In 2015, the Tribeca Film Festival packs a lot of variety into a comparatively small Midnight section. In just five films, the lineup runs a gamut. Senior Programmer Cara Cusumano runs it down: We have a documentary. We have a thriller. We have a foreign language film. We have a creature feature. We have a corrupt cop movie. Thats not to mention the zombie drama, ghost mystery, familial thriller and intimate post-apocalypse outliers. Its something Cusumano is proud of, as any festival programmer would be.
Our overall approach and sensibility at the festival is to put a lot of different things in play with each other, Cusumano tells Shock. For instance, in our competition its international and American films all together, films that have been at other festivals, films that are World Premieres. We really like to break down a lot of those traditional boundaries. Were a festival that responds really well to new ideas, new voices, people who are doing something special and different. So I think its not surprising that our Midnight section would not be five typical horror movies in a row. That well rounded-ness is something we go for; its pretty typical of every section at the festival.
This year, the festivals genre/cultish slate hones in on singular, strange and unfamiliar points-of-view, be it Arnold Schwarzeneggers unexpected first go in a zombie film; or the latest from the warped mind of Adrian Garcia Bogliano; or
Emelies twist on a familiar horror personality: The Babysitter. Cusumano spoke with Shock about slate, Midnight and non, in anticipation of the annual New York City-based event.
The Tribeca Film Festival runs April 15-26. For full film, ticket and screening info, head
Tribeca 2015 #1
Backtrack (2015, Dir. Michael Petroni)
Backtrack is a ghost story. It’s a mystery. We didn’t put it in Midnight, because we feel like primarily it’s about this unraveling of a mystery, this cold case Adrien Brody is investigating. He’s being led down that path. I think a genre fan can appreciate some of the imagery it uses to tell that story. It has a couple of good scares in it."
Troubled psychotherapist Peter Bowers (Adrien Brody) is suffering from nightmares and eerie visions. When he uncovers the horrifying secret shared by his patients, he is put on a course that takes him back to the remote hometown he fled years ago. There in False Creek he is consumed by solving a decades-old mystery that holds the key to his strange and menacing delusions.
Tribeca 2015 #2
Bodyslam: Revenge of The Banana! (2015, Dir. Ryan Harvie and John Paul Horstmann)
Bodyslam is really fun. It’s about these guys who have their own underground wrestling, complete with characters they’ve fully developed who have these back stories and these rivalries. They do these performances at bars in Seattle, and what happens when The Banana, one of their characters, becomes disenchanted with the group and tries to sabotage them from within. All these guys, Ronald McFondle and Eddie Van Glam and The Banana will be at the festival in full costume, so that should be really fun and exciting. It’s really nice to be able to have a documentary in Midnight. We always want to and we didn’t find the right one the last few years."
With names like Ronald McFondle and Eddie Van Glam, the SSP represented an offbeat family of cabaret fighters who cherished their tight-knit assembly of renegades. But when newcomer Paul (nicknamed The Banana) joined the SSP the dynamic shifted in a way they had not foreseen. Paul’s broody and misanthropic demeanor clashed with the carefree brotherhood. And when the Banana felt he landed on the wrong end of a joke, he plotted his revenge. But the SSP was not going to be taken down that easily.
Tribeca 2015 #3
Emelie (2015, Dir. Michael Thelin)
Emelie is great. It’s one of those movies where the less you know the better, so it’s a little tricky to talk about too much. One of the producers, Andrew Corkin, also did Martha Marcy May Marlene, so that kind of gives you the sense of the tone and the tension. It’s very moody, excellent sense of escalation."
After their regular babysitter can’t make it, the Thompson family turns to her friend Anna to supervise the children while they go out to celebrate their anniversary. At first Anna seems like a dream come true for the kids, as she allows them to play with things that are usually off-limits. But, as her behavior becomes increasingly odd, the kids soon find out that her intentions are dark and twisted, and that she is not Anna at all.
Tribeca 2015 #4
Hungry Hearts (2014, Dir. Saverio Constanzo)
"It’s a family drama that kind of trades on some genre conventions to amp up the tension. It’ll be interesting to talk about, because it has a couple of different agendas as a film. It doesn’t go fully sort of thriller. It gets there, it sort of toys with it a little."
After a chance encounter in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant, Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) and Jude (Adam Driver) fall in love. Soon Mina is pregnant and the couple is celebrating their relationship with friends and family. Having never really been a part of a family, Mina finds the new dynamic both exhilarating and intimidating. In search of some guidance she visits a psychic whose counsel begins to inform Mina’s future actions in unpredictable ways. Having been blessed with an “indigo child”, one whose purity will enlighten and enhance the world, Mina begins emphatically preparing for the child’s arrival. After the baby’s birth, Jude gradually begins to grasp that their once welcoming home has been transformed into a den for Mina’s obsession and paranoia. As Mina slips farther down the rabbit hole, Jude is faced with a most dreaded realization.
Tribeca 2015 #5
Hyena (2014, Dir. Gerard Johnson)
Hyena premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, so we’re hosting the U.S. Premiere. It’s a really stylish, underground corrupt cop thriller. He’s getting in over his head with his corruption and how he’ll get out of this web that he’s woven for himself with all his crosses and double crosses. The whole thing is neon-soaked, I don’t know if there’s a single scene in the daytime. The world that these people live in feels really distinctive and beautiful in its own way."
For London drug squad cop Michael Logan (Peter Ferdinando) and his fellow officers, corruption is a way of life. They aren't above sharing in the spoils from their violent raids and taking a cut from the criminals they're charged with taking down. Drifting coke-addled through London’s neon-soaked underground nightlife, Michael's grip on the local drug trade is compromised when the Turkish smuggling ring with whom he had been doing business is violently overtaken by a ruthless Albanian gang, and he is forced to sell out his former allies to get in with the new players in town. With an internal affairs corruption investigation looming he must maintain the appearance of upholding the law and prevent his dangerous new associates from discovering his true intentions in order to survive.
Tribeca 2015 #6
Maggie (2015, Dir. Henry Hobson)
Maggie’s so good. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays this small town farmer who lives in a world that's very believable. [It] feels a lot like a present day world that is becoming overrun by a zombie epidemic. His daughter is bitten and he knows that he has a month, six weeks before she turns, so he’s going to take care of her in that time. You see her progress and her condition worsen. It’s very emotional. It has these strong performances and a really strong story to it about what a father would really do in this situation. Of course, there’s some good zombie bits as well. I think it’s sweet. She’s the first zombie that I really identify with, that I like. I think it has a lot of heart to it."
Fear, panic, and paranoia pit neighbor against neighbor. Families are ripped apart as loved ones are forced into quarantine. Authorities attempt to maintain control over communities teaming with violence. But with droves of new victims each day, it’s a losing battle for those citizens uninfected by the zombie outbreak. In Henry Hobson’s debut feature, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) locates his missing teenage daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) at the local hospital and insists on bringing her home to care for Maggie himself. With her “disease” progressing quickly, manifesting in increasingly disturbing ways, Wade shuns the warnings of his wife and friends—risking infection from the overpoweringly ravenous Maggie.
Tribeca 2015 #7
Scherzo Diabolico (2015, Dir. Adrian Garcia Bogliano)
"It starts off as sort of a kidnapping-gone-wrong thriller and again, has a really strong sense of ominousness and escalation. You know this is going to get out of hand and when it does get out of hand, it’s in surprising ways. It turns into quite a nasty horror movie in the third act."
Aram is a wearied accountant with an unbearably dull existence. With a nagging wife who berates him for not being assertive enough, and a measly paycheck, he quietly suffers while awaiting a long-deserved promotion. But there's more to Aram than his mild-mannered demeanor lets on: he has been secretly devising a scheme to finally get what he feels he is owed. One day he asserts his power menacingly when he kidnaps a schoolgirl and keeps her tied up in an abandoned warehouse. What seems like the perfect plan soon unravels into his worst nightmare, and his carefully constructed scheme comes crashing down piece by bloody piece.
Tribeca 2015 #8
Stung (2015, Dir. Benni Diez)
Stung is so much fun! It is an old fashioned creature feature in a way, because it relies so much on practical FX, which is so nice to see. There’s some digital FX, but a lot of it really is a showcase for the puppetry and the really fantastic creature design. It gets a lot of its scariness and its humor from that monster. It’s not as self-consciously campy and winky as something like Zombeavers last year, which was our creature feature spot. This is a little more serious-minded, but it does have a sense of humor, for sure."
In a remote country villa set amid foggy rural farmlands, the elderly widow of a pharmaceutical magnate holds an annual garden party for the local elite in honor of her late husband. But the festivities take a grisly turn when a plague of giant killer wasps is unleashed on the unsuspecting partygoers, leaving the caterers Julia and Paul pitted against the seven-foot mutant predators in a deadly fight for survival.
Tribeca 2015 #9
The Survivalist (2015, Dir. Stephen Fingleton)
"It’s another film using a conventional genre frame—the world has ended and it’s every man for himself—to tell a more human story. So, it’s just about this one guy living off the land. Civilization has failed. What happens when two women approach his cabin and ask for help? It does get quite tense towards the end. It’s an intimate film working within a post-apocalyptic setting."
In this organic post-apocalyptic drama, first-time filmmaker Stephen Fingleton's main character, known merely as the Survivalist, struggles for his existence on a makeshift farm. He lives in isolation and guards his crops closely, fearing marauding gangs. When Kathryn and her daughter Milja wander into his life looking for food and shelter his carefully ordered world is upset. As the three of them start their restless co-existence, suspicion and dependence intertwine and allegiances shift from day to day. Self-preservation takes on a new meaning as each new mouth stretches the capacity of the farm, and the masked raiders are never too far off.