Created as a response to the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, the Tribeca Film Festival has been a popular entity in the world of independent film. Now in its 13th year, choosing what films to see can be a daunting one. To prepare for the Tribeca Film Festival 2014 edition, here are some must-see features that are not to be missed.
In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidoten)
From the stark landscape of Norway comes this dark comedy about Nils (Stellen Skarsgård) who has just won the humbling award of “Citizen of the Year.” Unfortunately the celebration doesn’t last long when he finds out that his son passed away due to a heroin overdose. Because he believes there might be the possibility of a cover up, he takes it upon himself to investigate the crime. Little does he know though that he is about to be thrown in the middle of gang warfare created by criminal underworld boss “The Count” and rival Serbian drug dealers. The story unfolds the unsettling reality of never finding the ultimate truth.
The film is directed by Hans Petter Moland and written by Kim Fupz Aakeson. It brings out an atmosphere that is dark with the juxtaposition of comedy that is very reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ films Fargo and No Country for Old Men. The film has it all — comedy, violence and danger all wrapped into one black bow.
Bright Days Ahead (Les beaux jours)
From acclaimed French director Marion Vernoux comes a narrative about a woman (Fanny Ardant) in her 60s who falls into the temptation of her computer teacher (Laurent Lafitte). The affair revitalizes her state of being; however, the longer the controversial relationship takes place, the more trouble she finds herself in, particularly with her husband (Patrick Chenais).
It isn’t controversially explicit, nor does it turn the genre on its head, but what Bright Days Ahead does is create a realistic portrait of a woman who wants to be young, despite just retiring professionally. Oftentimes films having to do with affairs deal with young and middle-aged couples, but this one is refreshing with an elder woman and a younger man. Without a doubt, Vernoux’s character study dramedy will be highly praised upon its premiere at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and will be heralded as a must-see that features one of France’s most successful modern directors.
From executive producer Spike Lee comes a feature film directed by Josef Kubota about the drug trade in Colombia. Shot completely on location and featuring amateur actors, Manos Sucias a struggling fisherman and kid take a risk by trafficking cocaine worth millions inside of a torpedo.
Most likely one of the riskiest pictures at the festival, Kubota wanted to create a film that is raw and in no way, shape or form glamorizes the drug trade. It will be heavy handed and hard to watch, but any viewer that goes into Manos Sucias is bound to learn of the harsh environment that is the Colombia drug trade.
Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure)
Venus in Fur is controversial director Roman Polanski’s latest film and is an adaptation of a New York stage adaptation about a frustrated theater director Thomas (Matthieu Almaric) trying to cast the lead role of an obscure 19th century Austrian novel adaptation. Frustrated with the lack of talent he has found in finding his actress, comes the intriguing woman Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) who shows up late to the audition but pleads for the director to give her a chance. Curious, he brings her onto the production in what results in a tense creative relationship of the steamy play, which imitates life.
Any time a Roman Polanski film is released, it is a must-see film. His recent covers all the basis of his career — controversy, sex and fluid cinematography. If there is one film that will have cinephiles thinking hours, if not days after the final shot, it’s Venus in Fur.
Lastly, for a movie that borders on the mainstream side of things, Chef written and directed by Jon Favreau. This quirky comedy focuses on Carl Casper (Favreau), an innovative chef; however, when he lashes out against a critic of his cuisine via Twitter, he is left jobless. As a result, he has his way as an entrepreneur by starting his own food truck business. The film features an all-star cast including Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning, Diane Lane, Robert Downey Jr. Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara and much, much more.
Ever since Elf, Favreau has delved into the world of big budget Hollywood movies; however, while it does have a huge cast, Chef teases the director’s meager beginnings when he wrote and starred in Swingers and Made, which was his directorial debut that he also wrote and served as lead along with Vince Vaughn. Quality comedies that are off the radar with stellar casts are hard to come by, but considering Favreau’s past comedies, this one is not to be missed.
These five films all represent different aspects that have been a part of the independent film philosophy around the world. These features also exemplify the importance of film in 2014 at the Tribeca Film Festival that is a must-see for New Yorkers and traveling film lovers alike. The Tribeca Film Festival takes place April 16-27 in New York City.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey