Silver Screen: Five films to follow out of Tribeca

Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011 in Culture

Silver Screen: Five films to follow out of Tribeca

The Guard: Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle star in Irish cop thriller with black comic overtones.

by Brandon Carter

The Tribeca Film Festival concluded May 1 in its usual fashion, with awards to obscure international and independently funded feature-length and short films. Winners included Lisa Aschwan's She Monkey (Sweden), Park Jungbum's The Journals of Musan (South Korea), and Alma Harel's affecting Bombay Beach, which won the Best Documentary Feature prize and may very well have been the best film at the festival this year.

Most likely, you will never hear of these films again.

The next step for these films, of course, is finding distribution deals to get onto as many screens across the world as possible.  Sadly, this can be a long, tedious battle for some, a lost battle for most.

But one can always hope. Here are five worthy films that, with any luck, have enough cachet to wander into a theater near you.

The Guard – Feature Narrative

Brendan Gleeson is a genuine pleasure to watch in this character study about an Irish beat cop up against a murdering drug ring and a corrupt police force in a town where no one is impressed and everyone has an opinion.  Sounds heavy, sure, but writer/director John Michael McDonagh chooses to make light of it with a quick-witted, stylized comedy that self-consciously references Westerns of the John Ford variety.  Don Cheadle plays the straight man as an uptight FBI counterpart brought in to assist Gleeson's world-weary sergeant, but it's Gleeson, the consummate character actor, who grabs our attention and unwaveringly holds it as he skillfully navigates between foul-mouthed, black humor, and poignancy.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful – Documentary Feature

This investigative powerhouse zeroes in on one man's search for answers after his 9-year-old daughter dies from a rare form of leukemia. 

Jerry Ensminger links the death of his daughter to a high number of cancer cases and deaths in the immediate vicinity of Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina. As he digs deeper, squaring off against the impenetrable Marine Corps, he discovers what is possibly the largest water-contamination cover-up in U.S. history. 

The catch?  Jerry Ensminger is a Marine.

Prepare to be outraged.

Like Water – Documentary Feature

With UFC's increasing popularity and a feature film about the world of mixed martial arts called Warrior slated for release later this year, it's fair to suspect that Pablo Croce's debut doc Like Water is likely to get some play in theaters across the nation off of hype alone. But there's nothing sensationalist about his up-close examination of Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva, a Brazilian of few words and plenty of bone-crunching victories.  Instead, we get a complex psychological portrait of a man who is as much a mystery to his peers and the larger world of mixed martial arts as is the appeal of the sport itself (to softies like myself, anyway). Truly fascinating, even if it's not your thing.

Detachment – Feature Narrative

One of the more high-profile entries at this year's fest, Adrian Brody and American History X director Tony Kaye team up for a small dramatic enterprise about a jaded substitute teacher who gets assigned to a failing public school. As a man who tries not to think about the relatively small impact he can have on the lives he peripherally connects to, he finds his new surroundings surprisingly engaging: a student (Betty Kaye), a fellow teacher (Mad Men's Christina Hendricks) and a delinquent (Sami Gayle) all leave a lasting impression on him ... and the audience.  The newcomers especially (Kaye and Gayle) have assured presences onscreen, and the rest of the cast is rounded out by the formidable likes of Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Marcia Gay Harden, but Brody, with his striking face and somber appearance, proves he's at his best when playing inward.

The Bully Project – Documentary Feature

Most of us have had some experience with bullying at school (on both the giving and receiving end), and for reasons unknown it's a phenomenon that, in a perverse way, is almost viewed as a rite of passage. You know, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and all that.

Well, Lee Hirsch disagrees with that sentiment. In his uncompromising documentary The Bully Project, the filmmaker follows five families as they deal with the palpable ramifications of an abuse system that school administrators seem powerless to stop and kids unremittingly get caught up in.

What's revealed is that the victims of bullying aren't the only individuals at stake.  The feeling of helplessness instilled in the viewer as Hirsch's camera viscerally captures the ugly realities of daily life in school not only mirrors the experience of victims and their families, but also implicates the viewer in the nasty cycle of passive response to a national problem that is literally claiming lives at all levels of education.

The "Project" in the title alludes to the sociological aims of the film, which is to first and foremost observe, with rigor, the true nature of the problem before venturing to guess how it can be solved.

blog comments powered by Disqus