How it’s New York: The Tribeca Film Fest, now in its 18th year, is a fixture in New York City
How it’s Irish: Ireland, the UK and Canada all have projects in the festival
With the first week of the fest in the books, some short takes as this year’s film festival heads into an action-packed final four days.
I started my deep dive into all things film with a feature, Jennifer Reeder’s Knives and Skin, which is part of the Midnight showcase, selected for a late-night crowds who loves thrillers and cult flocks. A pretty, sexually confident teenager named Carolyn (Raven Whitley) goes missing after she tells off her hook up Andy (Ty Olwin), a football player from her school. The disappearance causes more than one character to unravel, first and foremost, her mother Lisa (Marika Engelhardt), who’s first seen carrying a large knife as she searches the house late at night for her daughter. Reverberations and revelations shake up their small, quasi-incestuous Illinois town where Andy’s dad, Dan (Tim Hopper) is having an affair with the wife (Kate Arrington) of the sheriff (James Vincent Meredith) in charge of the case.
Reeder, a filmmaker for over a quarter of a century, is best known for her many short films and is a regular at festivals such as Sundance. With her third feature, although clearly inspired by David Lynch, Reeder, as screenwriter and director, offers a feminist take, exploring the anger, confusion and judgment girls and women deal with, as well as budding moments of empowerment. The multi-racial, female-led cast features a number of young, relatively inexperienced performers with Engelhardt (giving a mesmerizing portrayal of a train wreck), Hopper and Arrington providing gravitas as the unfolding plot becomes ever more surreal. Although I found the movie disjointed and too Lynch-lite, I did love the acapella numbers (the characters are in a school choir overseen by Lisa) sprinkled throughout, with fantastic interpretations of songs by Cyndi Lauper, The Go-Gos, New Order and other 80s artists.
The final festival screening for Knives and Skin is tonight at 8:00 PM at the Regal Cinemas Battery Park
Then it was onto two riveting selections from the Spotlight Documentary showcase! First I traveled 13,000 feet above sea level to Bolivia in Michael Yuchen Lei’s documentary debut A Taste of Sky. Gustu, the culinary school and restaurant founded by Danish restaurateur Claus Meyer, is in La Paz. If Meyer’s name sounds familiar, it’s because his restaurant NOMA in Copenhagen won “Best Restaurant in the World” four times. Meyer revolutionized Scandinavian cooking, which, as he explains in the film, emphasized efficiency over taste and lacked flavour, colour or anything identifying it as distinctly Scandinavian. It wasn’t until he went to France at 18 to study food that he experienced food made well and with intention while being mentored by a French chef who became a surrogate father for him.
Meyer is also a food activist and decided, in part inspired by his transformative time in France, that for his next project he wanted to try to do for Bolivian culture and cooking what he’d achieved with Nordic cuisine, starting with a school for underprivileged youth and a non-profit restaurant. “What if I could take it from a rich country and give it away to a poor country?,” he asks in the film. He selected Bolivia, which is the poorest country in South America but one that has an abundance of agricultural produce, such as ulupika chiles and Jamaica flower.
Lei grounds the documentary with Meyer’s stories about his uneasy childhood with an alcoholic mother and distant father, and interviews Meyer’s tween daughter Augusta conducts with him, but it’s really about the lives of two of the students, Kenzo Hirose and Maria Claudia. Kenzo and Maria Claudia were part of the first class, selected by the mayor because of their low-income backgrounds. Kenzo, a hunter, grew up in the Amazon with his close-knit family of farmers in a heavily agricultural area. Maria Claudia, a native of the Andean altiplano, was raised, like Meyer, by her beloved grandmother but had to make the painful decision to leave at a startlingly young age (before she was 12) because she knew there was no chance for education or fulfilling any ambitions if she stayed. Their dreams bump up against family needs and pressures. After years spent under the tutelage of Meyer’s staff, Kenzo is given an opportunity that will likely to him ultimately opening his own restaurant, but he would have to leave his family and farm responsibilities. Maria Claudia’s family wants her to give up her career to follow a traditional path and marry.
Lei’s gentle and simple storytelling, with lush photography by Jeff Louis Peterman and Alexander J. Hufschmid, allowed for me to become really invested with Kenzo and Maria Claudia, who are very hard-working, thoughtful about the difficult choices they have to make and clearly well loved by the restaurant staff. I’m probably not ready to throw on a knapsack and travel to Bolivia (as Lei did and first discovered Gustu), but I expect Meyer will be expanding on this idea of helping to create new food movements in unexpected places.
The final festival screening for A Taste of Sky is Sunday, May 5th at 11;30 AM at Village East Cinemas
Tuesday night I attended the world premiere of Framing John DeLorean, a documentary/narrative hybrid that features reenactments starring Alec Baldwin as the infamous car maverick and criminal, as well as fourth wall breaking conversations with the crew during the production. As directors Sheena M. Joyce and Don Argott (The Art of the Steal) explained before the screening, Framing has been a decade in the making since they were first approached to make a documentary to supplement a feature about DeLorean. The feature never happened (and there have been at least two failed attempts), so the filmmakers collaborated with DeLorean superfan Tamir Ardon (a producer on the documentary) to craft this unusual and unique take on the guy who was “a leading man Hollywood producers dreamed of and he was real.”
If you’re not familiar with one of the biggest scandals of the early 1980s, John DeLorean was a hugely successful GM executive in 1950s and 60s Detroit, making millions for the company, and that was before he and his fellow engineer Billy Collins (played by Josh Charles) came up with the GTO, a muscle car that hit at just the right moment as the late 60s youth movement was exploding. DeLorean’s unwillingness to play by the company’s rules got him pushed out in 1973 and led to DeLorean and Collins making the car that a century from now people will still remember thanks to Back to the Future.
The DeLorean (or DMC12 as it was called by the company) lives on thanks to the movie and the handful of cars that remain in the hands of collectors. The company and the man, however, imploded, thanks to drug trafficking charges (DeLorean was caught on tape with undercover FBI agents) and the ensuing trial. But really it was due to DeLorean’s hubris, which had tragic and lasting fall out for his then wife Cristina Ferrere (Morena Baaccarin), children (daughter Kathryn and son Zach are both interviewed and it’s obvious that Zach in particular is still working through his anger and grief) and the town of Belfast, where factory workers lost great jobs essentially overnight.
John DeLorean is largely an unsympathetic, ruthless bastard and egomaniac, but as the subject of a documentary, he’s absolutely fascinating. That Jordan Belfort got a movie (Wolf of Wall Street) made about his life but no feature film has been done about DeLorean is astounding! As his son says, “It’s got cocaine, hot chicks, sports cars…FBI agents.” Without question, the prospect of a splashy Hollywood movie getting green lit is going to gain traction thanks to the attention Baldwin’s presence brings. Bewigged and wearing striking, dark, bushy eyebrows, this is the best work he’s done since 30 Rock and probably the most fun he’s had acting since the show. He’s ever funny and charming on camera as himself, trying to explain to his wife over the phone what Framing is and suggesting to the filmmakers where they should insert music into a scene (Ravel’s “Bolero”).
There are many terrific documentaries at the festival, but how often are you going to see a documentary with celeb-filled reenactments and it’s a crazily entertaining true story?!
The final festival screening for Framing John DeLorean is Saturday, May 4th at 12:30 PM at the Regal Cinemas Battery Park
To buy tickets and for more information on the Tribeca Film Festival, visit https://www.tribecafilm.com/festival
The festival runs through May 5th, 2019.