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Tribeca Film Festival 2012

For some, Tribeca's become "a great facilitator and promoter of international film and video culture."
David Hudson
The DailyTake This Waltz

Following up on last week's preview of the Tribeca Film Festival (site), this'll be the entry that'll carry us through to Sunday. Introducing Slant's package of reviews, Ed Gonzalez argues that Tribeca "has blossomed from a celebration of the Big Apple as a filmmaking center into a great facilitator and promoter of international film and video culture." The Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik agrees that it's "a prime venue to discover international films." More packages and lists: Smithsonian Magazine's Daniel Eagan ("What to See"), indieWIRE ("12 New Films We're Excited For"), Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay ("25 Films I'm Looking Forward To"), Movies.com ("20 Most Anticipated Movies"), Time's Lily Rothman ("Top 15 Chatter-Worthy Films"), Time Out New York and Twitch ("Top 15 Picks").

Having previewed "30-odd films" for the Voice, Eric Hynes recommends 14, and Take This Waltz is one of them: "Sarah Polley's follow-up to her moving directorial debut, Away From Her, is a modern fable about a young woman torn between her cozy marriage and the handsome artist next door. By turns sweet and salty, quirky and dirty, idealized and bleak, Take This Waltz is a deceptively candy-colored existentialist rom-com — which is to say there's nothing quite like it. Michelle Williams plays the conflicted heroine, Luke Kirby is the unconscionably charming other man, and Seth Rogen is perfect as the Ralph Bellamy straight man. Before turning moralistic in its final minutes, it's a democratic and quietly devastating dissection of fidelity and its discontents." More from Ed Gonzalez in Slant (2.5/4). Reviews from Toronto: Tim Grierson, Tom Hall (Hammer to Nail), Adam Nayman (Cinema Scope), James Rocchi (Playlist, A) and Catherine Shoard (Guardian).

Wagner's Dream

Gerard Raymond at the House Next Door on Susan Froemke's Wagner's Dream, a documentary on the Metropolitan Opera's current production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen: "Describing the integration of modern technology into his own stage production, [Robert] Lepage says, 'This is the movie that Wagner wanted to make before movies existed.'" Update, 4/27: More from Bilge Ebiri.

In the new issue of Filmmaker, Ry Russo-Young has a good long talk with Lynn Shelton about Your Sister's Sister, featuring Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt. For Kenji Fujishima at Slant, the film is "so amiably loose, so warmly observant in its depiction of character interactions, and so beautifully acted by its three principals that it's a shame the film eventually threatens to fall apart under the weight of an excess of plot twists and hedged bets." See, too, the reviews from Toronto. Update, 4/24: Jenni Miller talks with Shelton for Movies.com.

At Filmmaker's site, Dan Schoenbrun talks with Scott Thurman about The Revisionaries, his doc on how the Texas Board of Education revises its textbook standards every ten years (more on the film from indieWIRE's Eric Kohn); and with Julia Dyer about The Playroom, "the story of a dysfunctional, alcohol-fueled dinner party" in the 70s.


Back to Slant and Andrew Schenker: "Class privilege and sexual politics are inextricably linked in Trishna, Michael Winterbottom's blunt, self-consciously brutal, and rather loose updating of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles." Reviews from Toronto: Fernando F Croce (Keyframe), Alicia Van Couvering (Filmmaker), Damon Wise (Guardian) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline).

Also in Slant: Jaime N Christley on Frédéric Jardin's "nonstop, claustrophobic, and highly volatile" Sleepless Night, Jesse Cataldo on Malgoska Szumowska's "ultimately draining" Elles (more from Toronto: Sergio Baldini for Cinema Scope and Michał Oleszczyk for Keyframe), Chuck Bowen on Andrew Shea and David D'Arcy's "haunting" Portrait of Wally, which "deserves to be one of the docs that breaks into the American pop consciousness this year."

Plus: Elise Nakhnikian on 2 Days in New York, in which Julie Delpy "has an endearing way of finding humor in both 'high' and 'low' culture" (see, too, the reviews from Sundance) and on Daniel Burman's "oddly weightless" All In; Nick Schager on Álex de la Iglesia's As Luck Would Have It, which "plays like a Saturday Night Live sketch that takes itself too seriously," and on Benjamin Dickinson's First Winter, a "leaden, torturous exercise in hippie survivalist chic" — interviews with Dickinson: indieWIRE, Mekado Murphy (New York Times) and Dan Schoenbrun (Filmmaker); and R Kurt Osenlund on Jay Gammill's Free Samples, "an angry indie that favors hollow ridicule over credibility" (again, Dan Schoenbrun's got an interview).

Una Noche

Then there's Ed Gonzalez on Una Noche: "Lucy Mulloy is a tourist, but she understands Havana's complex sociopolitical situation better than most." And John Lichman interviews Mulloy for the Playlist. In a followup note at the House Next Door, Ed Gonzalez writes: "Oddly, it surprised the makers of Una Noche that two of the film's stars would use the chance to come to the United States for the Tribeca Film Festival as an opportunity to defect from Cuba."

And how was the opening film, Nicholas Stoller's The Five-Year Engagement? "Funny, touching and occasionally dramatic," finds the Playlist. Patti Greco talks with Stoller for Vulture. Update, 4/25: For Andrew Schenker, writing in Slant, this is "a romantic comedy that gets it. While staying firmly within the lines of etched-in-stone formula, Nicholas Stoller's film, which he co-scripted with star Jason Segel, lightly tweaks the genre's conventions, resulting in an offering that's both intelligent about the way relationships function over time and genuinely funny — all while avoiding the gross-out set pieces that characterize such recent genre hits as Bridesmaids." More from Melissa Anderson (Voice; "drearily predictable"), David Fear (Time Out New York, 2/5), Kimberley Jones (Austin Chronicle, 3.5/5), Glenn Kenny (MSN Movies, 4.5/5), Mary Pols (Time) and Nathan Rabin (AV Club, B+).

By the way, if you're in New York and you're looking to "share a brew with cast and crew from three festival highlights," Heineken's giving you a shot at it.

Updates, 4/25: At the top of his roundup of capsule reviews for Filmmaker, Brandon Harris assesses the state of the Tribeca Film Festival itself: "Slowly, over time, despite its often ungainly reputation, especially among status anxiety-driven New York filmmakers, it has acquired admirers. They don't speak loudly. They whisper to each other in corners. People who, despite the bombast and the corporate largesse that underwrites it all (although perhaps there's less largesse than there was before the emperors discovered they had no clothes, and we with them), unfailingly find both cinematic diamonds among the sprawl as well as the occasionally galling misstep that makes up the festival's never boring if never truly great program. I count myself among them."

Jack and Diane

"The heart of Jack and Diane, the third film from Bradley Rust Gray, isn't about it being a monster movie," writes John Lichman. "It's about looking at a love story and seeing that there's qualities that Gray brings to this relationship that perfectly reflect first love: bright and flighty Diane (Juno Temple) is visiting her aunt in New York and finds herself falling for Jack (Riley Keough), a rougher and more butch girl working in a skate shop. As their first night culminates in a kiss, Diane's feelings overtake her body, turning her into a snarling, grotesque beast with hair and wires snaking around her organs. Whether Diane's hiding a deadly fact about herself, or if it's just Gray playing with metaphor as their relationship evolves over a week, is entirely up to the audience." Lichman interviews Gray and Keough; also at the Playlist, Christopher Bell gives the film a D+.

Stephen Saito: "One might fear the new documentary Side by Side tips its hand early on where its loyalties lie in the great debate over whether film should remain an alternative when digital cinema is well on its way to replacing it as the format on which movies are made by having been shot on digital itself. However, Chris Kenneally's marvelous, all-encompassing look at the evolution of moviemaking process doesn't seek a debate as much as it does to inform, capturing the conversation about the conversion to a digital future that's so timely and invigorating that it is the conversation."

Raymond De Felitta's Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story "illuminates how [Greenwood, Mississippi's] racial and economic dynamics have changed, while simultaneously reflecting on the ethics of nonfiction filmmaking," writes Andrew Schenker in Time Out New York. "It's a powerful testament to how far we both have and haven't come." More from Odie Henderson (Chicago Sun-Times), Stuart Nusbaumer (Filmmaker) and Nick Schager (Voice).


Chris Cabin for Slant: "A furious and stone-cold serious work of narrative activism, at once remarkably bold, oddly inert, and calamitously self-important, Amir Naderi's Cut excavates what remains, in the filmmaker's eyes, of the bloated, bruised, and waterlogged corpse of cinephilia, left ignored by generations of would-be philistines too dumb and commercial-soaked to pick Mizoguchi and Chaplin over Michael Bay and Tony Scott."

Also: Jesse Cataldo writes that Maïwenn's Polisse "is about broken people, using their interactions with damaged institutions as fuel for their own cyclical struggles. In keeping with its focus on form, this is also broken movie, a promising experiment that gets mired in conventional storylines and outcomes."

R Kurt Osenlund on Lee Kirk's The Giant Mechanical Man: "A lesser director would have turned his flawed script into a giggly, spiritless romance of the week, and missed by a mile the sweet fable of broad strokes the film thankfully became." More from Ernest Hardy in the Voice. Also: Tanya Wexler's "posh comedy" Hysteria.

Jaime N Christley on Rat King: "If you liked Elephant, but felt it didn't have enough shots of characters running, in unironic slow motion, through a symbolically cleansing CGI rain, well, does [Petri] Kotwica have a film for you." And: "Writer-director Adam Christian Clark's Caroline and Jackie clobbers the viewer with a wall of insistent stylishness." Stephen Saito interviews Clark at the Moveable Feast.

Postcards from the Zoo

Kenji Fujishima on the latest from Edwin: "Postcards from the Zoo could be seen as Exhibit A in the dangers of letting a terminally whimsical sensibility run rampant on a screen." Reviews from Berlin: Ronald Bergan (House Next Door), Kevin B Lee (Press Play) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline). And Kenji at the House Next Door: Eytan Fox's Yossi is "a relatively conventional drama blossoms into something more bracingly unstructured."

And Elise Nakhnikian: "A better but still flawed version of the story told four years ago in Frozen River, [David Riker's] The Girl uses the perils of immigrating to this country without papers as a backdrop for a poor white American woman's bumpy path to enlightenment." And: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi's Chicken with Plums "is deeply melancholic, yet so full of humor and humanity that it pulses with life even while tracing the trajectory of a slow suicide."

Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus's Sexy Baby "is an important film," writes Jay A Fernandez at indieWIRE. "Mansome is not. It may be an unfair comparison, since Morgan Spurlock and Jeremy Chilnick's latest documentary aims for comedy over substance throughout. But both films address the impacts and effects of insecurity among women (Sexy Baby) and men (Mansome) and thus make for an interesting pairing."

War Witch

Updates, 4/27: Tribeca's announced the winners of its competition categories and Kim Nguyen's War Witch has taken two, the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature and Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film, which goes to Rachel Mwanza, who also won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlinale in February. "War Witch is narrated by a pregnant 14-year-old girl as she tells her unborn child the stories of her life since she was captured by a rebel army at the age of 12," notes the Telegraph. "Reviewers are calling it a 'harrowing' and 'haunting' story which combines fantasy with documentary-like filming techniques. It is the 'dreamy, fairy-tale quality that meshes surprisingly well with the more violent aspects of this tale' that sets the film apart, one critic writes." More from David D'Arcy (Artinfo) and Deborah Young (Hollywood Reporter).

Lucy Mulloy's Una Noche's won three awards, Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film, presented to both Dariel Arrechada and Javier Nuñez Florian, Best Cinematography in a Narrative Feature Film, presented to Trevor Forrest and Shlomo Godder, and Best New Narrative Director. Scroll above for reviews.

Best Screenplay for a Narrative Feature Film goes to Daniel Burman and Diego Dubcovsky for All In, Nisha Pahuja's The World Before Her takes Best Documentary Feature, Tali Halter Shenkar wins the Best Editing in a Documentary Feature for The Flat (directed by Arnon Goldfinger) and Jeroen van Velzen (Wavumba) has been named Best New Documentary Director. Once again, the full list is here.

Lola Versus

Updates, 4/28: "Lola Versus is directed by Daryl Wein and co-written by his partner Zoe Lister-Jones, but its real auteur is Greta Gerwig," argues indieWIRE's Eric Kohn. "The actress plays the title character as if her career depended on it — which it doesn't, but the movie does. Gerwig single-handedly carries this blithe, generally forgettable story of a neurotic New Yorker dealing with a botched engagement by applying an energy unworthy of the material."

Two out of four stars at Slant from Fernando F Croce for Harmony Korine, Aleksei Fedorchenko and Jan Kwiecinski's The Fourth Dimension, an "intriguing but ultimately vaporous triptych." More from Steve Dollar (GreenCine Daily). At the Playlist, Sean Gillane talks with Korine and Val Kilmer.

Also at Slant, Kenji Fujishima finds that Ian Fitzgibbon's Death of a Superhero "sidesteps most of the potential pitfalls of sentimentality inherent in its premise and ends up as a generally affecting and occasionally insightful drama about the ways people handle an awareness of mortality." More from Henry Stewart (L); and Stephen Saito interviews Fitzgibbon.

Chris Cabin: "There are approximately 12 films that could have been made from the various story strands found in the ensemble thriller Deadfall, any one of which would have likely made for a more resonating experience than the sticky hodgepodge that Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky and first-time scripter Zach Dean have concocted here."

Elise Nakhnikian finds Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Headshot to be "surprisingly slow-moving and soulful for a film full of double-crosses and cold-blooded killing."

Nick Schager on Magnus Martens's Jackpot: "Feigning both fatalistic cynicism and happily-ever-after hopefulness in equal measure, it's merely a grim retread cast in a two-decade-old mold."

Chris Sullivan's Consuming Spirits "is a handmade animated descent into the secrets of characters that come from someone’s unsettling dreams," writes David D'Arcy for Artinfo.

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