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Tribeca Film Festival’s Top Five Short Films

From Muslim pro wrestlers to a kid’s discovery of naked pics, the strongest short-form stories from the fest.

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For all the attention heaped on its features, every year the Tribeca Film Festival brings a slew of great and very diverse shorts before New York audiences. And, in what’s become a yearly tradition, we like to take a look at them and offer up our five favorites. We won’t mince words: This is some of the most exciting filmmaking you’ll see this year. (One of our picks last year, New Boy, was later nominated for an Oscar, for example.) Here are our five favorite shorts from Tribeca 2009.

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We’ve seen a number of Katrina-related films over the years, but few have matched the power of Matt Faust’s eye-popping, heartbreaking experimental documentary, in which the director animates his family photos to recreate the world that was lost when Katrina struck Louisiana. With a score by Jon Brion, it’s one of the most emotionally devastating films you’ll see at this year’s Tribeca festival, of any shape or size.

Love Does Grow on Trees
This may look like a charming little coming-of-age story. In fact, it is a charming little coming-of-age story—but Bevan Walsh’s film also contains some of the most uncomfortable eleven minutes we’ve had watching a film recently, taking as its topic that most sacred of adolescent events: the discovery of naked pictures. It is also, as you might have guessed, hilarious.

3 Wheels
Tony Wei’s gentle romantic drama–cum–culture-clash comedy follows a lovelorn rickshaw driver on the day that the object of his unstated affections, who also happens to be his boss, is set to leave. Unfortunately, before he can declare his love for her, he has to ferry an uncouth Yankee tourist around. We love the terrific acting and the sharply observed, surprisingly generous script—but we’re also partial to Julian Cassia’s music and Aaron Kovalchik’s cinematography, to which our small screen will admittedly do little justice.

The Bather
We’re always disappointed when avant-garde cinema forgets to have a sense of humor—the medium is uniquely well suited to irreverence and whimsy. Enter this three-minute gem, which manages to be a beautiful collage of forms, a meditation on love, and a clever deconstruction of narrative all at once, with nods to Hollis Frampton, Brian De Palma, and Bill Plympton along the way. The director, by the way, is George Griffin, acclaimed filmmaker and husband of Film Forum director Karen Cooper; we’re told that’s her behind the shower curtain. The film will screen at the Film Forum May 6–19 alongside Carlos Sorin’s The Window.

Team Taliban
Those who got a kick out of watching the Ram’s faux rivalry with the Ayatollah in The Wrestler are hereby advised—nay, ordered—to check out Benjamin Kegan’s documentary about Adeel Alam, a devout Muslim-American pro wrestler who inhabits the role of a terrorist in the ring. In Kegan’s hands, what might have been an exercise in snark becomes, instead, an incisive look at how Alam navigates his character through the weird make-believe world of pro wrestling in a post-9/11 America.


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