Among the scores of films premiering at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, Marsall Curry's documentary "Racing Dreams"--following three teenage Go Kart racers on their quest to win the national championship--has been garnering significant buzz since its premiere on Saturday. The LA Times' Scott Feinberg gives the film an extraordinarily enthusiastic review, calling it "the best film of the year, thus far" and "an instant classic" while asserting that "based on the exuberant reception from audience members young and old -- including a standing ovation that lasted from the start of the credits to the finish -- I would be shocked if the film's distribution rights aren't secured by the end of the week and if it isn't among the five best-documentary Oscar nominees at the end of the year." In his review for indieWIRE, critic Eric Kohn offered somewhat cooler praise, noting, "While Curry’s pedestrian pace occasionally belies the dizzy momentum associated with the sport, he does display many of the deeper thematic forces behind the WKA competiors... A gentle survey with a less-than-groundbreaking conclusion, 'Racing Dreams' nevertheless succeeds at revealing the origins of the NASCAR impulse, leaving its merits up to the audience." At the other end of the spectrum, Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere reports that the doc "alienated and creeped me out because of the NASCAR culture and lifestyle issues it brings to the fore." For more on the doc's young subjects, check out this piece in the New York Times' "Wheels" blog.
Also receiving its share of attention is Conor McPherson's "The Eclipse" which, according to The Hollywood Reporter was poised this weekend to be the festival's "first sales breakout in four years... Several distribution executives turned out Friday for the film's world premiere, and several more made their way to Saturday's press-and-industry screening, setting off a series of sales discussions generally seen only at more acquisition-minded festivals. By Sunday afternoon, sales agent Submarine Entertainment seemed likely to close a deal shortly for 'Eclipse.'" Cinematical's Eric D. Snider says that the film, which stars Ciaran Hinds, "is an unusual mixture of somber character drama and supernatural horror" and, despite some reservations, writes that "it's still a good film, mostly because of Ciaran Hinds' emotionally heartfelt performance."
Also in the blogosphere, Eric Kohn has a piece for The Wrap on Nicole Opper's documentary "Off and Running" which follows a teenager named Avery, an adopted African-American girl being raised by lesbian Jewish parents. "Applying a classically verité approach," writes Kohn, "Opper allows Avery's story to unfold with the sort of naturalistic drama usually associated with scripted features. It's a startlingly sharp portrait that avoids the trappings of talking heads. Instead, Avery's distinctive situation unfolds through her own eyes." Spout's Karina Longworth, meanwhile, offers her takes on two documentaries: "Outrage" ("This is not a film which requires a viewer to engage in much independent thought: all of the ironies are easy, and each point is hammered beyond necessity.") and "American Casino." Comparing the latter to "Outrage," she writes, "Even more topical and far less vital in terms of its construction, 'American Casino' intends to explain the subprime mortgage mess, the implicit racism behind it and the sociological collatarel damage currently following it, in as plain language as possible. At that, it fails — it’s a film full of ominously-scored slow zooms into data on computer monitors, all of which reads as inscrutable code, even as voiceover attempts to relate what it all means." "American Casino," incidentally, is also one of the films featured--along with Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience"--in an AP piece running in the New York Times about how films at the festival are addressing the economic recession.
Finally, indieWIRE and Apple continue to host daily filmmaker talks at the Apple Store in SoHo. Peter Knegt reports on the sometimes rowdy, always entertaining Q&A with actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna and director Carlos Cuarón on Monday where they discussed their latest collaboration, "Rudo y Cursi," their production company Cha Cha Cha, and the state of Latin American film. “The idea of putting together a company was inspired and formalized a little bit by what people like Carlos and Alfonso and Guillermo and Alejandro have been doing,” said Garcia Bernal. “Creating a small sense of community and helping each other. And not falling into a ridiculous temptation to elaborate a niche. The fact that Latin American films are having a little bit of resonance other than in their own countries is that they are incredibly free. They’re breaking all the molds, in a sense…”
Check back here often as indieWIRE will be keeping you updated throughout the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival with a steady flow of reviews, photos, and on-the-scene coverage.