Tribeca Film Festival 2014

tribeca 2014The Tribeca Film Festival is now running from April 16 – 27 at various venues around town, most of which are not actually in Tribeca. As in previous years, my coverage of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival is all about the films, documentaries in particular. Do not get me wrong, the glamour, glitz and celebrities are important but, for me, more than anything, the festival is about the work. At film festivals the documentaries are almost always the best parts, while fiction films can be uneven. Stick with the documentaries and it is all but guaranteed that you will see great filmmaking.

One documentary that really touched me was Garnet’s Gold. “Garnet’s Gold” is a universal, funny, bittersweet and ultimately very human story for anyone who has ever had doubts about the direction in which his, or her, life has gone. Most important, “Garnet’s Gold” has great characters, a vital element for any documentary.

“Garnet’s Gold” is the story of Garnet Frost, a 58-year-old man, living in Scotland, whose life has never quite jelled. Although a talented individual with high ideals, Garnet describes himself as stuck in limbo, as far as the progress of his life is concerned. He is waiting for something to come his way, which, so far, has not. Garnet lives with his soon to be 90-year-old mother who is a font of philosophy, wisdom and humor and one of the film’s many highlights.

The film’s back story is that 20 years before, Garnet, while hiking and camping by Scotland’s Loch Arkaig, in the wilderness, ran out of food and shelter and assumed he was just going to die. He was rescued. Along the way Garnet found a staff stuck into a rock formation. Upon reading an account of pirate gold being buried some 300 years before, in the same area in which he was found, Garnet is convinced that his staff was the marker for the gold. Garnet then sets out on a quest to locate the area from which he was rescued and find the gold. As Garnet’s mother, who has lent him money for the expedition, puts it, “It’s not gold, it’s his heart’s desire,” that he is after.

“Garnet’s Gold” has been beautifully photographed and directed by Ed Perkins.

Art and Craft is a fascinating look at the nature and definition of art and deviance. The story concerns schizophrenic art forger Mark Landis. Landis has an incredible talent for making perfect copies of paintings by Picasso and Matisse, among other artists. His forgeries hang in major art museums around the country. Is Landis guilty of a crime? No. He does not sell his art. Landis merely donates his art to museums, usually with a false story as to where it came from and the significance the work has for him. It is up to the museums to do their due diligence in order to determine if the art is authentic. Many, obviously, had not.

“Art and Craft“ questions the importance of authenticity in the art world. If the forgery is good enough to fool experts does it really matter that a particular work is a forgery? As Robert Wittman, part of the FBI Art Crime Team points out, “The art world is a very strange place.”

As a teacher of sociology I am very interested in the concept of deviance. On the one hand, one could say that Landis is engaging in deviant behavior, but by whose definition? What norms is he really breaking other than using his talent to pull pranks on museums? After all, it is up to the museums to figure out if the art is genuine.

Landis himself is perfectly upfront about what he does explaining that, in his opinion, ethical behavior does not pay off. Landis, in spite of his mental illness, or perhaps because of it, proves to be a character who is observant, confident and intelligent, with more than a bit of irreverence and humor about what he does.

“Art and Craft” has been directed by Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman.

Looking at our hi-tech world from the point of view of an event that happened 33 years ago,1971 is ajaw-dropping pre-cursor to the times in which we live.

Living in the age of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden we don’t think about a lo-tech leak of secret documents (aside from what Daniel Ellsberg famously accomplished with the Pentagon Papers). In the year 1971, government secrets were on hard copy only. “If you disrupted the paper, you disrupted system,” we are told.

In 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War, in the town of Media Pennsylvania, a group of eight citizens, calling themselves “The Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI” broke into the local FBI office. To help their scheme come off, they did this on the night of the famous Ali – Frazer boxing match, knowing that everyone else would be distracted watching the fight. They uncovered evidence of a top secret civilian surveillance program run by then FBI Head J. Edgar Hoover.   The discovery and subsequent release of information to newspapers changed the course of government surveillance…at least for a while.

The group was never caught. Only now, in this documentary, do they come forward to discuss the motivations for their actions.

Director Johanna Hamilton and editor Gabriel Rhodes have created a fast moving narrative, seamlessly blending present day interviews, stock footage, historical footage and re-enactments to tell this incredible, true story. “1971” is an exciting and stark reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Screening venues include AMC Loews Village 7 (66 3rd Avenue) and Bowtie Chelsea Cinemas (260 West 23rd Street) and the SVA Theatre (33 West 23rd Street).

For more information on the Tribeca Film Festival, visit www.tribecafilm.com.

 

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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 21, 2014, in Documentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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