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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Tribeca Film Festival

Five Tribeca festival films you could soon be hearing about

April 30, 2012 |  5:27 pm

 

Scene from "Resolution"

The Tribeca Film Festival wound down Sunday, reaching what organizers said was a 95% attendance rate at its screenings and panels. Of course, what plays to packed houses within the festival bubble won't necessarily bring the crowds in outside it. What movies can you expect will attract some interest long after the last screening has ended? Here's a diverse, but by no means exhaustive, list.

"The Flat": Tribeca is known for documentaries, and this year was no exception. Receiving some of the best buzz from the festival was Arnon Goldfinger's "The Flat," a nonfiction tale about an Israeli man who begins to uncover some things about his Jewish grandparents after his grandmother dies and he is left cleaning out the Tel Aviv apartment she once shared with her husband. Reviews have been strong, and, without giving anything away, we'll just say it's a story that soon hops countries en route to some surprising discoveries.

"The World Before Her": We're a bit removed from "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Slumdog Millionaire," but a movie that combines elements of both in a story of Indian beauty pageants can only be interesting. The jury agreed too, handing Canadian director Nisha Pahuja its top documentary prize.

"Una Noche": Hey, when your stars defect in an art-imitating-life twist, that always helps. Also of assistance: when you have a well-made and well-regarded movie, as Lucy Mulloy does, telling compellingly of the fictional (but entirely plausible) aspirations of three very different teenagers in a bleak but poetic Havana. The movie still doesn't have U.S. distribution, but with all the attention paid the defectors, don't be surprised if that ends soon, particularly for a company with a Latin focus.

"Resolution": Starting out as a story about a man trying to get his buddy to go to rehab, Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorehead's film soon evolves into a tale of secrets and narrative revelations. A smart marketer will call it a thriller, and maybe in the confines of a film festival it is, but many have recognized it for something else: strong storytelling with suspense and emotion.

"Fairhaven": More to come on this one shortly, but suffice it to say that Tom O'Brien's wistful drama about men in their 30s, stuck in and returning to their small New England town, will conjure up the 1990s hit "Beautiful Girls." That's a good thing. Starring Chris Messina, the suddenly omnipresent indie actor, in a movie that could easily have played Sundance to some acclaim.

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— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "Resolution." Credit: Tribeca Film Festival.


'Una Noche' director supports defecting Cuban actors

April 29, 2012 |  2:23 pm

Una Noche actors
NEW YORK -- Two Cuban actors who went missing in Miami 10 days ago en route to the Tribeca Film Festival have surfaced, announcing that they are indeed defecting to the United States.

“Una Noche’s” Javier Nunez Florian and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre, both 20, made an appearance this weekend on America TeVe,  a Miami Spanish-language station, saying that they were in good health and that they were seeking political asylum.

On Sunday morning in New York, a third Cuban actor in the film, Dariel Arrechada, and the picture's British director, Lucy Mulloy, said they were gratified to learn of the pair's safety. "We were just relieved that they were OK," Mulloy said. "I spoke to them on the phone and told them it was an important decision and I was going to support them in whatever they wanted to do [here]."

The pair, who are a couple and are staying with relatives of De la Torre’s in Miami, have hired a lawyer to help with their asylum claim. They have not said whether they'll continue to pursue acting careers in the U.S.

The two had gone missing from the Miami airport after arriving there on a layover to the New York festival with a producer and Arrechada.

Mulloy said that she and Arrechada had learned of the actors' emergence Friday shortly after the defectors went on television to make their announcement. Mulloy spoke with them from an unidentified Miami hotel and they seemed, the director said, "a little bit shaken."

Arrechada said he was still coping with the news. "It was strange to be here [at Tribeca] without them,  but I was really happy to talk to them," he said. "It seemed like they had made the decision really easily, and that surprised me a little."

He added that he did not think about defecting himself. "I have family and a lot of friends at home. I love the Cuban culture, and the heat." He was set to return to Havana this week but was seeking to extend his New York stay by a few days.

Though athletes and actors have commonly defected from Cuba, the pair’s actions had particularly attracted interest because their film has them starring as a brother and sister who also seek to leave  the island, in the movie's case via a homemade raft.

Their situation became even more poignant Thursday night when the movie won three jury prizes, including a best actor kudo for Florian. The actor shared the honor with Arrechada, whose character in the film also seeks  to escape the island.

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-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Javier Nunez Florian and Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre are seen in the film "Una Noche." Credit: Trevor Forest and Shlomo Godder/2012 Tribeca Film Festival


Tribeca 2012: Cuban actors materialize in Miami

April 28, 2012 | 11:38 pm

Unanoc
Two Cuban actors who went missing in Miami 10 days ago en route to the Tribeca Film Festival have surfaced, announcing they have indeed defected to the United States.

“Una Noche’s” Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua de la Torre, both 20, made an appearance this weekend on America TeVe,  a local Spanish-language station, saying that they were in good health and were seeking political asylum.

The Havana-raised actors, who are a couple, told Reuters that they began to think about leaving Cuba after a trip to the Berlin Film Festival this winter. They  were staying with relatives of de la Torre’s in Miami and have hired a lawyer to help with their asylum claim.

The pair had gone missing from the Miami airport after arriving there on layover to New York with a producer and a third actor from the film, Dariel Arrechada. When the other two arrived in New York, they found that the checked luggage belonging to Florian and de la Torre was empty, suggesting a pre-meditated plan to defect.

Though athletes and actors have commonly defected from Cuba, the pair’s instance had attracted particular interest because their film casts them as a brother and sister who also seek to leave the island in a homemade raft.

Their situation became even more poignant Thursday night when the movie, directed by the young British director Lucy Mulloy,  won three jury prizes at the festival, including a best actor kudo for Florian. The actor shared the honor with Arrechada.

Arrechada told the audience at an award ceremony that he missed his co-star and found it strange to accept the award without him present.

Earlier, Mulloy told 24 Frames she was surprised to learn of the pair's disappearance. "They were excited to be actors in Cuba; I worked with them for months and had no idea they were thinking about this," she said.

More as it develops.

RELATED:

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Florian and de la Torre in "Una Noche." Credit: Tribeca Film Festival


Tribeca 2012: 'Any Day Now,' 'Burn' take audience awards

April 28, 2012 |  8:46 pm

Anyday
A drama about gay adoption and a documentary about Detroit firefighters won the audience awards at the Tribeca Film Festival, organizers announced Saturday.

Travis Fine's narrative-feature winner, "Any Day Now," centers on an aspiring singer (Alan Cumming) who, along with his partner, takes in a neglected boy with Down's syndrome. The couple must soon fight a legal battle to retain custody. Set in 1970s Los Angeles, the movie is inspired by a true story.

The documentary winner, "Burn," takes a look at the firefighters of Detroit, who struggle to do their jobs in the face of urban blight and budgetary woes, focusing especially on a new hard-line commissioner brought in to shake up the system. Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez directed the film, which was executive produced by Denis Leary. The movie is the latest independent to take a look at the embattled city, coming on the heels of such films as "Detropia," which premiered at Sundance.

Tribeca's audience award can sometimes be a barometer of commercial success. Three years ago, the screwball family comedy "City Island" took the prize; the movie went on to become an art-house hit. This year's winners do not yet have theatrical distribution.

This is the first year Tribeca has given out separate audience awards in documentary and narrative categories. The festival wraps up Sunday.

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A still from "Any Day Now." Credit: Tribeca Film Festival


Tribeca 2012: 'Precious' screenwriter on board for short film contest

April 27, 2012 |  3:00 am

Geoffrey-Fletcher-Image

Oscar-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher ("Precious") is helping to give filmmakers a rare opportunity to turn his words into a short movie through a contest announced Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival.  

Participants must submit their interpretation of a "skeletal" script by Fletcher, which he further describes as having "no character descriptions or locations -- allowing them to create their own take on the material." The festival and sponsor Bombay Sapphire will ultimately give five winners the chance to produce and direct their own films after they've been chosen.

"The idea here is that people from all backgrounds, from all countries can participate," Fletcher said. "There are a lot of people who may not feel that they have the opportunity. And certainly, the industry is as hard as ever to break into. Because of a competition like this, a person can have their work seen in a way that they might not have otherwise."

Fletcher was approached by Bombay Sapphire to participate with the project because, he said, "they had looked into my past and saw that I had made so many short films of my own as I was trying to get into the industry."

For his part, Fletcher -- the first African American to receive the best screenplay Oscar -- also wants diverse voices to be heard. 

"I think nobody really knows what audiences want. A lot of people are always trying to find out. Perhaps a submission to the [contest] will inspire all of us to think differently about what we really want to see. The perspective from the budding filmmaker or the everyday person is something that the industry needs to be aware of, and ultimately I think that's what will sustain the industry and keep it healthy and driving," said Fletcher.

Full details of the contest, called the Bombay Sapphire Imagination Series Short Filmmakers Competition, will be posted here.

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-- Jevon Phillips

Photo: Geoffrey Fletcher. Credit: Bombay Sapphire


'Una Noche,' 'War Witch' win awards at Tribeca film festival

April 26, 2012 |  5:12 pm

Una noche cuban defect
NEW YORK — A movie about Cuban teenagers trying to escape the communist island and a film about a child soldier in Africa were the big winners at the Tribeca Film Festival award ceremony Thursday night.

"War Witch," Kim Nguyen's story of a girl conscripted into an African war, won best narrative feature, while Rachel Mwanza, a nonprofessional actress playing the girl, won best actress.

Meanwhile, a jury handed best actor prizes to Dariel Arrechada and Javier Nuñez Florian for their portrayals of two teenagers who seek to build a raft in Castro's Cuba in the coming-of-age drama "Una Noche" (One Night).

Florian and another performer in the movie, Anailin de la Rua de la Torre, disappeared on a layover in Miami last week as they were traveling from Havana to New York. They are presumed to be seeking to defect.

Lucy Mulloy, the film's director, won best new narrative feature director for her film, while the movie took home the best cinematography prize for its images of a Cuba both scenic and harscrabble.

The Tribeca jury handed best documentary feature to "The World Before Her," Canadian Nisha Pahuja's look at an Indian beauty pageant.

For a full list of winners visit tribecaonline.com. The Tribeca Film Festival wraps this weekend, when the audience awards will be announced.

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— Steven Zeitchik

Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua de la Torre in "Una Noche." Credit: Trevor Forest and Shlomo Godder / 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.


Tribeca 2012: 'Lola Versus' aims to be a different sort of romcom

April 24, 2012 | 10:30 pm

Lolaver
The real-life couple Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones became indie darlings two years ago when their breakup dramedy "Breaking Upwards" -- which they wrote, directed and starred in and made for about $15,000 -- became something of a media sensation and received an art-house release from IFC.

On Tuesday night at the Tribeca Film Festival, the two unveiled their sophomore effort, "Lola Versus," a far bigger project (relatively speaking) that stars Greta Gerwig and was financed by Fox Searchlight.

A romantic comedy that tries to avoid some of the genre's more well-worn cliches, "Lola" centers on the title character (Gerwig), a 29-year-old New Yorker who is stunned when her fiance ("The Killing's" Joel Kinnaman) breaks up with her not long before their wedding.

After she goes into the requisite food-fueled despair (it doesn't avoid all cliches), Lola finds herself in a complicated set of dynamics with her ex, her good male friend (Hamish Linklater of "The New Adventures of Old Christine") and her potty-mouthed gal pal (Lister-Jones of "Whitney").

The goal, the filmmakers say, was to tell a breakup story that was neither maudlin nor falsely redemptive, and to do it in a younger age range than many studio romantic comedies.

"We hadn't seen something post-breakup about someone [who was] 30 that was funny and real," Wein, 28, said in a question-and-answer session after the screening."

The movie, which hits theaters June 8, will seek to capture the mojo of "(500) Days of Summer," another Searchlight youthful romance, though whether "Lola" is emotional or clever enough to pull off that film's crossover success remains an open question.

At the afterparty, Wein described his attempt to walk the line between punchline-driven romcom and stuttery mumblecore realism (indeed, the movie doesn't go for broad laughs as much as it does small moments). He and Lister-Jones, 29, made their film as a true family affair -- they shaped the story in part using their own experiences, then collaborated on the writing before he went on to direct while she acted.

On the lower Manhattan set of the movie last year, Gerwig told 24 Frames that she thought those multiple hats served the film.

"I like a team that does everything, because it means having one mind behind something instead of feeling like you're getting thrown things by a lot of different people and then not even knowing why half the stuff is there anymore," she said. "There's a lot more rhythm to working this way, and I think you'll see it in the finished product."

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-- Steven Zeitchik in New York

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Greta Gerwig in "Lola Versus." Credit: Fox Searchlight


Tribeca 2012: What exactly is James Franco’s new film about?

April 24, 2012 | 11:45 am

James Franco in "Francophrenia" at Tribeca
This much is clear of “Francophrenia,” the new experimental pseudo-documentary starring James Franco that premiered Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival. it was shot in 2010 on the Pacific Design Center set of “General Hospital,” where the actor, who plays a murder-obsessed artist named “Franco,” was filming an episode of the soap opera.

What exactly he’s doing in the movie — and, more vexingly, why he’s doing it — are open questions. A viewing of the movie will not necessarily answer these questions.

"Francophrenia," shot by documentarian Ian Olds (”The Fixer”), mixes real archival footage with a dropped-in voice-over (which was, in fact, written, by a scribe named Paul Felten) and other post-production effects designed to make the whole thing feel like a horror movie.

Franco engages in the prosaic acts of shooting a television show outdoors — sitting for hair and makeup, glad-handing with lingering fans — as well as more...eerie activities. For sections of the shoot, Franco is striking deranged poses as he muses in paranoiac voice-over, meant to be an inner monologue, about where he is, how he got here and whether a man is trying to kill him or is, as he says, “just a producer.”

The actor had little involvement in the film's direction or editing. “I turn[ed] myself over and let them do [what they wanted] with my image," he said at the screening. "It’s supposed to be slightly embarrassing; it can't be something where I needed to look cool.”

In addition to his regular acting duties, Franco has in recent years attempted a number of deconstructionist art pieces. Sometimes they are intentional, as with his installation on “Three’s Company” at Sundance a few years back. Sometimes they are unintentional, as with his hosting of the 2011 Oscars.

So what’s this latest turn trying to accomplish? After the screening, Olds and Franco attempted to explain. Here is the one thing they are definitely, most certainly, most undeniably trying to convey.

 --“It’s a way to access ideas about celebrity.” (Olds)

--“It’s [meant to] make you aware of the filmmaking process and editing process.” (Franco)

 --“It’s a deranged portrait on the labor behind the spectacle.” (Olds)

--“We are creating a third level of Franco-ness.” (Olds)

--“It’s an insertion with an insertion, and then everything around it gets mixed up.” (Franco)

To be fair, Franco at least acknowledged that what he and the filmmakers have created isn’t, well, entirely straightforward. “I’m sure there will be different kinds of reactions,” Franco said before the screening. “We kind of knew this film would not be for-- " He paused. “Would have mixed reactions. It does take a little bit of"--he paused again--"engagement.”

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— Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: James Franco in "Francophrenia." Credit: Tribeca Film Festival.


Cuban stars of film screening at Tribeca fest may have defected

April 23, 2012 |  2:01 pm

Una noche cuban defect

In a case of life apparently imitating art, two stars of a fictional movie about Cubans defecting to the United States have disappeared in Miami en route to the Tribeca Film Festival, and may themselves be seeking to defect.

Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua de la Torre, the 20-year-old stars of the Havana-set drama "Una Noche" (One Night), disappeared on a layover in Miami last Wednesday as they were traveling from Havana to New York. They have not been heard from since. The filmmakers, including New York-based director Lucy Mulloy, believe the two are in hiding and do not wish to return to Cuba.

Havana-based producer Sandy Perez Aguila had been traveling from Cuba with the pair as well as with a third actor from the film, Dariel Arrechada. Aguila said he and Arrechada had agreed to briefly separate from Florian and De la Torre in the Miami airport, with the latter two saying they wanted to browse some shops and would meet up with the producer at the gate for their New York flight. That was the last time Aguila saw the pair.

When the actors didn't turn up at the gate, Aguila went to police at the Miami airport, who told him that they could not investigate until the duo was missing for at least 24 hours. With no other option, he and Arrechaga boarded the plane and flew to New York.

Upon arrival, the producer opened the checked luggage belonging to Florian and De la Torre and found the suitcases were empty, suggesting a premeditated plan to stay in the United States.

Continue reading »

Tribeca 2012: Michael Moore says hacking scandal could hit Fox News

April 22, 2012 |  9:10 pm

Mooretri
Michael Moore has taken aim at Fox News for its politics countless times over his long career. But the provocateur filmmaker now believes that the News Corp.-owned cable channel could soon be caught up in something far more nefarious than simple ideological sins.

"I'm interested to see what happens with Fox News and phone hacking," Moore said, referring to the News Corp. scandal that has resulted in a number of arrests and high-level resignations within the British section of Rupert Murdoch's empire. "I really can't believe it just happens in Great Britain. Because really, who cares about just hacking phones over there?

"I'll make a prediction about something — I think the phone-hacking thing Murdoch is involved in ... is going to be investigated, and it will be found that it's been going on here too," he said. "I just have a gut feeling."

To this point, no U.S. subsidiary has been implicated, though U.K. prosecutors have explored the possibility of bringing suit in the U.S. because of the possibility that U.K. citizens' phones were hacked while they were on U.S. soil.

Moore spoke Sunday at a Tribeca Film Festival event with actress Susan Sarandon, with the two elaborating on their general fears of government and other forms of surveillance.

"I've gotten my [FBI] file twice," Sarandon said. "I know my phone was tapped. If they're not surveilling you, then everyone else has cameras on phones." She added, "I was denied security clearance to go to the White House [next week], and I don't know why."

Moore chimed in. "I never think about it," he said. "It would unwind me," before going on to say, "I assume everything I'm saying in an email or saying on the telephone is being looked at."

Never shy about voicing his feelings toward the right, Moore took aim at a host of other targets, particularly those who he said played on fear to boost the Republicans’ presidential chances this year.

"[Look at] the fact that Mitt Romney can be dead [even] with Obama in the polls ... even though his approval rating is at 35%," Moore said.  "It's amazing that that many people who don't like him will still vote for him because not" — Moore paused — “him," referring to Obama.

But Moore also went after some liberal sacred cows, notably Davis Guggenheim, whose "Waiting for Superman" is often regarded as a liberal-friendly cri de coeur about the state of the public-education system. "I hated that film," Moore said. "The point I was left with was that teachers and unions are the problem. And that is not the problem."

Hollywood studios also came into Moore's sights, particularly with how Paramount handled two recent movies. " 'Hugo' was marketed as a family film, and it's not a family film. It's not for kids," he said. “It's an adult film with kids in it. Same with 'Jeff, Who Lives' at Home," Moore said, referring to Sarandon's recent offbeat comedy. "If a studio doesn't get your work...."

"Or," Sarandon interjected, "they’re made for so little money that they don't want to invest the money ... [so] it disappears," she said, apparently referring to the marketing effort for "Jeff," made for a modest budget.

Moore has not announced the subject of his new film (he last directed "Capitalism: A Love Story" more than two years ago) and declined to specify Sunday what it might be about. But in response to a question about whether he’d make a film about immigration policy, he did allow that he thought it was a worthy subject.

"That's a film that needs to be done," he said.

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—Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon at the Tribeca Film Festival. Credit: Craig Barritt / Getty Images.


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