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Tribeca dispatch #1

[Pierre-Alexandre Despatis suffers for his cinema. Now covering his second edition, our official festival reporter and multi-function human cyborg will provide us the sights (plenty of cool pics!), the sounds, the reviews and the occasional interviews of the still very young 5th edition of the Tribeca film festival. Below are some of Pierre-Alexandre’s reviews in easy to read, insightful capsule form. Enjoy!]

Many of the numerous movies about the israelo-palestinian conflict are, unfortunately, redundant and they don't bring anything new to the subject. Encounter Point choses a rather different approach by abstaining from depicting violence or the conflict itself but rather the film quite interestingly portrays the lives of people who want … peace–yes they do exist! After having lost a son, a daughter or a close relative, these people decided to try to change the situation in every way they can. In doing so, they risk their social standing and even their own lives. Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha’s film is the result of 2 years of research, 16 months of shooting and hundred of interviews. The film does a very good job at portraying these people's lives and their very own intimate/public struggle; after all, the are so many things an individual can do by himself. Unlike many other films which just show shocking images of the israelo-palestinian conflict, this films proves that there is hope to improve the situation and eventually maybe reach peace. The film's unique perspective is refreshing and it's quite astonishing to see that many of the people who had a family member killed by the so-called enemy are still willing to meet them to once and for all resolve the conflict.

Movie geeks strike back! Combining archival footage, old movie segments and interviews, this little gem by Paul Davids—a sci-fi boy himself—gives us an inside look at the evolution of the genre and its followers since the very first b-movies. The film features some of the industry leading directors and special effects artists including Peter Jackson, Roger Corwin, and Forrest J. Ackerman (creator of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland) and the guy who came up with the term "sci-fi". The interviews are truly insightful and they give the viewers a unique perspective at what drove those guys to sci-fi flicks. Another of the film's qualities is the archival footage it features. Perhaps the best one of these is an interview dating from the seventies with Ackerman. The excerpts chosen are simply amazing. While watching the interviews you can't help but think about how great it must have been to live in the 30s-60s to witness those films first hand in theaters. Despite a small section devoted to modern CGI films, a certain feeling of nostalgia emanates from the film. Unfortunately, things seems to have changed with time and, as the lyrics of the closing credit song seems to imply "do you remember, do you remember …", the golden years of the special effects industry are, sadly, an era long gone.

The condition of the women of Turkey has always been a difficult one. To share their pain, 8 women–many of which weren't given the chance to finish elementary school–decide to create a play based on their own personal experiences. Surprisingly, while this amateur theater enterprise might seem an utopian way to solve a problem that has been going on for ages, the husbands of the 8 women are very cooperative: one woman's husband helps her memorize her lines and another husband puts an end to his beatings. Through their theatrical mishaps and numerous mistakes during the repetitions, Pelin Esmer allows viewers to discover these women and understand their situation better. The Play quickly becomes an inventive excuse to show us and give us an understanding of these women's life, as opposed to the many talking head movies about the same subject out there. The film is very entertaining and helps us understand the issues at “play”.

While many current documentaries come across like major Hollywood productions (with all the production values put into them and their enormous budgets), there are still some very intimate documentaries still being made in an almost underground fashion. East of paradise, directed by underground documentarian Lech Kowalski is one of those low key documentary with almost no production value; the whole film is almost composed of one single interview with the filmmaker's mother, in one single room. While a 90-minute long interview with a single person might not seem all that appealing (let alone the fact that this person is the filmmaker's mother), the works very well and it is surprisingly gripping! The mother who relates her experiences of WWII as a Polish woman is very lively and, while sometimes very sad, funny, and sometimes disheartening, her story is very compelling. As the mother says in the film, "in this world, so materialistic, it's hard to find humanity"; that is exactly Kowalski was able to achieve here … a film without any unnecessary artifices that fully explores the very emotional experiences of his mother. The film's minimalist approach is likely going to fail to interest mainstream spectators; however, the film will be of great interest to those who have learned to appreciate such minimalist films.

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