Tribeca Film Festival 2011: Wrap Up

The Tribeca Film Festival for 2011 concluded on Sunday, May 1.  While I could try to sum this year’s festival by comparing it to past Tribeca Film Festivals, or to film festivals in other cities, I’ll simply say that this year’s festival was provocative, enjoyable and very well run.  Believe me, I tried to see all of it.  At last count I had screened about 17 of the 95 feature films selected for this year’s festival, not to mention the panel discussions I attended (Fortunately there is still much that I can catch on line).

Having filmmakers come to New York from across the country, and around the world, to share their stories, was dramatic, touching and very educational.  Every filmmaker who I saw introduce their film said how thrilled they were to be there.  Directors, producers, cast and crew members and documentary subjects all showed up to introduce their films and, after the screenings, talk about their films and take questions from the audiences. 

The films that I saw ran the gamut from stories of the famous to the infamous, from joy to sorrow.  The very robust, ninety-year-old Broadway star, Carol Channing, held the audience in the palm of her hand as she spoke following a screening of “Carol Channing: Larger that Life, a very entertaining documentary about Channing’s life and career.

Director Alex Gibney’s documentary “Catching Hell” is a fascinating look at sports fanaticism and scapegoating.  The film revolves primarily around two famous sports scapegoats: Cubs fan Steve Bartman, who deflected a ball in Game 6 in the 2003 NLCS and became the most hated man in Chicago, and Bill Buckner, whose famous “ball through his legs” incident was blamed for costing the Red Socks the 1986 World Series.   Each of these incidents is examined in great detail, both in terms of the over all contexts in which they occurred, as well as in the reactions of the public and media.

Kathy Gilleran, a retired police officer from Ithaca New York, proved to be a fascinating subject as she spoke directly to the camera, plainly and simply, for much of the heart breaking documentary “Gone.”  The film concerns the mysterious disappearance of Gillern’s son, Aeryn, in Vienna four years ago, and Gilleran’s attempts to find out what happened to him.

From Norway, “Turn me on goddammit” is a charming, sexually explicit, comedy about a young girl’s coming of age.  First time feature Director Jannicke Systad Jacobson strikes just the right balance, never allowing the film to go over the top and become vulgar.  The result is a story that is quite funny and winning.  I  just shudder to think of what an American remake of this film would be like

Dick Kuchera is a man who has tried to make amends to all the people in his life who he has offended over the past 50 years…and there are many. His story is detailed in the wonderfully eccentric documentary “Despicable Dick and Righteous Richard.” Kuchera, a charismatic salesman, who I could not help but like despite what I learned about him in the documentary, gave a beautiful long feather to each audience member prior to the film’s screening.

An enthusiastic group of talented high school actors and their teachers appeared following a screening of “Shakespeare High,” a fun and interesting chronicle of the personalities involved in high school level competitive performances of Shakespearean plays in California.

Director/cinematographer Lee Hirsch and producer Cynthia Lowen spoke about their beautifully shot, intimate documentary, “The Bully Project,” a film that addressed the epidemic of bullying in our nations schools.  How Hirsch and Lowen got families, kids and school administrators to allow them into their lives, as closely as they get in this film, is the stuff of great documentary filmmaking.


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 May 4, 2011, in Feature Articles, Tribeca Film Festival 2011. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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