Tribeca Film Festival

Now that the Tribeca Film Festival has been effectively put to bed for the year (rest up, sweet festival), it’s time to reflect on what we loved best about New York City’s spring fling, from zombies to visual effects to more Sam Rockwell than might be advisable by most doctors. For a festival like Tribeca, which lately seems to being striving (and hard) to be more unique and more fresh than it might have been in the past, a traditional “best-of” list just didn’t seem right. After all, where in such a list would we write about geodesic domes and solid fashion choices made by pre-teen characters and, again, just like a lot of Sam Rockwell? The answer – nowhere – made this year’s listing wrap-up style obvious. We just wrote about what we liked best.

So what were the twelve best things at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival? Let us tell you.

The Best Breakout of the Festival

Carbone

Why do we go to film festivals? Okay, more specifically, why do we go to film festivals and see films from unknown talents? Sure, it would be easy to hit a large festival like Tribeca and only see films with big stars (Sam Rockwell co-starred in no less than three Tribeca films this year, after all), but that would remove some of the most profound joy of a good festival experience. We go to film festivals to find and champion unknown, new, and emerging talents. This year’s breakout star is unquestionably Hide Your Smiling Faces director and writer Daniel Patrick Carbone. With Faces, Carbone has crafted one of the most stirring and refined coming-of-age tales we’ve seen in years, and one that we’ll (hopefully) be talking about long after Tribeca 2013 is just a memory. -Kate Erbland

The Best New Way to Watch a Film in a Geodesic Dome

Dome

I walked into the geodesic dome at MoMA PS1 expecting the usual set-up: a mid-sized projection of Michelangelo Frammartino’s Alberi and a bunch of uniformly arranged chairs. Instead, I got an enormous screen covering much of the dome’s north side and a whole lot of large pillows arranged haphazardly about the room. Initially bewildering in the dark, this turned out to be the ideal way to watch Frammartino’s gorgeous, spell-binding 28-minute look into one of Basilicata’s oldest and most mysterious customs. Simply put, a bunch of men go into the forest and dress up like trees. Yet the experience of viewing the film, especially in those circumstances, is beyond words. -Daniel Walber

The Best Performance By Child Actors

Hide Your Smiling Faces

Perhaps one of my favorite films at the festival, Daniel Patrick Carbone‘s Hide Your Smiling Faces features the best performances from child actors that I have seen in a very long time. Nathan Varnson and Ryan Jones, both making their feature film debuts as New Jersey brothers Eric and Tommy, turn in strikingly organic performances that easily mesh with the film’s naturalistic setting. The two actors put forth pure, believable emotion and never read as affected like some child actors, which is a testament to Carbone’s powers as a director – you can see that he understands his actors and is able to tap into their raw talents. -Caitlin Hughes

The Best Rock Doc About The National That Wasn’t About The National

Mistaken for Strangers

As Mike Ryan at The Huffington Post put it, Mistaken for Strangers “could have been a documentary on the band House of Pain (best known for their 1992 song “Jump Around”) and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference assuming that (A) the lead singer of House of Pain, Everlast, had a slightly bumbling younger brother trying to film the band on tour and (B) House of Pain still existed.” While the festival’s opening night film is most easily explained as being “a rock doc about the band The National,” the film is really a doc about brothers, bonds, and bumbling idiots. It’s both very funny and very sad, and it handily proves that sometimes the subject itself isn’t really the subject, it’s just a nice way to get to the heart of something much bigger. -Kate Erbland

The Best Documentary About Artists

Cutie and the Boxer

Many documentaries about artists fall short of matching the creativity of their subjects. Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer, on the other hand, dives deep into the lives and works of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara with just the right spirit. It’s a success from the very beginning, featuring the best opening credits sequence of the festival. A single take of a blindfolded Ushio at work, slamming his paint-soaked boxing gloves against a long canvass, is matched to composer Yasuaki Shimizu’s haunting and hypnotic “108 Desires.” The music gives Ushio’s unrelenting pounding a profound sensual mystique, setting the tone for the wise and empathetic film to follow. -Daniel Walber

The Best Sequence Hungry for Braaaainnnssss

VHS2

After reviewing The Walking Dead this past season, I thought I was zombied out, but Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale‘s segment inV/H/S/2, “A Ride in the Park” reminded me that zombies can still be entertaining if treated with creativity and a sense of humor. Utilizing the “found footage” hook of the film in an inventive fashion, the film is from the POV of a biker on a trail as he gets calls from his girlfriend and subsequently gets bitten by a zombie. His transformation is recorded, even as he and a pack of zombies invade a children-filled birthday party in a hilarious moment of action and mass panic. The segment ends on a meditative note, which works very well, since it’s clear that Sanchez and Hale actually took the time out to think about what it might be like for a zombie to turn, from their perspective. -Caitlin Hughes

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The Best Cinematography

Floating Skyscrapers

Floating Skyscrapers is a shadowy, poignant film that will undoubtedly find an audience here in the U.S. All three of its lead actors should be lauded to the ends of the earth, and the same goes for its writer/director, Tomasz Wasilewski. Yet I also hope that its stunning images are not lost in the shuffle. Cinematographer Jakub Kijowski brings both pulsing sexuality and agonizing loneliness to shots both underwater and in the open, empty spaces of post-Communist Warsaw. Every image reaches out for meaning, there’s nary a wasted frame in the whole film. -Daniel Walber

The Best Character Wardrobe

Run and Jump

The greatest character wardrobe in any TFF 2013 movie belonged to Noni (Ciara Gallagher) in Steph Green‘s Run and Jump. Noni is an impossibly adorable, chipmunk cheeked little girl who has a strong affinity for wearing homemade knitwear that transforms her into a bevy of different animals, like a pig or squirrel, as pictured. Complete with a full body animal sweater, knit hat and appropriately-colored tights, the look is complete! Noni’s wardrobe is just a piece of the delightful whimsy and overall warm sentiment that is Run and Jump, but a part that stands out nonetheless. -Caitlin Hughes

The Best Female Protagonist

Wadjda

Haifaa al-Mansour’s debut feature, Wadjda, is going to be compared to Italian Neorealism quite a bit. It should be, and I’ve done it myself in my review. Yet there’s one big difference: while the children of films like Bicycle Thieves and Sciuscia are open-faced symbols of the struggling Italian Republic, Wadjda is wry, intelligent and very outspoken. Her buoyant spirit and refusal to accept the restrictions faced by women in Saudi Arabia is far from her stoic (and male) Neorealist forebears. The great success of the character is in no small part due to the incredibly charming Waad Mohammed, an exceptionally talented young actress who may give my favorite performance of the whole festival. -Daniel Walber

The Best Use of VFX

Lenny Cooke

Very rarely in a documentary can you compliment the VFX, but the final shot in the Josh and Benny Safdie‘s Lenny Cooke is worthy of such praise. They somehow superimposed an the older, fatter Cooke in older footage of the younger Cooke at basketball camp so that he could chide his younger self on the mistakes that he made. This could have been corny, but the Safdies do it right. And on an understandably small budget, this effect looks seamless – I almost thought I was seeing things at first when the two Cookes were on screen together. It also gives the documentary less of a depressing finish, since Cooke clearly learned from the mistakes of the past and is trying to move on. -Caitlin Hughes

The Best Sam Rockwell Role (Dancing Edition)

Sam Rockwell Dancing Sort Of

Dancing man Sam Rockwell popped up in no less than three Tribeca films this year, and he only danced in one of them. If you’re familiar with Rockwell’s limb-shaking work, you’ll understand that this is a huge disappointment. This is a man who even managed to dance in Iron Man 2. Rockwell’s sole dancing sequence appears in Kat Coiro‘s A Case of You, and he doesn’t even really dance per se, he just sort of chants and jumps around an ashram. We’ll take it. And you’ll doubly take it when we tell you that the ass-shaking in the ashram is only one facet of Rockwell’s wacky guitar teacher, a Brooklynite still obsessed with The Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes.” That what I said now, princes, princes who adore you… -Kate Erbland

The Best Sam Rockwell Role (Non-Dancing Edition)

A Single Shot

So if Rockwell wasn’t dancing his way through his Tribeca Trifecta, what was he doing? Well, in David M. Rosenthal‘s A Single Shot, he was getting in way over his head after accidentally killing a mysterious young woman out in the woods. The shooting is bad enough, but when Rockwell’s John Moon finds a box of cash near said dead woman, everything goes to hell in just one giant, bloodsoaked handbasket. One of Rockwell’s finest dramatic performances yet, A Single Shot comes complete with shades of Snow Angels, and is a fine addition to the Moon man’s stacked resume. -Kate Erbland


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