The Tribeca Festival 2021 was all about recognizing new filmmakers and supporting established voices. But it is also curated innovative and interactive experiences, introduced new technology and ideas through panels, exhibitions, and live performances.
On its 20th anniversary, the Tribeca opted to eliminate the word "film" from its name. Following a year in which film festivals have transformed into mostly virtual, co-creators Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal have said that this change is a “sign of the times”.
The festival this year still had many narrative films, documentaries, shorts films, TV features, and filmmaker Q&As available to watch in person and to stream. But it also enlarged its long-running sidebars devoted to gaming and virtual reality. The convergence between digital media, video games, and other forms of entertainment is inevitable, and I applaud the direction that the Festival is going. I know that many people do not share this opinion. But the world is changing, really fast, and Tribeca is proving that it is aware of these changes.
Anyway, I have watched great films that Tribeca showed from the comfort of my home for ten days. And here are five that caught my eye.
Catch the fair one
A former boxer embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister. Catch the fair one is a taut thriller and second feature for Tribeca “Best New Narrative Director” winner, Josef Kubota Wladyka, and a star-making debut for a professional boxer, Kali Reis.
Catch the fair one is a gripping thriller with well-developed characters. Kayleigh's life after boxing and her resolve to find her sister are established slowly in the script. But don't worry, once the action starts, the movie will keep you entertained. I really liked how gritty and intense the film is. With a great lead performance and a simple approach to narrative, the film succeeds as an interesting revenge thriller.
My only gripe with the film is that there is no genuine conclusion at the ending. To avoid spoilers, this will most likely be very vague and may not make much sense. But some narrative threads are left hanging after the film ends. And I think that some viewers will be disappointed as a result of this.
Lennon exists timidly on the sidelines of the thriving Columbus, Ohio indie music scene. She always craved for a personal connection that would lead her into the inner sanctuary of warehouse concerts, private backstage, house parties, and the cutting-edge art scene. Lennon finds motivation for her own musical goals as she fires her desire for entry into a podcast combining live music and talks with the musicians she so strongly admires.
The directors Ori Segev and Noah Dixon (who also wrote the script) populated their features with several real-life figures from the burgeoning Columbus art scene.
The film has a slow build. It patiently introduces the audience to Lennon’s creepy quirks while also layering on the laughs thanks to a slew of uncomfortably funny podcast interviews.
The main performances are fantastic. Bobbi Kitten of Damn the Witch Siren, is playing a version of herself, a mysterious, beautiful, and brilliant half of a successful indie-pop duet. She takes Lennon under her wing and unintentionally becomes entangled in a sinister infatuation. Newcomer Sylvie Mix plays the aspiring podcaster and is super charismatic. She expertly handles the challenging parts that make Poser strangely charming, incredibly engaging, and even disturbingly enjoyable.
Mix and Kitten are a formidable duo but the film also offers beautiful cinematography, great music, and in the closing 15 minutes things got really intense.
The one and only Dick Gregory
This excellent documentary which was written and directed by Gaines, explores the career of Dick Gregory, the legendary comedian, and activist who was at the forefront of the fight for civil rights.
Gregory was a persistent disruptor who went on hunger strikes and was jailed numerous times for opposing institutional racism and the Vietnam War. He died of heart failure in 2017. But his voice bookends the documentary since he started to work on it before his death. The film establishes Gregory amongst the most influential personalities in American comedy history, while also holding him accountable for many missteps during his life.
The only and unique Dick Gregory is a great documentary that honors its subject while also presenting him to a new generation of people who can understand what humor can do.
Ivy is a New Orleans lounge singer trying to make a name for herself. When alone, though, she suffers from a terrifying eating disorder. And the more she hides her struggles, the stronger her inner demons become.
Shapeless is based on the producer, star, and co-screenwriter Kelly Murtagh’s struggles with an eating disorder. I think that her intention with this film is to teach people the value of speaking out, being vulnerable, asking for help. And most essential, never being ashamed of attempting to improve yourself.
The film embraces some elements of the horror genre and is made creepier by the use of twisted visuals. Ivy must face her addiction - or risk becoming a monster. The cinematography is amazing and the composition and framing of the shots make you feel very unsettled.
Shapeless is an excellent opportunity to talk about mental health. I hope that by watching Ivy’s story, others that are suffering in silence may be inspired to have their life-saving conversations about eating disorders.
In the early 1990s, before New York City’s mass gentrification, a group of disparate youth ventured outside their broken homes into the city’s brutal streets. United by skateboarding, they cultivated a family and built a unique lifestyle that ultimately inspired Larry Clark’s 1995 groundbreaking film, Kids. The crew became overnight commodities, thrust into the mainstream spotlight. Left adrift under the bright lights, some discovered transcendent lives and careers -- while others, abandoned and unequipped to handle fame, suffered fatal consequences.
Director Eddie Martin’s new documentary about Larry Clark’s seminal 1995 indie film Kids was eye-opening to me. I honestly had no idea how that film came to happen. But according to the people that were the subjects in the film, what happened was: A creepy older man (Clark) invaded the lives of underprivileged teenaged skaters in New York, drained off their experiences for his story, paid them peanuts but earned a fortune. And then fled out and into the realm of independent filmmaking while most of his cast lived in poverty.
Clark and Harmony Korine, the screenwriter for Kids, declined to sit for interviews. So we never get to hear their side of the story. Notable performers like Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson are also absent. But if the stories told in this film are all true, it may be time to stop romanticizing Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s work.