NYC Film Festivals

Tribeca Sneak Peek: The Features

By S.T. VanAirsdale

The Reeler caught an early glimpse of the unofficial 2007 Tribeca Film Festival program, roughly 250 features and shorts from six continents. I'm only passing along what's confirmed for now -- Spotlight, World Narrative and World Documentary Sections -- in its entirety (follow the jump below for the full slates in each category), but here's the quick rundown for those of you keeping score at home:

--The festival has done away with the NY, NY Narrative and Documentary Sections, instead moving essentially local films like Michael Kang's crime drama West 32nd (a world premiere) and Esther Robinson's A Walk in the Ocean: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory (an American premiere) into the World Dramatic and Documentary Competitions, respectively. A special jury prize will still be awarded for the best homegrown doc and feature.

--The gala premieres in 2007 have yet to be determined, but on the whole they're expected to be lower-key than last year's United 93/Mission Impossible 3/Poseidon trifecta. Word on the street is that Spider-Man 3 and Lucky You will be featured as predicted last week, despite each having May 4 release dates and Spider-Man 3 having its world premiere in Tokyo four days before the festival ends. A Sony rep did not respond to e-mail Monday.

--Also: I hear directorial debuts as disparate as Angelina Jolie's (working title: A Moment in the World) and Fred Durst's (The Education of Charlie Banks) are planned, with Jolie's film to land in the Spotlight section if and when it's confirmed.

--Definitely confirmed are the North American premieres of some hotly anticipated international festival titles like Jia Zhang-ke's Still Life, the Julie Delpy comedy Two Days in Paris Pascale Ferran's Lady Chatterley and the Berlinale-winning Tuya's Marriage.

There will be a ton more where all of this came from as The Reeler gears up its Tribeca '07 coverage. Meanwhile, follow the jump for Spotlight and Competition feature information.

World Narrative Feature Competition

From a musician staging a concert in Iraqi Kurdistan to a lawyer infiltrating the Korean underworld of New York, the films in this section take us on a cinematic journey across the globe. Presenting established and emerging directors from around the world, these films feature a wealth of high profile acting talent from Daniel Auteuil as Napoleon to Lukas Haas as a New Jersey vigilante and America Ferrara involved with a Colombian kidnap victim.

* Born and Bred (Nacido y Criado), directed by Pablo Trapero, written by Pablo Trapero and Mario Rulloni. (Argentina) – U.S. Premiere. When his life is shattered by a terrifying accident, a successful interior designer winds up in the desolate extremes of Patagonia, trying to find himself among other lost, disaffected men. Pablo Trapero's haunting film demonstrates why he is at the cutting edge of Argentina's most exciting cinema.

* Gardener of Eden, directed by Kevin Connolly, written by Adam Tex Davis. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. In this dark comedy, Adam Harris' (Lukas Haas) aimless life consists of working at a deli, living with his parents, hanging with his friends and…well, that's about it. Stuck in a rut, he loses it all, but soon finds new purpose when he accidentally captures a serial rapist. With Giovanni Ribisi and Ericka Christensen. Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

* Half Moon, directed and written by Bahman Ghobadi, (Iran, Iraq, Austria, France) – U.S. Premiere. Graying but determined, Mamo is a famed Kurdish musician who obtains permission to cross the Iranian border to give his first concert in Iraqi Kurdistan. But the journey poses endless challenges, especially when he tries to bring a female singer from Iran, where performances by women have been silenced since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In Kurdish and Farsi. Winner of the Golden Shell, 2006 San Sebastian Film Festival. A Strand Release.

* Lady Chatterley, directed by Pascale Ferran, written by Pascale Ferran and Roger Bohbot. (France, Belgium) – North American Premiere. Winner of 5 major prizes, including Best Film and Best Actress, at the 2007 Cesar Awards, France'’s equivalent of the Oscars,­ this frankly sensual yet never vulgar film is based on the second of three versions of D.H. Lawrence’s tale about an earthy passion that is both innocent and subversive. A Kino International Release.

*The Last Man (Atlal/Le dernier homme), directed and written by Ghassan Salhab. (Lebanon, France) – North American Premiere. In Beirut, a city where so much blood has been spilled in seemingly interminable political conflicts, the sudden appearance of what appear to be victims of a serial killer isn't especially alarming. A 40-year-old doctor (Michel Chahine, astonishing) develops links to the victims, and begins to exhibit strange and disturbing symptoms of his own.

* Lost In Beijing (Ping Guo), directed by Li Yu, written by Li Yu and Li Fang. (China) - North American Premiere. This tragicomic look at modern-day life in China's capital may not be especially daring for Western viewers in terms of its sexual content, despite the battle its producers fought with censors at home, but its depiction of a menage-a-quatre involving a young woman, her boss, her husband and her boss'’s wife is decidedly unlike anything else we’ve seen from the People’s Republic.

* Making Of, directed and written by Nouri Bouzid. (Tunisia) – International Premiere. Bahta, 25, heads up a group of break dancers in Tunisia, but after the eruption of hostilities in Iraq in 2003, he falls in with a group of fundamentalists, whose brainwashing is intended to make him a suicide bomber. In the framing story, the actor playing Bahta doesn't know how the film will end, and he and the director have conflicts of their own. Winner, Gold Tanit, Carthage Film Festival.

* My Father My Lord (Hofshat Kaits), directed and written by David Volach. (Israel) – International Premiere. This powerful and heartbreaking film takes a look at the price that may be exacted by a rigid observation of religious tenets. Its central character, a respected rabbi in an ultra-Orthodox community -- who is also a father and husband -- is forced to come to terms with the demands of his faith and the welfare of his own family.

* Napoleon and Me (Io e Napoleone), directed by Paolo Virzi, written by Furio Scarpelli, Giacomo Scarpelli, Francesco Bruni, Paolo Virzi. (Italy, France) – North American Premiere. Napoleon's exile on the Italian island of Elba is seen through the eyes of a young teacher who reviles the former emperor (played by Daniel Auteuil), but must serve as his librarian in this light-hearted costume drama that's as fast-paced as an operetta and spiked with Tuscan humor. Featuring Monica Bellucci as the intriguing Baroness.

* Playing the Victim (Izobrazhaya zhertvu), directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, written by The Presnyakov Brothers. (Russia) – North American Premiere. One of Moscow's top theatre directors has adapted his own successful play into a cinematic marvel in which a young slacker is employed by the police to literally "play the victim" in videos reconstructing crimes. His dangerously escalating disgust with the world is portrayed in a visual style so inventive that it's only when he receives nocturnal visits from his father's ghost that the echoes of Hamlet are evoked. Winner, Grand Prize, Rome Film Festival

* Still Life (Sanxia Haoren), directed by Jia Zhang-ke. (Hong Kong, China) – U.S. Premiere. This poignant human drama is set against a surreal, metaphorically loaded backdrop -- a Yangtze town that will soon be submerged by the Three Gorges Dam. Like the director's other films (Platform, Unknown Pleasures, The World), it's an empathetic portrait of those left behind by a modernizing society, and a unique hybrid of documentary and fiction.

* Times and Winds (Bes vakit), directed and written by Reha Erdem. (Turkey) – U.S. Premiere. This unforgettable, beautifully observed film is a lyrical and haunting portrait of life in a remote Turkish mountain village, where three pre-teens struggle with dreams and desires that are utterly specific and personal, and yet somehow universal. An extraordinary score by Arvo Pärt adds to the electrifying experience.

* Towards Darkness (Hacia la Oscuridad), directed and written by Antonio Negret. (Panama, Colombia, U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Colombia's rampant kidnappings are the brutal reality at the heart of this nail-biting thriller. A young photographer is abducted, held for ransom, and forced to contemplate imminent death while his family makes desperate covert deals to secure his release. Featuring America Ferrara. In English and Spanish.

* Two Embraces (Dos Abrazos), (Mexico) – International Premiere. Four people forced to fend for themselves in life -- a burdened twelve-year-old boy, the cashier he has a crush on, an angry taxi driver and the estranged daughter of one of his passengers -- come together in two embraces. An auspicious film debut and poignant tale of lonely people who find a glimmer of hope in each other in today's Mexico City.

* Two in One (Dva v odnom), directed by Kira Muratova, written by Evgenii Golubenko and Renata Litvinova. (Ukraine) International Premiere. This celebrated director’s “exquisite cruelty” appears front and center when the death of a stage actor turns a theatrical drama into a real one. Two in One’s two parts, “Stagehands” and “Woman of a Lifetime,” celebrate the psychological richness that lurks just beneath the surface of banal reality—if murderous stagehands, lascivious fathers, and vengeful daughters can be described as banal.

* Vivere, directed and written by Angelina Maccarone. (Germany) – World Premiere. On Christmas Eve, Francesca sets out from her small town for the big city, Rotterdam, to find her little sister, who has run off to follow her musician boyfriend. On the way, she picks up Gerlinde, a heartbroken older woman at the end of her rope. This exquisitely photographed tale employs a fragmented timeline to illustrate the story of three lost souls on the run.

* West 32nd, directed by Michael Kang, written by Michael Kang and Edmund Lee. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. After hustling his way onto a homicide case, an ambitious young lawyer (John Cho) infiltrates the gritty Korean underworld of New York, searching for clues. When he meets his match in the syndicate, they'll both do anything to get to the top. It's a raw and thrilling race. In English and Korean.

* The Year My Parents Went On Vacation (O Ano em que meus pais saíram de férias), directed by Cao Hamburger, written by Cláudio Galperin, Cao Hamburger, Bráulio Mantovani, Anna Muylaert. (Brazil) - North American Premiere. It's the summer of 1970, and twelve-year-old Mauro's biggest concern is whether Brazil wins the World Cup-until his politicized parents are forced to flee the country, and he is thrust into the alien world of Sao Paolo's Jewish community. This sensitive drama shows an innocent caught up in a ferociously repressive dictatorship he knows nothing about.

World Documentary Feature Competition

The films in the World Documentary Competition tackle issues from around the globe–from the illegal Palestinian workforce in Israel to the torture practices of the United States abroad. Alongside more personal accounts – from the story of the first Miss Universe to the friendship between two circus-workers in Uzbekistan – the filmmakers in this section explore universal themes – 9/11 widows travel to Afghanistan to help that country’s war widows, Israelis and Palestinians unite to join a weight-loss group and both graffiti and break-dancing are presented as urban cultures that cross geographical, political and racial boundaries.

* 9 Star Hotel (Malon 9 Kochavim), directed by Ido Haar. (Israel) – U.S. Premiere. Slipping through the pre-dawn darkness over highways, through traffic and across the border, Palestinian construction workers go to work clandestinely in Israel everyday. Harr’s raw, handheld photography follows workers who build their own border shanty community to enter Israel more easily, with no choice but to risk their lives simply to earn a living. A Koch Lorber Release.

* Between Heaven and Earth (Tussen Hemel En Aarde), directed by Frank van den Engel, Masja Novikova. (Netherlands) – North American Premiere. In the heart of the Eurasian continent, the ancient center of the world where the Silk Road connected China to Europe, the circus is a deeply rooted cultural phenomenon. This film focuses on two circus artists, whose lifelong friendship under the dictatorship in Uzbekistan is affected by the different political choices they make. In Russian and Uzbek.

* Beyond Belief, directed by Beth Murphy. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Inspired by compassion for others whose loss they recognize as mirroring their own, two courageous women whose husbands died in the Twin Towers on 9/11 turn their grief into a catalyst for action. They travel to Kabul to help other widows, soon recognizing that the plight of the Afghan women leaves them feeling almost blessed. In English and Dari.

* Bomb It, directed and written by John Reiss. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Bomb It tells the story of contemporary graffiti, tracing its roots in ancient rock paintings through Picasso to its place in hip-hop culture in 1970's New York City. This kinetic documentary looks at graffiti on five continents, using guerilla footage of graffiti-writers in action. You'll never look at public space the same way again. In English, German, French, Japanese.

* Forging a Nation (Hacer Patria), directed by David Blaustein, written by Irene Ickoickz. (Argentina) – North American Premiere. Accompanied by his mother, cousins, aunts and uncles, the director retraces the steps of his Jewish ancestors, who fled Europe in the 1920s hoping to find in Argentina the land of their dreams. This poignant film journey uses the documentary as a singular tool to explore the multifaceted ways in which the Argentine nation was built.

* I Am an American Soldier: One Year in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, directed by John Laurence. (U.K.) – World Premiere. This unflinching examination of the war in Iraq follows soldiers from the elite 101st Airborne Division for 14 months, from stateside preparations to their deployment in Iraq and back home again. Throughout, soldiers speak candidly about their experience in the military and demonstrate the powerful bond established as they struggle to stay alive.

* Miss Universe 1929, directed and written by Péter Forgács. (Austria) – North American Premiere. Amateur filmmaker Marci Tenczer was smitten with his cousin, Liesl Goldarbeiter and chronicled her rise from a modest childhood in Vienna to the Texas competition where she was crowned the first Miss Universe. Then Hitler upended everyone's universe. Péter Forgács (Best Documentary El Perro Negro, 2005 Tribeca Film Festival) continues his fascinating exploration of Europe's private history through home movies.

* Planet B-Boy, directed by Benson Lee. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. A powerful documentary that's as much about community as it is about dance, Planet B-Boy shows how breakdancing unites B-Boys across political, religious and racial boundaries. Director Benson Lee layers the drama of the world championship competition with the backstories of dancers from the U.S., Korea, Japan and France, and discovers why they are each so committed to their art. In English, French, Japanese and Korean.

* Santiago, directed and written by João Moreira Salles. (Brazil) – North American Premiere. In 1992, João Moreira Salles started making a film about Santiago, the butler who had been working for his parents since his childhood. 13 years later, Salles looked back at the unused material on the now deceased flamboyant servant. Through Santiago's detailed memories and erudite contemplations and the director's voice-over, the film reflects deftly on identity, memory and the nature of documentaries. In black and white.

* A Slim Peace, directed by Yael Luttwak. (U.K.) ­– World Premiere. When 14 women—Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouin Arabs, and American settlers—in the West Bank are brought together with the shared goal of losing weight, they find out they have far more in common than they ever would have imagined. A Slim Peace takes a revealing look at the universal struggle for acceptance, understanding and personal transformation in a land of intractable conflict.

* A Story of People in War & Peace, directed by Vardan Hovhannisyan. (Armenia) – U.S. Premiere. A deeply personal meditation on the horrors of war and its effects is shown through the eyes of Armenian journalist Vardan Hovhannisyan. Weaving together footage he shot during his country's 1994 conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over the Nagorno Karabakh region, Hovhannisyan creates a devastating portrait of lasting damage inflicted by the battlefield. In English and Russian.

* The Sugar Curtain (El Telón de Azúcar), directed by Camila Guzmán Urzúa. (France, Cuba, Spain) – U.S. Premiere. Guzmán Urzúa makes her feature documentary debut with The Sugar Curtain, an intimate portrayal of the singular experience shared by people of her generation -- those living Cuba's utopian dream during the golden era of the revolution. It is also a lament for the end of that dream, which began to fizzle after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Spanish.

* Taxi to the Dark Side, directed by Alex Gibney. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. This documentary murder mystery examines the death of an Afghan taxi driver at Bagram Air Base from injuries inflicted by U.S. soldiers. An unflinching look at the Bush administration's policy on torture, the filmmaker behind Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room takes us from a village in Afghanistan to Guantanamo and straight to the White House.

* The Tree (El Árbol), directed and written by Gustavo Fontán. (Argentina) – International Premiere. Returning to his childhood home, filmmaker Gustavo Fontán documents his parents' deliberations over a tree planted the day he was born. Simple questions that pass between them— -- Is the tree dead? Should we cut it down? -- —become meditations on history, memory, knowledge and the sensory symphony of daily life.

* A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and The Warhol Factory, directed by Esther B. Robinson. (U.S.A.) – U.S. Premiere. Esther Robinson's engrossing portrait of her uncle Danny Williams-Warhol's onetime lover, collaborator and filmmaker in his own right-offers an engaging exploration of the Factory era, an homage to Williams's talent, a journey of family discovery and a compelling inquiry into Williams' mysterious disappearance at age 27.

* We Are Together (Thina Simunye), directed by Paul Taylor. (U.K.) – North American Premiere. Though they've endured painful setbacks, including the loss of loved ones to AIDS, nothing can quell the angelic singing voices of the children in South Africa's Agape Orphanage. Told with compassion and grace, Paul Taylor's uplifting documentary celebrates the children's indomitable spirits and musical aspirations. Includes a special performance by Alicia Keys and Paul Simon. In Zulu and English.


The Spotlight category was created for unique out-of-competition films with well-known cast members, high-profile directors or timely subject matter. With themes ranging from soccer and poker to a determined shepherdess looking for the perfect husband as well as a documentary about the unsung heroes of humanitarian efforts, this year’s Spotlight category sheds light on diverse issues and emotions with 17 features and documentaries from eight different countries.

* 2 Days In Paris (Deux jours á Paris), directed and written by Julie Delpy. (France) – North American Premiere. Actress Julie Delpy (Before Sunrise) writes, directs, edits, produces, stars in and even composes music for her crowd-pleasing directorial debut. With a snappy comic edge, the story revolves around Marion bringing her American boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg) on a visit to Paris. Between clashes of culture, language and flirtatious ex-boyfriends, their relationship is tested in this charming, smart gem. A Samuel Goldwyn Films Release.

* Chops, a documentary film directed by Bruce Broder. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Each year, Jazz at Lincoln Center and its artistic director Wynton Marsalis host the prestigious Essentially Ellington Festival, a competition of high school jazz bands from across the country. This toe-tapping and empowering documentary focuses on one Florida band filled with young musicians who hit all the right notes.

* The Grand, directed by Zak Penn, written by Zak Penn and Matt Bierman. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Woody Harrelson goes all-in to save his dead father’s hotel-casino from a real estate developer in this hilarious mockumentary. His master plan: to win the world’s most famous high stakes tournament, the Grand Championship of Poker. Anteing up the laughs are Werner Herzog, Cheryl Hines, David Cross, Ray Romano and Dennis Farina.

* Invisibles, directed by Mariano Barroso, Isabel Coixet, Javier Corcuera, Fernando León de Aranoa, Wim Wenders. (Spain) – U.S. Premiere. Giving voice to those silenced by international indifference, Academy Award-nominated actor Javier Bardem teams with Doctors Without Borders to produce this powerful collection of short films. Five acclaimed directors shed light on heroic, yet unsung humanitarian efforts to combat international crises, which have thus far remained invisible. In Spanish, English, Lwo, Kiluba and Swahili.

* The Killing of John Lennon, directed and written by Andrew Piddington. (U.K.) – North American Premiere. A riveting, disturbing glimpse into the mind of John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, during the days leading up to his deadly confrontation with the rock star outside the Dakota. Lines lifted verbatim from Chapman's own journal give actor Jonas Bell's unforgettable performance an eerie, chilling precision.

* My Best Friend (Mon meilleur ami), directed by Patrice Leconte, written by Patrice Leconte and J�r�me Tonnerre. (France) – U.S. Premiere. After business associates chide him for his indifference to other people, high-powered art dealer Fran�ois (Daniel Auteuil) is challenged to produce an actual friend in only ten days, or lose a valued vase. His search sets off a witty, yet thoughtful look at the meaning of friendship from prolific French director Patrice Leconte. An IFC Films Release.

* The Optimists (Optimisti) directed by Goran Paskaljevic, written by Vladimir Paskaljevic and Goran Paskaljevic. (Serbia) – North American Premiere. One of Central Europe’s leading filmmakers follows his unforgettable A Midwinter Night’s Dream (TFF 2005) with this new film whose five episodes conjure up a world where people have trouble distinguishing truth from illusions. Each segment reflects the motto of Voltaire’s Candide: “Optimism is insisting everything is good, when everything is bad.”

* Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, a documentary directed by Jim Brown. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are two of many who attest to Seeger's importance in this compelling documentary that is more than a simple biography. Using new interviews, archival footage and home movies, Brown presents a social history through the life of one of this country's most compelling forces for change and, arguably, the most significant folk artist of our time.

* The Power of The Game, a documentary directed by Michael Apted. (U.S.A) – World Premiere. Six stories intertwine in this dramatic and moving examination of the social impact of soccer across the world. Juxtaposing thrilling footage from games leading to and throughout the 2006 World Cup, Apted highlights stories of triumph over adversity from around the globe and skillfully conveys the remarkable transformative power of this sport. In English, German, Farsi, French and Spanish.

* Purple Violets, directed and written by Ed Burns. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Aspiring novelist Patti Petalson's (Selma Blair) chance encounter with her ex Brian (Patrick Wilson) turns her life upside down in this charming romance. Burns shows a new maturity both behind and in front of the lens as he also pairs with Debra Messing to round-out the foursome of college friends reuniting after years of estrangement.

* Razzle Dazzle, directed by Ken Jacobs. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. A frequently returning TFF filmmaker presents the world premiere of his new experimental narrative opus. Razzle Dazzle confirms Jacobs' mastery of digital filmmaking in which he treats the image as a painterly canvas, exploring the depths of cubism and abstract expressionism from source material comprising turn-of-the-century stereopticon slides and an early Edison film.

* The Road to St. Diego (El Camino de San Diego), directed and written by Carlos Sorin. (Argentina) – North American Premiere. A young Argentine backwoodsman learns that soccer star Diego Maradona is ailing in a Buenos Aires hospital, and resolves to bring him a tree root he's uncovered--which he's certain looks just like his idol. Tracing a pilgrimage filled with humor, Sorin spins a delightfully offbeat tale about the roles that fate, religion and idolatry can play in life.

* Steep, a documentary directed by Mark Obenhaus. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Whether it's jumping out of a helicopter hovering above the powdery slopes of Alaska's mountain ranges, or trying to outrun an avalanche in the French Alps, Steep traces the legacy of extreme skiing from its early pioneers to the death-defying daredevils of today.

* Take the Bridge, directed by Sergio M. Castilla. (Chile, U.S.A.) – World Premiere. Four young strangers meet after their failed suicide attempts land each of them in the hospital on the same day. United by circumstance, they may yet discover a reason to live. This fresh, original take on city life pays tribute to the vitality and energy of the Dominican community in Washington Heights. In English and Spanish.

* This Is England, directed and written by Shane Meadows. (U.K.) – U.S. Premiere. It’s the summer of 1983 in northern England. Punks, Mods and Skinheads are on the rise, but employment is not. Eleven-year-old Shaun has lost his father but seems to find a surrogate family in a band of friendly skinheads. When they’re joined by the older, overtly racist Con, who’s just out of prison, the tale takes a much darker turn. An IFC First Take Release.

* Tuya'’s Marriage (Tu Ya De Hun Shi), directed by Wang Quan'an, written by Lu Wei and Wang Quan'an. (China) – North American Premiere. A strong-willed shepherdess on the Mongolian steppe, Tuya must face some harsh truths about the future. In need of an able provider, she reluctantly divorces her ailing husband and considers proposals from a string of quirky suitors. This warm, witty tale, featuring stunning cinematography, won the top prize at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival.

* You Kill Me, directed by John Dahl, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. (U.S.A.) – World Premiere. In this smart, darkly funny drama by John Dahl (The Last Seduction) about addiction and recovery, Ben Kingsley delivers a bravura performance as Frank, an alcoholic contract killer forced to go through a twelve-step program and become a funeral home assistant. Also starring Tea Leoni and Luke Wilson. An IFC Films Release.


Awards in the World Narrative and Documentary Competitions will be presented in the following juried categories: Best Narrative Feature, Best New Narrative Filmmaker (for first or second time feature directors), Best Actress in a Narrative Film, Best Actor in a Narrative Film, Best Screenplay, Best New Documentary Filmmaker and Best Documentary Film (for first or second time feature directors).

Additional Festival awards include the Audience Award for Best Feature Film, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Short and the Student Visionary Award.

Posted at March 12, 2007 1:28 PM

Post a comment


TrackBack URL for this entry: