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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Winners Announced for the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

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[April 25, 2013 – New York, NY] – The 12th annual Tribeca Film Festival, co-founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, and presented by founding sponsor American Express, announced the winners of its competition categories tonight at a ceremony hosted at the Conrad New York in New York City. The Festival runs through April 28, 2013.

The world competition winners for narrative and documentary films were chosen from 12 narrative and 12 documentary features from 14 countries. Best New Director prizes were awarded to a first-time director for both narrative and documentary films, selected from a pool of 24 feature films throughout the program. Awards were also given for the best narrative short, best documentary short and student visionary films in the short film competitions. This year’s Festival included 89 features and 60 short films from 38 countries, programmed by a team led by Tribeca’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Gilmore, Artistic Director Frederic Boyer, Director of Programming Genna Terranova, and Programmer Cara Cusumano.

This year the Festival introduced a new award, the Bombay Sapphire Award for Transmedia, for the new juried Storyscapes section, created in collaboration with BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® gin. Also announced at the awards were the Tribeca Online Festival feature and short film winners selected by the online audience. The winners of the Heineken Audience Awards, determined by audience votes throughout the Festival, will be announced on April 27.

“It is a pleasure to share a diverse range films with our audiences at Tribeca and to introduce new storytellers from every corner of the globe,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder, Tribeca Film Festival. “We are grateful to the incredible group of talented filmmakers who shared their work with us and with the New York and film communities.”

“With such a wonderful and diverse selection of films in our competition sections, the jury has had quite the challenge in awarding just one per category,” said Frederic Boyer, TFF Artistic Director. “Their selection recognizes films depicting worlds that are seldom seen on screen and to which we are given the rare opportunity to experience through unforgettable characters and remarkable subjects.

Screenings of all winning films will take place throughout the final day of the Festival, Sunday, April 28, at various venues. Specific times and ticketing information are available on the Festival website,

In addition to cash awards and in-kind services provided by sponsors including American Express,
AKA, Bombay Sapphire, Citizens of Humanity, Company 3, Kodak, Persol, and Sony Electronics, the Festival presented the winners with original pieces of art created by acclaimed artists, including Joyce Pensato, Dustin Yellin, William Wegman among others.

Following are the winners, awards and details on the jury who selected the recipients:


The jurors for the 2013 World Narrative Competition were Bryce Dallas-Howard, Blythe Danner, Paul Haggis, Kenneth Lonergan, and Jessica Winter.

·         The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature – The Rocket, directed by Kim Mordaunt (Australia). Winner receives $25,000, sponsored by AKA, and the art award “Two Voices #1” by Angelina Nasso. The award was given by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. 

Jury Comments:  “The Rocket is a spectacular achievement that is powerful and delightful in equal measures. Artfully structured and gorgeously shot, it chronicles the struggles of a displaced family while steering well clear of either sentimentality or despair. Complex in its tone and characterizations, the film takes an unflinching – and edifying – look at the suffering caused both by a legacy of war and the new status quo of economic globalization. And yet, while never losing sight of those grim realities, it also offers us a transcendent tale of hope and perseverance in a world that few Westerners ever have the chance to see.”

-Special Jury Mention -- Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, directed by Sam Fleischner. The announcement was made by Kenneth Lonergan.

·         Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film – Sitthiphon Disamoe as Ahlo in The Rocket, directed by Kim Mordaunt (Australia). Winner receives $2,500. The award was given by Blythe Danner.

Jury Comments: “One of the great pleasures this year was the discovery of this young, non-professional actor, who plays his role with an irresistible blend of pluck, stoic determination and vulnerability. Sitthiphon Disamoe carried a big, ambitious production on his small shoulders, with charm and grace to spare.”

·         Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film – Veerle Baetens as Elise Vandevelde in The Broken Circle Breakdown, directed by Felix van Groeningen (Netherlands, Belgium). Winner receives $2,500. The award was given by Bryce Dallas Howard.

Jury Comments: “We’ve selected a woman who shows herself to be a totally committed and fiercely versatile actress. Veerle Baetens’ character goes from a sunny free spirit to grieving wife and mother, and no matter where we are in the course of that journey, this actress shows us the light burning inside her character, one that both sustains and destroys. She is the heart and soul of the movie, and her performance is nothing short of a tour de force.”

·         Best Cinematography in a Narrative Feature Film – Cinematography by Marius Matzow Gulbrandsen, for Before Snowfall, directed by Hisham Zaman (Germany, Norway). Winner receives $5,000, sponsored by Sony Electronics; a Sony Alpha A99 Full Frame Camera and a Sony NEX-VG900 Full Frame Camcorder; and $50,000 in post-production services provided by Company 3. The award was given by Blythe Danner and Alec Shapiro, President, Sony Professional Solutions of America. 

Jury Comments: “Before Snowfall packs a visual punch to match the force and ambition of its story about a teenage boy who pursues the honor killing of his own sister. Shot in four countries and capturing everything from a rural village to multiple European cities, from intimate domestic scenes to teeming street life, from a harrowing border crossing to a bleakly beautiful Nordic landscape in winter, it invites us into many vivid worlds and fulfills many possibilities for cinematography as an art form.”

·         Best Screenplay for a Narrative Feature Film – The Broken Circle Breakdown, written by Carl Joos and Felix van Groeningen and directed by Felix van Groeningen (Netherlands, Belgium). Winner receives $5,000. The award was given by Paul Haggis.

Jury Comments: “The Broken Circle Breakdown is a true original, starting with the eclectic ingredients in its dynamic screenplay: a romance of opposites, a battle between spiritual faith and secular humanism, triggered by unthinkable tragedy, a Flemish bluegrass band. With dialogue that spans the sweetly flirtatious and the operatically confrontational -- and with dollops of humor and a pure, deep love of music – the film leaps nimbly back and forth in time to conjure vivid characters who face down literal life-or-death issues. They win both our rapt interest and our greatest empathy; they make us both think and feel.”


The jurors for the 2013 Best New Narrative Director Competition were Naomi Foner, Tony Gilroy, Ari Graynor, Radha Mitchell, and Stu Zicherman.

§  Best New Narrative Director – Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais, director of Whitewash  (Canada). Winner receives $25,000, presented by American Express; $50,000 in post-production services provided by Company 3; and the art award “New Elands Bay” by Erik Parker. The award was given by Tony Gilroy, Radha Mitchell and Deborah Curtis from American Express, Vice President, Entertainment Marketing & Sponsorships.

Jury Comments: “Whitewash is funny, strange, emotionally honest, tense, pathetic, and ultimately haunting -- a broad canvas for even the most experienced director to paint. It quickly became clear that we were in the hands of a filmmaker with the intelligence, imagination and bravery to carry off this very tricky piece of material. The ability to mix tones and the guts to stage odd, random moments and make them inevitable is one of the least-appreciated tools in a filmmaker’s skill set. The taste and attention to detail required to deliver a story this unsettled and delicate is the work of a director -- and a team -- that this jury hopes will continue for many movies. Their story is so credibly and invisibly constructed -- and the filmmakers have such control of the material and trust in the audience -- that the film reaches for metaphor without ever having had to ask for the privilege. It is a remarkable first feature, and we extend our congratulations to all involved, including two spectacular lead actors in Thomas Haden Church and Marc Labrèche.”

-Special Jury MentionHarmony Lessons, directed by Emir Baigazin (Germany, France). The announcement was made by Naomi Foner and Ari Graynor.


The jurors for the 2013 World Documentary Competition were Joe Berlinger, Sandi DuBowski, Whoopi Goldberg, Mira Sorvino, and Evan Rachel Wood.

·         Best Documentary Feature – The Kill Team, directed by Dan Krauss (USA). Winner receives $25,000, sponsored by Citizens of Humanity, and the art award “Harley Before the White Prom” by Gillian Laub. The award was given bMira Sorvino and Gareth Baxendale from Citizens of Humanity.

Jury Comments: “The Kill Team examines the fundamental flaw in the preparation of young soldiers for war that allows them to see people as targets without humanity, a culture of killing that looks to express itself even in times of peace. It masterfully combines verite' footage, talking head interviews and a private look into one family's desperate fight in a seamless cinematic undertaking.  As the drama unfolds we are faced with issues of both institutionalized responsibility and culpabilty within the military itself, the extreme importance of individual acts of courage, cowardice or allegiance to authority, and an expiation of guilt of one tormented soldier's decision to blow the whistle, too late.  We feel it raises questions that demand to be answered by our military and society at large, so that these ever enumerating acts of senseless violence cease.”

-Special Jury MentionOxyanadirected by Sean Dunne (USA). The announcement was made by Joe Berlinger.

·         Best Editing in a Documentary Feature – Let the Fire Burn, edited by Nels Bangerterdirected by Jason Osder (USA). Winner receives $5,000. The award was given by Whoopi Goldberg and Sandi DuBowski.

Jury Comments: “Let the Fire Burn tells a story we were stunned to realize we didn’t know. It offers a time capsule, taking us to a horrific moment in our nation’s history with a masterfully structured edit that vividly mines a trove of blistering period archive images without voiceover narration. The film ensures that a criminal and senseless destruction that cost eleven deaths -- five children, six adults -- shakes us to our core and is remembered with utter visceral power.”


The jurors for the 2013 Best New Documentary Director Competition were Jared Cohen, Taraji P. Henson, Riley Keough, Jason O’Mara, and Josh Radnor.

·         Best New Documentary Director – Sean Dunne for Oxyana (USA). Winner receives $25,000, presented by American Express; and the art award “Untitled (#5), from the Men in the Cities Photo Portfolio” by Robert Longo, courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures. The award was given by Taraji P. Henson and Deborah Curtis from American Express.

Jury Comments: “Sean Dunne's Oxyana is a major accomplishment, deeply sad without being sentimental, fearless, unblinking and deft in the filmmaker’s ability to coax harrowing stories from his subjects. It is not an easy film to watch. It could be read as hopeless, but by the end, something of the light of each person shone through. It presents an acute awareness of the severity of their situation mixed with an inner battle to not let this film be the final story of them or their once-proud town. We will never forget the faces of these people, their stories and their struggles.”

-Special Jury Mention -- Let the Fire Burn, directed by Jason Osder. The announcement was made by Riley Keough and Jason O’Mara.


The 2013 Best Narrative Short Competition jurors were Christine Baranski, Kassem Garaibeh, Jessica Hecht, Chris Milk, and Sheila Nevins.

·         Best Narrative Short – The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars, directed by Edoardo Ponti (Italy). Winner receives $5,000, sponsored by Persol; 10,000 feet of film stock donated by Kodak; and the art award “Study: Northern City Renaissance, Mauve Dawn (Mass MoCA #79-R)” by Stephen Hannock. The award was given by Christine Baranksi and Andrea Dorigo, President of Luxottica, North America.

Jury Comments: “The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars expresses love in its many dimensions and literally gets to the heart of the matter.”

-Special Jury MentionYardbirddirected by Michael Spiccia (Australia). The announcement was made by Christine Baranski.                  

MUD Review

Tye Sheridan (left), Jacob Lofland (middle) and Matthew McConaughey (right) star in Jeff Nichols' MUD, in theaters April 26th.Photo credit: James Bridges
2013, 130 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sexual references, language, thematic elements and smoking

Review by Joshua Handler

In 2011, Jeff Nichols directed one of the best films of that year, Take Shelter.  Now, he has Mud, another fantastic film starring Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan with Reese Witherspoon in a supporting role.  It is about a young boy, Ellis (Sheridan) who finds a fugitive, Mud (McConaughey), hiding out on an island near his house in the American South.  As his parents' marriage begins to break down and the threat of losing his house lingers, Ellis begins to form a strong bond with Mud, but Mud has a history that begins to catch up with him.

Mud, as many have pointed out, feels like it was adapted from a classic American novel.  It seems like something Mark Twain would have written if he was alive today.  Mud has a classic narrative structure with a familiar arc, but that is part of what makes it so magical.  Through memorable and likable characters and a satisfying conclusion, writer/director Jeff Nichols subverts the clichés.  

Nichols has a gift for working with actors that most other directors wish they could have.  He manages to get powerhouse performances out of everyone in his casts, whether it be a main character or a supporting one.  Matthew McConaughey gives what may be his best performance yet.  While it isn't as entertaining or lively as his character Dallas in Magic Mike, it is deeply troubled, wild, yet loving.  McConaughey's career, as I have discussed before, is one of the most intriguing in recent memory.  Having been known for a period of dumb romantic comedies and action movies prior to 2012, McConaughey emerged last year in no less than FOUR films, three of which were highly acclaimed.  His performance in Mud is truly revelatory.

As Ellis, Tye Sheridan is also powerful.  Sheridan gave a strong performance in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life in 2011 and is equally as good, if not better in Mud.  Ellis has a rough life that is spiraling out of control.  Sheridan captures the adolescent turmoil with poignancy and maturity.

The supporting cast all give solid performances.  Reese Witherspoon was featured heavily in the advertising, but is only in a couple of scenes.  She is very good in those scenes, though.

As mentioned, the story for Mud is completely compelling and is very well-paced.  For a film of Mud's ambition, it impressive that Nichols balanced all of the story-lines as well as he did and brought them all to a satisfying close as well as he did.  His direction is tight and each shot is masterfully framed through Adam Stone's (Take ShelterCompliance) cinematography which captures the texture and atmosphere of the South.  The rich warm colors and gorgeous landscape are put on full display.  But, this is not an epic.  It is quite intimate and Nichols' direction evokes this intimacy through his complete devotion to his characters.

While it is evident that Mud is set in or around the present day, it very well could be set in the 19th Century, just as Take Shelter could have been set anywhere in the past 50-60 years (I am confident Take Shelter could have been twisted into a Cold War allegory).  This freedom from a time period shows the power of Mud's story; it doesn't rely on the era it's set in, it simply uses it as a background detail.

Overall, Mud isn't Take Shelter, but it is a masterful drama with powerful performances, a wonderful script, and smart direction.  It will certainly please many teens, while still providing the adults with much to think about.  If Nichols keeps making films of this caliber, he will certainly go down as one the great modern American drama directors.


BYZANTIUM: Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Review

Gemma Arterton in BYZANTIUM
Photo credit: Christopher Raphael
2013, 118 minutes
Rated R for bloody violence, sexual content and language

Review by Joshua Handler

Oscar-winner Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire) directs this beautifully-made vampire film which, in an age when Twilight rules the box office, stands out as an entertaining entry into this familiar genre.  Byzantium stars Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton, two centuries-old vampires who try to keep their identities secret as they travel to a sea-side town.  

Ronan and Arterton are fantastic in their respective roles.  Ronan, one of the finest young actresses working today, plays Eleanor, a 200-year-old vampire who has not aged a bit since she was a teen.  Somehow, her mentality is still that of a teenagers, a major logic flaw a fellow critic pointed out.  Eleanor is introverted and quiet, which Ronan portrays quite well.  In a way, Eleanor is similar to her character in Joe Wright's masterful 2011 film Hanna.  Ronan is a very perceptive actress and captures details that many inferior actresses would ignore.  Arterton plays Clara, Eleanor's protector and companion.  She works as a prostitute to support herself and Eleanor.  Arterton is a great match for Ronan.  Clara is tough, extroverted, yet loving, and Arterton captures these traits beautifully.  I hope this film gives her more attention because she has a lot of potential.

The cinematography by Sean Bobbitt (Shame, The Place Beyond the Pines) is beautiful and the highlight of the film.  He makes use of dark, grimier colors, while still emphasizing the red blood.  The lighting is magnificent and it complements Simon Elliott's (The Iron Lady) production design greatly.  Byzantium looks polished, and Javier Navarrete's (Pan's Labyrinth, Cracks) score is the icing on the cake.  It is mysterious and lyrical.

Neil Jordan does a solid job directing Byzantium from Moira Buffini's (Jane Eyre) script.  As mentioned above, with his fantastic technical crew, he makes this film look and feel mysterious and haunting, but he also infuses some heart in the film in many places, particularly the love story aspect.  The love story that develops between Eleanor and a boy in the town she's living in is actually compelling because Jordan, Buffini, and the actors develop the characters.  I actually cared about the love story, which is no small feat.  Also, the final scene is beautiful and powerful and is a satisfying way to close off the movie.

Byzantium moves at a good pace, not too fast, not too slow.  To keep things interesting, there are some wonderfully bloody scenes that occur every so often.

Overall, Byzantium is a solid vampire film.  The logic flaw, upon further thought, is really bad, but I was nonetheless very entertained and, at some points, moved by this lovely film.


Monday, April 22, 2013

PRINCE AVALANCHE: Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Review

Actors (from Left to Right): Emil Hirsch and Paul Rudd
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
2013, 94 minutes
Rated R for some sexual content

Review by Joshua Handler

Director David Gordon Green has had a really interesting career, as he started with independent dramas, switched to mainstream R-rated comedies like Pineapple Express, and now is back to indie dramedy with Prince Avalanche starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch who turn in superb performances.  The film follows Alvin and Lance (Rudd and Hirsch, respectively), two highway repair workers who spend the summer of 1988 working on a secluded Texas highway after wildfires ravage the surrounding forest.  Throughout the summer, the two learn about themselves while dealing with relationship issues.

Paul Rudd gives one of his greatest performances as Alvin.  Alvin is awkward, introverted, and quiet, quite the opposite of Rudd’s usual roles in Judd Apatow comedies.  His performance is subtly beautiful.  Emile Hirsch is also fantastic as Lance, a big, clumsy, but kind young man.  The acting in this film is without a doubt the high point.

The screenplay, based on the Norwegian film Either Way, is for the most part, very good.  The two main characters are fully developed and there is a host of quirky side characters that add much to the charm of this little film.  What really stands out with this script is the big heart put in.  In one particularly moving scene (one of the most moving and memorable I’ve seen this year), Alvin comes across a woman in a burnt-down house looking for belongings.  The woman looks crushed.  She is devastated because she cannot find her pilot’s license.  Alvin talks to her for a few minutes, then leaves.  This haunting scene shows the effects of the fires on the people living in the area and this added a really human touch to the film.  I guarantee you will not forget this scene.  The story is also unpredictable and witty.  While there are many great aspects of the story, there are few problems.  The ending is not as satisfying as I would have liked, and (this could also be due to the direction) the pacing is sometimes uneven.

David Gordon Green won the Best Director award at the Berlin Film Festival this year and it isn’t hard to see why.  He directed a funny, yet sad, dramedy that also happens to be shot beautifully.  The cinematography is largely focused on nature and colored with earth tones, emphasizing the naturalistic aesthetic of the film.

Overall, Prince Avalanche is a very good film, hindered by some minor flaws.  It is very worth viewing and is a must-see for fans of Paul Rudd, as this is a really interesting departure from his usual characters.  Prince Avalanche misses greatness by a hair.

(a very high) 3/4

Sunday, April 21, 2013

MICHAEL H. PROFESSION: DIRECTOR - Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Review

Michael Haneke
Photo Credit: Yves Montmayeur
2013, 93 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Michael H. Profession: Director is a really interesting new documentary about Oscar-nominated director Michael Haneke, best known for writing and directing Amour, Caché, and The White Ribbon.  This film was made by Haneke’s long-time friend, Yves Montmayeur who interviewed Haneke and his actors and filmed Haneke working on every film of his professional career.  What results is an interesting and rich, if not quite penetrating enough, portrait of one of the most acclaimed provocateurs working in cinema today. 

Haneke’s films are known to shock due to their unsettling themes and sudden bursts of disturbing violence.  When many of these shocking scenes were shown during Michael H., many audience members gasped in horror, showing the effectiveness of Haneke’s technique.

Films like Caché and Funny Games are cold explorations of terror and violence.  Haneke’s other films are no more fun, but no less brilliant.  One would think that the man behind these horrifying films would be as cold and calculating as his films, but to my surprise he isn’t.  The film shows him constantly laughing with his actors and smiling.  In one scene, a teenage actor finished his last scene for Haneke’s Code Unknown and Haneke puts his arm around the boy and makes a great scene to congratulate the boy. 

Michael H. delves into each of Haneke’s films, and I mean every single one.  Using interviews, behind the scenes footage, and actual film footage, Montmayeur shows glimpses into Haneke’s creative process.  Haneke himself explains quite a bit about his films, but is very careful not to go into too much detail and give away his own complete interpretation.  Haneke’s own unwillingness to interpret his films harms the film in a way because it doesn’t penetrate deep enough.  Also, while it is interesting to see Haneke work on all of his films, I would have liked to see him focus on one or two films, maybe The White Ribbon and Amour because it would have allowed the audience to learn about Haneke’s filmmaking process from the beginning to the end of a film, instead of giving brief looks at all of the films (this approach is also somewhat tedious).  I would have also liked to learn more about how Haneke works with actors.  The performances in his films have won multiple awards at the Cannes Film Festival and one has even been nominated for an Oscar (Emmanuelle Riva in Amour).  Haneke obviously has a way with actors, as not every director would be able to direct actors through such tough material, and seemingly with ease.  Had the film gone more in depth with how Haneke works with actors, it would have felt like a more complete portrait.

Overall, Michael H. Profession: Director is a very solid, yet not great documentary that explores the career and the man behind some of the greatest films of all time.  Getting a rare glimpse of this master at work was enlightening, and this should be considered is a must-see for fans of Haneke, yet should be avoided by those that either dislike his films or have not seen them because naturally there are major spoilers for his films in this documentary.