New York’s Tribeca Film Festival offers a platform for new and emerging filmmakers as well as the work of established cinematic voices. This year, 33 new directors had their films featured in the line-up. They covered a stunning array of genres, from horror to independent comedies, and ventured into seemingly unexplored territory (for instance, coming of age in Cuba). Overall, it was an eclectic mix of profoundly informative pieces and re-imaginings of popular stories. Here are just a few of the standout films from the famed festival.
The Creep Factor: A great many of the films featured this year contained elements of horror. Take the Cronenberg style art house shocker “Jack and Diane”. This film likens a rocky love affair to something that is atrociously frightening. “Rubberneck” offers a similar approach to unrequited love. Alex Karpovsky writes, acts, and stars in the eerie indie, which centers on a dull scientist who harbors strong feelings for his sexy co-worker. The film was largely a festival standout because of its harrowing final moments.
First time director, Jeremy Power Regimbal, brilliantly weaves family tragedy and frighteningly sinister neighbors in “Replicas”. “The Playroom” covers similar ground and proves eerily melodramatic. Julia Dyer directs this nostalgic tale, which was written by her late sister, Gretchen Dyer. The marvelous portrait of the 70’s is not easily forgotten.
The Romantics: When “Downton Abbey” emerged as a TV sensation, rising filmmaker Donald Rice couldn’t have been happier. Not only does his film “Cheerful Weather for a Wedding” contain much of the same themes (forbidden love, family dynamics, class differences, etc.), it also stars Elizabeth McGovern (mistress of “Downton”). The lush production captures the immeasurable drama of a single wedding day. Dolly (Felicity Jones) stalls as much as she can before the ceremony takes place and fantasizes about a love affair she had the summer before. Joseph (Luke Treadaway) swept her off her feet in a manner that was so disarming, she is unable to fulfill her role as the blushing bride. The lovely film reminds us why period dramas have an unwavering popularity.
“Hysteria” offers a witty and engaging look at the invention of the vibrator. Hugh Dancy stars as a psychologist assigned to treat female “hysteria” (which they don’t realize is actually sexual dissatisfaction). The film offers some of the most bizarrely funny montages ever featured in a romantic comedy. Michael Winterbottom’s “Trishna” stars Frieda Pinto as a peasant woman whose beauty captures the attention of a handsome English businessman. Based on the classic Thomas Hardy novel “Tess of the d’Urbervilles, its the best film about India since “Slumdog Millionaire”.
Latino Voices: There were two distinguishing films that vividly captured the Latino experience. “BabyGirl”, directed by Irishman Macdara Valelly, follows a Bronx teen (newcomer Yanis Ynoa) in the midst of her first crush, family drama, and the sometimes difficult realities of urban life. A simple yet evocative film, “BabyGirl” is a rarity.
Good luck trying to think of a film that captures Cuba more accurately than “Una Noche”. The haunting drama won several major awards at the festival for its remarkable story and beautifully filmed scenes. It follows three teenagers coping with family drama, bullying, and sexuality. After a series of unfortunate events, they attempt to make the dangerous sea journey from their communist homeland to Miami. Written and directed by Lucy Malloy, there are elements of “City of God” and even the horror film “Open Water”.
Quirky Indie Gems: “Free Samples”, boldly directed by newcomer Jay Gammill, is a fun comedy that revolves around an ice cream truck. Its intriguing young cast includes the likes of Jess Weixler, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jason Ritter. A similarly effective film is Tom O’Brien’s “Fairhaven”, which makes for a resonating, self-reflective drama. Though it’s a comedic buddy film, it’s deeply intriguing.
Emily Blunt returns to her indie film roots, along with Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt, in Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister”. A year after the death of her ex-boyfriend, Iris (Blunt) is anxious to help his suffering brother get back on his feet. She insists that he relax at her family’s isolated cabin but when he arrives, he learns that her sister Hannah (DeWitt) is also staying there. What follows is an eruption of drama, emotions, and unspoken affection. The smart, funny, and poignant film is marvelously acted and appealingly unpredictable.