The 2011 Tribeca Film Festival has released the second leg of its festival slate, unveiling the Spotlight, Cinemania and Special Screening Sections, as well as the premiere of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Fest. There are some more films to be announced March 23, and I hope they’re good because so far, it feels like South By Southwest (going on now) has hotter titles. A lot of the selection below will be familiar to those who’ve attended other festivals. Tribeca begins April 20 and runs through May 1. The festival already set its World Narrative and Documentary categories.
· The Assault (L’assaut), directed by Julien Leclerq, written by Simon Moutairou and Julien Leclerq. (France) – International Premiere, Narrative. Christmas Eve, 1994. In war-torn Algiers, four men uniformed as border guards hijack Air France Flight 8969, foreboding doom for all 220 passengers. But on their arrival in Marseilles, the elite French SWAT force waits to avert tragedy…. Based on the harrowing true story of one of the most successful anti-terrorist operations in history, and incorporating actual news footage, this action-packed thriller from Julien Leclercq (Chrysalis) is packed with heart-pounding intensity. In French with English subtitles.
· Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, directed by Michael Rapaport. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. The most groundbreaking act to emerge from the New York hip-hop scene of the early ’90s, A Tribe Called Quest electrified a generation with its brand of jazz-infused beats and intelligent rhymes before dramatically disbanding in ’98. In his directorial debut, Michael Rapaport draws from eight months of total access to uncover the history and inner workings of the Tribe. Featuring De La Soul, Kanye West, Common, Mos Def, Ludacris, Beastie Boys, and more. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
· Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, directed by Dori Berinstein, written by Dori Berinstein and Adam Zucker. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. The story of legendary performer Carol Channing’s life is as colorful as the lipstick on her big, bright smile. Director Dori Berinstein captures the magic and vivacity of the 90-year-old icon and throws it at the screen like roses at the stage during curtain call. You’ll have a grin on your face and a tear in your eye, evidence that the original Dolly Levi is still glowin’, still crowin’, and still goin’ strong.
· Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (Di Renjie), directed by Tsui Hark. (Hong Kong, China) – US Premiere, Narrative. In a fantastical steampunk version of ancient China, legendary sleuth Detective Dee returns from exile to help solve a series of suspicious murders on the eve of the coronation of the country’s first empress. A period epic from genre master Tsui Hark, Detective Dee is an action-packed, visually breathtaking Sherlock Holmes-style mystery featuring stars Andy Lau, Li Bingbing, Carina Lau, and Tony Leung Ka-fai. In Mandarin with English subtitles. An Indomina Releasing release.
· Fire In Babylon, directed by Stevan Riley. (UK) – North American Premiere, Documentary. Played against the backdrop of the national liberation movements of the ’70s and ’80s, this lively documentary pays tribute to the golden age of cricket in the West Indies as the teammates set out to triumph over their former colonial masters and make a name for themselves on the world stage. This celebration of the power of sports as a vehicle for social change is set to a thumping reggae beat featuring Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs, and Burning Spear.
· God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, directed by Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli. Produced by Jack Osbourne, Marc Weingarten, and Jordan Tappis. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Ozzy. For four decades, the name has been synonymous not just with a singular brand of blistering heavy metal, but also with a life lived to the extreme. Made for fans and the uninitiated alike, this definitive portrait of a troubled icon—told in part through the eyes of his family—relives Ozzy’s artistic triumphs while chronicling his arduous journey to sobriety and peace.
· The Good Doctor, directed by Lance Daly, written by John Enbom. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. When lonesome first-year medical resident Dr. Martin Blake (Orlando Bloom) finally gets the respect he so desperately craves from an enchanting teenage patient, he’ll do anything to keep her in his care…. In this slow-burn psychological thriller, Lance Daly’s (Kisses) keen eye and a restrained yet forceful performance by Bloom paint a gripping portrait of the accelerating depths of obsession.
· A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, directed and written by Peter Huyck and Alex Gregory. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Jason Sudeikis leads an ensemble cast of bright comic talents as Eric, a thirtysomething party animal famous among his close circle of friends for his lavish summer theme parties at his father’s swanky Hamptons pad. But when members of the crew start settling down, and Eric’s dad announces plans to sell the beach house, Eric decides it’s time for one last party to go out with a proverbial bang—a good old fashioned orgy. With Lindsay Sloane, Lucy Punch, Leslie Bibb, Lake Bell, Tyler Labine, and Will Forte. A Samuel Goldwyn Films/SPWA release.
· The Guard, directed and written by John Michael McDonagh. (Ireland) – New York Premiere, Narrative. Curmudgeonly small-town sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges) has a confrontational personality, a subversive sense of humor, a dying mother, a fondness for prostitutes, and absolutely no desire whatsoever to work with a straight-laced FBI agent (Don Cheadle) in from the States on a cocaine-smuggling case. Venerable Irish character actor Gleeson (In Bruges) fills his acid-tongued cop with an irreplaceable charm, and his banter with Cheadle will leave you in stitches. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
· The Hideaways, directed by Agnès Merlet. (France, Ireland) – World Premiere, Narrative. The Furlong men have unusual powers. Grandpa goes blind when he thinks of sex, Dad fries electronics when he’s afraid… but young James has a far more fearsome power. After losing everyone he loves, he flees to the woods to live alone. But when he’s discovered by a beautiful teenage cancer patient, their romance leads James on a journey back to civilization. Agnès Merlet (Artemisia) directs this whimsical fable about learning to live with the curses—and blessings—we inherit.
· Higher Ground, directed by Vera Farmiga, written by Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe. (USA) – New York Premiere, Narrative. Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) makes her directorial debut and stars in an adaptation of Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir. Set in a tight-knit spiritual community at the height of feminism in the 1960s, Higher Ground is an exquisite study of one woman’s internal struggle with love and relationships. Farmiga delivers a nuanced performance straight from the gut, with compelling support from John Hawkes, Donna Murphy, Bill Irwin, and Joshua Leonard. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
· Janie Jones, directed and written by David M. Rosenthal. (USA) – US Premiere, Narrative. Ethan (Alessandro Nivola), a struggling musician content with his on-the-road rock-and-roll lifestyle and his much younger girlfriend (Brittany Snow), has his life turned upside down with the arrival of a 13-year-old daughter he never knew he had. Left with the responsibility of raising Janie Jones (Abigail Breslin), a shy but talented aspiring musician herself, Ethan embarks with Janie on a road trip of music, discovery, and father-daughter bonding. A Tribeca Film release.
· Klitschko, directed by Sebastian Dehnhardt. (Germany) – World Premiere, Documentary. Six-foot-six Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko emigrated to Germany to begin careers in heavyweight boxing in 1996, and the sport was never the same. After a 15-year reign over the ring, they made history in 2008, becoming the first brothers in the sport to hold world titles at the same time. Through an engaging mix of candid interviews and absorbing fight footage, Klitschko offers a captivating glimpse into the makings of these champion boxing brothers.
· L’amour fou, directed by Pierre Thoretton. (France) – US Premiere, Documentary. It was called the “auction of the century.” Following the death of his partner in business and life, fashion luminary Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé made the difficult decision to sell off their immense collection of precious art. This luxuriant documentary uses their beautiful possessions as the puzzle pieces to form an equally beautiful portrait of the private world of an icon and the man who loved him. In French with English subtitles. A Sundance Selects release.
· Last Night, directed and written by Massy Tadjedin. (USA) – US Premiere, Narrative. Apart for one night, a happily married couple (Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington) is confronted by temptation that may decide the fate of their marriage. Last Night is ultimately about choices—to be in a relationship with someone, to give yourself to someone physically, to open yourself emotionally, and how to survive all three. Eva Mendes, Guillaume Canet, and Griffin Dunne also star in this sexy, provocative romantic drama. A Tribeca Film release.
· Let the Bullets Fly, directed by Jiang Wen. (Hong Kong, China) – International Premiere, Narrative. Set during the Age of the Warlords in the 1920s, this comic western is the highest grossing Chinese film ever. When circumstances force an outlaw (actor/director Jiang Wen) to impersonate a county governor and clean up a corrupt town, the Robin Hood figure finds himself in a showdown with the local “godfather” (Chow Yun-Fat). Full of surprises and grounded with a smart, humorous script, Let the Bullets Fly’s battles are fought with guns and wit. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
· Like Water, directed by Pablo Croce. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In the most brutal and often most misunderstood sport in the world, becoming a champion takes more than just blood, sweat, and tears. Like Water follows middleweight Ultimate Fighter Anderson Silva as he prepares to crown his four-year run as the unbeaten king of the sport with a record 12th straight win in the UFC. With intimate access to Silva and his intense training, the surprising and inspiring man behind one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time emerges. In English, Portuguese with English subtitles.
· Limelight, directed by Billy Corben. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. As the owner of legendary hotspots like Limelight, Tunnel, Palladium, and Club USA, Peter Gatien was the king of the New York club scene—until years of legal battles led to his eventual deportation to Canada. This exuberant documentary charts Gatien’s rise and fall against the transformation of New York City, offering a wild ride through a now-closed chapter in the history of NYC nightlife. From the director of Cocaine Cowboys.
· The Loving Story, directed Nancy Buirski. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. Nancy Buirski’s moving, evocative documentary recounts the unknown love story of Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple behind the 1967 Supreme Court ruling overturning anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Drawing from a wealth of stunning archival footage, The Loving Story recreates a seminal moment in history in uncommon style, anchoring a timely message of marriage equality in a personal, human love story.
· Mama Africa, directed by Mika Kaurismäki, written by Mika Kaurismäki and Don Edkins. (Germany, South Africa, Finland) – International Premiere, Documentary. Packed with five decades of rare archival footage and captivating melodies, Mama Africa tells the incredible story of Miriam Makeba. First introduced to American audiences by Harry Belafonte, Makeba’s songs exposed the injustice of Apartheid in South Africa to the world—resulting in a 30-year exile from her home country. Throughout her life, Makeba inspired millions through her powerful songs of joy, love, and revolution. In English, French with English subtitles.
· A Matter of Taste, directed by Sally Rowe. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary. Eel, violets, and chocolate. Espuma of calf brains and foie gras. They’re the kind of hyper-modern dishes that made virtuosic young chef Paul Liebrandt a fast-rising star in the NYC restaurant world. But after September 11, when haute cuisine took a back seat to comfort food, Liebrandt would have to struggle for a decade in and out of the kitchen to get back to the top. A Matter of Taste mixes sumptuous food with an insider’s view into the complicated relationships between critics, chefs, and restaurant owners.
· My Piece of the Pie (Ma part du gâteau), directed and written by Cédric Klapisch. (France) – New York Premiere, Narrative. From Cédric Klapisch, director of 2002 hit L’Auberge Espagnole, comes a financial-era drama with a biting comic edge. When single mom France loses her factory job, she is forced to take a gig as a housekeeper and nanny for Steve, a hotshot Parisian stockbroker. As France and Steve grow closer, it seems both of their minds may be opening to each other’s worldviews—until France makes an unsettling discovery about Steve and events snowball toward a shocking dramatic finale.
· New York Says Thank You, directed by Scott Rettberg. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. New York Says Thank You is an epic story following the journey of New Yorkers whose lives were touched by September 11 as they travel the country helping communities rebuild after disasters. Along the way, they face their emotions and ultimately triumph over tragedy through an idea that evolved from a five-year-old New York City boy.
· The Perfect Family, directed by Anne Renton, written by Claire V. Riley and Paula Goldberg. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. In this sweet family drama, a devout Catholic (Kathleen Turner) in the running for the coveted Catholic Woman of the Year award must prove that her family actually conforms to the image of “the perfect family” as envisioned by the church, an image she’s put forth with considerable effort her whole life. Also starring Emily Deschanel, Jason Ritter, Richard Chamberlain, and Michael McGrady.
· Point Blank (A Bout Portant), directed by Fred Cavayé, written by Fred Cavayé and Guillaume Lemans. (France) – International Premiere, Narrative. Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) is studying to be a nurse and his very pregnant wife, Nadia (Elena Anaya), is relegated to bed rest. But when Nadia is kidnapped right in front of him, to get her back he’ll have to free a man under police surveillance from the hospital in three hours. Point Blank is a taut suspense thriller that gets the adrenaline-inducing action going right from the start and never eases up. In French with English subtitles. A Magnolia Pictures release.
· Puncture, directed by Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen, written by Chris Lopata. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is not your typical lawyer. The tattooed and drug-addicted townie has more than his share of personal demons, but can he straighten up long enough to lead a renegade safety-needle inventor to victory against a monopolizing medical supply corporation? This David and Goliath legal drama, based on a true story, exposes the corruption and kickback schemes threatening the lives of millions of health care workers.
· A Quiet Life (Una Vita Tranquilla), directed by Claudio Cupellini, written by Filippo Gravino, Guido Iuculano, Claudio Cupellini. (Italy, Germany, France) – New York Premiere, Narrative. Two decades after he disappeared from Naples, ex-gangster Rosario has earned all the rewards of a simple life in rural Germany—a lovely young wife, a new son, and a gratifying restaurant/hotel business. But when a pair of mysterious young men take a room at his hotel, Rosario’s violent past catches up with him. The great Toni Servillo (Il Divo, Gomorrah) stars in this slow-burn dramatic thriller, a brilliant addition to the new school of sophisticated, subtly suspenseful Italian crime films. In Italian, German with English subtitles.
· Renée, directed by Eric Drath. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Despite his alpha-male reputation, tennis ace Dick Raskind always felt different from other guys. But it wasn’t until his 40s, after getting married and having a son, that Dick was reborn as Renée Richards. Renée was still dynamite on the tennis court, but being the first transgender player in the women’s US Open would put her in a spotlight she—or her troubled son—couldn’t escape. This fascinating doc is a testament to both personal and athletic perseverance. An ESPN Films release.
· Revenge of the Electric Car, directed by Chris Paine, written by P.G. Morgan and Chris Paine. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Behind the closed doors of Nissan, General Motors, and Tesla Motors, the race is on to develop the world’s first, and most economically accessible, electric car. Director Chris Paine’s energetic and beautifully shot follow-up to Who Killed the Electric Car? follows the innovative business models engineered by CEOs and independent entrepreneurs looking to jump-start the global resurgence of electric cars and win over a skeptical public.
· Roadie, directed by Michael Cuesta, written by Gerald Cuesta. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. For 20 years, Jimmy (Ron Eldard) lived his rock-and-roll fantasy as a roadie for Blue Oyster Cult, but the glory days are gone, and Jimmy just got the boot. Returning to his childhood home in Queens, he finds his mom teetering toward dementia and his high school crush (Jill Hennessy) married to his still-nettling childhood rival (Bobby Cannavale). Building a future means confronting the relationships of the past in this heartfelt coming-of-middle-age tale.
· Shakespeare High, directed by Alex Rotaru. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. At home they face poverty, gangs, drugs, and a lack of role models. But in their high school drama program, a group of Southern California teens finds a chance to create a better life. Following several students as they prepare for and compete in the 90th Drama Teachers Association Shakespeare Competition, and featuring interviews with executive producer Kevin Spacey and Richard Dreyfuss, Val Kilmer and Mare Winningham, this galvanizing documentary reminds us of the positive impact of arts education on impressionable youth.
· The Trip, directed by Michael Winterbottom. (UK) – US Premiere, Narrative. The glorious English countryside, haute cuisine, and Britain’s best comedians add up to the most satisfying road trip movie in years. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star as themselves, old friends who wind up touring romantic Lake District restaurants together after Coogan’s American girlfriend bails. Breeding sidesplitting banter about everything from their careers to Romantic poets to who does the best Michael Caine impression, Coogan and Brydon rediscover their friendship and themselves in one hilarious week. An IFC Films release.
· When the Drum Is Beating, directed by Whitney Dow. (USA, Haiti) – World Premiere, Documentary. The 20-member band Septentrional has been making music for 62 years as Haiti’s most celebrated big band. This inspirational documentary charts the history of Haiti from its triumphant independence from French colonialism to 2010’s devastating earthquake—all set to the vibrant music of Septentrional and punctuated with its members’ personal memories. Featuring a wealth of live rehearsal and performance footage, When the Drum Is Beating is a poignant and high-energy story of resilience. In English, Creole with English subtitles.
· Beyond the Black Rainbow, directed and written by Panos Cosmatos. (Canada, Italy) – International Premiere. Panos Cosmatos brings his bold, Kubrickian vision to the screen in stunning detail in this sci-fi fable of a young woman imprisoned in an experimental laboratory facility and the mysterious scientist who is her captor. At once creatively futuristic and hypnotically retro, Beyond the Black Rainbow will absorb viewers in its unique dystopian futurescape.
· The Bleeding House, directed and written by Philip Gelatt. (USA) – World Premiere. Meet the Smiths—a family full of secrets who keep to themselves on a back road outside a small Midwestern town. In this visceral, tightly wound horror/thriller, their lives are shaken when a sweet-talking Texan arrives on their doorstep on a mission for retribution. Will he succeed in his goal to bleed them of their sins, or will the family’s haunted past prove to be even more deadly than he bargained for? A Tribeca Film release.
· Grave Encounters, directed and written by The Vicious Brothers. (USA) – World Premiere. The crew of ghost-hunting reality TV show Grave Encounters decides to shoot an episode inside an abandoned psychiatric hospital with a dark past. All in the name of good television, they voluntarily lock themselves inside the building for the night to begin a paranormal investigation, capturing everything on camera. They quickly realize that the building is more than just haunted—it is alive, and has no intention of ever letting them go. A Tribeca Film release.
· Neon Flesh (Carne de Neon), directed and written by Paco Cabezas. (Spain, Argentina, Sweden) – North American Premiere. Young hustler Ricky was left to a life on the streets at the age of 12 when his hooker mother got sent to the can, but upon learning she’ll soon be released, Ricky enlists a couple of good-for-nothing buddies to help him open a whorehouse as a tribute to Mom. This stylish, edgy crime flick plunges headlong into the fringe world of pimps and junkies where succeeding in business can cost your life…. In Spanish with English subtitles.
· Rabies (Kalevet), directed and written by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado. (Israel) – North American Premiere. A psychotic serial killer on the loose in the woods crosses paths with a group of unsuspecting teenagers. Soon people are dying one by one… but the bad guy isn’t who you think. Turning genre conventions on their head with a smart script and plenty of unexpected scares, Rabies is a surprising debut worthy of its mantle as Israel’s first-ever slasher horror film. In Hebrew with English subtitles.
· Saint (Sint), directed and written by Dick Maas. (Netherlands) – North American Premiere. An original and delightfully gruesome slasher film, Saint reimagines jolly old Saint Nick as a murderous bishop fulfilling a grisly prophecy under the December 5 full moon. Full of creative yuletide horror, Saint is a fun chiller that follows local teen Frank as he sets out on a bloody, high-energy battle to save Amsterdam from the wrathful “Sinterklaas” and his minions. In Dutch with English subtitles.
· TROLLHUNTER (Trolljegeren), directed and written by André Øvredal. (Norway) – New York Premiere. In the wintry Norwegian countryside, a series of supposed bear poaching incidents leads a group of plucky film students to the mysterious hunter Hans: the one man charged with keeping the country’s entire troll population in check. This genre treat seamlessly blends stunning visual effects with its found footage aesthetic to deliver truly fantastic images of giant trolls wreaking havoc, all with darkly funny adherence to the original folklore. In Norwegian with English subtitles. A Magnet Releasing release.
· Underwater Love (Onna no kappa), directed by Shinji Imaoka, written by Shinji Imaoka and Fumio Moriya. (Japan, Germany) – World Premiere. A spectacle of songs and sex that is at once zany and erotic, Underwater Love puts an unforgettable new spin on the Japanese tradition of softcore “pink” films. Asuka has an easy life with her doting fiancé—but everything’s about to change when she discovers her childhood friend has been reborn as a folkloric water sprite, and she decides to take him home…. With music by Stereo Total and cinematography by frequent Wong Kar-wai DP Christopher Doyle. In Japanese with English subtitles.
· The Bang Bang Club, directed and written by Steven Silver. (Canada, South Africa) – US Premiere. The Bang Bang Club is the true story of four young combat photographers bonded by friendship and their sense of purpose to tell the truth. They risk their lives and use their cameras to tell the world of the violence associated with the first free elections in post-Apartheid South Africa. Ryan Phillippe, Malin Akerman and Taylor Kitsch star in a film that explores the thrills, danger, and moral questions associated with exposing the truth. A Tribeca Film release.
· Everything Must Go, directed and written by Dan Rush. (USA) – New York Premiere. Will Ferrell gives a heartfelt and affecting performance in newcomer Dan Rush’s funny and touching adaptation of the Raymond Carver short story “Why Don’t You Dance?” After losing his job and his wife in the same day, Nicolas Halsey hits rock bottom and moves all his possessions, and himself, to his front yard. With the help of a lonely teenager and his pregnant neighbor (Rebecca Hall), Nick begins to dispose of old junk, mend his past, and begin a new life. A Roadside Attractions release.
GALA for the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival
Catching Hell, directed and written by Alex Gibney. (USA) – World Premiere. It’s the pop fly that will live in infamy. When Chicagoan Steve Bartman fatefully deflected a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, the city’s long-suffering Cubs fans found someone new to blame for their cursed century without a World Series title. Oscar®-winning director Alex Gibney explores the psychology of die-hard sports fans, the frightening phenomenon of scapegoating, and the hysteria that turned mild-mannered Bartman into the most hated man in Chicago. An ESPN Films release.