While we've been sunning ourselves over the long weekend in the UK, New York has been enjoying a feast of films at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Our man in NY, Felix Endara, has given up sleeping, eating and mooching about in order to round up the festival for Branchage folk far and wide.
Please give it up for Part 1 of Felix's Tribeca round up:
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF TRIBECA
For me, the tenth annual Tribeca Film Festival started not with a bang, perhaps; but rather with several drip-drops of the remaining Spring showers. And yet, the first film I caught was the charming portrait of sushi chef as master artist, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Beautifully shot, the doc records minutely all the elements that go into the creation of a master chef - not just Jiro’s attention to detail, but his willingness to sacrifice family and leisure for a larger purpose. Jiro’s two sons follow in his footsteps, with varying degrees of success. I enjoyed learning about this fascinating character; less interesting was the repeated use of shots of chefs constructing a roll and placing it on a square plate.
Another fascinating portrait was revealed in Marie Losier’s Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which premiered earlier this year at Berlinale. The film depicts the romantic relationship between Genesis P-Orridge, British pioneer musician of industrial sounds with bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV; and Lady Jaye, an American dominatrix and performance artist. Their connection so deep, the couple decides to merge into one by undergoing cosmetic surgery to resemble each other. The remarkable result is named “Pandrogyne,” their ultimate art collaboration. I found their connection moving, and I also appreciated learning about industrial music and Genesis’ process in creating music. At the same time, his voice and point of view were so dominant, I missed hearing Lady Jaye’s perspective. In this sense, as dedicated a lover as Genesis appears, this ballad comes off one-sided.
In The Loving Story, we are witnesses to an important mark in U.S. history. Richard and Mildred Loving were a married inter-racial couple in the 1960s, a time when miscegenation was still illegal in 20 states. The film makes extensive use of archival footage to recount their fight to have their relationship recognized and accepted. Ultimately, by taking their case to the Supreme Court, in 1967, the Lovings helped to change the course of racial relations in this country, inching us closer to fairness and justice.
Another pioneer who chooses to take it to the legal courts - to fight for her right to play on a tennis court - is the subject of Renee. Born Richard Raskind in New York, 1934, and becoming Renee Richards in the 1970s, she moves to California to start life anew; but leaves behind an ex-wife and young son. While there, she makes waves as the newest tennis sensation to surface in women’s tennis. Rumors of her transsexual status create controversy and backlash, to the point of the U.S. Tennis Association banning her from entering the U.S. Open unless she can confirm her female status. Richards sues and wins her right to play in the tournament. As an amateur tennis player, I vaguely recall hearing of Richards as a teenager. Watching this doc helped to fill in some memory gaps, and added another layer of complexity to Richards, shown self-realized as a woman, but deeply guilty for abandoning her son, an adult struggling with addiction.
It’s been an impressive first week of movie-watching and I commend Tribeca for a great line-up. I caught up briefly with filmmaker Mona Nicoara, whose documentary about Roma schoolchildren, Our School, is making its debut here. I met Mona a year ago, as we were both fellows of IFP’s Documentary Rough Cut Labs. We had great chats about where we were both at with our projects, and met her production team, including her editor, the lovely Erin Casper (recipient of the first Karen Schmeer Editing Fellowship). I know all screenings of Our School are currently sold out, but I’m still going to line-up in the RUSH queue and try to see this amazing project.