Tribeca Recap (1 of ?); The Emperor’s New Clothes

Sorry for the delay, guys. Life at the movies has been rather hectic lately.

The dust has settled, giving me the opportunity to sit back and reflect on my latest Tribeca Film Festival experience.

First, a couple of observations:

  1. I LOVE the choice of the Regal Cinemas in Battery Park City being the hub this year. It is easily one of my favorite multiplexes in New York City and really showcases the beauty and spirit of Lower Manhattan.
  2. Sadly, due to the hectic nature of my schedule lately, I did not get the chance to see as many films as I wanted. Nevertheless, granted, what I did see is definitely noteworthy. I will be posting my recaps in multiple parts; but as indicated by my post’s title, the number of which is indeterminate at this posting’s time. Stay tuned!


I guess I will start when I finished the festival – with the Michael Winterbottom/Russell Brand collaboration of The Emperor’s New Clothes, an informative and irreverent account of the 2008 financial crisis and its ripple effect in the United Kingdom, the United States and around the world.


Now that I have had ample time to reflect on the film, I obviously have some thoughts – some things I was a bit “meh” about and others that I found worthy highlighting. Let’s get the “bad stuff” out of the way first:

PLEASE, papa don’t preach (too much): the retort is naturally What else should I have expected? In the end, I did not mind (read further down), but I could see where some could grow weary and wonder where this fella comes off talking about this stuff. To be fair, Brand seems at least minimally self-aware in realizing the interesting position he finds himself in, being part of that “1%” he is banging on about.

Pixelation = NOT okay: The overlaying pixelation of the graphics throughout the documentary was sometimes a bit off-putting, with on at least one occasion, leaving me to wonder if something had gone amiss with the digital projection in the theater. It made me kinda nervous and unsettled. Really it did – to the point where I was concerned that some less passive spectator would say something. Luckily that did not occur.


Those two matters are off my chest, time for some positivity:

It’s always easy to like something when you agree with the premise …: In general, I tend to keep clear of being overtly political in this space (I feel these types of discussions are best left for face-to-face chats). However, with this film, there is a very clear political agenda, forgive me in advance if my commentary veers a bit.

Framed by the Hans Christian Andersen tale and through a mixture of archival footage, anecdotal interviews, on-the-nose infographics, and the more than occasional Brand-ian quip, we are offered a balance of channels all driving home the same message – the farcical approach that has been taken in dealing with the financial/fiscal crisis and its direct effect on social well-being of everyday people. To personalize this message, Brand takes us to his hometown of Grays, Essex for an example of the impact to local communities. Even for individuals unfamiliar with the inner workings of the UK political, financial and social life, it is clear as crystal which side of the court our filmmakers are on. That said, a lot of the points do transcend national just the politics, with the reverberations of errant behavior of folks in London and New York; Winterbottom and Brand even hop across the pond where he examines the Occupy Movement; New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio even makes a brief appearance in the film.

Overall, I found myself either nodding in agreement or riled with anger and a feeling of helplessness/hopelessness of the state of the world as depicted in this documentary. I suspect many others had a similar experience. To their credit, the filmmakers do not leave the audience to stew in their emotions for too long, thanks to the comical interludes. In addition, as the film ends, the audience is presented with a framework for a call to action – some ideas are practical, some admittedly a little pie-in-the-sky – but it’s something. Only time will tell if there is any lasting impact.

One final note – timing is everything: in doing my background on this film, I saw that the UK release of The Emperor’s New Clothes took place on April 21 – just in time for the national Parliamentary elections (which take place this Thursday).



Image credit: Tribeca Film Festival/Studio Canal UK



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