Arts, Features

REVIEW: Tribeca Film Festival celebrates 15 years, showcases best of industry

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This year, the Tribeca Film Festival celebrated its 15th anniversary in the lower neighborhood of Manhattan from which its name is derived. TFF has grown exponentially since Robert De Niro, Craig Hatkoff and Jane Rosenthal founded it in 2002 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

The aim of the festival was to reinvigorate lower Manhattan by celebrating New York City as a major center of film production and creativity. Today, TFF is one of the biggest festivals in the world, screening hundreds of films over two weeks. 2016’s festival began April 13 and will wrap up Sunday, drawing a variety of people from the worlds of film, music and more.

The Daily Free Press was fortunate enough to spend Patriots’ Day weekend getting a small taste of what this year’s festival had to offer.

INTERVIEW: Politically charged “The Fixer” thrives with James Franco’s support

By Alex Peña

This atmospheric thriller starring James Franco and Rachel Brosnahan tells the story of a journalist who returns home after serving in Afghanistan, only to find corruption and dark secrets hidden beneath the surface of his hometown. The film’s protagonist, Osman (Dominic Rains) befriends the eccentric Lindsay (Franco) and Sandra (Brosnahan), who help Osman uncover the dark underworld of their Northern California town.

Director Ian Olds makes his feature film debut with the help of frequent collaborative partner Franco, who is using his star power to help promote the film.

“The main thing that I wanted to do here was to help support Ian Olds,” Franco told The Daily Free Press on the red carpet. “He’s a longtime collaborative of mine — he worked on three of my documentaries, two feature films — and I thought he was a great mind and a great filmmaker. This was the first movie he wanted to do as a feature, and I said, ‘OK, I’m all for it.’”

Co-star Brosnahan also expressed her excitement for the project after reading the script for the first time.

“It’s filled with topics that, in our current scope, are very politically charged,” she said. “It’s such a humanist project, and I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful story. I wanted any part of it, but on top of that, this particular character is a treat for me. I play a lot of dark, brooding, dramatic characters and this is sort of the opposite, so it was really fun.”

According to Variety, Rains took home Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film for his role.

REVIEW: “Dean” takes audience on emotional rollercoaster 

By Alex Peña

Demetri Martin writes, directs and stars in this emotional comedy that will leave audiences both tickled and deeply moved. It is easy to read a synopsis of “Dean” and dismiss it as full of rich white people problems, but it is so much more. “Dean” falls in the same category of emotional discovery films as “Her” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It is more comedic than those films, but its thematic undercurrents of loss and emotion ring as true as they do in the films mentioned.

The film also stars Gillian Jacobs, of “Community” fame, playing Dean’s primary love interest. The chemistry between Martin and Jacobs is exceptional. The feelings of finding yourself within another person are communicated through the screen in an easily relatable way. All of this is served up with Martin’s signature style of clever deadpan comedy that is as brilliant as ever.

“Dean” will probably make you laugh and it might make you cry, but it will certainly move you in the way that great films can. This must-see also won the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature.

REVIEW: “My Scientology Movie” documents unusual world through entertainment

By Bronsen Bloom

“My Scientology Movie” is the latest documentary by comedian and journalist Louis Theroux. As the name so simply suggests, Theroux’s latest movie tries to tackle the Church of Scientology. Theroux acts as the narrator and protagonist, taking us along for the ride in typical Theroux fashion. This movie is funny, entertaining and downright scary all at the same time. The real heart of this movie lies in the characters. Theroux talks with many ex-Scientology clergymen that offer unique and unheard testimonies into the dark secretive world of Scientology.

Theroux spends most of the film with Marty Rathbun, a former senior executive of the church. Rathbun uses this film as a platform to shares all of the information and secrets of the church. Theroux and Rathbun recreate workshops and exercises that take place in the church, which are both hilarious and subtly terrifying. The audience even gets to see a Tom Cruise impersonator re-enact some of Tom’s more dynamic public appearances.

Although the documentary will not teach you as much about the history and beliefs of the church as “Going Clear,” it will leave you superbly entertained and a bit more knowledgeable about the nation’s most lucrative and fastest growing religion.

REVIEW: U.S. space race conspiracy theories launch in “Houston, We Have a Problem!

By Alex Peña

The Cold War heats up once again in Slovenian director Ziga Virc’s debut feature film. The film is being billed as a “docu-fiction” piece, essentially meaning that the whole thing should be taken with a grain of salt. “Houston, We Have a Problem!” tells the story of a possibly legitimate conspiracy theory involving the purchase of the Yugoslavian space program by the U.S. government under President John F. Kennedy in an attempt to catch up with the Russians in the space race.

Regardless of whether any of this is true or not, the film presents its story in a riveting manner. It cuts back and forth to a historian tracing the steps of the overall story. He visits many historical sites where it allegedly all took place and serves as the primary storyteller throughout the film. The story is so intriguing and dramatic that the viewer will so desperately want to believe it is true.

Intercut into the main narrative is the emotional tale of a Yugoslavian scientist meeting his daughter for the first time decades after her birth. The scientist’s death was faked by the Yugoslavian government, as he was essentially sold to the United States as a part of their deal. He was not allowed to contact anyone from home, including his wife and his then-newborn daughter. The inclusion of this man’s personal story helps ground it in reality and humanity. As he visits the abandoned Yugoslavian research sites, he recounts fascinating and emotional stories that will draw the viewer closer into the narrative.

REVIEW: “Enlighten Us” highlights pursuit of feeling alive

By Bronsen Bloom

“Enlighten Us” is a documentary about the rollercoaster story of the infamous James Arthur Ray. Ray, at one point, was one of the most successful motivational speakers in the country until three of his clients died in a ceremonial sweat lodge.

The story is downright unbelievable. Throughout the movie, you will gasp and wonder how any of it can be real, yet it all is. What really complete the movie are the interview testimonies from Ray himself after he served his time in prison and now looks back on his career.

The film details Ray’s career from a small-time speaker to a massive success that some liken to a cult leader. We see people throw their lives to this man and spend thousands of dollars to cry at his feet. Every minute, you will change your mind on whether Ray was a good or bad man. Although he would charge a fortune for his services and three people died under his guidance, we see that deep down, Ray was just trying to improve his client’s lives. Ultimately, it doesn’t leave us with an answer, because perhaps there isn’t any. Ray’s story shows us the far lengths to which we will go to find something to live for — even if that means death.

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