Synopsis: A stark documentary set in Oceana, West Virginia where, after the local mining industry closed down and left the local economy in a state of desperation, a new trade has emerged – the drug trade. The locals have nicknamed the town Oxyana after the OxyContin epidemic that has seized the tiny Appalachian community -- now every resident is a potential addict.
Verdict: Documentarian Sean Dunne came to our attention back in 2008 at the Independent Film Festival of Boston where his LP-obsessives documentary “The Archive” screened. The doc made an impression and later went on to become Emmy Nominated. He’s since directed the short Insane Clown Posse Juggalos documentary “American Juggalo” and “Oxyana” is his feature length documentary debut. Stark, unflinching and sometimes hard to watch, “Oxyana” is a gripping portrait of a community in crisis. Featuring a haunting, broken-down score by members of Deer Tick, “Oxyana” doesn’t editorialize outside of some key moments of music, instead eschewing drama to tell, raw-nerved stories of addiction and struggle from the people themselves. [Read our review]
Synopsis: Set against the lush backdrop of rural Laos, a young boy said to be born of bad luck yearns to break free from his ill-fated destiny. After his poor village is displaced by an Australian corporation and his mother dies in an accident during relocation, the boy, his father and grandmother set out in search for a new home in the Laotian outback. Along the way, they come across a rocket festival that offers a lucrative—but dangerous—chance for a new beginning.
Verdict: Endearing, spirited and lovely, “The Rocket” balances third world hardship with the humanist story of family and a young boy who wants to prove his birth superstitions wrong. The narrative feature debut of documentarian Kim Mordaunt, “The Rocket” is an impressive drama, that’s soulful, carefully considered and crowd-pleasing. Navigating humanist and social concerns, “The Rocket” never stoops to being an enlightened third world drama, but is instead teeming with resilience, life and its myriad struggles. While it also features a feel-good tone in the last act that helped it win some of Tribeca’s major awards, including the Main Narrative Audience prize, it’s big finish is genuine and well-earned. [Read our review here.]
Synopsis: A young Israeli girl copes with the intensity of class tension and sexual pressure by becoming the girlfriend of a party-going playboy who proceeds to exploit her among a small circle of friends.
Verdict: One of the smaller films of Tribeca, this intense drama avoids the easy moralizing of stories about “wayward youth” while also sidestepping the grotesqueries of Larry Clark freakshows to keep the focus on both protagonist Gili (Sivan Levy) and the “six acts” that define her to a group of prying male deviants. What’s arresting about this upsetting narrative is that Gili is smart enough to know that these flashy partyboys are simply using her, but tries to use it as a form of social currency, an attempt by this young woman to own and control her sexuality. What “Six Acts” becomes is a study of whether one can ever fully take control of their sexual agency and if Gili is a victim by her own choosing, or at the mercy of her circumstances in a hyper-sexualized world of dominance and abuse. [Read our review here.]
“Some Velvet Morning”
Synopsis: A young and beautiful New Yorker (Alice Eve) is surprised when an old lover -- that she has not seen or heard from in four years (Stanley Tucci) -- appears at her door with great expectations. Guess what, he's finally left his wife for her. This strange, out-of-nowhere bewilderment is complicated by the fact that she is now friends with Fred’s recently married son.
Verdict: Most fans were ready to shovel dirt on the coffin of Neil LaBute after the threesome of “The Wicker Man,” “Lakeview Terrace” and the appropriately-bloodless “Death At A Funeral” remake. Instead, the accomplished playwright decided to strip down his craft for this claustrophobic relationship drama that has the tension and immediacy of great theater, combined with the vision and atmosphere of superbly-fascinating filmmaking. LaBute, in his commonly cruel way, strands two actors on their own island of self-absorption, pitting pugilistic white-collar jerk Tucci against much-younger would-be paramour Eve, her defenses not prepared for his self-defeating doublespeak disguising an intense, almost uncomfortably revealing sense of self-love. Without another location nor another actor, these two actors claw at each other, Tucci’s combative romantic refugee escaping from his wife only to find the cold, unwelcoming arms of Eve attempting to escape to a lunch date with his son. It’s a portrait of the lifetime of a relationship and how sometimes we forget that that lifetime is exceedingly limited, dependent on a mutual agreement that can never realistically exist between lovers. [Read our review here.]