The 9th Tribeca Film Festival begins Wednesday, April 21, and while no doubt the scope of the festival now reaches around the world, highlighting creative filmmaking everywhere, several festival selections this year maintain the Tribeca Fest's original ties to the neighborhood and to the city. As always, the city can provide compelling subject matter. A disgraced governor, creative avant-garde filmmakers, the designer Halston, salsa dancers, a writer in search of Al-Qaeda, and Joan Rivers are just a few of the subjects of documentaries in this year's festival selections. Narrative New York-centered feature films include several comedies, dramas, or a combination of both, many set against the backdrop of contemporary Greenwich Village, Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and other locations in the city. The programs of short films at Tribeca also feature vivid portraits of New York life, highlighting the diversity of cultural landscapes that are too rarely portrayed in the mass media.
What follows is a selection of films in this year's Tribeca Film Festival that prominently feature the city. For information about schedule and tickets, please consult the official website. The festival, which offers a wealth of films and programming beyond the local fare mentioned here, continues through May 2. Look for upcoming reviews of some of the following films on Walking Off the Big Apple.
• Arias with a Twist: The Docufantasy (2009). Feature Documentary. 86 min. The downtown art scene of New York as seen through the collaboration between cabaret and drag artist Joey Arias and master puppeteer Basil Twist, with rare footage of Andy Warhol, Jim Henson, Keith Haring, Grace Jones, Divine and others.
• Every Day (2009). Feature Narrative. 90 min. Family comedy drama about a New York couple, played by Live Schreiber and Helen Hunt, having to deal with a sick father-in-law (Brian Dennehy) and surprising developments with their children and co-workers.
|Helen Hunt (Jeannie) and Ezra Miller (Jonah) in a scene from Richard Levine's EVERY DAY. Courtesy of Ambush Entertainment.|
• Last Play at Shea (2009) Feature Documentary. 95 min. All-star concert headlined by Billy Joel closes out the life of the legendary Shea Stadium, providing a soundtrack for historical footage and memories of the former home of the New York Mets.
|Billy Joel, in concert at the "Last Play at Shea" concert, where he was the last artist to perform at Shea Stadium. Directed by Paul Crowder and Jon Small (concert footage). Image: Kevin Mazur|
• Legacy (2010) Feature narrative. 95 minutes. Idris Elba, best known from a starring role in The Wire, stars in this psychological drama of a Black ops veteran living in a seedy Brooklyn apartment and confronting his tortured past.
|Character: Malcolm Gray Actor: Idris Elba. Image: Joseph Gibson|
• Monogamy (2010) Feature Narrative. 94 min. Mystery-thriller and relationship drama centers on a wedding photography with a sideline in voyeuristic surveillance photos. Set in contemporary Brooklyn.
• My Trip to Al-Qaeda (2010). Feature Documentary. 86 min. Writer Lawrence Wright's book and one-man play about seeking to understand Al-Qaeda serves as the focal point for this highly-anticipated documentary directed by Alex Gibney.
• Nice Guy Johnny (2010). Feature Narrative. 89 min. The nearby Hamptons are the setting for this relationship "dramedy" about a young man seeking a well-paying job to impress his fiancée. Written and directed by Edward Burns (who also plays a role).
• Please Give (2010). Feature Narrative. 90 minutes. A morally-confused wealthy New York couple, played by Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt, wait out the death of their Greenwich Village neighbor so they can take over and expand their apartment.
|Left to Right: Sarah Steele as "Abby," Catherine Keener as "Kate". Photo taken by Piotr Redlinksi © 2008, Property of Sony Pictures Classics. Copyright: Property of Sony Pictures Classics|
• The Spirit of Salsa (2009). Feature Documentary. 47 min. Screened outdoors at the Tribeca Drive-in (World Financial Center Plaza) at dusk on Thursday, April 22, the documentary follows the salsa enthusiasts who meet weekly at a dance school in Spanish Harlem.
• Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2209). Feature Documentary. 89 min. First big celebrity designer was also the king of the New York club scene. Interviews with Liza Minnelli, Diane Von Furstenberg, Billy Joel, and other friends help define this documentary portrait.
• Untitled Elliot Spitzer Film (2010). Feature Documentary. A work in progress by Alex Gibney focuses on the political rise and scandalous fall of the former New York governor. As the governor goes, so do the financial markets.
• Visionaries (2010) Feature Documentary. 88 min. Director Chuck Workman pays homage to avant-garde cinema through a variety of extracts and interviews with artists and critics, including Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger, Su Friedrich, and Amy Taubin.
|Montage for P.S. 1 gallery exhibition of Jonas Mekas images, 1960 to the present.. |
Byline: Courtesy of P.S. 1. Image: Copyright: © Mattthew Septimus 2007
|"William Vincent walks the streets of New York City" Character: William Vincent Performer: James Franco. © In Praise of Shadows the Film, LLC|
• Hard Core (NY short program):
Something in the Air follows a street hustler in Crown Heights. In Space looks at the spiritual life of a young monk. Billy & Aaron is about Billy Strayhorn's gay identity in the 1940s jazz world. Cookie revolves around three boys and a streetwalker. In Bedford Park Boulevard a 15-year-old Latino boy tries to subvert the rules in the Queen school system. F--K depends on a mysterious location. The New Tenants brings surprises for a couple of people on moving day.
• In the Shorts: Flashback program, look for a short documentary, White Lines and The Fever: The Death of DJ Junebug, about Junebug's double life as a DJ and drug dealer in the Bronx of the early 1980s.
|Junebug. White Lines and the Fever: death of DJ Junebug. Image: Sal Abbatiello|
• The Tribeca Family Festival. Sunday, April 25 10:00 am. Screening of a collection of shorts by elementary and middle school filmmakers from Lower Manhattan schools.
• Barnes & Nobel New York Stories. Sunday, April 25 12:00 pm
How do filmmakers deal with a changing New York? Panelists include Arias With
a Twist director Bobby Sheehan and performer Joey Arias, Monogamy writer/director Dana Adam Shapiro, The Woodmans director C. Scott Willis, and actor/writer Hill Harper. Moderated by NY1’s Budd Mishkin.
• Also, check the Apple SoHo retail store for several Tribeca Film Festival programs (link to store page on the festival).
Images: courtesy and credits noted with each image.