Review Blog

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017 reviews and coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on April 21, 2017 at 10:50 PM

                                             TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017

                                                                 April 19 - 30, 2017

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff, in respnse to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the lower Manhattan neighborhoods.

Over the 16 years, the Festival received over 10,000 film submissions and held 2000 plus screenings.  The Festival's program line-up includes a variety of independent films including documentaries, narrative features and shorts, as well as a program of family-friendly and student films.  The Festival also features panel discussions with personalities in the entertainment world.  

Recently, James Dolan's Madison Square Garden Company has entered the film festival business with its newly acquired stake in the film company founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff.  In 2014, Tribeca Film Festival has sold 50% stake to the Madison Square Garden Company.  Among the properties owned by the MSG Company are Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre.  This offering the opening night event screening of documentary to the public of, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and performances by legendary talents Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow and others to be held at Radio City Music Hall.  This year has been about dramatically increasing the programming breadth.  Focusing more on relevance and revenue with the closing night film dealing with retrospective, The Godfather & The Godfather Part 2.



Directed by: Chris Perkel

Running time: 123 minutes

Release date: April 19, 2017

Genre: Documentary

Chris Perkel's riveting profile of legendary music mogul Clive Davis spans a remarkable five-decade career, providing an incredible tour of the msot sensational music of the cultural revolution, from the 1960s to the rise of hip-hop.  Bruse Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Sean "Puffy" Combs, and a great many more artists to Davis.  This amazing film is definitive, fascinating and ceaselessly entertaining proof.

This film examines the life of Clive Jay Davis, born in Brooklyn, New York.  It begins with his birth in 1932 and how he related to his young domestic life.  As a young adult he enters Harvard Law School on a full scholarship and graduated 1956.  Four years later, he arrives at Columbia Recors as an attorney.  In 1965, he was promoted to administrative vice president of the label without having any knowledge of popular music.  Soon after in 1967, he became vice president and general manager, then the label's president.  

In this capacity he pushed the company full speed into rock music, with artists such as Janis Joplin and Carlos Santana leading the pack.  He guided Columbia Records to tremendous success until 1973, when he was fired after being accused of tax evasion and misusing company funds (related to payola).  However, with a reputation as a maker of musical talent, in 1974 he took over the record division Columbia Pictures and launched his own music label, Arista, famous for such acts as Barry Manilow and Whitney Houston.

It brings the audience to Clive Davis' 2008 move to Chief Creative Officer at Sony BMG, after a government investigation of the record industry, where he was fired as president of CBS Records.  Yet, he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1501 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.

Filmmaker Perkel structures his documentary in a bias biographical sense of an amiable man, but in the industry that is "cut-throat" in nature, the portrait is not totally true.  Interviews with various competitors of the music industry, paint a different picture of him.  While amused in their interview shots, these same people see him as a cunning and often ruthless man.  These cutaway scenes are more of story telling shots, whereas the actual "chill footage" with the musical artists give more honesty.  Perkel mixes Lean-in footage with Lean-back footage to help change the Modality of the Experience for the viewer.

The film highlights Davis' annual music bash where every musical talent is invited.  The documentary is a major tribute to an 80 year old man whose successful career spans over 50 years in the music industry.



Directed by: Philippe Falardeau

Running time: 98 minutes

Release date: May 5, 2017

Genre: Drama, Sports, and Biography

Distributor: IFC Films

MPAA Rating: R

The story behind the making of Chuck is a narrative on its own merit.  Screenwriters Mike Tollin and Jeff Feuerzieg acquired the rights to Charles "Chuck" Wepner's life story a decade ago and soon after, prolific film, stage, and television producer/actor Liev Achreiber was approached about the project.  Schreiber, a lifelong aficionado of the 'sweet science', realized his dream of playing Chuck Wepner (known to some as the Bayonne Bleeder), the New Jersey liquor salesman and heavyweight prize fighter who, at age 35, got a chance to fight Heavyweight Champion Mohammed Ali right after he shocked the world by regaining his title against a seemingly invincible George Forman in "The Rumble in the Jungle" bout in Zaire.

Chuck is as much about Wepner trying to deal with sudden fame as the ultimate underdog as it is about the epic fight 40 years ago when a journeyman brawler, against all odds, shocked the world by staying in the ring for almost the entire fight (15 rounds).  It is not just a boxing movie, but a true story of the rise, fall, and redemption story defying our expectations.

This biograpraphical character study plot-driven production portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction examines this American former professional heavyweight boxer's life, whose professional record of 51 fights was; 35 wins, 17 by winning knockouts, 14 losses, and 2 draws.

The film gives insight  as to Wepner's early life as he was born in 1939 in New York City, son of Delores and Charles William Wepner who relocated to Bayonne, New Jersey.  He learned to fight on the streets of Bayonne, known for the hardness of people who worked the civilian docks and U.S. Navy Yard.  As a youth he was always an avid player of sports.  With limited options for his future that included working as a longshoreman or joing the military, he opted for the latter, joing the U.S. Marines, where he became a member of the boxing team, developing a reputation for being able to withstand punches and becoming a military boxing champion at one of the airbases.

Played with flair and pathos, Liev Schreiber portrays Chuck Wepner, a married man with a young daughter who takes a job selling liquor to the local bars and stores in New Jersey.  Yet, he finds time to take local prize fighting bouts with the Northeast's Club Boxing circuit and earned the title of New Jersey State Heavyweight Boxing Champion during the period of 1974-75.  His epic life shows how his sudden celebrity status of fighting boxing greats such as Ali, Randy Neumann, and Ernie Terrell, gained him recognition by actor Sylvester Stallone (Morgan Spector) to write the script, Rocky.  Along with the newfound status, Wepner succumbs to a detrimental life of drugs, booze, and wild women, while struggling to maintain the only true relationship he's known with his no-nonsense wife Phyliss (Elisabeth Moss) and a straight-talking local bartender Linda (Naomi Watts) with whom he has an undeniable immediate spark (whom he later in life marries).

With a supporting cast of Ron Perlman as Al Braverman, Michael Rapaport as older brother Don Wepner, Pooch Hall as Mohammed Ali, and others, the performances secure a complete successful biopic.

Chuck is an entertaining chronicle of the rise and fall of this larger-than-life legend.



Directed by: Julian Rosefeldt

Running time: 95 mins.

Release date: May 10, 2017

Genre: Drama

Distributor: FilmRise

MPAA Rating: Not rated

From acclaimed visual artist Julian Rosefeldt, Manifesto features two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett in 13 distinct vignettes that incorporate timeless manifestos from 20th century art movements to futuristic genres. 

The narratives draws on writings of Futurists, Dadaists, Fluxux artists, Suprematists, Situationists, and other artist groups, as well as the musing of individual artists, architects, dancers and filmmakers.  Filmmaker Rosefeldt edits and reassembles these artists' manifestos into 13 brilliant collages, while merging the ideas of Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Kazimir Malevich, Andre Breton, Sturtevant, Sol LeWit, Jim Jarmusch, and many more.

The characters and settings are from an achorwoman to a hmeless man, from Pop Art to Dogma 95, as the chameleonic Blanchett gives a tour-de-force performance as she transforms herself like never before.  The settitngs weave together history's most impassionate artistic statements in this stunning and comtemporary call to action.

Cate Blanchett performs these "new" manifestos while inhabiting 13 personas, among them a school teacher, a puppeteer, and a factory worker.  Her performances pays homage to the moving image and tradition of artists' personalities while imbuing new dramatic life into these artists' words.  

These manifestos are not only text which were intended to turn art - and eventually the whole world - upside down and revolutionalize it; at the same time they are testimonials about the search for identity.  With a series of striking monologues, this arthouse drama ultimately turns lines of conventional story exploring to intentional artistic cinematic expression.

Manifesto is emerging in depts by the talent of Cate Blanchett's profound performance and twelve different accents in each of the characters along with the different physical milieus.



Directed by: Dome Karukoski

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Release date: 2017

Genre: Drama and Biography

Distributor: Kino Lorber

MPAA Rating: Not rated

This biopic of Touko Valio Laaksonen, a Finnish (died 7 November 1991) artist known by his pseudonym Tom of Finland, is a detailed story of man who stylized highly masculized homoerotic fetish art.  His influence on the late 20th century gay culture garnered him the title of the"most influential creator of gay pornographic images".

The film takes off during Finland's Winter War of World War II with the USSR.  Lasaksonen (Pekka Strang) serves as a decorated anti-aircraft officer, holding the rank of second lieutenant.  While serving on his tour of military duty he engages in hidden gay relationships with other gay personnel, with the fear of being caught and the threat of being imprisoned or executed.  After the war, he returns home to study.  

However, in his early life, depicted in a short backstory, tells of his middle-class life, raised b scholl teacher parens.  Living in Helsinki, in his spare time secretly started drawing erotic images for his own pleasure. Later on in his life he created a unique style that lack of dramatic composition, self-assertive poses, muscular male bodies depicting Nazi, Biker, and Lumberjack style uniformed leather images.

Still living under the fear of his homosexuality in a post-war Finnish government that threatens his existence, he begins his career in 1956 when he submits his drawings to the influential American magazine Physique Pictorial, which premiered the images in the 1957 Spring issue under the pseudonym Tom, and having coined the credit Tom of Finland.  With the U.S. censorship codes of the 1950s and early 1960s Laaksonen was rendering private commissions, that focused the primary market of gay men with erotic comic books and making inroads to the mainstream art world.  

The film gives insight into the pressure during peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual and the men around him even being pressured to marry women and have children.  But once he leaves Finland and relocates in California, among the gay community, he can openly be who he is.  

This historical drama is plot-driven and portrays realistic characters, settings, and life situations.  The performances are highly engaging with intense character development and interactions by supporting cast members Jakob Oftebro, Werner Daehn, Jessica Grabowsky, and Jan Bome, along with others, make this a sensitive, yet impactful narrative.



INTENT TO DESTROY: Death, Denial & Depiction

Directed by: Joe Berlinger

Running time: 115 minutes

Release date: November 10, 2017

Genre: Documentary

Distributor: Abramorama/ Survival Pictures

Academy Award-nominated director Joe Berlinger embeds himself on the epic film set of Terry George's The Promise, to take an unwavering look at the Armenian Genocide.  Historians, scholars, and high-profile filmmakers come together in Berlinger's cinematic exploration of the tangled web  of responsibility that has driven a century of enial by the Turkish government and its strategic allies.

Intent to Destroy is a timely reckoning with the large-scale suppression of a historical tragedy.  Berlinger confronts the fraught task of a shedding light on the Armenian Genocide - whose witnessesdescendants are still fighting to be officially acknowledged as as such by the international communtiry - how it was carried out during World War I, as the reign of the Ottoman Empire drew to a close, and how it laid the groundwork for the genocides that followed.

More than politics, this film explores the cultural suppression Turkey has supported to promote their version of history, recounting the shattering of the American films that have attempted to address the genocide due to governmental pressure to appease a strategic ally.  Throughout the film, Berlinger turns the camera on these efforts, exposing how Turkish officials have used diplomatic coercion to subvert international academia, forcefully muzzle advocates and the use of its geographic placement and geopolitical connections to strong-arm American and other key allies into accepting their version of history.

This is a film that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop, detailing, examining, and exposing the final days of the Ottoman Empire, as they committed crimes against humanity.


*More reviews to be posted* 

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