The 2007 Tribeca Film Festival

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Indie filmmakers around the globe had their hearts broken or their spirits lifted this month, as the Tribeca Film Festival announced their selections for the sixth year. All told, the fest will pour out 159 features and 85 shorts between 25 April and 6 May, 2007. Big names that will appear on the screens this fest include Leonardo DiCaprio (as producer), Nicole Kidman (or her voice anyway), Sarah Michelle Geller, Alec Baldwin, Forest Whitaker, Elijah Wood, America Ferrara, Lucy Liu, Kevin Bacon, Jamie Kennedy, Rosario Dawson, James Franco, Bryan Greenberg, Zooey Deschanel, Piper Perabo, Alexis Arquette, Fred Durst (in his directorial debut), and way too many others to list.

The slate of films has been steadily dribbling out from the TFF press office since 12 March, and now that it’s all out of the gate, let’s take a look at what we have…

COMPETITION AND SPOTLIGHT
This category of the festival includes World Narrative and World Documentary Films as well as the spotlight selections.

gardenerofeden.gifThe first drool-worthy title in world narrative is “Gardener of Eden.” Directed by Kevin Connolly (Eric from “Entourage”), written by Adam ‘Tex’ Davis (“Just Friends”), produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, and starring Lukas Haas, Giovanni Ribisi and Erika Christensen, the film is a dark comedy about a hapless young fellow who’s got nothing going on, until he (and I’m quoting from the press release here) “accidentally captures a serial rapist.” I’m already uncomfortable, but will be there nonetheless. There’s “Lady Chatterly,” from France & Belgium, which won both Best Film and Best Actress at the 2007 César Awards. Based on one of the three versions of the D.H. Lawrence classic.

“Napoleon and Me (Io e Napoleone)” comes by way of Italy and France for its North American premiere. The action takes place during Napoleon’s exile on the Italian isle of Elba, where a young teacher is forced against his interest to work as Napoleon’s librarian. Touts itself on being fast-paced, light-hearted and funny. Huh.

“Still Life (Sanxia Haoren)” from Hong Kong, is directed by Jia Zhang-Ke (“Platform,” “Unknown Pleasures,” “The World”) and centers around a Yangtze town that will soon be no more as it is about to be submerged by the Three Gorges Dam.

America Ferrara stars in “Towards Darkness (Hacia la Oscuridad)” from writer/director Antonio Negret. In the world premiere, Ferrara plays Luiza and executive producer to boot, in the thriller about the very real currency of kidnapping in Columbia. Her dad from “Ugly Betty” (Tony Plana) is in the cast as well as David Sutcliffe. Check out the cool website: http://www.tdmovie.com/index_flash.html

Also in this category, Brazil’s “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (O Ano em que meus pais saíram de ferias)”theyearmyparents.gif in its North American premiere. Set in the summer of 1970, a twelve-year-old boy named Mauros cares about nothing more than Brazil taking the World Cup, until the ideologies of his parents’ bring them all into the Jewish community of Sao Paolo. Perhaps it’s like leaving Brooklyn for Boca… We shall see. Check out the trailer: http://www.oano.com.br/english/index.php

“Between Heaven and Earth (Tussen Hemel En Aarde)” is one of the feature docs in this category. It surrounds the culture of the circus and its performers in Uzbekistan; in particular, two lifelong friends of different political minds whilst living under a dictatorship.

There are, of course, the token 9/11 documentaries, just in case you want to see some more of those. There’s “Beyond” Belief” about two New York widows who reach out and travel to Kabul to help Afghan widows who have also suffered losses in the war. If you take a look at the trailer, you’ll soon realize that there are more sides to the 9/11 story than what we have already seen in film. Also, “I Am an American Soldier: One Year in Iraq with the 101st Airborne,” which tracks soldiers for a period of 14 months from the homefront to the front lines and back again. Then there’s “Taxi to the Dark Side,” which is billing itself as a documentary murder mystery that looks at the death of an Afghan taxi driver at the hands of U.S. soldiers. The film is directed by Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.”) Trailer: http://www.jigsawprods.com/

One picture that is playing may prove that the right-wing desire to bring democracy to the Middle East is actually working out. “A Slim Peace” shows 14 women in the West Bank (Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouin Arabs and American settlers) who unite for the shared purpose of…wait for it…losing weight. That’s right. It’s like Jenny Craig, Baghdad. Thank goodness the American value of obesity has emigrated to far off lands under fire.

Lighter fare includes a doc on Liesl Goldarbeiter, the first woman to be crowned as Miss Universe in (of course), “Miss Universe 1929.” There’s also “Planet B-Boy” about a community of breakdancers from a myriad of backgrounds.

In the Spotlight section, there are a handful of jaunty offerings. Among them:

“2 Days in Paris (Deux jours á Paris)” is by Julie Delpy (as in writer/director/cast/producer/compser/editor…perhaps even some light craft service). taxitothedark.gifAdam Goldberg plays her American beau on a visit to Paris where comic hijinks ensue. The film is her directorial debut.

Michael Apted has got “The Power of the Game,” that weaves together six stories that speak to the social impact of football around the globe.

“Take the Bridge” from Chile & the U.S. is a feature that finds four young strangers in the hospital on the same day after having tried to off themselves.

ENCOUNTERS
Encounters recognizes emerging and established talents.

In “The Air I Breathe,” a Chinese proverb about comes to life in four stories which feature the talents of Forest Whitaker, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Andy Garcia and Kevin Bacon. http://www.theairibreathemovie.com/

Israeli filmmaker, Eytan Fox (“Walk on Water,” “Yossi & Jagger”) returns to Tribeca this year with “The Bubble,” about a little boy-on-boy love that emerges between a guy from Palestine and a guy from Israel who meet at (where else?) a border checkpoint. If you haven’t seen his earlier films, they are certainly worth a look. http://www.thebubble.msn.co.il/eng/index.asp

“The Cake Eaters” is the directorial debut of Mary Stuart Masterson. Its story chronicles three generations of athebubble.gif couple families in a small town. The cast features Aaron Stanford, Bruce Dern and Jesse L. Martin.

In “Charlie Bartlett,” Robert Downey, Jr. plays a high school principal, who has one pupil (played by Anton Yelchin) who dubs himself “the psychiatrist” in order to make pals. And the teen pill-popping begins. Hope Davis also stars.

From early looks at “Descent” starring Rosario Dawson, it’s looking like a creepier “Death and the Maiden.” The synopsis in the program uses words like rape, drugs, rage and despair. A dark, psychological study, and pretty intense in it’s depictions, according to folks close to the production.

In what sounds like the perfect film for this fest, “Golden Door (Nuovomondo)” gets its New York premiere. Charlotte Gainsbourg stars in this drama about the great journey from rural Sicily across the Atlantic to the “golden door” of Ellis Island. Have a look at the trailer (in French): http://www.goldendoor-lefilms.com/golden-door-bandeannVF.htm

charliebartlett.gifWriter/Director/Actor, James Franco delivers the world premiere of his film, “Good Time Max” about two brothers whose lives take very different paths.

In “Nobel Son,” which has its world premiere at the fest, Bryan Greenberg plays a Ph.D. candidate who is kidnapped and held for ransom on the eve of his father (played by Alan Rickman) receiving the Nobel Prize. The film also stars Bill Pullman, Danny DeVito, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson, Ernie Hudson and Eliza Dushku. Really, the trailer says is all. Check it out here: http://www.nobelsonthemovie.com/index2.html

“Suburban Girl” is the adaptation of Melissa Banks’ bestseller, “The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing.” The world premiere chronicles the adventures of a young book editor (Sarah Michelle Gellar) as she makes her way through the wonky world of the literati. Also stars Alec Baldwin.

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DISCOVERY
39 Features – both narrative and documentary – highlighting the work of up-and-coming directors from 12 countries. From the U.K. comes “Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother,” which promises to be a serious doc about transgendered life amidst the Hollywood glitterati.

In “Amexicano,” director Matthew Bonificacio shows us working-class America, a bond grows between a hard-working illegal immigrant and a blue-collar Italian American from Queens.

autism-the-musical.gif“Autism: The Musical,” follows five autistic children who live in Los Angeles as they write and perform an original musical.

“Blackout” shows the other side of the power-outage story from 2003. While many of us left our Manhattan offices and proceeded directly to the pub to drink up the stock before it got too warm, Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood was another story entirely. Violence, looting, and a paralyzing sense of fear took over in that part of the city. Featuring Jeffrey Wright.

In “Blue State,” Breckin Meyer and Anna Paquin star in the easy-going story of a road trip that ensues to “Marry-a-Canadian.”

Back here in America, “Day Zero” tells of the reinstated draft, and examines all the drama that comes along with that from both sides of the aisle. Our guides are three guys preparing to report for duty, played by Chris Klein, Elijah Wood and Jon Bernthal.

In “Normal Adolescent Behavior,” writer/director, Beth Schacter gives us a black comedy about the favorite teennormaladolescent.gif conundrums of sex and excess living. Amber Tamblyn stars in the release’s world premiere from New Line Cinema.

“On the Downlow” has its world premiere as well. The feature documentary shows four African-American men living in Cleveland, Ohio, who struggle with coming out.

In “Take,” Minnie Driver and Jeremy Renner star as a struggling mother and gambling addict, respectively, whose lives intersect during a great tragedy (I know it’s vague, but I’m going off the synopsis here). With a non-linear approach, they deal with the aftermath years later.

So there you have it. Just a quick (okay, well, comparatively) peek at a few films that will be screening at this year’s festival. If you can’t make it to New York for the fest, then be sure to stay tuned for cinema and DVD releases on these titles. A lot of them are just now getting their websites up and, let’s face it, finishing the films before the big premiere. For those of you rolling in for the fest, mark up your guides, bring your umbrellas, and hunker down.