I saw press crying at Tribeca’s pre-festival screenings. Actually, I heard them sobbing in the dark. Old-timers here told me it rarely happens. If ever. “Never.” So why was I so “lucky?”
Maybe it’s the recession, but man’s isolation in his fight against the “machine” is at the festival’s core. “When you’re cut off from social network you get lonely and die,” an artist explains in Antonino D’Ambrosio’s breathtaking Let Fury Have The Hour. But before death, Tribeca shows how haunted we are. A rallying cry of a fight we can’t resist. My first week here I felt depressed and encouraged all at once.
With digital replacing film there’s more technical and (for some) artistic mobility. Narrative and documentary cinema are merging into one. Directors give up on plot or accept clichés in order to stay closer to their social missions. It seems that protests are more potent through fiction, and documentaries are more effective through storytelling. Tribeca 2012 is a docudrama festival. Sure, there’s Hollywood, confident raincoats and “swagga” cries at premieres, but red carpets have been rolled back, the press lounges got smaller, and people are somehow finally getting into movies.
“You fight back against corrupted governments,” Mario Casas, the star of the Spanish Unit 7 (a slash-and-burn of ghettos in the name of globalization) punched his fist on the table during drinks and food at the Chelsea Hotel.
“I’m interested in gene therapy,” Antonino D’Ambrosio confessed when I tried to “threaten” him with epigenetics as a way to translate his artistic fury to bread-making solidarity.
“I had to go back to my childhood,” Dariel Arrechada, the 21 year-old form Havana and winner of the Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film award for Una Noche, told me when I asked him how easy it was to play a cocky, homophobic bully desperate to leave Cuba.
Xingu, Headshot, Una Noche, Polisse, Rat King, Room 514, and Wasted Youth (screening in the shadow of the festival) all tackle the man-versus-system universal battle. Flee, fight, talk, give-up, or give-in; endings are not always pretty, but some of them can be noble. Even Ian Olds, a stern documentarian and co-director of Francophrenia (James Franco’s gamble with a soap opera spectacle) reminded me that experimentation intrinsically courts failure. But have soaps really hypnotized Greece, my country, when our world is burning? Let’s test that, and much more.