By Indiewire | Indiewire April 17, 2013 at 11:14AM
The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival is kicking off tonight with the world premiere of Tom Berninger's The National doc "Mistaken For Strangers," leading into 10 days of fun with film in New York City. Indiewire will be on the scene for the duration, but figured we'd offer up a list of some of the films we're most excited to see before the fest stars.
Actor, screenwriter and director Scott Coffey returns with his latest film "Adult World" which blends humor and nostalgia as seen through the eyes of Amy (Emma Roberts), a post grad dreaming of a poetry career that will get her out of her boring small town but who's stuck working in a local sex shop. While Amy longs to learn from the reclusive writer Rat Billings, played by John Cusack, she finds inspiration and growth through the various relationships she develops at home. Post grad misery and a yearning for purpose through fulfilling work has shaped many in our generation and this film will be sure to resonate in funny and unexpected ways. [Cristina A. Gonzalez]
Italian director Michaelangelo Frammartino's wonderfully meditative "Le Quattro Volte" was a major discovery at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, where it premiered at Directors Fortnight, programmed at the time by current Tribeca Artistic Director Frederic Boyer. Thanks to that connection, Boyer has managed to lure Frammartino to Tribeca with his latest sensory experience, this one far more ambitious than the experimental, quasi-spiritual narrative of "Le Quattro Volte." Screening at MoMA's PS1 VW Dome, "Alberi" is a half hour peek at a small village in the souther of Italy where men cover themselves in ivy and become one with their forest surroundings. Suggesting the combination of tranquility and fantastical imagery associated with Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, "Alberi" looks like a promising hybrid of otherworldly storytelling and installation art. The film will play on a constant loop throughout the festival. [Eric Kohn]
"Ali Blue Eyes"
Claudio Giovannesi enters the film world with a dramatic experimental work in "Ali Blue Eyes" -- in which he cast non professional actors in hopes to allow their inexperiences translate to a new realism. The story is rife with cultural and political undertones -- the protagonist Nader is an immigrant teenager in Italy struggling with his identity and his entrance to adulthood. The film has already picked up a special jury prize at the Rome Film Festival and its raw nature and moving themes are sure to continue to surprise audiences. [Cristina A. Gonzalez]
Right off the bat, it's hard not to notice Phil Morrison's latest, one of the fest's major world premieres. The film is the long-awaited follow up to Morrison's beloved "Junebug," and additionally has some of the biggest star power on display at Tribeca this year with it's leads Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti.The two star as rival French-Canadian conmen who team up for a scheme involving selling Christmas trees on the streets of New York, with Sally Hawkins costarring. "Junebug" was one of the biggest hits at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and if this sophomore effort's set-up and great cast is any indication, "Almost Christmas," has a good chance of having a similar impact when it premieres at Tribeca on April 18. [Cameron Sinz]
New York-based editor turned filmmaker Lance Edmands made his name cutting features like Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture," whose DP, the fantastic Jody Lee Lipes, shot "Bluebird," Edmand's directorial debut. Set in isolated, snowy Maine, the film is a meditation on the interconnectedness of small town life, when an oversight by a school bus driver (Amy Morton) leads to disastrous consequences. The wintery, atmospheric locale is intriguing in itself, especially when lensed by Lipes, who proved to be more than adept at capturing natural beauty on "Martha Marcy May Marlene." The film also boast a formidable cast, including "Mad Men" actor John Slattery and incredibly talented rising star Adam Driver, who seems to be the only thing people can agree on about "Girls." It sounds like a pretty solid recipe for indie crossover success, with echoes of Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter" and David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels." [Mark E Lukenbill]
While the fascination with addiction to prescription pain killers has shaped stories we've seen before, the Enid Zentelis feature "Bottled Up" sounds like it'll be a welcome addition to the group. Starring Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, the film centers on her relationship with her daugther Sylvie (New York theater favorite Marin Ireland), who has become dependent on the pills once meant to assist with her back pain following a car accident. The film interweaves family dynamics, the hope and heartache of following a loved one's struggle with addiction and redemption in acceptance. [Cristina A. Gonzalez]
While most of us are sick of vampires by now, it seems the death-defying creatures will be sticking around for a while with both Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Are Left” and now Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium” opening this year. Returning to the subgenre 19 years after his “Interview With a Vampire,” Jordan has switched things up this time with a mother-daughter blood-sucking duo who live in an English seaside town -- quintessential Jordan. Jumping between centuries, “Byzantium” follows Gemma Arterton’s Clara as she turns a hotel into a brothel, using men for sex and blood, and daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan), who unveils their long-kept secret in diaries. With Jordan's knack for conjuring a powerful mood on screen, even if the script isn't quite there (i.e. "Ondine"), "Byzantium" looks to be a promising addition to his filmography. Although the film was criticized for its lack of blood and suspense after premiering at TIFF last year, Indiewire's Eric Kohn said it brought "a mixture of intelligence and gravitas" to the hackneyed subject. There's plenty of blood and guts in Tribeca's Midnight section, so maybe Jordan's gentle approach is just the kind of boost the vampire genre needs. [Erin Whitney]
The "creepy kid" strain of horror cinema has been defined for years by the likes of "Children of the Corn" and "The Omen," but French director Marina de Van ("In My Skin," "Don't Look Back") has easily delivered another paragon of this chilling subgenere with her first English language feature, which opens Tribeca's midnight section. The Ireland-set tale finds an 11-year-old girl suddenly alone after a bizarre supernatural accident kills off the rest of her family. Taken in by her accommodating neighbors, the traumatized Neve (Marie Missy Keating) may have absorbed some of the evil that destroyed her life. As a series of disorienting events suggest her psychotic ability to destroy the world around her, "Dark Touch" foregrounds its ominous atmosphere and unflinchingly brutal storytelling with a boldly grim approach that never lets up. [Eric Kohn]
As a cinematographer, Christina Voros is quietly becoming one of the documentary industry's most dynamic forces. Recent work, perhaps most notably on James Franco's directorial efforts, are characterized by stark, beautiful imagery and showcase a talent that demands attention, and her recent directorial output, which contains one feature documentary ("kink") and four shorts deserves equal status among her work. "The Director," Voros' second feature length documentary, is an intimate portrait of Frida Giannini, Gucci's Creative Director and in its merging of portraying singular figures with personal twists, arising from her family's work in the fashion industry, is perhaps the greatest indication of her dynamism to date. [Cameron Sinz]
"Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me"
Few actors stick with the business as long as Elaine Stritch has throughout her 87-years of life, and even fewer have managed to maintain the consistent endearment that has colored the legendary actress' career. Whether from Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical "Company," or her turn as Jack Donaghy's mother Colleen on "30 Rock," Stritch has remained one of the screen and stage's most hardworking legends. First time director Chiemi Karasawa was first introduced to Stritch through a mutual hairdresser, and after producing documentaries for seven years, eventually decided to focus her feature debut on the personal life of the still-working actress. Using interviews with Nathan Lane, Tina Fey, and many other collaboraters with the actress, Karasawa has created a picture of Stritch both entertaining and unflinching in equal measure. [Cameron Sinz]
It's about time that gay boys got their own version of "Mean Girls"? That's the reductive gist of Darren Stein's "G.B.F.," a high school comedy that puts the usual second (or third) banana role of the gay best friend front and center. Tanner (Michael J. Willett) is accidentally outed, becoming his high school's first openly gay student. The three most popular girls at school (Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen and Xosha Roquemore) -- in a clear send up of the Heathers or the Plastics -- race to snatch him up as an accessory, leading to Tanner's popularity skyrocketing and various hijinks ensuing. Indiewire got a sneak peak at the film, and we're happy to say it's gone from "film we're excited to see at Tribeca" to "film you we think you should see at Tribeca." [Peter Knegt]
"Gasland Part II"
Josh Fox's 2010 fracking documentary "Gasland," made no small impact upon its release. After premiering to raves at Sundance and receiving multiple Emmy nominations, a WGA nomination for screenplay, and an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Know Fox is returning three years later with the sequel, aiming to further examine the long-term environment impact of fracking while travelling throughout the country to see its effects firsthand. "Gasland," did a great job of opening the national discussion on the issue, and "Part II" looks to be an even deeper investigation into the worldwide natural gas process, hopefully taking the opportunity to address some of the original's more negative criticisms along the way. [Cameron Sinz]
New York filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie are known for their irreverent urban narratives "The Pleasure of Being Robbed" and "Daddy Longlegs," both of which contain a naturalistic quality that suggests they could work wonders with non-fiction. With "Lenny Cooke," they've done just that: Partly a found footage documentary about former high school basketball star Lenny Cooke, who in 2001 ranked higher than fellow upstart player LeBron James, the movie follows Cooke from his promising teen years to the series of disappointments that follow, constructing a beguiling American tragedy that defies genre categorization and eventually veers into magic realism even as it remains tethered to its true story. The Safdies have stood out over the last few years for continually challenging audience expectations, and that's certainly true here: You've never seen a sports movie like this before. [Eric Kohn]
A bit of an odd choice when it was announced as this year's opening film, Tom Berninger's documentary about his tenuous relationship with his older brother Matt, and his experiences living in his shadow as a roadie while Matt's band, The National, embarked on their breakthrough tour, sounds like an odd combination of rock doc and awkwardly funny familial dissection. Giving what could sound like simply a comedically self-flagellating (and potentially self-involved) premise a little more weight is the fact that the film was executive produced by Marshall Curry ("If A Tree Falls," "Racing Dreams"), a documentarian who makes films that are compulsively watchable and endlessly entertaining. Keeping with the sibling theme of the film, The National's guitar prodigy twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner composed the score to the doc, so between that and the included concert footage, the movie should at least sound great. [Mark E Lukenbill]
"Richard Pryor: Omit The Logic"
Marina Zenovich's best known work, her twin documentaries about the controversial life of director Roman Polanski, exhibited an amazing ability to create an all-encompassing portrait of a controversial public figure, framing Polanski as a figure much more than merely the subject of a scandal. It makes some amount of sense then that for her latest, the director decided to turn her attention to another public figure who was no stranger to controversy: legendary comedian Richard Pryor. Interviewing family members, friends, and the fellow comedy legends who knew him closest, Zenovich frames Pryor's life within his enormous influence on our perception of race in today's society, and in doing so tells the full story of one of the most daring artistic forces of the past 50 years. [Cameron Sinz]
Lately Sam Rockwell has been on a bit of a light-hearted, comedy binge, given his work in "Trust Me" and "A Case of You," both of which make their world premieres at Tribeca this year. However, David M. Rosenthal's ("Janie Jones") "A Single Shot" brings the versatile actor back to his darker side, which we got a glimpse of in 2007's "Snow Angels". After Rockwell's John Moon accidentally shoots and kills a young woman while hunting, he finds a large stash of money that leads to threatening phone calls from an unknown stalker. Adapted from Matthew F. Jones' novel of the same name, the film features an impressive cast including Melissa Leo (starring in "Bottled Up" also premiering at Tribeca), William H. Macy (co-starring with Rockwell in "Trust Me"), and Jeffrey Wright. "A Single Shot" could be the tense, haunting drama that steals the spotlight at this year's festival. [Erin Whitney]
Director of the Golden Globe nominated "Sherrybaby," Laurie Collyer writes and directs films about down and out characters, shoots them on tiny budgets, and manages to woo some pretty serious talent into acting in them. "Sunlight Jr," her first film since 2006, stars Naomi Watts as a minimum wage supermarket employee, and we'd have to guess that Watts' presence is a testament to the strength of the script. Watts acts here alongside Matt Dillon, as a couple who learn that they are expecting a child while facing a tenuous financial situation with the dangerous reappearance of Watt's ex. While there's always the chance that the film will stray too far into melodramatic territory, we're hoping Collyer's steady directing hand can keep it naturalistic and affecting, and open the door for a terrific performance from Watts. The film also boasts a score from Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis. [Mark E Lukenbill]
The posters for experimental documentarian Matt Wolf's upcoming feature "Teenage," set to premiere at the festival on April 20th, boasts itself as documenting "The Birth of Youth Culture." It's a bold claim, but in enlisting the help of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound frontman Bradford Cox for the soundtrack and narration by the likes of Jena Malone, Ben Whishaw, Julia Hummer and Jessie Usher, the film has more than enough talent behind it to expect something that will surprise and engross in equal measure. "Teenage" blends archival footage with 16mm recreations of period moments in order to tell the story of the beginning of teenage culture, charting the changing role of youth from the end of child labor laws to the rebellious youth of the WW2 era, and if Wolf's previous work is any indication, along the way creating a documentary that is sure to feel like nothing else at the festival. [Cameron Sinz]
If last year’s found-footage, short film amalgamation “V/H/S” was enough to satiate your horror appetite, then the follow-up looks to surely provoke screams. “V/H/S/2,” although less impressive than the sequel’s original title “S-V/H/S,” continues the precursor’s formula of various gruesome, demented murders captured on tape. Foregoing the task of following a single plot in a specific horror subgenre, the “V/H/S” films incorporate a little something for every scary movie lover. The original included everything from a cabin in the woods to demonic possessions to a boyfriend-killing lesbian. Like the first, the follow-up features a slate of promising indie horror directors including “The Blair Witch Project" helmer Eduardo Sanchez, Gareth Evans (“The Raid”), Jason Eisener (“Hobo With a Shotgun”), and more. Following its Sundance premiere “V/H/S/2” was said to be even scarier than the first, taking the blood-squirting to another level and this time, it involves kids. Leave your little ones at “Lil Bub & Friendz” because “V/H/S/2” may leave even the bravest with gorey nightmares. [Erin Whitney]