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Upgrading Community Bonds at Tribeca Film Festival 2022

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By Roger Costa

CHERRY

Lively and full of enthusiasm, as well as an ode to L.A.’s sense of freedom, director Sophie Galibert’s feature film debut follows the misfortunes of a young woman as she spends a whole day confronting obstacles and trying to figure out what to do with her unplanned pregnancy. Cherry could be any girl you know. The girl next door, a cousin, a lover or someone you met sometime in your lifetime. She is struggling to find her place in the world, going from a failed job to another, and not really being understood by her female-led family the way she expects, neither her musician/dreamer boyfriend. Her hope is inside of herself: she demonstrates such courage, determination and confidence, despite being in distress, instantly conquering the audience’s heart with her free-spirited perspective in life, and with her effective need of affection and attention. Alex Trewhitt shines, enchants and entertains as our heroine, giving a charming and irresistibly hilarious performance as the troubled co-dependent young woman who goes on a journey for independence. An admirable example of a true-indie film, and what a committed filmmaker can do with little money but with lots of good ideas, Galibert conceived a humble yet timely and accurate observation on a hopeless young woman pursuing love, comprehension and stability. The result is funny, affecting and proves the filmmaker is ready to reach higher levels.

WE MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD

Reflecting on our troubled modern times, individualism, isolation and paranoia, director Natalia Sinelnikova’s dark dramedy-sci-fi-social-satire puts her on the radar as one of the most inventive filmmakers of the new century. In a not-so-distant future, the world is in tremendous chaos, and violence has contaminated everyone. The only safe place to be is an isolated complex of apartments, where the tenants must follow severely strict rules otherwise they are humiliatingly punished and inevitably evicted. When an incident, involving the death of a dog, and the mysterious attack of some residents, the attention turns into Anna (a great, fantastic Ioana Iacob), the security guard who is dealing with her daughter’s depression, while trying to maintain the balance between her dysfunctional home and work duties. An acid, bitter and sharp comedy about society’s manners, behavior and the lack of trust everywhere, the director brilliantly tackles important social issues, offering a mirror to our (lack of) practice of compassion and empathy, while demonstrating a fresh and visionary Gothic aesthetic.

JANUARY

A vibrant and masterly recreated portrait of young journalists’ bravery and daring determination, Latvian veteran director Viesturs Kairiss’s seventh film is an accomplished take on the political transformations that affected the country in the early 90’s with the Soviet Army conflict. Using the turmoil of war as a tension-filled backdrop, this compelling autobiographical romantic adventure follows Jazis, an aspiring filmmaker and freelancer journalist who goes to the streets to report on the chaotic national situation, and becomes romantically involved with Anna, a young woman pursuing the same ideals and dreams. When circumstances threaten their relationship, they must decide how to survive and keep up with their hopes and dreams, even if going separate ways would make things better. Precisely reconstructing that period with extraordinary settings, it is a thoughtful and riveting look at the eagerness of youngsters in search of accomplishment, the conflicts of war and the instability of love. Kairiss scores a marvelous antiwar production.

NAKED GARDENS

Co-produced by Roberto Minervini, this absorbing documentary dares to go to a place many filmmakers wouldn’t risk, but in the hands of co-directors Patrick Bresnan (“Pahokee”) and Brazilian-born Ivete Lucas the material is conducted with familiarity, sensibility and naturalism. Turning on the lenses to the conflicts, expectations, pleasures and unsolved emotional traumas of the residents and visitors of a nude resort in Florida, the directors capture essential revelations on the human condition as they patiently listens to them and investigates their motivations. A couple going through a personal crisis, a teen girl in process of grieving and exploring the first steps of maturity, and an aging philosopher who serves as host and counselor are among the people who populate those harmonious, away from judgment and hypocrisy, gardens. Focusing on their unique process of living as a peaceful community, as well as effort to set up their Mid-Winter Festival and the upgrade on socially-reaching and accommodating the new residents, the result is a powerful humanistic statement on freedom of speech and a thought-provoking look on taboos.

KARAOKE

How does it feel to be over 60 and unfulfilled is the question rounding up this amusing Israeli dramatic comedy that casts a light on an aging couple experiencing a mutual identity crisis. Directed by Mosh Rosenthal and bringing top-notch performances by a trio of fantastic actors, Sasson Gabay and Rita Shukrun as the stuck-on-their-past middle-class couple, and the always reliable (and irresistibly handsome) Lior Ashkenazi as their new neighbor, an influential agent who becomes their object of obsession. When they are invited over to meet the playboy’s luxurious top-floor penthouse where he hosts nightly parties, they see a chance to flip the table and renew their vigor and interests. That won’t be an easy task, not just for their age, but mostly for how engaged they are to what’s known. Not even their daughters can believe it! But chances are never impossible and with a little help from the spoiled bon-vivant neighbor, who lures them into the karaoke practice as a form of relieving their anxieties and expressing their desires, they are challenged to refresh their goals and repair the missed opportunities, both romantically and professional. A delightful and excessively funny, cynical and affecting comedy about ego and sticking to hope and never letting go- no matter how old you are.

BLAZE

A visionary artist turned-filmmaker, Australian award-winning newcomer Del Kathryn Barton leaves an impressive mark conducting this colorful and somber drama about the traumatic consequences of a girl who witnessed a violent rape. Anchored by a breakthrough performance by Julia Savage as the title protagonist, and impressively executed as a blend of magical realism, horror and a dysfunctional coming of age tale, Barton explores themes of fear, anxiety, violence and abandonment with sensibility and commitment, offering a refreshing and horrifying addition to the me-too movement report genre. Extracting convincingly dramatic supporting performances by Simon Baker as Blaze’s father, and Josh Lawson as the criminal on trial, and using amazing designs and visual techniques to translate the girl’s imagination, Barton instantly makes a name for herself with this moving and shocking feminine character study.

FOUR SAMOSAS

A phenomenal and hilarious buddy heist comedy set in the colorful and vibrant Little Indian district of Los Angeles, writer-producer-director Ravi Kapool’s (NetFlix’s “Miss India America”) sophomore effort offers great laughs with its cynically insightful jokes on society’s habits while pursuing and living the American Dream. Heartbroken and trying to reconnect to the girl of his life, now promised to marry his archenemy, aspiring rapper Vinny plots to steal some diamonds from a wholesale store’s safe and lures three eccentric friends to help him out. While they prepare for the heist, their friendship and loyalty are tested, but for contagiously funny reasons, making it an essential watch for anyone who needs to chill and laugh out loud. Very entertaining and authentic, silly and satisfying, it proves the emerging talent of a filmmaker who knows how to extract fun from the ordinary routine.

(The 21st Tribeca Film Festival runs June 8-19 with Screenings online and In-Person at various venues in New York City. TFF also offers Music and TV Events, Games, Interactive Programs, Workshops, Directors Talks, parties and more. Go to www.TribecaFilm.com for schedule and details.)


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