Tribeca Film Festival 2010 Wrap Up
Trying to encapsulate the Tribeca Film Festival of 2010 brings to mind the story of the three blind men describing an elephant. The man at the trunk has one description. The man at the tail has another point of view while the blind man at the side has still a different evaluation of the pachyderm. The festival, which ran from April 21 – May 2, screened over one hundred films and hosted panel discussions in 12 venues including the Village East Cinemas on Second Avenue, the Chelsea Clearview Cinemas and SVA theatre, both on 23rd Street, the Borough of Manhattan Community College on Chambers Street and the Union Square Barnes & Noble. That it was too much for any one person to see, both in terms of scheduling and stamina, goes without saying. So based on what I saw, along with my review of “Brilliant Love” below, here is what I thought of the elephant that came to our neighborhood for 11 days.
Last Play at Shea. “Last Play at Shea” is an energetic, fascinating lesson in pop culture and New York City history. Billy Joel was the last artist to perform at Shea Stadium before it was torn down. The mainstay of this documentary is the footage of that concert, but what makes the piece unique is that it tells three other stories as well. Inter-cut with the concert we learn about the history of Shea Stadium, including the famous 1965 Beatles Concert, the history of the Mets at Shea and the history of Joel’s life and career, all of which have more parallels than one might expect. The film has been very well shot and edited keeping its many “balls in the air” and bringing the four elements together so that they culminate to give weight to this one final concert event.
Freakonomics. Could corrupt practices in the world of Sumo wrestling explain why it took the SEC such a long time to catch on to Bernie Madoff? Could Roe v. Wade have been directly responsible for a decrease in crime? Could less than stellar high schoolers be bribed to pull up their grades? Based on the book by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, this engaging, thought provoking documentary uses animation, re-enactments and a humorous, lively commentary to draw connections between seemingly disparate elements. It might best be described as narrative, non-fiction filmmaking based on a lot of empirical evidence. While I was not 100% convinced by all of its conclusions, some of which I suspect might be colored by the authors’ political views, “Freakonomics” is able to take some rather dry data and present it in a manner that is fast moving, entertaining and intelligent.
Visionaries. Filmmaker Chuck Workman, best known for putting together those terrific Oscar film clip compilations, and one of my personal favorite short films “Precious Images,” has made a very comprehensive and accessible documentary on the history of avant-garde cinema. I’ll admit to not always “getting” avant-garde films and to its credit the documentary explains that to appreciate these films one has to challenge oneself. The film features film clips inter-cut with various interview subjects: critic Amy Taubin, Anthology Film Archives founder Jonas Mekas and many others including archival interviews with Andy Warhol. “Visionaries” was interesting enough to make its case and made me want to give some of these films another chance.