no way you won't leave this film not hankering for some sushi of your own," promises Kenji Fujishima.

For Chris Barsanti, writing at PopMatters, Tsui Hark's Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame "plods along from one overwritten and overdesigned scene to the next. The costumes' stiffness sucks the giddiness out of frequently preposterous plot turns (the demonic deer, for one). And Sammo Hung's fight choreography rarely thrills, as Hark shoots too close-in and surrounds it with cartoonish CGI. In lieu of excitement, the film offers courtly pageantry, punctuated by a subtext that demands unity of the realm over everything else." More from Simon Abrams (Slant, 3/4). Update, 4/26: More from R Emmet Sweeney (TCM).

Update, 4/24: "As someone that only watches films rather than make them, my favorite thing about the RED camera, the digital camera that has democratized high quality imagery amongst low budget filmmakers, is the clarity not only of the imagery, but the specificity it allows for regional writer/directors to bring out the best in their hometown." Stephen Saito for IFC: "In recent years, we've seen Portland as it's never been shot before by Aaron Katz and crew in Cold Weather, the Joe Maggio-directed Tribeca selection The Last Rites of Joe May captures Chicago in a different light and then there's Stuck Between Stations, the feature debut of Brady Kiernan, a Minneapolis native who, with cinematographer Bo Hakala, creates a portrait of the city that wouldn't seem out of place if it were framed in the Walker Art Center. Ultimately, that's what separates Kiernan's film from the so many others that have been born in the wake of Before Sunrise, the platonic yet romantic drama that launched a thousand walk-and-talk independent films that make up for limited budgets with lots of profound (or so the filmmakers would think) statements about life…. [I]t was to my great surprise while watching Stuck Between Stations that there is still a place for them when they have strong performers at their center and an interesting place to stroll." More from Christopher Campbell at Spout. Update, 4/26: More from Chris Cabin (Slant, 1/4).

Updates, 4/25: "If you thought the portrait of downscale, dysfunctional Long Island suburbia in L.I.E. was depressing, wait till you see Ron Eldard as the eponymous hero of Roadie, playing a 40something guy who gets fired by Blue Öyster Cult (!) after 26 years of shlepping their gear (!!), and winds up back home in Queens doing way too much coke with a couple he knew a long time ago." Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "After L.I.E., [Michael] Cuesta made a gritty and compelling tween-angst saga called Twelve and Holding in the mid-2000s, which failed to generate any buzz, and since then he's largely made a living directing TV episodes (most notably for Six Feet Under and Dexter). Roadie, which premiered on Saturday night to a packed and supportive crowd at the Tribeca Film Festival, is clearly a longtime labor of love, and I simultaneously want to endorse its ambition and nerve and report that it's a very mixed bag."

In She Monkeys, "15-year-old Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser) falls under the sway of the slightly older Cassandra (Linda Molin), who befriends her when she joins a competitive equestrian acrobatic team," writes Steve Dollar at GreenCine Daily. "How the manipulative Cassandra views her new friend is up for grabs, as the tension between them suggests they are becoming lovers, or frenemies, or cold-hearted competitors or all of the above. The film leaves a lot to the imagination, making metaphoric use of the lingering summer light to frame the recklessness and uncertainty of youth. Director Lisa Aschan, who took the prize for best new Nordic film at this year's Göteberg film festival, introduces a third character into the charged dynamic: Emma's 8-year-old sister Sara (Isabelle Lindquist), a precocious troublemaker who insists on buying a leopard-print bikini, so she can flirt with an older male cousin who babysits her. The tone pulls up shy of the creepy factor that's a signature of Todd Solondz, thankfully, but adds another dimension to the director's theme of 'sex is power and power is sex.'"

The New Yorker's Richard Brody on Grey Matter: "In the brisk, luminous serenity of middle-class Kigali, Balthazar (Hervé Kimenyi), a wry, intense young Rwandan filmmaker with a bookshelf full of Western classics and a head full of Western movies, prepares to make his first feature film, come what may, and muses about it into the lens of his video camera. This is the setup of the young Rwandan director Kivu Ruhorahoza, who offers a searing political view of the minor metropolis’s cultural modernity and modest prosperity." More from Kenji Fujishima (Slant, 3/4).

The LAT's Steven Zeitchik talks with Alex Gibney about his new doc, Catching Hell, focusing on what really happened when, in 1993, Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman caught a foul, "an act that set into motion a catastrophic collapse and the team missing the World Series." The film "is a companion piece of sorts to Gibney's Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer from last year. In that film, the director also takes a perceived public enemy and shows a more complicated truth. 'It seems to be one of the things I'm really interested in,' he said. 'You take a public moment and you break it down and you begin to dig into it. And when you dig you find things you don't expect.'" More from Christopher Rosen at Movieline. New York's Will Leitch argues that "Gibney's journalistic diligence on the Bartman play is the strongest aspect of the film, but most of the rest of it doesn't work."

"While the behavior of some sadistic students is reprehensible, the craven strategies employed by teachers and administrators to avoid responsibility for those in their care might be even more shocking in Lee Hirsch's documentary, The Bully Project," writes Joe Bendel.

"The irony doesn't seem lost on Massy Tadjedin that it's taken over two years to release her directorial debut that takes place over the course of an evening, though if she has her way, the conversation about Last Night will outlast both," writes Stephen Saito, introducing his interview with the director for IFC. "A prisoner of Miramax's slate of films that were orphaned when ownership of the company changed hands, the drama stars Sam Worthington and Keira Knightley as Michael and Joanna, a married couple that begin to have their doubts about each other when they're separated by a business trip where Michael finds himself tempted by a co-worker (Eva Mendes) and Joanna bumps into a former flame (Guillaume Canet)."

 

Updates, 4/26: Cinespect has posted its second roundup. A sampling. "Set in the Spanish underworld of cops and criminals, Neon Flesh follows Ricky (Mario Casas) a young man that opens up a brothel in hopes of winning the love of his mother, Pura, a seasoned prostitute who abandoned him when he was 12," writes D Indalecio Guzmán. "Writer/director Paco Cabezas knows how to create a visual feast of a film, full of clever camera work, attractive bodies, and grimy, low-light vignettes reminiscent of David Fincher during his Seven and Fight Club years. However, his screenwriting skills leave much to be desired." L Caldoran: "Blending the decrepit asylum setting of Session 9, the jerky handheld shakycam of The Blair Witch Project, and the charlatan-getting-supernatural-comeuppance theme of The Last Exorcism, [The Vicious Brothers'] Grave Encounters includes enough unexpected twists to differentiate it from other such films and make it a fun ride, albeit nowhere near as clever as fellow pseudo-true mockumentary The Troll Hunter (also on this year's bill)." For Carlos J Segura, in Gone, filmmakers Gretchen and John Morning "have in their interview subject, Kathy Gilleran, a strong, vulnerable, sympathetic, and remarkable person that ever so slightly outweighs the problem of using a narrative structure that plays like a mystery waiting to be solved. Kathy's story is a chilling and tragic one about the search for her missing son gay son, Aeryn."

Steve Dollar posts a new roundup for the Wall Street Journal covering Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Blackthorn, Beyond the Black Rainbow, Underwater Love and A Matter of Taste, in which "the successful proprietor of the TriBeCa restaurant Corton, Paul Liebrandt makes a charismatic focus for Sally Rowe's camera in this kitchen confidential. While Mr Liebrandt speaks passionately about his cooking philosophy, Ms Rowe builds a climactic drama out of a looming make-or-break review from a demanding and influential critic. The chef's self-deprecating wit keeps his Olympian ambitions on a human scale, but as he pushes to realize them the film turns into a gastronomic thriller."

"If you are considering watching her documentary, Carolyn Cassady thinks you are kind of an idiot," writes Joe Bendel. "She has no illusions regarding people's interest in her. Frankly, it is not about her at all, but the men she was romantically involved with: Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac. However, Ms Cassady is never shy correcting the myths and legends about the beats she knew so well in Maria Ramström and Malin Korkeasalo's Love Always, Carolyn…. Among fans, the appetite for all things Beat is eternal. For the less ravenous, Always is a bit long, even at 70 minutes."

"From its wintry setting to its subject matter to its cast, [Gaby Dellal's] Angels Crest reminded me of David Gordon Green's Snow Angels, an equally bleak but much better movie," writes Stephen Saito at IFC. "It had the elements Angels Crest is lacking: a sharper eye to detail and a real sense of how this tragedy touched the lives of a community."

"A surprisingly intimate creature feature, The Troll Hunter is great fun," finds Todd Brown at Twitch.

Updates, 4/27: Koran by Heart is "a movie about the International Holy Quran Competition, held every year in Cairo, where students from all over the Muslim world show up to demonstrate their total recall of Islam's gospel, all 600 pages of it. It's Spellbound plus a poetry slam. Plus Islamic fundamentalism. Exactly: OMG." Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "It's a colorful and dramatic saga of human competition, with a fascinating setting and utterly irresistible pint-sized heroes, but it doesn't soft-pedal the things about 21st-century Islam that are likely to make at least some Western viewers uncomfortable." Update, 2/28: More from Chris Barsanti (PopMatters).

"Last night saw a bit of history made as Tribeca Film Festival showcased Rockstar Games' LA Noire in a special event, marking the first time a video game's ever gotten the spotlight at the storied cinema celebration." Evan Narcisse reports for IFC.

Kenji Fujishima: "As a North Korean defector now living in South Korea, Jeon Seung-chul, the based-on-true-life main character of writer/director/star Park Jung-bum's debut feature, The Journals of Musan, endures all sorts of marginalization and abuse as he barely scrapes a living together putting up posters on walls. Truth be told, Park's film itself sometimes feels like punishment, from its Dardennes-like aesthetic to its general humorlessness. Nevertheless, there are glimmers of a real, if amazingly bleak, worldview underlying its dour surface, as well as a tough-minded compassion that one might even go so far as to call humanism, that makes the end result feel less like the condescending wallow in ugliness that one might have expected."

Also in Slant, Robert Tumas: "Julien Leclercq's The Assault works hard at finding its human factor, the thread linking the cold-blooded facts of the 1994 hijacking by Muslim extremists of Air France Flight 8969 and the people on the plane. The film's characters, especially the GIGN (think American SWAT team) task force leader, Theirry (Vincent Elbaz), who leads the charge at the end, never feel larger than life. Technically, the film is untouchable; Leclercq, in his sophomore feature effort, has proven himself again, and if this were just another action thriller about fictional events there would be nothing to say, save for 'good job.' But The Assault raises many more questions than it answers, and its overall objective is puzzling and remains shrouded in political agenda."

Updates, 4/28: The LAT's Steven Zeitchik blurbs "five noteworthy entries from this year's festival" and offers "some ideas about where to watch them in the coming months."

For IFC, Stephen Saito talks with Peter Mullan about Neds.

 

Spout's Daniel Walber looks back on the five films from the World Narrative Competition lineup that he's liked best and among them is Black Butterflies: "I was not familiar with the work of Ingrid Jonker going into this film, but as I walked out of the theater the first thing I wanted to do was track down a collection of her poems. That alone would be a compliment to director Paula van der Oest and the intense performance of Carice van Houten, but there’s more. When I did find some of Jonker’s poems (which is as of yet not easy to do in the US), it hit me that this film is more than just a compelling version of her life. It’s a powerful homage to the spirit of her work, bringing the ache of her love poems and the passion of her political outcry into a narrative and onto the screen." Carlos J Segura talks with van Houten and van der Oest for Cinespect.

Updates, 4/29: The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature goes to Lisa Aschan's She Monkeys, "an evocative Swedish thriller about the burgeoning, sexually explosive rivalry between a pair of teenage girls engrossed in the world of competitive equestrian acrobatics," as Brandon Harris describes it in his roundup of all the awards for Filmmaker. Named Best Feature in the World Documentary Competition: Alma Har'el's "stunningly shot, formally audacious" Bombay Beach. "The prize for best new narrative director went to the South Korean director Park Jung-Bum for his shattering first feature The Journals of Musan…. South Korea may have found its Ronald Bronstein or, better yet, its Chantal Akerman. Other winners included Dutch actress Carice Van Houten (Black Book), who won the best actress prize for her turn as the suicidal South African poet Ingrid Jonker in Paula van der Oest's Academy Award-nominated biopic Black Butterflies; Best Actor [goes to] Shami Bizimana for his performance as a Rwandan filmmaker in Kiva Ruhorahoza's Grey Matter, the first homegrown narrative film to ever emerge from Rwandan soil; and Luisa Tillinger for her sublime cinematography in Mexican Yulene Olaizola's unconventional addiction story Artificial Paradises, a film that generated a lot of water cooler talk as a potential grand prize winner."

"It seems to me that the documentary films at the Tribeca Film Festival are of a consistently higher quality than the narratives." An overview from Stewart Nusbaumer for Filmmaker.

Updates, 4/30: For Interview, Alice Greenberg talks with director David Rosenthal about Janie Jones, the "musical and physical journey of a 13-year-old girl in tour busses and wood-paneled cars. Abandoned by her mother at a late-night rock show, Janie is pawned off on her father, Ethan: the dreadfully cool, crowd-surfing lead singer who has little desire to tack on the title of 'father figure' to his hip façade. Janie follows the band, which unravels at the seams with her arrival, while her mother has disappeared and her father keeps sobriety at bay. Taking on anything but traditional roles, the two drive across the country in a pursuit of a gig at SXSW and, in the midst of everything, a relationship."

2.5 out of 4 stars for Prashant Bharghva's feature debut, The Kite, from Robert Tumas. Also in Slant, Nick Schager: "Like a Bad Lieutenant minus the moral and spiritual crises, rural Ireland's Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) shrugs off crime, drinks and drugs while on duty, and enjoys the fine company of role-playing whores (two at a time, thank you very much) in The Guard, John Michael McDonagh's caustically funny riff on cop and crime films." At FirstShowing, Ethan Anderton reports that McDonagh and Gleeson "will reunite for Cavalry, a film that will focus on a priest who ends up getting tormented by his community in Ireland."

"Semper Fi: Always Faithful is a documentary about the one man who almost single-handedly exposed one of the largest incidents of water contamination in our nation's history," writes IFC's Matt Singer. It may be "visually and structurally pedestrian," but "there are elements of [Rachel] Libert and [Tony] Hardmon's film that are superb."

"Even the array of pre-release star vehicles, a Tribeca trademark and/or curse, didn't all suck," finds Steve Dollar as the festival comes to a close this weekend. At GreenCine Daily, he writes up Dan Rush's Everything Must Go, with Will Ferrell, Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, plus Jiro Dreams of Sushi and A Matter of Taste.

Updates, 5/1: "The April 29 Tribeca Talks: Directors' Series event with Malian director Souleymane Cissé and Martin Scorsese was a really terrific and enlightening and, for myself, kind of nerve-wracking event," writes moderator Glenn Kenny. Following a mild mix-up right at the top, "we talked about Cissé's filmmaking beginnings. It was interesting to learn that he was raised as a fairly strict Muslim and that he was so knowledgeable about religion growing up that his boyhood nickname was 'Imam.' I pointed out that it was interesting that another would-be man of God had been lost to cinema; Scorsese, of course, considered becoming a priest in his own youth."

Daniel Walber rounds up "10 Terrific Shorts from the Tribeca Film Festival" to watch right now.

Michael Collins's Give Up Tomorrow has won the Heineken Audience Award and Movie City News has the announcement: "The film tells the story of culinary student Paco Larrañaga, who, at 19 years old in 1997, was arrested for the kidnap, rape, and murder of two sisters on the provincial island of Cebu in the Philippines. Despite demonstrable evidence of his innocence, including 40 eyewitnesses and photographs placing him hundreds of miles from the scene, Paco's legal ordeal was only just beginning. Dubbed the Philippines' 'trial of the century,' Paco's ordeal became a galvanizing focal point in a far-reaching exposé of gross miscarriage of justice at the highest levels."

Update, 5/5: For IFC, Stephen Saito talks with Cédric Klapisch about "the alternate reality he encountered while making a film about the out-of-touch moneyed men on whose shoulders so many of our fortunes rise and fall, how reality mirrored what he depicted on screen and the 'sum of desires' that led him to make My Piece of the Pie."

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