Nine Films From the Ninth Annual Tribeca Film Festival

Photo: Francesca Woodman/Courtesy of Betty and George Woodman (Untitled, 1977-78 [Rome])

Our neighborhood festival starts on April 21, with the monstrous Shrek Forever After, and runs through May 2, closing with the documentary Freakonomics. All told, there are 92 films, of which we’ve watched about half. Of those, we recommend the following nine.

The Woodmans
C. Scott Willis
“Children are these kind of gift-calamities that occur,” observes artist George Woodman, father of Francesca Woodman, the astonishing photographer best known for taking spooky, often nude self-portraits (see left) and then her own life at the age of 22 in 1981. This seductive narrative lays out Woodman’s epigrammatic journals, photographs, and videos as clues in a self-murder mystery. She ultimately saw her life as “a stale cup of coffee,” which seems impossible given her ferocious talent and such charming and empathetic parents (her mother, Betty, was also an artist). But therein, of course, lies the calamity, as well as the gift of this wrenching film. — L.H.
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sex & drugs & rock & roll
Mat Whitecross
Remember Andy Serkis, who motion-captured Gollum in The Lord of the Rings? He’s even scarier in the flesh. In a go-for-broke performance that earned Serkis nominations for nearly every major acting award in Britain earlier this year, the actor snarls and spits and sweats as punk front man Ian Dury—the man who popularized the phrase “sex & drugs & rock & roll” and fully lived that life. — L.H.
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Jeff Reichert
Surprisingly bi-partisan, this sharp documentary convincingly argues that the shady process of gerrymandering (politicians carving up districts in order to maintain power) makes a mockery of democracy—with confirmation from both sides of the political divide. Somehow, out of all that depressing news comes an exceptionally entertaining film. — B.E.
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Loose Cannons
Ferzan Ozpetek
A buoyant Italian family comedy about a gay man forced to hide his sexuality while running his domineering, ailing father’s pasta factory. It’s the sort of emotionally resonant and generous film Hollywood has apparently forgotten how to make. — B.E.
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Jean-Pierre Jeunet
In Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, Amélie, and A Very Long Engagement, the baroque fabulist Jeunet has dreamed up fanciful teams of misfits. But none has been as political as this film’s neo–Merry Pranksters—a group of eccentrics who scheme to take down war profiteers. Some will critique Jeunet’s antiwar fable for its naïveté, but at least his goofy Ocean’s Eleven–type comedy is after something more than casino cash. — L.H.
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Earth Made of Glass
Deborah Scranton
In 2006, Scranton debuted at Tribeca with her Iraq film, The War Tapes, which took home Best Documentary honors. Her latest is a heartbreaking look at the Rwandan genocide. The documentary, which offers extensive interviews with Rwandan president Paul Kagame, follows the victims of the massacres through Jean Pierre Sagahutu, whose parents, four brothers, and three sisters were all butchered by Hutu militias. In the most devastating scene, Sagahutu, who has been searching for his father’s murderers for years, finally comes face-to-face with an accomplice. —L.H.
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Julia Bacha
The Middle East conflict is rendered in miniature by Bacha, who follows Palestinians protesting the fragmenting of their village by the Israeli security fence. Their desperate determination ends up uniting warring political factions, even bringing many Israelis to their side—a moving sliver of hope that nonviolent resistance may yet blossom out of violence. —B.E.
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Freetime Machos
Mika Ronkainen
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself mistaking this documentary for fiction: A look at one season in the lives of two players of an amateur (and comically inept) Finnish rugby team, Freetime Machos is a surprisingly thrilling and hilarious journey through the world of the modern male. — B.E.
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William Vincent
Jay Anania
Actor James Franco’s career takes another curious detour with this experimental noir by his NYU professor Anania. Franco plays an enigma wrapped in mysterious suits who edits trippy nature videos by day and mingles with crooks by night. Francophiles can also catch Saturday Night, a documentary about SNL directedby the actor. —L.H.

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Films to See

Nine Films From the Ninth Annual Tribeca Film Festival