Special Programs: https://iluvcinema.com/2016/04/tribeca-2016-special-programs/
Special Programs: https://iluvcinema.com/2016/04/tribeca-2016-special-programs/
Now let’s take a look at a few features that caught my attention during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.
Adult Life Skills
A poignant tragicomedy starring Jodie Whittaker as Anna, a 29-year-old who is rapidly approaching 30 (much to her chagrin). Added to the complications of her life is the fact that she lives in a shed, on her mother’s property in Yorkshire, England and is in a bit of a rut. Originally titled How to Live Yours (which comes up during the course of the film), Adult Life Skills is based on a BAFTA award-winning short film, both directed, written and edited by TFF 2016 Award Winner Rachel Tunnage (Nora Ephron Prize for Directing and Screenwriting).
Far and away, Adult Life Skills lived up to my expectations and simply was one of my favorite screenings of the entire festival. Sure, I am a sucker for the English countryside, but that slight bias aside, this was a film that keyed into to my sense of humor, emotional engagement and curiosity as the story unfolds, revealing to the audience the cause(s) of Anna’s seeming fecklessness.
Additionally, how can you NOT fall for a film that is described in its press notes as so:
[ADULT LIFE SKILLS has] basically the same themes as ROCKY if you think about it. But with thumbs. And a cowboy. And no boxing.
Adult Life Skills is bolstered by a wonderful ensemble cast that includes Brett Goldstein, Lorraine Ashbourne, Alice Lowe, Edward Hogg, Eileen Davies, Rachael Deering, and Ozzy Myers and features quite an epic use of Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again.
Little Boxes is a fish out of water/coming of age story directed by Rob Meyer, written by Annie J Howell and executive produced by Cary Fukunaga.
Here’s the setup – enter our happy hipster Brooklynite family (Nelsan Ellis, Melanie Lynskey and newcomer Armani Jackson). By all accounts life could not be better. When the family matriarch (Lynskey) is offered an opportunity she cannot turn down, the family finds themselves boxing up their city life and heading clear across the country to the ultra-suburban placidity of Rome, Washington. As you might guess, the transition has a few bumps that need to be worked out.
Overall I found this film to be an enjoyable light comedy that broached subjects such as cultural assimilation (in a new environment) and cultural identity with a measure of success.
The supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo and Christine Taylor.
This Audience Award winner is set against a heavily wooded, post-apocalyptic landscape of upstate New York. Like many films of the similar genre, Here Alone starts out as a quiet, contemplative piece. We are introduced to this “new” world through the perspective of a single traveler Ann (Lucy Walters). In fact, the opening minutes felt more like a “how-to guide” for living in the world after the fall of civilization than a narrative feature.
But alas, circumstances make it such that Ann’s sole accomplishment of simply “surviving” proves to not be enough, eventually forcing her to face the prospect of expanding her horizons and venturing out into the larger world and the potential risks that lie therein.
Films like Here Alone cater to an ongoing fascination we have as a society for examining survival in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world. While the concept is intriguing, it is also burdened with some limitations, namely the potential for any story set amidst this setting to be predictable. Where films tend to rise or fall is in how they can take some of these more predictable elements and either subvert them or play them straight, but in an entertaining way.
That said, it begs to be asked — is Here Almost worth a look in?
Well, if you are like me, this film will be of interest to you based merely on the subject matter. Heck – one more infection spreads, causing mass human extinction, leaving its survivors to revert to the basest of human nature narrative in your filmgoing experience couldn’t hurt – now could it?
Next: A Spotlight on a Tribeca 2016 Short Subject Film
This year, I think I accomplished my mission of balancing out the features I screened between documentaries and narrative. I even managed to squeeze in a short film as the Festival was winding down. In the coming days, I will focus on the films that I felt were of note; much like I did my briefs in the lead up to #Tribeca2016, I will break separate each post by content category – documentary, narrative and short. As the title indicates, I’ll start with the documentaries.
The Last Laugh
The central questions being asked by this film include:
The journey of The Last Laugh is seen through the lens of Renee Firestone, a 91-year old Auschwitz survivor and anti-genocide activist whose life story serves as a living example of the rewards and risks of using humor in the face of unspeakable tragedy – in Firestone’s case – the events of the Shoah.
Interviews with Firestone and other survivors and their families are intertwined with clips featuring talent including Mel Brooks, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman and Carl and Rob Reiner as they attempt to tackle these questions as they pertain to Holocaust and other eyebrow-raising topics that may or may not enter a comedian’s oeuvre. These are run along side some really poignant, rarely seen footage of cabarets inside the actual concentration camps. Also among the rarely seen is some newly discovered footage of Jerry Lewis’ never-released, but widely judged to be “ill-conceived” film, the Holocaust comedy The Day the Clown Cried (eek!).
All said and done, you might be wondering if any of the above-listed questions actually led this viewer (ME) to any concrete answers …
.. well, if I were to come down on a side, I think I am in league with Mel Brooks on this one (watch and see what that exactly means).
This film also reiterated for me an already held belief that making fun of something is separate and apart from using humor as a coping mechanism in dealing with the unfathomable.
As for the other “questions” – sure, there is a line that can be crossed in the name of humor; however, where that line is does feel like it is constantly in flux as our society moves further away from one human disaster/tragedy and barrel towards the next one.
My Scientology Movie
Directed by John Dower, My Scientology Movie (BBC Films) stars provocative British documentarian/writer Justin Theroux as he seeks to unmask the world of Scientology. By combining an earnest approach to the subject matter while maintaining a disarming level of levity, I felt I could easily engage with and be entertained and informed by this documentary in a way that I had not experienced in another headline-grabbing Scientology “expose” I recently saw.
While this story is composed of some first hand accounts from former members of the Church, Theroux and company frame this documentary also as a “film within a film;” the interviews are inter-cut with Theroux “auditioning” actors to portray key Scientology figures. Their assignment is to act out what can only be described as some harrowing accounts of life as a Scientologist from many of the very ex-members featured in the film.
As you can imagine, this leads to some interesting encounters.
My Scientology Movie premiered at the 2015 London Film Festival and made its North American debut at Tribeca.
As a child of hip hop, I was fascinated by this film once I saw it on my film festival program – a history and account of Asian hip hop artists. We are taken on a journey with four performers (Dumbfounded, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks) at varying stages of their respective careers. The Indiegogo-funded Bad Rap (directed by Salima Koroma) chronicles the obstacles these individuals have encountered in trying to break out onto the rap music scene, a scene that is traditionally dominated by Black and Latino artists.
My initial reaction was a feeling of discomfort with some of the actions and behaviors on display by a few of the performers (looking at you, Rekstizzy). My mind immediately jumped to thoughts of cultural appropriation to the point of making a mockery of the cultural phenomenon which is hip hop.
And while that feeling did not entirely go away by the time the end credits rolled, I was left thinking that Bad Rap was a rather interesting piece if for no other reason than it can inspire conversations about the “ownership” of culture culture or who is “permitted” to use a particular medium as a means to express themselves, particularly when that medium is not generally perceived to include members of certain communities.
Next up: Tribeca ’16 Recap of Narratives