Now celebrating 20 years since its inception, Tribeca Film Festival celebrates New York with an annually curated selection of five films that involve the city. Here are 2021 selections.
The five selections, drawn down from over 6,000 entries, follow a few requirements mostly pertaining to length and topic. The screening took place in Battery Park where a large outdoor theater was arranged to accommodate social distancing. Given their short nature, there is a lot left to the imagination with these stories, but each film is brimming with potential.
Liza Anonymous; dir. Aubrey Smyth
This pick opened the evening with a witty and surprising performance about a millennial (Danielle Beckmann) dealing with her loneliness in a way that avoids FOMO (fear of missing out) by inventing it. She attends all sorts of support groups in different guises until a fellow support group member (Daniel Fox) threatens to out her ruse. There’s a lot of rich comedy here that would be worth seeing play in a longer story. There are solid punchlines, but also a valuable exploration into the meaning of support groups.
Cracked; dir. Lin Que Ayoung
Coming off three award wins as part of the First Run Festival, “Cracked” is a complex story with a particularly stunning performance by Tatum Marilyn Hall. There is a moment, toward the end of the film, where Toya (played by Hall) is embraced by her father (played by Dwayne Grant) after she reveals a personal tragedy. Her face, for a split second, is shown as she spins around to face him. In an emotional and chaotic state, it was the most startling and stunning scene of all five films. It’s especially powerful because, through the film, you understand this girl to be “rough,” but also, determined and confident through it all. The idea holds up until this moment, where her wall comes down.
Leylak; dir. Scott Aharoni and Dennis Latos
A film focused squarely on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, “Leylak” is an exploration of a relationship as much as it is a look at a city reeling from tragedy and disruption at scale. It comes into laser-sharp focus when a Turkish gravedigger (Nadir Saribacak) is unable to hail a cab for himself and his daughter. He flags one down, only to find the driver very unpleasant and uncooperative. But in the same moment, reveals the father’s fear of addressing a reality in his life: the loss of someone important. Masks and social distancing are visible in the film, showing the stark reality many have come familiar with.
Esther in Wonderland; dir. Stephanie Bollag
“Esther in Wonderland” feels rare. Having a focus on a Hasidic woman (Naian González Norvind) who is fascinated and excited by hip hop and breakdance, the film is an intimate exploration of time and color. Viewers are whisked away to rare places and people: the interior of a Hasidic home, tucked-away rooftops with expansive views along with enthusiastic and tolerant dancers, optimistic husbands, and curious onlookers. Viewers are also treated to stunning dancing and a unique, nearly-psychedelic soundtrack of hip hop and new age techno. All these parts together created the most optimistic-feeling film of the series.
No Longer Suitable for Use dir. Julian Joslin
A slick and intelligent film backed by real-life experiences of director Julian Joslin, “No Longer Suitable for Use” was the most visually polished of the selections. The film follows a Syrian FBI informant, Samir (Laith Nakli) who is threatened with deportation and has an opportunity to preserve his and his son’s livelihood in the United States by fabricating a story. The film packs a lot into the 21-minute runtime, and luxuriates in some of the insider knowledge and simply bureaucratic reality of value and demand in the world of information.
All films can be viewed online through this weekend, along with many other shorts that were selected for the 20th Tribeca Film Festival. Passes for online viewing start at $25.00 here.