As the Tribeca Film Festival comes to an end, we take a look at 10 films worth seeing this year. From unorthodox romcoms to heartening documentaries, this year’s lineup looks stronger than ever.
Birthed in the wreckage of 9/11, the Tribeca Film Festival now takes over the movie theatres of lower Manhattan every year, offering cinephiles an introductory look at hundreds of films from established Hollywood auteurs and talented up-and-comers. With the 14th annual festival now over and Tribeca having played host to a collection demonstrating that both documentary and narrative films are alive and well, we have a rundown of 10 movies from the festival to look out for in the months ahead. Here’s what you need to know.
Director: Onur Tukel
Pitch: A gruesome and whimsical zero-budget comedy with “I actually can’t believe he just did that” kind of laughs.
What it is: Last year, Tukel’s sardonic vampire fare Summer of Blood offered fans of campy film a Woody Allen-esque comedy about commitment, set to the side-splitting backdrop of a hammy bloodbath. The charmingly crude director is back this year with Applesauce, which takes a comical look at the sins of protagonist Ron Welz and their repercussions. After confessing the worst thing he’s ever done to a talk show host, the high-school teacher receives several severed body parts; marking the beginning of his morbid torment. Applesauce will please anyone with an appetite for guts and noir. And anyone who likes, you know, laughing.
What you’ll get out of it: Laughs, winces, and not a hint of twee filmfest romcom.
What the critics say: “A comedy so dark that only minimal humor alleviates the film’s dour perspective.” – The Hollywood Reporter
Director: Albert Maysles
Pitch: The last movie by the late documentary maker, set aboard America’s Empire Builder train.
What it is: Arriving just one month after director Maysles’ death, In Transit focuses on a passenger train line running from Chicago to Seattle with half a million annual riders. The flick, co-produced by Al Jazeera, looks candidly at all the people crossing paths on this uniquely American thoroughfare. Interconnected vignettes introduce us to the movie’s subjects: late night train workers, a retired military man who – with a list of illnesses as long as the train – knows that this will be his last ride, and a pregnant woman riding days past her due date, to name a few. A loving portrait of the US emerges; human, lonely, and quite lovely.
What you’ll get out of it: Pensive runway shots and unassuming splashes of sentimentality.
What the critics say: “A resolutely humble project built around various drifter types…yielding an apt final chapter in the Maysles filmography.” – Indiewire
Autism in Love
Director: Matt Fuller
Pitch: A feature-length documentary exploring how adults with autism find and manage romantic relationships.
What it is: Some assume that those with autism are incapable of romantic endeavors; Autism in Love begs to differ. The polished documentary focuses on four different adults with autism: a teenager who is desperate for a girlfriend; a middle-aged man whose wife has recently been diagnosed with cancer; and an autistic couple debating marriage after eight years together. For his documentary debut, Fuller began research by slowly building relationships with autistic individuals in order to craft a film of unfiltered honesty. It’s rich in production values too, with easy editing and some good-looking shots.
What you’ll get out of it: Empathy. It’s about really seeing the film’s subjects as individuals, and not for their disabilities.
What the critics say: “What this film did right was everything.” – Examiner
The Adderall Diaries
Director: Pamela Romanowsky
Pitch: Moods, masochism and murder collide in the James Franco-starring thriller, based on a “true crime memoir” of the same name.
What it is: Franco plays hip, prescription drug devotee Stephen Elliott, a Brooklyn writer who reaches a new low in his professional career when he encounters a two-year writer’s block. When his estranged father claims that Stephen has dreamed up much of the material that
fuels his work, fact and fiction begin to blur as our protagonist encounters a murder trial, a best friend who shares his memory, and a love affair. Romanowsky’s exploration of taking responsibility for one’s own life is hard-nosed in tone and refreshing in execution, bolstered by a supporting cast that includes Amber Heard, Cynthia Nixon, Ed Harris and Christian Slater.
What you’ll get out of it: A nonlinear, name-filled ensemble that’ll make you tense to the point of tears.
What the critics say: “The style and tone of The Adderall Diaries is loose and free flowing, so that heavy subjects never feel heavy-handed in their treatment.” – The Wrap
Director: Ido Mizrahy
Pitch: A graphic and sometimes brutal documentary focusing on the most ‘gored’ matador in modern history.
What it is: Antonio Barrera is the “Most Gored Bullfighter in History” and has the 23 stab-wound scars to prove it, but the movie is actually more about his pursuit of immortality and fame. Barrera was put in front of bulls by his father at the age of just seven. He was expected to become a great matador but – despite undergoing numerous operations after many a dangerous encounter – he never lived up to his family’s dreams. Gored documents Barrera’s final fight for glory; it’s an interesting reflection on humanity’s fear of not being remembered, man’s innate desire to kill, and the futility of trying to tame nature.
What you’ll get out of it: A bloody and contemplative look at dying dreams.
What the critics say: “Viewers will find poetic, albeit moribund, philosophy mixed with a majestic display of suspense and a wonderful soundtrack.” – The Upcoming
Far From Men
Director: David Oelhoffen
Pitch: Viggo Mortensen adds a couple of new languages to his on-screen repertoire in this Western-style historical drama and adaptation of Albert Camus’ The Guest.
What it is: It’s 1954 Algeria. A French teacher is instructed to take an Arab prisoner accused of murder from his remote location in the mountains to the neighbouring town. The pair encounter some dodgy undertakings, but next to Camus’ novel the movie’s ending is quite mushy, really. That said, Oelhoffen has bulked out the simple tale with some juicy political backstory; somewhat relevant for today as we see the consequences of Western intervention in other parts of North Africa. With Nick Cave’s incredible score alongside the film’s best asset – the stunning arid landscapes – Far From Men is definitely one to look out for.
What you’ll get out of it: Beautiful cinematography and political plotlines with contemporary relevance.
What the critics say: “Far From Men never strays far from its western genre roots, except perhaps in its ultimate subtle moral: Nothing is so important that it trumps the value of your life.” – The Playlist
In My Father’s House
Director: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg
Pitch: A documentary portrait of trailblazer Che “Rhymefest” Smith – the revolutionary hip-hop artist, writer and activist who is trying to reconnect with his estranged dad.
What it is: Stern and Sundberg are no stranger to captivating narratives, having tackled subjects from the infamous trial of Darryl Hunt, to Major League Baseball, to Joan Rivers’ early years. This time, it’s Chicago rapper Rhymefest (real name Che Smith) in the spotlight; Che is known for his collaborations with Kanye West and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as his string of prestigious awards. But, this delicate tale chronicling his father’s homelessness, recovery, and family reunification brings out Che’s ‘human’ side. It’s as pragmatic in its delivery of day-to-day struggles as it is heartbreaking.
What you’ll get out of it: A hard-nosed look at the importance of family legacy.
What the critics say: “A film whose exploration of responsibility and addiction will interest viewers who’ve never heard of Smith.” – The Hollywood Reporter
Director: Ben Palmer
Pitch: New-wave British romcom starring unlikely Cornetto candidate Simon Pegg and the perfectly imperfect Lake Bell.
What it is: The mainstream movie world hasn’t been especially easy on the romantic comedy genre in recent years, but with long-term Edgar Wright collaborator Pegg – known for his geeky comedy chemistry – perhaps all that ridicule is about to stop. Trailing the romantic misadventures of a bumbling singleton and her accidental suitor, Man Up sees some believable performances as the protagonist couple collide when a blind date goes wrong. Taking the contrived set-up, the film spins into a wickedly wild night out in London and Palmer nails the balance between over-the-top humour and poignancy – it’s unsickeningly sweet.
What you’ll get out of it: Exactly what you expect: romcom done well.
What the critics say: “Despite this bare-bones concept, the film proves to be an entertaining little romp, mostly due to the snappy dialogue and strong performances.” – Film Pulse
Director: Saverio Constanzo
Pitch: A slow-burning, claustrophobic and disturbing film that flips 360° from one genre to another, starring Adam Driver.
What it is: After a bathroom-set meet-cute which wouldn’t look out of place in a 13-year-old girl’s romcom collection, the two 20-something protagonists of Hungry Hearts fall in love and settle down to have a baby. But when it comes to new parenting, the story evolves into a kind of horror film – painful to watch in telling of postnatal depression and psychological breakdown; think nails on a blackboard in visuals. Driver and Alba Rohrwaher’s performances lend some weight to the movie and a strident orchestra keeps score until the very end, whereby apprehensive viewers will be rewarded with a major plot twist.
What you’ll get out of it: Uneasiness.
What the critics say: “A disturbing thriller that closes in on its audience and leaves it no other option but to embrace the impending dread.” – We Got This Covered
Director: William Monahan
Pitch: Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund and Mark Wahlberg join forces for this existential and satirical desert drama from the writer of The Departed.
What it is: A famous writer-director (Hedlund) fighting with depression and his hatred of Hollywood heads out into the desert on a booze-fuelled escapade, where he meets an ominous drifter (Isaac) with whom he can’t quite get to grips. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse begins between the two characters and the plot brings us back to the city lights of Los Angeles, where the film culminates some noirish criminal activity; all the while it’s taking jabs at the vacuous nature of Hollywood. For all of Mojave’s shocking plot developments, the film still seems to be primarily a showcase for terrifically-scripted dialogue.
What you’ll get out of it: Top-notch performances and deep moral stimulation.
What the critics say: “Mojave is a confined film full of expansive ideas, and it isn’t afraid to keep its tongue firmly in cheek.” – Business Insider
Written by Sarah Gibson for Highsnobiety.com