The best of the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival
The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) is closely linked to New York and its unbreakable, go-getting, creative soul. In its 14th edition this year, the festival – which ended on April 26 – looked back at the Big Apple’s storied past while continuing to be the connecting thread for crossreferences with films from all over the world.
An important milestone for Tribeca’s artistic course was the appointment of Frenchman Fréderic Boyer as its artistic director in 2012. Having previously served in the same capacity at Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight, Boyer broadened the festival’s horizons by adding many more international indie productions, while keeping an eye on innovation and creativity.
It was no easy task considering TFF’s placement on the festivals calendar after Austin, Berlin and South by Southwest, and just before Cannes. But Tribeca successfully managed this complex balancing act: this year’s edition showcased 67 long features and 40 short world premieres.
Virgin Mountain, written and directed by Icelandic director Dagur Kári, is a bittersweet comedy about a lonely 43-year-old man still living with his mother but striving for love and independence. The film won the top three prizes of the World Narrative Competition: for best narrative feature, best actor for its star, Gunnar Jònssson, and best screenplay for Kári; the jury was captivated by the blend of humour and pathos.
Bridgend by Danish filmmaker Jeppe Rønde is a dark, impressive tale exploring the twisted realm of the teenage soul. Based on a series of real-life youth suicides – 79 between 2007 and 2012 – in the Welsh borough of Bridgend, it won the awards for best cinematography, best editing and best actress for Hannah Murray.
One of the most interesting festival entries was American director Zachary Treitz’s Men Go to Battle, winner of the best new narrative director competition.
Revolving around two brothers struggling to keep their farm afloat against the backdrop of the US civil war, the witty, understated and deeply touching story highlights the country’s story as well as the psychology of the protagonists with a rare grace.
Equally remarkable were Necktie Youth, a powerful debut film shot in black and white by South African director Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, and Viaje by Costa Rican director Paz Fabrega, the vivid portrait of a storybook romance, funny yet profound.
The best documentary feature winner was Democrats by Danish director Camilla Nielsson, which explores the effort towards a democratic transition in Zimbabwe while focusing on two political rivals.
The festival offered cinephiles and the general public a packed roster of events which included a thrilling series of talks, round tables, and meetings with filmmakers and experts such as George Lucas, Christopher Nolan and James Shamus, to name just a few.
Rushing from one event to another in the 10 venues spread between Tribeca, Chelsea and the Beacon Theatre on Broadway, festival-goers probably identified with Speedy, the protagonist from the eponymous 1928 silent film classic by comic Harold Lloyd, frantically running across New York.
Shown in a restored version with a live soundtrack by producer DJ ZTrip, this was one of the festival’s merriest evenings, only equalled by the ground-breaking comic spirit of a group of evergreen Brits, the living legends of Monty Python, who powerfully burst into the festival’s routine during a special dedicated by TFF to their careers, turning the Beacon Theatre literally upside down in a magical “free-for-all” Q&A after the screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).
There was also a restored version of the Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly musical, On the Town (1949).
And in tune with its spirit, the festival concluded with the New York gangster masterpiece Goodfellas (1990) by Martin Scorsese – a member of the festival’s board – in honour of its 25th anniversary.
Robert de Niro (also a co-founder of the festival) attended the screening with Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino, and were welcomed by the public with heavy applause.
It was further proof of TFF’s motto: “Laugh, cry, love at Tribeca together.”