TRIBECA Film Festival 2007, the 6th annual festival for the Big Apple

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Established in 2002, as a response to the Sept. 11th attacks, The Tribeca Film Festival was conceived by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff. For the purpose of creating a resurgence of economic prosperity, through the visual and performing arts, Tribeca has become one of the most attended celebrations of filmmaking in the world.

With multitudes of filmmakers across the globe convened in Lower Manhattan to share their unique visions. This event will mark the 6th annual festival for the Big Apple.

Spread across Tribeca and as far north as 34th street in order to view the various works in just about every genre, it was a veritable cornucopia of selections. A feast for both the eyes and ears came true from April 25th to May 6th. From Panel Series (Tribeca Talks), Welcome Parties, Tribeca All Access Events and even a Tribeca Drive In. Splash a little family fun in with the Tribeca Family Festival, it was an event to kick off the Spring.

Armed with media kit in hand, my first stop was the Chinatown area just northeast of Tribeca where the first venue I checked out was, “The Letter that was Never Sent” Neotpravlennoye pismo- 1959, this rediscovered work (based on a book by Valery Osipov) hails from Russia, which happens to be the third collaboration between Director Mikhail Kalatozov and cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky.

Riveting in both storyline and movements of the camera, “The Letter That Was Never Sent”, is the story of four geologists who must deliver a diamond mine map to Moscow to assist with the ailing economy. When dangerous forest fire wrecks havoc upon the land, the geologists must battle the elements, make sacrifices for the good of the people in order to complete their mission. Moving and without a second to take in a breath, the storyline captures the attention and places you into the boots of one of these geologists.

The camera is an emotional camera where close-ups keep you within the center of the action where the action is first and foremost the decisions the group must make as a whole. Once the decision is made and as they continually traverse across Siberia, you experience the consequences of that decision. I found my heart beating a little bit faster once deep within the wilderness territory, wondering if the group will ever make it out.

Next on the agenda was attending the Press Conference for the new comedic drama picture by Kevin Connolly (HBO’s “Entourage”), entitled, “Gardener of Eden”. Lukas Haas plays Adam Harris, a guy who pretty much has his life moving as a constant, until the unusual occurs. His life
path takes a whole new twist where he accidentally apprehends a serial rapist. Production issues, major film and musical influences for both Connolly and Haas were revealed in the conference as well as the desire for a comic book type feel for a portion of the film itself. Definitely a must see.

With all the activities at this year’s Tribeca, there were also events which had children in mind. One of the films, showcased at The Tribeca Drive In (where the drive in movie feel is recreated right at the Winter Garden area at the World Financial Center) was …

“Surf’s Up”.
Directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck, “Surf’s Up” is the new Sony Pictures Animated CGI Mockumentary about penguins and the ultimate surfing championship. Such notables as Shia LaBeaouf voicing the hopeful Cody Maverick, Jeff Bridges (The Geek), James Woods (as Reggie
Belafonte) and also Comedian/Actor Mario Cantone (voicing Mikey Abromowitz) who happened to be hosting the Luau themed “sneak peak” at the movie make up an all star cast.

Featuring hula dancers, a stilt walker, Big Z Topanga from the film, musical guests- The Kustard Kings belting out Beach Boy songs, Pete and Penny Penguin, a fire dancer, and a limbo contest for all the kids, it was a perfect evening to take in what will be definitely an upcoming hilarious hit for June 8th which is the national release date. The “test” audience attending surely loved it and so did I.

Tribeca Talks- “Spies Like Them”
An amazing discussion on the formula which comprises the backbone of a hit motion picture dealing in the art of espionage. In attendance at this informative panel series was Director Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity), who delved into the makings, studio challenges and expectations, plus what we can expect in the future for spy geared films.

As moderator, Christopher Isham (ABC News- Investigative Projects), Mr. Isham introduced us to two well respected and highly experienced individuals who served within the CIA for 25 to 30 years. Both Robert Baer and Milton Bearden, discussed their roles on such films like –“Syriana” and “The Good Shepherd”, for example. Separating fact from fiction, and giving us a taste into the reality of the Intelligence community, makes viewing such films discussed by these men, all the worth while.

Rise: Blood Hunter (Sony Pictures)
Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez (Snakes on a Plane), “Rise” was a midnight premiere at Tribeca, with a short introduction of the horror/thriller by the Director himself. Shot in about one month, and with a very low budget, Gutierrez paired with Director of Photography John Toll (The Last Samurai, Brave Heart), making the overall mood of “Rise”, a dark, ominous work with a raw edge.

Lucy Liu stars as Sadie Blake, a reporter who wakes up in a morgue and comes to the realization that she is now a vampire. Armed with a silver crossbow (and what appears to be an inexhaustible supply of vampire killing arrows) and some clever tactics, she vows vengeance on those who turned her.

Warning: Don’t expect “Blade, 2 or 3” martial arts when you go view this film, this film is another animal, specializing instead with more gore: even had some audience members turning their heads when the blood sucking session began. James D’Arcy plays a diabolical antagonist which steals to show. Michael Chiklis and Lucy Liu’s performances are on grand scale and despite the campy lines at times, this is something you can really sink your teeth into (did I just say that?). National Release Date June 1st.

Also at the Winter Garden located at the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan was “Rebirth of a Nation”. Re-examining D.W. Griffith’s 1915 controversial film, “Birth of a Nation” also called, “The Clansman”, writer, musician and now director, Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid remixes and edits live the entire film on three large screens with a powerful underlying track which mesmerized those in attendance.

A story of social and political upheaval (as well as KKK propaganda), the mastery of the soundtrack added additional meaning and interpretation to what was regarded as the first motion picture to be screened at The White House. Opening for DJ Spooky was London based D-Fuse who also mixed sight and sound with footage taken from China’s urban areas called, “Latitude”.

Winners were awarded prestige and recognition in Chinatown where monetary prizes (over $270,000) in various categories were presented. In total, 157 feature films with 88 short films from 47 different countries were showcased.

The Cadillac Award was determined by audience voting throughout the festival by filling out ballots upon the film’s end.

This year’s Cadillac award winner goes to- “We Are Together (Thina Simunye)”. A documentary film from the U.K, directed and produced by Paul Taylor and Teddy Liefer. The film depicts children of the South African Agape Orphanage who have lost family members due to AIDS. A powerful and emotional film, “We Are Together” also took away a 2007 Special Jury Mention. The $25,000 cash prize that the director and producers earned was utilized for the children of Agape’s school fees.

The following is a list of the award winners:

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film : Lofti Edbelli in Making Of (Akher film), Director- Nouri Bouzid (Tunisia, Morocco).

Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film : Marina Hands in Lady Chatterley, Director- Pascale Ferran (France, Belgium).

The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature : My Father My Lord (Hofshat Kaits), Director- David Volach (Israel).

Best New Narrative Filmmaker : Two Embraces (Dos Abrazos), Director- Enrique Begne (Mexico).

Special Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short : Super Powers, Directors- J. Anderson Mitchell & Jeremy Kipp Walker (U.S.).

“Made In NY” Narrative : The Education of Charlie Banks, Director- Fred Durst (U.S.).

“Made In NY” Special Jury Recognition : Narrative – The Killing of John Lennon, Director- Andrew Piddington (U.K.).

Best Narrative Short : The Last Dog in Rwanda (Den sista hunden i Rwanda), Director- Jens Assur (Sweden).

“NY Loves Film” – Documentary : A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and The Warhol Factory, Director- Esther Robinson (U.S.).

Best Documentary Short : A Son’s Sacrifice, Director- Yoni Brook (U.S.).

Best New Documentary Filmmaker : A Story of People in War & Peace, Director- Vardan Hovhannisyan (Armenia).

Best Documentary Feature : Taxi to the Darkside, Director- Alex Gibney (U.S.).

Student Visionary Award : Someone Else’s War, Director- Lee Wang (U.S./Philippines).

Student Visionary Award : Good Luck Nedim (Sretan Put Nedime), Director- Marko Santic (Slovenia)

Best Screenplay : Making Of (Akher film), Director- Nouri Bouzid (Tunisia, Morocco).

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Tobe R. Roberts

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