Monday, May 2, 2005

Tribeca Film Fest 2005 - Day 10 - Last Day!

First film of the day (very early - 11am) was the Narrative Competition Winner: Stolen Life. A Chinese film, directed by Li Shaohong, about a girl who tries to escape her unsatisfying family life by going to University, only to fall into a relationship with a young man who, it turns out, is manipulating and using her. After he basically ruins her life, and she figures out what's going on, she realizes that he has done this before is already setting up another young girl to do it again. Not exactly uplifting material, but a very interesting and well done film. A lot of the film took place in an underground urban tunnel setting, with a very gritty documentary feel. But there were scattered scenes that were composed like beautiful, gritty photographs.

Next up was the Made in New York Narrative Competition Winner: Red Doors. A film about a Chinese-American family living in the New York area. The parents and youngest daughter lived in the suburbs, the two older daughters lived in the city. The father of few words repeatedly tries (half-heartedly) to kill himself. The youngest daughter is entangled in an ever-escalating courtship of dangerous pranks with a classmate. The oldest daughter is caught between her (Anglo) fiance's desire for a "fashionable" wedding and her mother's desire to see it infused with some traditional elements. And the middle daughter is a doctor, whose storyline I will leave untold, just to retain a little bit of the mystery and fun.

This movie isn't particularly earth-shattering, but I found it really, really enjoyable. I was just thinking the other day that you see so much in movies or TV that is cliched and unbelievable. I really prefer things to be (at least) either a) original or b) authentic. Preferably both. This film tells a story with a lot of surprising, original elements, and yet it feels very authentic. I hope it gets a distribution deal soon.

As my last screening of the festival, I saw a program of six shorts called Urban Landscapes, all of them about New York. Some were documentaries and some were narrative. I didn't really get to watch all of them, because I was running around a little. One called "The Kings of Christmas" (by David Katz) was really interesting. It was about several people who get very serious about their Christmas decorations. My favorite, though, was one called "Bicycle Gangs of New York," by Cheryl Dunn. The whole opening sequence (which was almost half of the film) had no narration, and very little dialog. It was just a montage of shots of the various bicycle gangs featured in the film, set to music. It was very, very cool. You can see a clip of it on the filmmaker's website.

And that was it, the festival was over. At least, for me. My brain is completely filled with movies now. Time to decompress.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Tribeca Film Fest 2005 - Day 9

First I saw most of an interesting documentary called Bowery Dish. I actually really wanted to see this one, because it's about the changes going on in my neighborhood. I know that my living here is a product of those changes. And I'm not one of those people who thinks that change is a bad thing. I was just curious about it. I think the film also took a fairly moderate stance. Obviously they don't want the neighborhood to lose its character, and they don't want the rents to become so high that no one who is currently there can afford to stay. But New York never sits still, so you can't expect to stop the evolution. You can just hope that a yuppie bar doesn't take over your favorite little neighborhood spots.

Next up was a collection of shorts in a program called Animation by the Hubleys. These spanned several decades, and were made by various people in the Hubley family, notably John and Faith, and their daughter Emily. Another of their daughters is Georgia Hubley (of Yo La Tengo). As a young child she appears as a voice in at least one of the animations. I particularly liked one called "The Hole" which stars Dizzy Gillespie as one of the voice actors, "Moonbird" which was voiced by two of their sons, and the one in which Emily and Georgia perform a play (I can't remember what it was called).

Lastly I went with my sister and one of her friends to see The Souvenirs of Mr. X. We weren't totally clear, from the description, what this documentary was about. After seeing it, we kind of figured out why that was. Broadly, the movie was about amateur filmmakers (people who make home movies, not independent filmmakers who just aren't getting paid anything). The problem is that, from there, they couldn't seem to figure out where the film was going.

It was sort of about the quest to find out who had created this one film that the director had purchased at a flea market. In the course of his search, he discovered some amateur film clubs, and he would visit them, talk to them about their own views on the hobby, and show them the mystery film to see if they recognized it. Unfortunately, this particular film wasn't a very interesting specimen, and this avenue of inquiry didn't really lead anywhere. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if he had focused the documentary entirely on the sophisticated hobbyists in the clubs and their films. Instead, it meanders back and forth, interspersed with "clever" little snipets from random home movies that illustrate, in an overly literal way, the things that the interview subjects say. It's a precious technique that becomes pretty annoying, pretty quickly.

Oddly enough, towards the end of the film, they use the narrative device of judges of an amateur film competition to point out these and other valid criticisms of the documentary itself. Which only begs the question, if they were aware of all these flaws in the film, why did they still make it this way?

One more day to go.