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Tribeca Roundup 2010 — Lola, The Killer Inside Me, The Trotsky, and More

The 2010 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival featured a few films of note, and even one genuine work of art — but that wasn’t the story that was being sold. As the film’s promotional material pressed, this was the year that Tribeca was coming to your home, thanks to the relatively new video-on-demand method of film distribution. But did this year’s fest feel revolutionary? Well, not on that front — but there were plenty of intriguing movies to keep things lively. Here’s how a batch of the buzziest fared.

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In the ninth feature by the prolific Filipino director Brillante Mendoza, two grandmothers, played with majestic presence by Anita Linda and Rustica Carpio, square off over the slaying of one’s grandson over a cell phone in typhoon-ridden Malabon. Sentimentality is noticeably and thankfully subdued as the lola (slang for “grandmother”) of the guilty party (Carpio) borrows money and sells off possessions to make an offering to the victim’s grandmother (Linda). That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t deal a devastating emotional blow: Mendoza continues a staggering streak of personal, politically, and morally complex films centered on lives on the fringes in his native country. None of Lola‘s images are as shocking as a real-time rape-murder-dismemberment (Kinatay) or as grotesque as the popping of a boil (Serbis) but, as a whole, it is the strongest film yet from an immensely talented and important director. It was one of the best films shown at Tribeca this year. – Chris Cabin

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Though some might dismiss a first documentary by Christy
Turlington Burns, a woman better known for her yoga body and fantastic cheekbones, No Woman, No Cry begs for deeper consideration. The film succeeds by focusing on both the health care providers and the women themselves who are faced with difficulties
in delivering children all over the world. Whether looking at developing
communities like Bangladesh or first-world cities like New
York, No Woman examines the universal factors that contribute to high
maternal mortality rates. In examining the definitions and customs of motherhood on a global scale, this affecting documentary
deftly pleads for maternal and newborn care to be
considered a basic human right. – Rachel Gordon

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Following her deservedly acclaimed reputation for her treatment of war on film, War Tapes director Deborah
Scranton deftly juxtaposes one man’s quest for the truth about the death of his father during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 with the efforts undertaken by outspoken President Paul Kagame to free an aide in French custody. As Jean Pierre Sagahutu
searches for the truth about his father’s murder, the first
democratically elected President of Rwanda discusses what his nation
must do to move on from the massacres of the ’90s. Though some
sections last longer than necessary, this profound portrait of the search for truth on an individual as well as organizational basis is a dynamic argument for
acknowledging the past in support of a better future. – RG

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A
realist fable told with simple, beautiful imagery and a
minute amount of talk, Mohammad Rasoulof’s latest work isn’t
exactly what you’d expect from a director who was last seen
documenting the country’s draconian censorship laws. Rasoulof’s fourth film tells the magnificently understated tale of a solemn
traveler (Hassan Pourshirazi) who makes his way among the salt-formed
islands of Lake Urmia to collect tears from the grieving. Each island
offers a unique mythology, from a young woman being (literally) married
to the sea to a man being lowered down a well to deliver jarred
confessions before sunrise, but the film carefully presents these
occurrences with sublime mysticism. Subdued in its politics and lacking in bombast, The White Meadows
secures
Rasoulof’s status as one of Iran’s most fascinating artists. – CC

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Easily
the best Haitian reimagining of a Russian art-flick ever made (!), Raoul
Peck’s delirious flick relocates Aleksandr Sokurov’s
lugubrious work about the Fuhrer’s last days with Eva Braun to a
sprawling fortress in the hills overlooking Port-Au-Prince. The great delight of Peck’s film is
how he fully envisions life in this fortress: A love affair between a royal saxophonist and a maid; the slow torture and live
evisceration of a journalist; a lonely wife and a worried mother being
coddled by a battalion of ambitious and venomous henchwomen. For all
its Shakespearean grandeur and beautiful imagery, the film’s chief problem is that it doesn’t take enough time with its rogue’s gallery and the
magnificent landscape; this is one of those rare instances where a
100-minute movie could have easily been another two hours without
complaint. – CC

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The
talented Jay Baruchel, last seen in sleeper hit She’s Out of My League
and heard in the wildly popular How to Train Your Dragon, lends his
hand to a far more risky proposition in Jacob Tierney’s commie-red romantic comedy, which doubles as a breezy but not completely
ineffective satire on modern education. Baruchel’s neurotic delivery
gets a workout as Leonard, a French-Canadian high school student who
believes he is the reincarnation of Leo Trotsky. Leading a rebellion
against laziness (or is it apathy?) at his new public school, Leo spends the remaining time wooing
his betrothed (a 27-year-old law grad named Alexandra); this puts a
hold on his search for his Lenin. Pump Up the Volume this is not. But
The Trotsky does have some magnificent sight gags (an anti-fascist
costume ball), an excellent cast and, perhaps most important, a
refreshing originality that put it heads and shoulders above others of its ilk. – CC

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It’s tough to make a political documentary that demands
intellectual engagement but doesn’t feel like homework. First-time director Jeff Reichert does his best, and manages to capture both liberal and conservative explanations of
the perils of the titular re-districting for votes, following several detailed resultant outcomes of the process alongside
a truly engaging philosophical debate of representative government.
While the film itself is irreproachably well-made, some sections are repetitive and
exhaustively pedantic. But anyone fascinated by the workings of big government will still find themselves riveted by the timely subject matter. – RG

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Praised
by the late Stanley Kubrick, Jim Thompson’s brilliantly grimy crime
novel The Killer Inside Me gets an uneven and mundane adaptation from
Brit genre-hopper Michael Winterbottom. Save for two effective death
pieces, the story of the twisted Lou Ford (Casey
Affleck), a sadistic murderer in the guise of a Texas deputy sheriff,
sticks close to Thompson’s letter but takes no risks in terms of
filmmaking or writing; its attempts at faithfulness lead to creative
stagnancy. Perhaps most notable for a jump-cut flurry of S & M joy
between Affleck and co-star Jessica Alba, The Killer Inside Me is a bit
too in love with its genre and time period to bother with atmosphere,
tension or nuance. A more seasoned hand — Eastwood would be an obvious
choice — might have better mirrored the gloomy nightmare the book
suggests. Lukcily, the performers, including Bill Pullman, Kate Hudson and Simon Baker, keep things watchable.
– CC

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After working
with Michael Winterbottom on two documentaries, Mat
Whitecross makes a dreadful  debut with his own documentary on
Burmese immigrants traveling to the UK and some television work. Sex
& drugs & rock & roll
charts the life story of Ian Dury, a carnivalesque
polio victim
amd seminal figure in the UK punk scene of the 1970s. If you’ve seen any musician’s biopic, you’ve
seen Dury’s, which features failed relationships, drug abuse, alcoholism, torrid love
affairs, minor successes, major losses and Baxter (Bill Milner), his
bashful-then-berserk son. All praise to the great Andy Serkis for
imbuing Dury with feverish energy and a Big-Ben-size ego, but at over
two hours, the film just keeps regurgitating the same material. It doesn’t help that Winterbottom himself imagined the same era,
minus Dury, in the infinitely superior 24 Hour Party People. – CC

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