Tribeca Film Festival 2011: What I Have Seen So Far

Every year there is talk about the personality of the Tribeca Film Festival.  Questions arise as to whether the festival has found its true voice.  Is it consistent?  Is it about independent films or has it been “kowtowing” to big studio releases?  At this point I have no idea.  Like the proverbial kid in a candy store, I have been too busy racing from one screening, and/or panel discussion, to another, to even begin postulating a thesis. Call me naïve, but my interest is in the movies themselves, and not the over all picture that they paint.  Here is what I have seen so far, as of press time, and what I think.

Renee.  “Renee” is a compelling and very well made documentary about controversial 1970s transgender tennis player Renee Richards.   The name “Renee” means re-birth.  The film tells the story of how a sportsman (once scouted by the Yankees), ladies man, father and talented eye surgeon, named Richard Raskin, underwent gender reassignment to become Renee Richards, and the effect that Richards had on the world of women’s tennis.  The film uses a well paced juxtaposition of archival footage, home movies, stills, modern day interviews with Richards’ friends, relatives, tennis competitors, son and Richards herself, to create a truly fascinating portrait of this one of a kind figure.

Marathon Boy.  Budhia Singh is an Indian national athlete and beloved figure.  He has run 26 half marathons and 48 full marathons.  Budhia is four years old.  His coach, Biranchi Das, rescued Budhia from slum life and is training him to become an Olympic champion.  Is Das a good man who wants to help India’s poor, or is he exploiting and abusing Budhia by making him run incredible distances?  The answer is one of perception in what proves to be a fascinating documentary about sports, politics, intentions and nationalism.

The Assault.  From France, “The Assault” is a tense, harrowing true story of a 1994 hi-jacking of Air France flight 8969 in Algiers, by Muslim terrorists.  The plane was held on the ground, with 227 passengers on board, before being given permission to fly to Marseille for refueling.  The story is told primarily from the point of view of Thierry, one of the commandos involved in the rescue operation.  The climactic assault on the plane played out on live TV.  As presented in the film the shootout is shown mostly in close-ups and quick cuts, at times making it difficult to tell what is going on.  All in all, a decent hostage drama.

Bombay Beach.  “Bombay Beach” is a beautifully photographed, poetic, lyrical portrait of the poverty stricken residents of a now defunct California resort town on the Salton Sea.  Director, photographer and video artist, Alam Har’el, clearly has great affection for her subjects, which include a bipolar seven-year-old boy and his family, an inter-racial high school couple and an eccentric elderly man.  However, for my tastes, I needed more story, than there is here, to hold my interest for the film’s 80 minute running time.

The Swell Season.  I have no doubt that fans of folk musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who starred together in the 2007 indie hit “Once,” will enjoy this gorgeously shot, black and white, music-generous, portrait of the singing duo.  The documentary chronicles their relationship both on and off stage.  However for the uninitiated, like me, the pacing of their story proved to be a bit sluggish.

Beyond the Black Rainbow.  A “slower-than-slow,” self-indulgent, futuristic film that tries to evoke 70’s sci-fi movies, had me, and others, making for the door after half an hour.  What were they thinking when they let this one into the festival?


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on April 24, 2011, in Feature Articles, New, Tribeca Film Festival 2011. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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