Normally a kernal of well-curated sanity in the vast monstrosity that is the Tribeca Film Festival, the festival's international narrative and documentary competitions were just announced. Glancing over the selection, the program looks promising with already-proven world cinema entries the best bets.
I walked out of Emmanuelle Bercot's teen star obsession drama "Backstage" at Toronto, but I know the film has its fans. Matthias Glasner's "The Free Will" was heralded at Berlin for its bracing vision of a rapist. And knowing program director Peter Scarlet's knowledge and taste for Iranian cinema, I'd suspect Mani Haghighi's "Men at Work" is among the strongest films to emerge from that country, and is probably worth a look. Who knows if Brazilian maestro Nelson Pereira dos Santos still has it, but his latest "Brasilia 18%," "a hallucinatory meditation on governmental corruption," sounds potentially interesting.
The documentary competition looks more solid. I, for one, am interested in seeing the following:
37 Uses for a Dead Sheep, directed by Ben Hopkins (UK) – North American Premiere. To preserve their culture, the Pamir Kirghiz people have migrated across Central Asia from the U.S.S.R to China to Afghanistan to Pakistan and finally to remote eastern Turkey, but now they face the most serious threat to their traditions, globalization. Using a variety of techniques, this fascinating, at times comic doc, is as enjoyable as it is informative.
The Blood of My Brother: A Story of Death in Iraq, directed by Andrew Berends (USA, Iraq) – North American Premiere. A LifeSize Entertainment & Releasing Release. Thoughts of revenge are tempered by more practical concerns in The Blood of My Brother, which shows the war in Iraq from the perspective of an Iraqi family grieving the loss of a son who was killed by an American patrol as he stood guard at a mosque.
Dear Father, Quiet, We're Shooting... (Avi Hayakar, Sheket yorim...), Directed by David Benchetrit and written by Benchetrit and Senyora Bar David (Israel) – North American Premiere. When war crimes are carried out under orders from officers, military commanders, and political leaders who is responsible? This film allows former members of the Israeli Defense Forces-now conscientious objectors-to recount their experiences in both Lebanon and Palestine, and to question the limits of state power.
East of Paradise, directed by Lech Kowalski (France, USA) – North American Premiere. Underground documentarian and TFF vet Kowalski completes his Wild Wild East trilogy with East of Paradise, in which he attempts to draw a difficult parallel between his mother's post-WWII tenure in a Siberian gulag and his own stint of pornography and hard drugs in 70's New York City. In English and Polish.
Jesus Camp, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (USA) – World Premiere. The makers of Boys of Baraka turn their cameras on an evangelical Christian camp of rare devotion. With unprecedented access, the children and parents show how their faith dictates everything from their daily lives to politics. This fascinating doc about a rarely seen world where faith trumps everything else is sure to provoke debate.
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, directed by Stanley Nelson, written by Marcia Smith (USA, Mexico) – World Premiere. Featuring never-before-seen footage, Nelson delivers a startling new look at the Peoples Temple, headed by preacher Jim Jones who, in 1978, led more than 900 members to Guyana, where he orchestrated a mass suicide via tainted punch. You may think you know the story, but Nelson uncovers fresh information that will leave you spellbound.
MAQUILAPOLIS: City of factories, directed by Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre (USA, Mexico) – North American Premiere. Just over the border in Mexico is an area peppered with maquiladoras: massive sweatshops often owned by the world's largest multinational corporations. Carmen and Lourdes work at maquiladoras in Tijuana, and it is there that they try to balance the struggle for survival with their own radicalization in this hard-hitting and ultra-relevant documentary.
Sounds of Silence (Sot-e Sokut), directed by Amir Hamz and Mark Lazarz (Iran, U.K., Germany) – World Premiere. In Iran, where half the population is under 30, Western music is banned and the solo female voice has not been heard singing in public since the Revolution. But as this films reveals, young men and women in burgeoning underground bands are defying the system by using the Internet to get their music heard. In Farsi.
The War Tapes, directed by Deborah Scranton (USA) – World Premiere. Since Homer's time, artists have struggled with the challenge of how to describe the experience of war. Called up for service in Iraq, several members of the National Guard were given digital video cameras. This astonishing film, edited from their footage, provides an unimaginably vivid perspective on an extremely complex and troubled conflict.