Tribeca Film Festival 2016

This year I had some scheduling conflicts so I managed to see only 20 of the 100+ programs in the Tribeca Film Festival.


I saw nine documentaries. Many were standard constructions of interview/cutaways, archival footage and scenes, with or without voiceover, all straitjacketed together into some kind of narrative architecture. After years of experimentation and innovation, we’ve arrived at a kind of template for documentary. It is difficult, for this viewer at least, to gain knowledge or insight, to be moved, convinced or disturbed by these films: the restrictive structure renders them dry, drained of affect. Also I wonder why I should watch a film at a festival when I wouldn’t read an article about the subject if it appeared in a (serious) magazine. I go to a film festival for movies, not information. On the other hand, a film like “Untouchable,” which documents an extremely troubling situation in which men and women labelled “sex offenders” by the Florida courts are forced to live in tents in a parking lot at the edge of town because of a draconian low that forbids them to sleep near schools or to visit public parks, and labels their driving licenses with the words “sex offender,” obscures by its very structure an underlying world-view that is deeply unsettling. A wealthy lobbyist has a warped view of mankind as divided into good and bad people, and believes that the bad group should be singled out as pariahs, subjected to inhuman punishment for their entire lives — a young woman, who at age 18 had sex with a 16 year old boy, cannot take her daughters to the park, struggles to get a job and a home. The lobbyist is pushing for a new ordinance that will take her daughters from her and put them into foster care. In order to fit the film into the “doc” template the filmmaker fails to discuss the underlying ideology that has infected the lawmakers of the state of Florida, instead focusing on the indignities and genuine difficulties the victims are forced to suffer. There is no space for philosophy in the current documentary standard architecture, attempting to fit cinema into the restrictive format and rules of news reporting.


On the other hand, I saw two excellent documentaries (Houston, We have a Problem! and National Bird) and one very good one (LoveTrue). These movies are not afraid of mixing fiction and theatre with fact, exposing situations, raising questions and opening dialogue about them in ways that contain power and substance.

Films mentioned:

ALWAYS SHINE
Directed by Sophia Takal

THE FIXER
Directed by Ian Olds

THE TICKET
Directed by Ido Fluk

THE TENTH MAN (EL REY DEL ONCE)
Directed by Daniel Burman

A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING
Directed by Tom Tykwer

A KIND OF MURDER
Directed by Andy Goddard

THE LAST LAUGH
Directed by Ferne Pearlstein

MAGNUS
Directed by Benjamin Ree

MR. CHURCH
Directed by Bruce Beresford

NATIONAL BIRD
Directed by Sonia Kennebeck

AFTER SPRING
Directed by Ellen Martinez, Steph Ching

DETOUR
Directed by Christopher Smith

DEAN
Directed by Demetri Martin

HAVEABABY
Directed by Amanda Micheli

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!
Directed by Žiga Virc

THE LONER
Directed by Daniel Grove

NIGHT SCHOOL
Directed by Andrew Cohn

FEAR, INC.
Directed by Vincent Masciale

ALL THIS PANIC
Directed by Jenny Gage

LOVETRUE
Directed by Alma Har’el

UNTOUCHABLE
Directed by David Feige

Video: Ziga Virc, Houston, We Have A Problem! (2016) Official trailer.

Text by Grahame Weinbren

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