The Fifth Annual Tribeca Film Festival
New York City, April 25-May 7, 2006
Some of the best work of the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) was in documentaries. A few films made by young directors took inquisitive, non-narcissistic approaches to history, an exciting trend. Freedom's Fury (US, 2006), on the Soviet invasion of Hungary and subsequent hatreds played out in the 1956 Olympic water polo competitions, is made by the sister/brother team The Sibs, produced by Quentin Tarantino and Lucy Liu, and brilliantly edited by Michael Rogers. Concepts of occupation and freedom, so languidly discussed in American politics, are brought bloodily home, subtly paralleling our current war. Billy Corben's Cocaine Cowboys (US, 2006), about the 1980s Miami drug trade, avoids hyping the dealers and poses questions about drug money's economic place-from its revitalization of a dying Miami to its bolstering of Columbia's GOP. TFF Best Documentary Award winner The War Tapes (US, 2006) is compiled by Deborah Scranton from video diaries of National Guardsmen on duty in Iraq in 2004. In it, the soldiers filmed themselves and even mounted cameras on their guns to give the viewer an unprecedented sense of the war's violence, emotions, and exploitation by firms such as Halliburton.
Lech Kowalski's unusual East of Paradise (FR, 2005) audaciously compares the suffering endured by his Polish mother during her brutal WWII Soviet experience (her face filmed in a Claude Lanzmann-like close-up) with that of people in New York's impoverished, drugged out East Village in the seventies. The very much-liked Viva Zapatero! (IT, 2005), by Italian comedian Sabina Guzzanti, fearlessly savages Silvio Berlusconi and his grip on the media. Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre's Mexican MAQUILAPOLIS (US/MX, 2006), about women factory workers, often single parents, living on poisoned land in minimal housing, uses set tableaus inventively. Dorothy Day: Don't Call Me a Saint (Claudia Larson, US, 2006), an uneven film about Day's founding of the Catholic Worker movement, nonetheless brings Day's name out of obscurity. Ben Lewis' Hammer and Tickle-The Communist Joke Book (FR/CA, 2006), cleverly charts the subversive, survivalist potency of political humor in the USSR MandanHidatsa-Arikara Native American J.Carlos Peinado's Waterbuster (US, 2006) recounts the Garrison Dam project that forced his tribe into a destructive diaspora, but attempts to lay to rest its pain. The frightening but humane Jesus Camp (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, US, 2006), follows children's lessons at a fundamentalist evangelical camp. American Cannibal: The Road to Reality (Perry Grebin and Michael Nigro, US, 2006), covered recent ideas for reality television so bizarre-desert island survivor-type cannibalism-that it seemed a parody.
Mary Jordon'syacA Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis (US, 2006) honors Smith's aesthetics with baroque graphics, split screens, and torrid music as it tracks Smith's germinal work, especially Flaming Creatures, and its many profilees, be it Andy Warhol (who called Smith the only artist he would ever imitate) or Jonas Mekas. Its one failing is that it doesn't examine Smith's craftsmanship enough, which is a shame since his framing could rival D.W. Griffith's and his use of color could rival Teinosuke Kinugasa's. …