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by Francesca McCaffery

The Tribeca Film Festival has some wonderful, new films this year- check out all listings and times here. Vimooz has a few great picks for you to check out. The Tribeca Film Festival runs through April 29th, 2012.

Keep the Lights On: It seems like the only ones having authentic, intelligent romantic relationships onscreen are gay men (witness last year’s tiny, phenomenal British-born Weekend), and Ira Sach’ssemi-autobiographical Keep the Lights On is following in a newly emerging genre that is compelling, moving and almost unbearably honest. The film follows the director’s alter-ego Erikand his formerly in the closet lover Paul over the course ofa nearly ten-year relationship. At times moving slowly, as love and life and memory often do, the film is carried on the shoulders of the truly brilliant and open Danish actor Thure Lindhardt (as Erik.) . With Zachary Booth and Julianne Nicholson.

Planet of Snail: Speaking of love, this entirely lovely Korean documentary by Seung-Jun Yi takes us into the life of Young-Chan, an unusually charismatic deaf and blind man, and his pretty wife Soon-Ho, who has a pronounced spinal deformity. Their day-to-day moments become monuments to their own perceptive and loving spirits, as Young-Chan dreams of becoming a writer needing to chart the immense world bursting within him. Poetic, dazzling in its simplicity, this film will make a believer out of the hardest romantic cynic.

Baby Girl: I have to admit, I was ready to write this film off, imagining yet another faux-gritty portrayal of inner-city family turmoil, etc. But this little movie written and directed by Irishman Macdara Vallely shines with a sweet truth. From the extraordinary debut performance of teenager Yainis Ynoaa, (who plays Lena)to her insecure but loving mother played by a terrific Rosa Arredondo,to the sleazy yet somehow sympathetic Flaco Navajaa (looking like Bencio del Toro’s blonde baby brother) playing the mother’s new younger boyfriend Victor, (who really has eyes for the budding Lena.) Wonderful performances and a simple story line, and we get to see New York in a way it hasn’t been portrayed in a while- as if the characters actually lived and breathed in the neighborhood being portrayed.

Sexy Baby:This documentary, especially if you are female, will blow your mind. The filmmaking and producing team of Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus chart the lives of three women: Twelve-year old Winnifred- cool, upper-middle class Manhattanite; Nichole,former porn star and pole dancer ‘Nakita Kash.’; and a sweet, kindergarten school teacher named Laura from North Carolina, who is so insecure about her very fit andnormal body, that she is seeking out a surgeon (and eventually ends up getting, and (spoiler/warning: partially on camera!) a “vaginaplasty.” Most fascinating is the way the audience can witness the infintesimal changes which lead to the enormous leaps in the brilliant Winnifred’s development (from ages 12 to 14). Fromher and her classmates’ obsession with Lady Gaga, fishnet tightsand grabbing the boys’ attention via Facebook, it’s painful; to watch her youthful bravado and singularity ebb away. (Fear not, the child still remains amazing atfourteen, thank goodness.) Watching as three women navigate a culture navigate the difficulties of being bombarded with sexual images in the media may seem like old news. But this take is profoundly different. The filmmakers focuson how our very easy access to online porn and ‘soft-porn’ advertising (American Apparel)is altering men’s already rigidly high expectations of sex, performance and beauty- and how these expectations are making even 14 year olds need to appear as if they are “down to fuck.” A MUST see for both sexes, as well as a scary warning for parents and young women alike to monitor those FB pages. As the adorable Winnifred cheerfully laments: “We have no one to guide us through this. We are the pioneers.”

The World Before Her: A brilliant doc (and excellent counter-point to Sexy Baby) about the choices young girls growing up in India are faced with from two extreme stand-points: Going with with flow of “westernization” through the limited options of participating in the “beauty industry” (we come to know two remarkable poised, articulate and bright contenders for ‘Miss India,’) and a nineteen year old woman who works at a Hinduist Extremist girl’s camp run by her abusive father, carrying on the tradition of female control for her faith. It is sad to think that these girls’ choices are either the gun or the often demoralizing subjugation of pageant life if they choose not to marry; but an absolutely riveting work, and one of the very best documentaries you will see this year.

El Gusto:A beautiful, rousing documentary about elderly musicians from French Algiers- French, Jewish and Muslim- whose lives are scattered after the Algerian War for Independence. Reunited by the incredibly resourceful filmmaker Safinez Bousbiato bring back the tradition of“chaabi” music, jarring them from their lives stuck in the past, and giving them a chance to relive their dreams. A glorious, inspiring film- truly not to be missed.

My Sister’s Sister: Director Lynn Shelton (Humpday) is back with Mark Duplass in this movie also starring Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt.Duplass plays Jack, a tousled thirty-something still stumbling around after a year after his brother Tom’s untimely death. When Blunt’s character Iris, the former girlfriend of his late brother, suggests a sabbatical at her father’s idyllic house near a lake in upper Washington state, he is startled to see that her lesbian sister Hannah (DeWitt) has already holed up there, herself reeling from a recent and devastating break-up. Because Shelton is a special filmmaker of truly uncommon depth, this film ends up a tiny, burnished gem in her trusty hands, and has the same sweet heart that has permeated her earlier works.

High Tech, Low Life: Tribeca is teeming with great documentaries this year. High Tech, Low Life follows two of the very first “citizen journalists” from China. They arebrave bloggers who defy the risk of arrest, imprisonment and far worse by the Chinese government, and will make you feel guilty for all those hours spent Twittering about the flavor of smoothie you made this morning. “Tiger Temple” is the 57-year old who travels around China on his bicycle and reports on everything from communities made homeless by government land developers to farmers reeling from a recent flood; 27-year old “Zola” has to navigate the dangers of reporting on the likes of a rape and murder of a 14-year old by an official’s relative, all while dodging his traditional parents’ nagging about his future. Stephen Maing is the brilliant director, DP, (the tiny doc looks like a million bucks, a great bonus) editor and co-producer of this lush, timely and highly significant film.

The Fourth Dimension:A movie split into three parts, directed by Harmony Korine, Russsian-born Alexsei Fedorchenko and Polish Jan Kwiecinski, that cheeky guy at VICE Eddy Moretti (in conjunction with and Groslch Film Works) gave a “creative brief” which  asked each filmmaker to toy with the concept of the fourth dimension, and we see the results in this triptych of stories. Pretty much all you need to know is that Harmony Korine directs Val Kilmer playing a motivational guru (of sorts) named Val Kilmer, and hosts his seminars at the nearby roller rink. I don’t think anything more needs to be said: Go see this fun little jolt of a film. Fedorchenko’s thirty-minute contribution is also a definite, beautiful little stand-out.

Head Shot:A deft, atmospheric thriller from Thai director Pen-ek, Head Shot tells the story ofTul, an incorruptible cop who gets set-up, goes to jail, and is lured by to the dark side to work as an assassin to only hit the bad guys. It stars sexy Asian bad-ass Nopaachial “Peter” Jayaanama, and even the sets themselves look terrific, lived-in and real. A good, moody crime movie- a true, rare breed in any language.

Cut: Shot like it could have made right after Pulp Fiction, Cut is Iranian filmmaker Amir Naderi’s tribute to great cinema, and the soul of a true believer is all that is evident in this noir love letter to both film and film buffs the world over. Hidetoshi Nishijima plays Shuji, a down-on-his-luck filmmaker, who is so desperate for people to see great film, he blares his opinions in the streets with a bullhorn to all who were listen, screens old movies on the roof of his ramshackle apartment, and borrows money from his Yakuza hit man brother to make his own failed pictures. When his massive debt comes due, Shuji proceeds to try to avenge his brother’s honor by become a literal “punching bag” for mob underlings. It gets a little rough around the edges, but the splendid performance of Nishijima gives this film a sheer heart of gold.

by Francesca McCaffery

Check out all listings and times for the Tribeca Film Festival here.









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