Tribeca Film Festival 2017: Our Best of the Fest

May 01, 2017
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Words by Austin Trunick. 

The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival is now in the books, and this year’s fest was a true blast. Always a showcase for new and rising film talents, this year’s festival also provided attendees a chance to sneak peeks at new TV shows, interact with virtual reality shorts and installations on an entire floor dedicated to immersive entertainment, listen to respected video game makers dish on their design secrets, and hear some old filmmaking heavyweights discuss their classic movies. (I was lucky enough to be in the audience at this year’s Reservoir Dogs 25 Anniversary reunion, where Quentin Tarantino and his old castmates – Buscemi, Keitel Madsen, and Roth – looked back at the film, and even detailed Tom Waits’ failed audition for the movie.) When you’ve seen dozens of movies in such a short period of time, it can be tough to pick favorites, but we’re going ahead and trying. Here are our five top films of this year’s Tribeca festival, plus a few more noteworthy mentions. 

1

Dir. Jordan Ross

Thumper

Punkish Kat (Eliza Taylor) is the new girl in a poor, urban school, but her willingness to party hard wins her a circle of friends that include several low-tier, teenage drug dealers. As she grows closed to a sweet-but-slow boy in the group, she finds herself increasingly involved with characters who are far more dangerous than she ever anticipated. There’s a twist that comes early in Thumper that totally changes its dynamics, and sets a new tone for the film that’s entirely different than the one most viewers will pick up on starting in. (It’s hard to say anything more without spoiling it, so you might want to steer clear of other reviews.) A terrifying intensity and a strong, young ensemble made Thumper our most memorable film of Tribeca.

2

Dir. Brendan Muldowney

Pilgrimage

Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and The Punisher (Jon Berenthal) are monks on a mission in the shockingly gritty medieval thriller. When the Pope calls for a sacred rock said to have killed a Christian martyr and possess powers that will help in the coming Crusades, it’s up to a small band of brothers to transport it from their home on the Irish coast, through a Europe populated with pagans, raiders, and other infidels who would rather see them killed than make it to Rome. The trailer – which hints at the movie’s violence with shots of Berenthal holding a sword, and guys getting hit in the face rocks – barely gives away just how graphic and gripping the movie’s action actually is. (Without giving too much away, there’s an ambush that’s as tense and anxiety-inducing as the opening to Saving Private Ryan.) We’re calling this one Medieval Mad Max.

3

Dir. Max Winkler

Flower

Like Thumper, the less you know about Flower going in, the better. What looks like a dark comedy – about a teen girl who seduces older men with aim to blackmail them for money – turns out to be, well, a much, much darker comedy than you’d probably imagine. Zoey Deutch leads a good cast Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, Tim Heidecker, and an impressive Joey Morgan as the stepbrother our heroine never wanted.

4

Dir. Tabbert Fiiller

The Public Image is Rotten

Tabbert Fiiller’s debut documentary peels back the layers of former Sex Pistol and longtime Public Image Ltd frontman John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) in a career-spanning feature. Lydon’s a famously standoffish interview, but Fiiller’s laid back, conversational paints the punk innovator in a light that’s more open and reflective than we’ve ever seen him before. The insights into the many eras of his illustrious music career are, of course, enlightening and well-accompanied with some fantastic performance footage, but it’s the tiny glimpses he gives into his later years – in particular, the hiatus he took from music to raise his step-children – that’s most captivating.

5

Dir. Liz W. Garcia

One Percent More Humid

Juno Temple gives the performance of her young career in this slow-building drama. Iris (Temple) and her best friend, Catherine (Julia Garner), have the summer off between semesters in their small town New England college. It would normally be a time for lighthearted R&R, but both girls are still recouping emotionally from a car wreck that took the life of a friend and fellow passenger the prior spring. The movie focuses on each of their coping mechanisms and the way those color their actions and relationships: Iris with an older, married professor, and Catherine with the grieving brother of the victim. One Percent More Humid is the best sort of character piece, allowing time for each character’s innermost feelings to reveal themselves in a meandering (but incredibly rewarding) way.

Dare to Be Different

Best Soundtrack

This music-packed documentary looks back at WLIR 92.7, the ragtag New York radio station that for half a decade smack dab in the middle of the 1980s became our airwaves’ foremost tastemaker. Through interviews with their colorful crew and interviews with artists they championed, Dare to Be Different is soundtracked with songs by many of the bands they introduced to American radio, from Joan Jett, to U2, to Flock of Seagulls, the Cure, Billy Idol, and Adam Ant. Hands down, this documentary is one of the best ways to remember the ‘80s.

Nadia Alexander in ‘Blame’

Breakout Performance

Although director/writer/star Quinn Shephard’s film is impressive in every way for a first-time filmmaker – especially at 22 years old – the best and meatiest role went to Nadia Alexander, a relative newcomer whose previous credits include a few television and small film roles. She plays the film’s main antagonist, but her nuanced performance lifts her part beyond the token “mean girl” role to something far more vulnerable and interesting. Alexander rightfully won the Festival’s Best Actress award, which hopefully will lead to many more roles for the young actor.

The Island of the Colorblind

Best Immersive Experience

A small, beautiful island in the Pacific is populated by people carrying a rare gene that has taken away their ability to distinguish between colors. In this immersive experience by Sanne De Wilde, viewers were invited to enter, two-at-a-time, into a small dark room where they take a seat and don a pair of headphones. As the dim light rises, we see the large-format photographs of the island that cover the walls and hear a brief history of its inhabitants in our earphones. On the table before them are stacks of photos, brushes, and a set of watercolors, which the viewer is invited to paint with. Through tricks of lighting, it’s impossible to distinguish between colors on the palette; as the light shifts, so does our idea of what colors we are picking up on the ends of our brushes. It’s a mind-trip, but a thought-provoking one. Of all the experiences on display at the Tribeca Arcade, this may be the most impressive, as it doesn’t use VR headsets to shape our ideas, but turns our own eyes against us to get its fascinating point across.

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Karaoke
May 17th 2017
3:49am

Sounds good. Totally agree with list. Amazing songs!!!