Tribeca 2012: All Wrapped Up

Ben Umstead, East Coast Editor

Everyone knows a New York minute is a snap faster than your average minute, so while it's only been less than 48 hours since the 11th annual edition of the Tribeca Film Festival ended, Manhattan has surely moved on, washing away this year's festivities under another bout of spring showers. But we here at Twitch aren't quite done with TFF yet. In fact this was our biggest year to date, and though we've filled all of our full reviews, Peter Gutierrez, Christopher Bourne and myself still have quite a bit of cinematic ground to cover in this wrap-up. Below, you'll find links to all of our coverage, and then, one last hurrah where we talk favorites, frustrations and share our final thoughts on the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival -- Enjoy!  

Previews:
Galas & Competitions
Cinemania & Viewpoints
Spotlight

Reviews:
As Luck Would Have It by Joshua Chaplinsky
Consuming Spirits by Ben Umstead
Cut by Ben Umstead
Eddie - The Sleepwalking Cannibal by Peter Gutierrez
The Fourth Dimension by Joshua Chaplinsky
Francophrenia by Joshua Chaplinsky
Jack and Diane by Ben Umstead
Journey to Planet X by Joshua Chaplinsky
Planet of Snail by Christopher Bourne
Polisse by Ben Umstead
Postcards from the Zoo by Ben Umstead
Replicas by Ben Umstead
Resolution by Peter Gutierrez
Rubberneck by Christopher Bourne
Unit 7 by Peter Gutierrez
War Witch by Christopher Bourne
Your Sister's Sister by Christopher Bourne

Interviews, News and Features:
Interview with Boris Rodriguez of Eddie - The Sleepwalking Cannibal
Interview with Justin Benson & Aaron Scott Moorhead of Resolution
Resolution Directors Explain Why You Should See Their Movie
The Resolution Boys Say Goodbye to Tribeca (and Perhaps the World)
Is There More Black Dynamite in Our Future?
Our Top 15 picks

Peter Gutierrez

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My Favorite Film at the fest:
No question here -- loved many, many films in the lineup but my fave was clearly Sleepless Night. It just blew me away. With enough excitement for two or three good thrillers, the film takes some simple ingredients and combines, and then recombines, them to breathtaking effect. It also has the year's best fight scene outside of The Raid.

As for docs, hey, there were a lot of terrific ones -- but my favorite happens to be the award-winner The World Before Her. The perfect mix of compelling topic, mesmerizing subjects and moments caught on camera, and exquisite editing/structuring to get the most out of its parallel stories.

For short films, probably Foxes, although it has tough competition from Finding Benjamin and Trotteur. Also, Curfew and Inquire Within were clearly made by folks with huge talents, one a newcomer, the other an acknowledged master

The Most Disappointing: 
Again, no question -- had to be As Luck Would Have It simply because I love Alex De La Iglesia's work so much. Even his lesser efforts always seem to have something interesting about them. But here, updating Ace in the Hole by way of today's media -- and then doing nothing inventive or dramatically satisfying with that update... just wow. Emotionally flat even as it goes for emotional devastation.

The film(s) I need to see a second time
:
In addition to some of those shorts mentioned above, I might say Resolution and Sexy Baby -- these are bold works that confront the audience, and I'd like to evaluate both again, this time minus the surprise or shock factor. For similar reasons I might throw War Witch into the mix, a film I greatly admire.

Counterpoint to:
The measured kindness of Ben's final paragraph in his Replicas review is almost too much for me to take -- but that's nothing compared to the film itself, which was the only Tribeca film I've ever wanted to walk out of. Nothing has ever come close, actually. I might agree that D'arcy's performance starts out in a entertaining way -- even if his character's faux friendliness/solicitousness is hardly original -- but by the end it's downright cringe-worthy. You might not notice it, though, because of the consistently horrible child acting by young Quinn Lord. And you might not notice that for the sheer facepalming ludicrousness of his character's (and his parents') reaction to things like his being threatened at knife point; memo to the screenwriter: in real life this wouldn't play out like a simple round of boys-will-be-boys, with the victim peacefully curling up with his teddy bear a few minutes later. Oh, how I could go on...

I'm of two minds on:
Cut. The sequences that really worked were magical. I'm talking about the sampling of Kwaidan and Mouchette, two of my favorite films of all time. And of course the whole movie nerd target-audience thing had me completely in its cross-hairs. But still, are we cinephiles supposed to feel happy about the ending, given the overall silliness of the protagonist? So, yeah, Cut could also fall under the "films I need to see a second time" category.

For docs, I'd say Side by Side. Quite well done for what it's trying to do. But could it have gone deeper into film as a medium and what we expect from it... or would that have made it a mini-series, not the efficient and straightforward informational text that it is?

Discovery of the festival:
My discovery happens to relate to an entire genre -- and it's actually more of rediscovery. In short, the current health of the crime movie on an international scale cannot be questioned by anyone who's taken in TFF's survey of the field this year. In addition to Sleepless Night, there's Graceland, a nifty take on the kidnapping pic, and Headshot, which is easily the most soulful, complex, and satisfying noir I've seen in ages. Oh, and let's not forget Jackpot, an exemplar of the black comedy/crime thriller hybrid. With this kind of range and quality I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that one could have constructed a really good "Crime Fest" (along the lines of Action Fest) out of the films embedded in the fest's program.

Final Thoughts:
I've been attending Tribeca for several years now, and this is easily the strongest fest I've experienced -- and I didn't even catch some of its more acclaimed titles. More of the same, please.


 Christopher Bourne

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My Favorite Film at the fest:
The top narrative film for me was Kim Nguyen's harrowing and visceral, yet beautifully haunting and ethereal War Witch.  The praise and prizes this film has already received are more than well-deserved.  I don't have much more to say here that I haven't already written in my review, other than that there are images in this film that will remain indelible for me.  This film heralds the arrival of two major talents: director Nguyen and actress Rachel Mwanza, a non-professional who gives a stunner of a performance.

I have to mention a few others that stood out in an impressively strong year of selections, in both narrative and documentary films.  Lynn Shelton delivers her finest work to date in Your Sister's Sister, deepening her gifts of comedy with beautifully rendered emotional heft.  Lucy Molloy's Una Noche vividly captures the sensual, colorful atmosphere of Havana, as well as the claustrophobic oppression and political constriction that drives people to risk their lives on the open seas to escape.  Edwin's Postcards From the Zoo, with slow, patient beauty, draws us into the human and animal menagerie of a Jakarta zoo through the eyes of its protagonist, the Alice/Dorothy of its world who never loses her hope and sense of wonder despite her shifting, uncertain circumstances.  Maïwenn's Polisse is a sprawling, engrossing crime drama with great performances, the best episode of Law and Order you've ever seen, transported to Paris.  Frederic Jardin's Sleepless Night, a more traditional type of cops vs. bad guys film (although the categories in this case are quite fluid), is thrilling, breathless, and relentless, with electric images courtesy of Tom Stern, Clint Eastwood's regular cameraman.

Seung-Jun Yi's lovely, observational documentary Planet of Snail was, hands down, my favorite film of the festival, narrative or documentary.  My great fear is that the film's subject matter, concerning a married couple who is a deaf-blind man and a woman with a spinal disability, will scare off those expecting a depressing, earnest social-issue film that solicits our pity.  I cannot stress enough that Planet of Snail couldn't be any further from that; it's essentially a great love story, and a life-affirming one at that, brimming with humor and generous humanity.

My Most Disappointing:
That would definitely have to be David Riker's The Girl, which was one of the films I was most looking forward to seeing.  I quite liked his previous film La Ciudad, which transported Italian neo-realism to the streets of NYC. The Girl's major weakness is a miscast Abbie Cornish, who spends the film with an impenetrably severe expression which never lets us inside her character, and consequently prevents any sort of identification or sympathy.  Both the dialog and the narrative spells out its issues with such unsubtle bullet points that it often comes across as more a position paper than effective drama.

Best performance(s):
I've already mentioned Rachel Mwanza in War Witch, but here are some other memorable performances:

Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Mark Duplass (Your Sister's Sister): Equal collaborators with their director, they sculpted wonderful performances that were revelatory in both comic and dramatic terms.

Juliette Binoche (Elles): Binoche couldn't give an uninteresting or non-riveting performance if she tried, and here is no exception.  The trajectory of her character, a journalist interviewing call-girls for an article, and forced to reexamine her own sexuality, leaps to vivid, visceral life in her capable hands, with a rather astonishing fearlessness and lack of vanity.

Thure Lindhardt (Keep the Lights On): Lindhardt brings considerable emotional depth to Ira Sachs' intimate look at long-term relationships and gay life in NYC, and impressively renders the decade-long transformations of his character's love affair with a fierce, intense tenderness.

Val Kilmer (The Fourth Dimension): Kilmer delivers one of his best performances in years as "Val Kilmer," the motivational-speaker protagonist of Harmony Korine's section of this omnibus film.  He has great fun tweaking his own persona, and so do we watching him.

I'm of two minds on:
Amir Naderi's Cut certainly has its heart in the right place, as an impassioned plea for "pure cinema," unencumbered by crass commercial constraints, and which consciously pays homage to classics of world cinema.  But I'm a bit put off by the crudely repetitive nature of its depiction of the brutally self-sacrificial actions of its cinephilic protagonist.  Naderi could have gotten his point across in a considerably shorter time than its two-hour duration.  Cut, with its simple, indeed somewhat simpleminded concept, seems to rather immodestly present itself as an example of the great, artistic cinema it advocates for, which doesn't hold water when put alongside such masterpieces as Tokyo Story and Rules of the Game, which Cut directly invokes, along with many other classics.

Discovery of the festival:
I'm not sure if this exactly counts as a "discovery," but I was impressed with the considerable range demonstrated by actor/director Alex Karpovsky in the two films he was featured in at Tribeca: Daniel Schechter's Supporting Characters and his own Rubberneck.  Karpovsky handles both the comic complications of Supporting Characters and the creepy, disturbingly obsessive shadings of Rubberneck with equal aplomb.

Final thoughts:
Overall, this is the probably the strongest slate of films in the 7 years I've been covering the festival.  The new programming team (including the addition of "artistic director" Frederic Boyer, formerly head of Cannes Director's Fortnight) are definitely doing something right.  Whatever it is, I hope they keep it up.


Ben Umstead

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My Favorite Film at the fest:
I didn't see many great, or even very good films, but there were certainly a few extra special gems among the fifteen features I watched this year. I must mention Polisse again. Despite some slight qualms with the ending, Maïwenn's in-depth look into the child protective unit of the Parisian police department was truly a tour-de-force. I'm happy that it'll be hitting U.S. theaters on May 18th.

Edwin's Postcards from the Zoo is exactly the kind of film we go to film festivals to see -- it is that rare picture which is magical in tone and meditative in pace: utterly captivating and wholly unique. Chris Sullivan's Consuming Spirits, an animated labor of love fifteen years in-the-making, left on me a more indelible impression than I would have first thought. Both these films will most likely struggle in finding distribution due to their slow, quiet and episodic pacing, but I truly believe both are good enough to eventually find a home.

As for docs, that'd be the everyday myths Jeroen van Velzen brings forth with Wavumba. There's a simple majesty in the way van Velzen and his small crew capture the final fishing trips of a legendary Kenyan shark fisherman. The humorous squabbles between Mashoud and his grandson only add to the film's delights. And for a limited time, you can stream or download the film at the VOD site filmit. 

My Most Disappointing:
Hands down that'd be Bradly Rust Gray's Jack and Diane. Chalk it up to my perhaps getting over-excited, playing out a film in my head pre-screening that just wasn't what Gray intended. Still, what we got was a disconnected, often clunky picture, unsure of how to present horror or its minimalist romance. It frustrates me so, because I really dig Gray as a filmmaker, and know there's something good in there, crying to get out.
 
The film(s) I need to see a second time:
Resolution. We've been pretty vocal in our enthusiasm for Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's feature debut here at Twitch. It's a film that deconstructs visual storytelling in a really refreshing way; a picture that is always smart, never condescending to its audience, very funny and perhaps, most importantly, doesn't, and I repeat! doesn't, betray its characters for big ideas, though it is a film that has plenty. Having lived through the mystery that Michael and Chris unravel in the foothills of Southern California, I'm extra curious to see how this all holds together in a second viewing.   

I'm of two minds on:
Well like Peter and Chris, that'd have to be Cut. I'll most certainly defend Amir Naderi's meta-heavy film against any detractors, because it brings up a lot of interesting, discussion-worthy points about current cinema, and boasts some of the most beautiful sequences I've seen on screen in ages, but it also drags on, and on, and on... in a way that can really disengage. It also operates under what I feel at times are a rather naive set of notions on the medium. Though perhaps this is part of the challenge Naderi has set out for his audience. Guys, I think we really need to have a further discussion on this one... in the comments perhaps?

And really, I'm of two minds on much of what I saw at the fest. Supporting Characters had some heart with decent turns from Alex Karpovsky and co-writer Tarik Lowe as a film editing duo, but it isn't really anything to write home about; playing out as a fairly typical festival comedy. Likewise the Swedish dramedy Certain People is a film brimming with good intentions, and looks nice enough, but it plays everything far too safe, far too familiar.

Elles, which stars Juliette Binoche as a journalist working on a story about college students moonlighting as call girls, was being touted as a difficult and complex film. While I do consider it to be a better film than the far more sensationalistic Student Services, the  Déborah François vehicle from a few years back, it stops short nearly every time it begins to enter truly interesting territory. Then again it's a thorny subject to begin with, and director Małgorzata Szumowska should be commended for her often humanistic and perhaps even amoral approach to the material.     

Discovery of the festival:
If I can mention Resolution again without being flogged, well there ya go. Benson and Moorhead have made an ambitious and sharp film on a low-to-no budget; as Peter stated in his review, it is "independent filmmaking before it became 'indie filmmaking.'" It is also really a lot of fun to see fresh talent jump into the festival circuit and find an audience right off the bat. There's heaps of promise in a film like Resolution, and Benson and Moorhead, either together or separately, will most certainly be filmmakers Twitch will be following in earnest for years to come. 

Final Thoughts:
I keep hearing how this was the best Tribeca yet in terms of programming, which is something I don't think I really experienced. Oh well, you can't win 'em all. So while many of the films I saw didn't hit, this was a banner year for the social side. I attended a wonderful Twitch-centric dinner with Chris, Joshua Chaplinsky, Aaron Krasnov and a few other lovely film friends and colleagues. It was a dinner where I jokingly asked if we could have a conversation that was not centered around movies or pop culture, and then within 20 seconds of the joke/question Danny Pudi, who plays pop culture-savant Abed on NBC's Community, walked by. If that wasn't the universe talking...

I met some lovely filmmakers, some with films in the fest, and some without, and had some great conversations with both Peter and Chris, and a few other scattered colleagues. Really I couldn't be more enthused about the people, and I can't wait to see what next year holds.

So with that I leave it to you, the reader, to continue on with the discussion. Do you have a question? A counter point? Are you curious as to what else we saw that perhaps we didn't have time to mention? Leave a comment below and we'll be sure to answer.    

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