Tribeca Film Festival, April 18 – 28 features virtual reality (Wendy Moscow)

wendy vr

Intrepid reporter Wendy Moscow tests out virtual reality at Tribeca Film Festival.

The history of the universe from the big bang until the present, and the plight of enslaved quarry workers in India are the subjects of just two of the virtual reality videos that can be experienced in the Virtual Reality Arcade at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. For those unfamiliar with this technology, “VR” provides the viewer with a mind-blowing opportunity to become immersed in a 360°, three dimensional world created by the VR maker. Utilizing a cell phone with gyroscopic capability mounted behind a pair of goggles plus headphones, the viewer can be transported to a crisis spot in another country or find herself in the middle of a dance performance or go on a
deep-sea dive to explore the ravages of climate change in Palau.

 

If you go, I’d recommend “The Hidden,” created by Lindsay Branham in collaboration with the International Justice Mission and Oculus VR for Good. The potential for VR to inform people about a human rights debacle and inspire them to take action is embodied by this shocking, heartbreaking but hopeful VR documentary. We meet a family (one of many) doing forced labor in a South Indian rock quarry. As they tell their story, we have the option of looking at them as they speak or turning around in a circle to see the bleakness of the environment in which they live. Ostensibly working off a debt of only $70, their indenture becomes slavery as they are never paid and interest accrues. Because of the work of IJM, many of these enslaved people (there are millions more) are released. The VR technology enables you to feel as if you are in the room with them as, one by one, they approach the camera to speak to us. There’s an immediacy that inspires empathy, and, in fact, I quickly wrote postcards (which were provided,cleverly enough) to my senators after the viewing.
“Spheres: Pale Blue Dot” is also a must-see. Eliza McNatt has created an exquisitely beautiful journey through time and space. We viscerally experience the beginnings of our universe through the consolidation of gas clouds into stars and planets, and, finally, our own solar system. Two hand controls, when pointed at celestial bodies, allow us to hear the music of the spheres. After experiencing the spectacular illusion of flying at high speed over the rings of Saturn we end up at our own Earth, and are warned that if we destroy her, there will be no one left to hear that music.
The Virtual Reality Arcade will be available through the end of the festival on April 29.  For more information visit http://www.tribecafilm.com
Advertisements

Tribeca Film Festival 2018, April 18 – 28 “Bathtubs Over Broadway” (Seth Shire)

bathtubs over broadway

April 22, 2018. The April 21 premiere screening of director, producer and editor Dava Whisenant’s new documentary “Bathtubs Over Broadway” was outrageous, electric and exciting.  It was a hilarious, joyous and heartfelt event about a sub-culture and a piece of entertainment history about which almost nothing was known…that is until now. Read the rest of this entry

Tribeca Film Festival 2018, April 18 – 28 “Jellyfish” and “United Skates” (Wendy Moscow)

united skates

The Tribeca Film Festival is in full swing, and with the incredible variety of films and other media to choose from – narratives, documentaries, and “immersive” presentations (virtual reality), it’s hard to know where to begin.

The films “Jellyfish” and “United Skates,” though very different (the first is a narrative from the U.K., the latter a documentary made in the U.S.), are surprisingly linked by their ability to address contemporary issues of alienation, oppression and empowerment honestly and unflinchingly. Read the rest of this entry

Tribeca Film Festival 2018, April 18 – 28 “Howard” (Seth Shire)

Howard Ashman

April 22, 2018. “Howard” is a detailed and absorbing documentary about the life and work of Howard Ashman. Ashman was the lyricist behind Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladin” and “The Little Mermaid.” He frequently collaborated with Alan Menken. “Howard” shows us that Ashman was far more than a lyricist. He was also a director and writer. Sadly, Ashman died of complications from AIDS in 1991 at the age of 40.

Howard” depicts Ashman as a relentless perfectionist who knew what his vision was and strove to achieve it. Ashman’s work was ground breaking. His music brought a Broadway musical quality to animation – witness the many long running Broadway adaptations of Disney’s animated feature films. Read the rest of this entry

Tribeca Film Festival 2018, April 18 – 29 “Tanzania Transit” (Seth Shire)

tanzania transit

April 22, 2018. Class, gender, Jesus, Red Bull and a will to survive, might be the best terms to describe “Tanzania Transit,” an incisive documentary, by director Jeroen van Velzen, about travelers on a train crossing Tanzania. This is a very well edited film that depicts the train as a self contained world in which an unusual collection of passengers, just three people out of many on the train, tell their stories. Read the rest of this entry

Tribeca Film Festival 2018, April 18 – 28 “The Man Who Stole Banksy” (Seth Shire)

1260571_banksy

April 22, 2018. In the college sociology classes which I teach we talk about something called an “objective reality.” An “objective reality” is the thing that just is without adding any meaning to it. How people interpret an “objective reality” is called the “social construction of reality.” I would be hard pressed to think of better examples of “objective realities” and the “social constructions of reality” put to them than those portrayed in the documentary “The Man Who Stole Banksy.”

The film actually has two “objective realities.” The first is the large, highly controversial, wall that Israel built, which has attracted international attention. To the Israeli’s the wall represents security. To the Palestinians the wall represents repression. Entering into this debate about the meaning of the wall is the secretive and controversial artist Banksy, someone who, apparently, no one has ever seen. His identity is a mystery. Read the rest of this entry

Animation First, NYC’s Festival of French Animation (Wendy Moscow)

French animation

February 13, 2018.  Think “animation,” and most people conjure up images of cute anthropomorphic animals cracking wise, and good winning the day over evil. But animation, especially offerings from other countries, can be complex, deal in adult themes, and utilize the fine-art aesthetics of sculpture, collage, pastel, watercolor and ink. The films I was lucky enough to see at “Animation First,” the first ever French Animation Festival in the U.S. (presented by the French Institute Alliance Française) were all of this and more. Read the rest of this entry

Quest (Seth Shire)

Quest

December 8, 2017.  As a film critic who writes primarily about documentaries this may sound sacrilegious, but, I don’t usually care for “fly on the wall,” verite style, documentaries.  I am referring to documentaries that will show a situation and then leave it up to the viewer to interpret it. I gravitate toward documentaries that have stories, points of view and interesting subjects that make me care about something or someone.  Call me shallow, but I want to be guided through a film.  That having been said, I am a bit amazed, and, at the same time, quite gratified, that I truly enjoyed, and was very intrigued by, the new, verite style documentary “Quest.”  Read the rest of this entry

Jane (Wendy Moscow)

jane - wendy

December 2, 2017.  There’s no lack of documentaries about Jane Goodall and her lifelong work studying the wild chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania – but the latest one, simply called “Jane,” is astonishing in its depth, beauty and insight. Drawing from 140 hours of never-before-seen footage shot by Hugo Van Lawick for National Geographic, a contemporary interview with Dr. Goodall, and narration created from an audio recording of an earlier memoir, director Brett Morgen offers the viewer an immersive experience that the previous documentaries cannot match. Joshua Paul Johnson (Assistant Supervising Sound Editor), sound designers Odin Benitez and Peter Staubli plus a crew of six (!) re-recording mixers have much to do with this. Read the rest of this entry

Bombshell: the Heddy Lamarr Story (Seth Shire)

Bombshell_01_preview

December 2, 2017.  Multiple marriages, frequency hopping, scandals, dehydrated Coca Cola, nudity, a villa in Aspen, drug addiction, guided missiles, GPS, wi-fi, Bluetooth and one of the most iconic and beautiful actresses in Hollywood, from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, all come together in director Alexandra Dean’s fascinating new documentary, “Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story.” Dean has created a kaleidoscopic portrait of Lamarr, both as a drop dead gorgeous movie star and as an important inventor, whose work was the basis for guided missiles during World War II, wi-fi, Bluetooth technology, GPS and secure military communications to this day. Who knew? Read the rest of this entry