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2017 Tribeca Film Festival (April 19th - April 30th)

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Top Narratives

      Keep the Change, written and directed by Rachel Israel, is a warm, funny and heartfelt love story about two adults on the autism spectrum, David (Brandon Polansky) and Sarah (Samantha Elisofon), who meet at a support group for adults with mental disabilities and gradually develop a romance. David's parents don't approve of his new girlfriend, but that doesn't stop him from continuing to see her. The screenplay by Rachel Israel maintains a sense of realism from start to finish that makes the film feel like a documentary. In fact, one particular audience member in attendance thought it was a documentary. Part of what makes it feel so authentic is also the convincingly moving performances by Polansky and Elisofon who are the film's heart and soul. If you thought that The Other Sister, which treaded similar ground, was too Hollywood and schmaltzy, you'll love the much more nuanced and tender Keep the Change. It will surely win your heart over unless you're made out of stone. The Divine Order, about a housewife, Nora (Marie Leuenberger) who leads the women in her village on a strike and leave their families to campaign for the right for women to vote in 1971 Switzerland. Based on a true story, the screenplay by Petra Biondina Volpe is everything that Suffragette wasn't, but should have been: witty, captivating, moving, rousing and crowd-pleasing. Marie Leuenberger gives a radiant performance that breathes life into the film and allows for you to care about Nora as a human being. Don't be surprised if you'll stand up and cheer for her every step of the way as she gathers more and more housewives to support her cause. The Divine Order is one of the most powerful dramas in the festival and it deservedly won the Audience Award. The charismatic performances by Juno Temple and Julia Garner lift One Percent More Humid ever so slightly above its mediocre screenplay by writer/director Liz W. Garcia. Temple and Garner play Iris and Catherine, two childhood friends who reunite one summer in their New England hometown. A tragic accident from their past involving their mutual friend, Mae (Olivia Luccardi), threatens to break apart their friendship. Meanwhile, Iris has a sexually-charged affair with her married college advisor, Gerald (Alessandro Nivola), and Catherine plays with fire when she flirts with Mae's brother, Billy (Philip Ettinger). Although the first two acts feel a bit pedestrian, the third act picks up a little steam as it adds some much-needed poignancy. Thanks to Temple and Garner's winning performances, the friendship between Iris and Catherine feels palpable. Hopefully, the film's title will change by the time it gets a picked up by a distributor for theatrical release so as not to make it sound like a documentary on global warming. In Saturday Church, 14-year-old Ulysses (Luka Kain) struggles with gender identity and sexuality while living with his mother, Amara (Margot Bingham), and brother Abe (Jaylin Fletcher). His aunt, Rose (Regina Taylor), takes care of him, but scolds him when she catches him crossdressing. He meets a group of transexuals who make him feel accepted and agrees to join their Saturday Church, a LGBT group that gets together at a church. Kate Bornstein gives a terrific performance as the leader of the group. The screenplay by Damon Cardasis is warm, engaging, moving and witty. It's elevated by a breakthrough performance by newcomer Luka Kain and lively musical numbers that never feel pretentious. Saturday Church is far more moving than Moonlight and La La Land combined. This is one of the most delightful and crowd-pleasing films of the festival. It opens January 12th, 2018 at Village East Cinema. If you're looking for an offbeat comedy, look no further than Holy, written and directed by Shady Srour who also plays the lead, Adam. Adam desperately needs to make money to pay medical bills for his sick father, so he comes up a business concept that he hopes will succeed: selling bottled "holy air" from Mount Precipice. Srour's screenplay has some witty, funny and clever scenes, and the concept of its plot feels refreshingly original. There's even a hilarious sight gag that juxtaposes Adam in front of an image of the Pope which makes him look like he's wearing the Pope's crown. The film's main weakness is in its lazy third act where the film's momentum fizzles out leaving you a bit underwhelmed. That's a minor issue of this amusing, delightful comedy/drama. Holy Air opens on November 17th, 2017 via Samuel Goldwyn Films. Fans of Cinema Paradiso will enjoy King of Peking about a father who teams up with his young son to create and sell bootlegged movies on DVD. The screenplay by writer/director Sam Voutas may not be as quite as moving or powerful as Cinema Paradiso's screenplay, but it comes close. While there's a fair share of comedic moments, there are plenty of heartfelt moments throughout the film, and the ending makes you feel deeply satisfied and uplifted sans schmaltz. If you're a film buff, you'll love all of the film references. November is the most bizarre, bold, and visually striking film of the Tribeca Film Festival. To describe its plot wouldn't do it any justice. Shot in black-and-white, it's part horror, part dark comedy and drama. It's the kind of film that has Jodorowsky running through its veins. Like many great cult classics, don't expect this to be everyone's cup of tea. You'll either love it or hate it. If you're into midnight classics like El Topo, you'll love November. Everyone else might find it to be too disturbing, pretentious and crazy---writer/director Rainer Sarnet's screenplay does walk a fine line between brilliance and madness which makes it all the more remarkable. You must see it on the big screen to absorb its exquisite, often beautiful cinematography. It opens at Village East Cinema via Oscillosope Laboratories on February 23rd, 2018. My Friend Dahmer, written and directed by Marc Meyers, is a captivating character study of Jeffrey Dahmer (Ross Lynch) during his teenage years as a loner struggling to fit in at his high school. Lynch gives a wonderful performance that captures Dahmer's creepiness and sadness. The film has psychological thriller elements reminiscent of We Need to Talk About Kevin. Meyes does a great job of providing the audience with a leway into the mind of a madman without going over the top. You'll find some refreshing nuance throughout the film and, especially, in Lynch's breakthrough performance. The editing is superb as well as the cinematography and medium-burn pacing that never drags. Patient audience members will be rewarded the most. This is the kind of film that's hard to shake from emotionally after watching it. Film Rise opens My Friend Dahmer at Village East Cinema on November 3rd, 2017. Devil's Gate, directed and co-written by Clay Staur, is a solid blend of horror, sci-fi and drama about about an FBI agent (Amanda Schull) who shows up at a dilapidated rural house where a man (Milo Ventimiglia) may be responsible for the disappearance of his wife and son. Supernatural events occur, but none of them will be spoiled here. Prepare to be at the edge of your seat and jolted by some palpable scares. The CGI looks quite impressive and there's even some atmosphere along with great use of production design and lighting to create a sense of creepiness. Devil's Gate opens on January 5th, 2018 via IFC Midnight. If you're looking for a more light-hearted film, Rock'N Roll by director/co-writer Guillaume Canet will not disappoint. It's a satire about an aging actor (Canet) who goes through a mid-life crisis when he's told that he's no longer "Rock'N Roll." His crisis affects his job and the relationship with his wife (Marion Cotillard). The lengths that he takes to look younger by undergoing facial surgery is hysterically funny even if it may seem outgrageous. Rock'N Roll has more to say about the price of fame and how shallow the film industry is. Although those messages are far from surprising, they're worth saying and exploring. Both him and his wife go through a well-rounded character arc while their marriage remains on the rocks. To be fair, the running time of 123 could've been trimmed down a bit because it does begin to become repetitive and overstay its welcome around the 90 minute mark.      

Top Documentaries

      The Reagan Show, directed by Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez, uses archival footage showing how former President Ronald Reagan was known as The Great Communicator. To viewers who watch his speeches and interviews, he displayed his warmth, charm, and witty quips. He had no shame in repeating the Russian proverb "Doveryai, no proveryai" meaning "Trust, but verify" over and over throughout his career. When Reagan used the slogan "Let's make America great again!", it's hard not to think about how Donald Trump used it for his own campaign. Most tellingly, though, is how Reagan says in an interview at the very beginning of the doc that he can't imagine how someone can be President of the Unites States without having prior experience as an actor. Sociopsychologist Irving Goffman once wisely observed that life is like theater with a script, costumes, and so on. Reagan seemed to understand that when the cameras were rolling. Everyone acts differently "behind the curtain," though. The Reagan Show provides you with a peak just before Reagan was preparing to go onstage in front of that curtain. By not using narration or talking heads to comment on what you're watching, the filmmakers wisely step back and let audiences use their own critical thinking to decide what to make of the footage. Most importantly, The Reagan Show doesn't take any sides; it humanizes Reagan, although not as profoundly as Hillary Clinton was humanized in last year's underrated doc Clinton, Inc.. Perhaps this doc could serve as a lesson to some audience members who are too easily charmed by politicians and make them wonder what the President might be truly like when he's not putting on a performance in front of the camera. At brief running time of 1 hour and 15 minutes, The Reagan Show is a refreshingly amusing, unbiased, and captivating documentary. It opens June 30th, 2017 at The Metrograph via Gravitas Ventures and CNN Films. Copwatch follows three brave activists, Ray Orta, Kevin Moore and David Whitt, who film police activity as part of an organization called We Copwatch. Moore gained fame for filming the arrest of Freddie Gray; Eric Garner had filmed Eric Garner's arrest. This vital human rights documentary, directed by Camilla Hall, is provocative, moving and eye-opening just as every documentary ought to be. There's a very powerful moment showing a policeman interacting one of the activists later in the film which provides you with some much-needed hope that the relationship between the police and the people whom they serve can indeed be ameliorated and that there are cops out there who have compassion. The most emotionally devastating, unflinching and enlightening doc of the festival is The Departure about Ittetsu Nemoto, a Japanese monk who runs a workshop where he helps suicidal individuals to prepare for death while trying to persuade them not to kill themselves. The doc's topic of suicide and death feels quite heavy, but if you're open to exploring dark themes that are rarely explored in docs, you'll find yourself deeply moved and engaged. Director Lana Wilson provides you with some background information about Nemoto who has led a very fascinating life. It's beautifully-shot, profoundly meditative and richly human film that won't be easy for you to shake off nor to forget long after you watch it. It opens on October 13th, 2017 at Metrograph via Matson Films. Gilbert isn't your average documentary on a famous person, in this case, comedian/actor Gilbert Gottfried. There's nothing hagiographic about the film. It's a warts-and-all-doc that shows you what Gottfried is like as a flawed human being. In other words, Gilbert provides you with a rare glimpse of Gottried behind-the-curtain, so-to-speak. Yes, he does get to tell some hilarious jokes, but there are many heartfelt moments when you learn about his family life and struggles with intimate interviews. Gilbert, directed by Neil Berkeley, is just as entertaining, insightful and endearing as Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work which was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival back in 2010. It opens at IFC Center on Nov. 3rd, 2017. The best documentary of the festival, though, is Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story about Golden Age actress Hedy Lamarr. director Alexandra Dean combines archival footage and audio tapes with modern day interviews to explain how Hedy rose to fame and was a brilliant inventor, a fact that too few people knew about. It also doesn't shy away from exploring her weaker moments and struggles in life. This is a very well-edited, illuminating and engaging documentary that's exhilarating to behold. There's not a single dry moment to be found nor will you wonder to yourself, "When's the exam??" by the film's end. Film students out to watch this doc to enrich their knowledge of film history. Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story opens at IFC Center on November 24th, 2017.


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