On Wednesday, April 21, the 9th Annual Tribeca Film Festival will kick off, and it’s looking to be another exciting and interesting year with a mix of studio fare, indies, docs, dramas, comedies, horror and genre fare, and everything in between. This year’s festival looks like it will once again offer something for everyone, and for the first time, it will be available to those who can’t make it into New York through a variety of innovative new programs. More on those below.
Last year was a terrific year for the festival with lots of stand-outs, many which are just getting theatrical releases, such as Conor MacPherson’s The Eclipse, Raymond De Felitta’s City Island, and the upcoming doc Racing Dreams.
Things will start Wednesday night with the World Premiere of DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek Forever After, reuniting the voice cast of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy for what’s being advertised as the final chapter in Shrek’s journey, and Summit Entertainment’s romance movie Letters to Juliet, starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave, will also have its Gala Premiere during the festival.
We’re looking forward to checking out My Own Love Song, Olivier Dahan’s first movie since the Oscar-winning La Vie en Rose, a road trip comedy starring Renée Zellwegger and Forest Whitaker as an odd couple who take to the road together. It also features new and original music from Bob Dylan, which is quite impressive in itself.
Tribeca has become renowned for the quality of its documentaries, and one of the breakouts from past year’s was Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side (In fact, you’ll often find at least two or three Tribeca docs making the short list every year.) While Gibney’s latest Casino Jack and the United States of Money will be opening on May 7, having already premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Gibney is providing one segment of the documentary anthology Freakonomics, based on Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s best-selling book about human behavior. Besides Gibney’s segment on Sumo wrestling, Tribeca’s Closing Gala includes other segments by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), Seth Gordon (King of Kong) and Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp). A week earlier, Gibney will be showing a work-in-progress Untitled Elliot Spitzer Film about the rise and fall of New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, which could generate quite a bit of controversy, similar to some of Gibney’s previous work.
Sony Pictures Classics is really pulling out the stops this Tribeca, bringing three of their upcoming summer releases, including Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest, Micmacs (May 28), which could be seen as the quirky French filmmaker’s take on the “Ocean’s 11” style heist movie with Dany Boon as a man shot in a robbery, who works alongside an oddball group of misfits with special talents to take down the weapons manufacturers who ruined his life.
Aaron Schneider’s Get Low (July 30) is a period drama starring Robert Duvall as Felix Bush, a cranky hermit who has lived in the mountains away from other people for decades and finally returns to society to ask a couple of local morticians (Bill Murray and Lucas Black) to stage a funeral party for him in hopes that all the people of the town will show up to tell their stories about him. It’s a little slow at times, but Schneider, a cinematographer making his feature film debut, does a good job mixing humor and drama throughout.
Lastly, Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give (April 30) once again stars Catherine Keener, this time as a New Yorker who makes a living buying antique furniture from the homes of old people who have died and selling at a premium with her husband (Oliver Platt). Meeting the granddaughters of one such woman who lives next door (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall) guilts her into trying to do more charity work.
Although Michael Winterbottom’s thriller The Killer Inside Me (IFC Films June 18) wasn’t that well-received at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, we’re always interested in seeing what the filmmmaker has up his sleeve, this one being based on Jim Thompson’s novel about a charming small town Texas sheriff, played by Casey Affleck, whose attempt to juggle a girlfriend (Kate Hudson) and a hooker (Jessica Alba), fuels sociopathic tendencies.
Once again, films from Ireland are some of the festival’s strongest non-doc offerings. Paul Fraser wrote a bunch of movies for Tribeca regular Shane Meadows, including Somers Town, which played at Tribeca in 2008. This year, Fraser brings his directorial debut My Brothers, a warm and sentimental tale of nostalgia about a trio of brothers who embark on a road trip to replace their dying father’s beloved timepiece. It’s a strange but charming film that showcases three fine young actors, the eldest Timmy Creed being a fine dramatic actor, and the two younger onesPaul Courtney and T.J. Griffinreally driving the film’s humor. (In fact, we’re predicting this movie will be one of the festival’s three audience award winners.)
For Once director John Carney, Zonad, an homage to ’50 sci-fi B-movies, couldn’t be any more different for him as a follow-up. This time he’s co-directing with his brother Kieran, and at times the movie owes more to another Irish filmmaking brothers, the Farrelly Brothers, as there’s a lot of raunchy humor in the story of a spaceman (played by Simon Delaney), who comes to a small Irish village and proceeds to drink, smoke and sleep with all of their young women. It’s a really surprising shift of tone for Carney, one that pays might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s one of those fun indie comedies that Tribeca is so good at.
We weren’t so keen on Ireland’s veteran filmmaker Neil Jordan’s latest Ondine (Magnolia June 4), starring Colin Farrell and his real-world girlfriend Alicja Bachleda, a story taking place on the coast of Ireland where Farrell’s a fisherman named Syracuse finds a beautiful woman in his fishing net who he believes to be a mermaid named Ondine, who his young daughter Annie takes a shine to. It’s a lovely-looking pseudo-fantasy/fable due to Jordan collaboration with cinematographer Christopher Doyle, but something about the movie just didn’t work for us.
On the other hand, one of my favorite films from last year’s Toronto Film Festival was J Blakeson’s debut The Disappearance of Alice Creed (Anchor Bay – August 6), a three-handed thriller starring Gemma Arterton as a young woman who is kidnapped by Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston and held for ransom, only to turn the tables on them in unexpected ways. It’s a fantastic first film that’s impressive for what it accomplishes with very few locations and just three actors–Arterton and Marsan at their best–and we can’t wait to see it again.
Every year, Tribeca offers some of the best documentaries to be found at ANY film festival, and one of the better ones we’ve seen this year is Joan Rivers A Piece of Work (IFC Films – June 11) from Ricki Stern and Andie Sundberg (The Devil Came on Horseback). It’s an incredibly frank look at the 75-year-old comedienne as she allows the filmmaker’s cameras with her during a pivotal year in her life, tracking the highs and lows, and really capturing the emotions of being the adored but often mocked entertainer.
That’s one of the few docs that already has distribution but there’s plenty of good docs up for sale including Ahmed Ahmed’s Just Like Us. Some may remember Ahmed as one of the comics from Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show, this similarly-minded comedy doc finds a more unique entry into the world of comedy, following Ahmed’s tour throughout the Middle East accompanied by a multi-cultural group of comedians that help prove that laughs are universal despite the cultural gap. It’s a really strong first film from the Egyptian-American comedian, one that deals with tolerance and acceptance of those who are different, in a way that never feels preachy.
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, from Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey directors Scott McFadyen and Sam Dunn, follows the venerable Toronto metal trio from their early days as a bar band through the early ’80s where they were at the height of their fame to the lean years to their recent comeback. Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, the former who directed one of our favorite docs from Tribeca’s past (Favela Rising), team for The Two Escobars, a fascinating look at Columbia during the early ’90s when the national Soccer team were on the ascendant, as was local drug crimelord Pablo Escobar, who was helping to fund the team, much to the disapproval of the team captain Andrés Escobar (no relation). Rapper/actor Ice Cube directs the documentary Straight Outta L.A., one of the festival’s Gala Premieres, about the arrival of the Oakland Raiders to L.A. in 1982, and how that became intertwined with the birth of gangsta rap such as Cube’s own group N.W.A. The latter is also one of the seven movies taking part in the Tribeca Sports Film Festival done in conjunction with ESPN.
We’re also interested in checking out Sebastian Copeland’s Into the Cold which documents the filmmaker’s trek across the Arctic to the North Pole, marking the centennial of Robert Perry and Matthew Henson’s own achievement. Similarly, one of our favorite documentary filmmakers Paul Crowder (Once in a Lifetime) is back at Tribeca with his new movie Last Play at Shea, which documents the New York Mets home stadium in Queens, which became famous as one of the premiere concert venues ever since the Beatles made their American debut there in 1965. Another movie we’re hoping to finally catch after missing it at South by Southwest is James Franco’s Saturday Night, playing the last day of the festival as part of its “Tribeca Talks” program.
One of the major breakthroughs at this year’s festival is the introduction of Tribeca Film as a film distributor, as well as the introduction of Tribeca Film Festival Virtual, both which will allow those who can’t make it into New York City during the festival to see some of the movies debuting there via a variety of alternate media including Video-On-Demand and online. After making their New York premieres at the festival, the movies distributed by Tribeca Film will be available on many cable providers, as well as receiving limited theatrical releases.
These include Mat Winterbottom’s Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, a biopic about punk rocker Ian Dury, played by Andy Serkis, best known for his motion capture performances as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the title character in King Kong. It’s a crazy and frenetic film, maybe a little bit too much so at times, but Serkis’ transformation into Dury is a performance as insane as Tom Hardy in last year’s Bronson.
Also, Jay Baruchel stars in fellow Quebec filmmaker Jacob Tierney’s comedy The Trotsky as Leon Bronstein, a high school student who believes he’s the reincarnation of Russian philosopher, while Josh Appignanesi’s comedy The Infidel stars British comic Omid Djalili (who also appears in the comedy doc Just Like Us–see below) as a modern-day Muslim man living in London, who one day discovers he was adopted and his original birth parents were Jewish, leading to both internal and external conflict.
There’s also the Dev Benegal’s India-based road movie called simply enough Road, Movie, about a young man who runs away from having to take over the family business by taking his uncle’s Chevy truck across India, picking up all sorts of characters on the way. Tarik Selah’s unique-looking animated sci-fi noir film Metropia set in the year 2024 probably owes more than a little to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and George Orwell, but with a Scandinavian flavor. It features voicework by Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard and Juliette Lewis. (You’ll also be able to see many movies from last year’s festival including TiMer, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, Swimsuit Issue, My Last Five Girlfriends and The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.)
On top of that, Tribeca Film Festival Virtual, running from April 23 to 30, gives users online access to eight of the features premiering at this year’s festival, as well as dozens of shorts, filmmaker Q&A’s, panel discussions and red carpet coverage. This innovative new idea kicks off on Friday with the debut of Edward Burns’ latest Nice Guy Johnny, and the roster includes the Korean horror film Possessed from Lee Yong-ju, the aforementioned doc Into the Cold, the Bosnian film Buried Land, J.B. Ghuman Jr.’s quirky comedy Spork, the Finnish rugby comedy Freetime Machos and more.
The 9th Annual Tribeca Film Festival starts Wednesday, April 21 and runs through Sunday, May 2. You can still get some tickets and learn more about Tribeca Film Festival Virtual on the official site. As usual, you can track our regular updates by following the ComingSoon.net CSConFest Twitter Feed and we hope to post a couple interviews and updates on the site here.