by Morgan Davies
The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off in downtown Manhattan this week, and while movies with big stars like The English Teacher (with Julianne Moore and Nathan Lane) and Almost Christmas (with Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd) may get most of the attention from the press, many of the festival’s best films are likely to be less-seen documentaries. Here are five to look out for.
Unlike previous festivals, which have opened with the likes of Spider-Man 3 and The Avengers, Tribeca will officially begin this year with Mistaken for Strangers (see main image), a documentary (or mock-documentary) by Tom Berninger, brother of Matt Berninger, the frontman of Brooklyn-based indie rock band The National. Described as “embodying the wherewithal of a Christopher Guest character” in the official description of the film, Tom went on tour with his brother’s band as a roadie-cum-documentarian, and what started out as a mockumentary project grew into something more. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Matt said the film kept getting closer and closer to reality: “We crafted some of it to tell that story, and we’re not calling it a pure documentary, but it’s a very honest, personal narrative that we started chasing.”
With the Supreme Court set to make a ruling on the constitutionality on California’s Prop 8 this summer, same-sex marriage is on everybody’s mind these days. Bridegroom, the debut documentary feature by Linda Bloodworth Thomason, is right on the zeitgeist: it focuses on Tom, a young man who must “fac[e] the failure of same sex marriage protections that leave him completely shut out and ostracized” in the wake of his partner Shane’s untimely death.
Gasland, Josh Fox’s 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary, was instrumental in starting the national conversation about the effects of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on the land and the people living on it. In his follow-up, Fox once again “examines the long-run impact of the controversial process, including poisonous water, earthquakes and neurological damage, placing his focus on the people whose lives have been irreparably changed.” By looking at anti-fracking protesters and movements and the corporations on the other side of the battle, Gaslands Part II promises to expand and deepen the conversation even further.
Funded by Kickstarter, Oxyana is Sean Dunne’s debut documentary feature, focusing on the small town of Oceana, West Virginia, which has become plagued by rampant prescription drug addiction in the wake of the vanishing coal industry. With a score by alt-country band Deer Tick and beautiful photography as seen in the film’s haunting trailer, the film – described as “unflinchingly intimate” – promises to be something special.
All dance aficionados owe it to themselves to watch the captivating film above, which features footage of twenty-one “flex” dancers from East New York in Brooklyn. Flex is a rapidly-growing style of dance native to Brooklyn that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. In this documentary, filmmakers Deirdre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols combine “majestic choreographed set pieces” with a focus on three central characters: Reem, Flizzo, and Jay Donn. Billed as “a sparkling testament to the freeing power of art and a powerful visual celebration of the beauty born when raw energy is directed toward the creative process,” this isn’t one to miss.