The Tribeca Film Festival is currently being held from April 15 through the 26. Last year’s documentary award winner, Keep On Keepin’ On was bought by Radius-TWC and the narrative award winner, the Jon Favreau-directed and small budgeted Chef, was bought by Open Road and went on to gross $45 million.
Since its start in 2002, the Festival has screened over 1400 films from over 80 countries and attracted an international cumulative audience of more than 4 million attendees. “The Tribeca Film Festival has always been an amazing source of upcoming talent,” said TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein and we couldn’t agree more.
This year the festival opened with crowd-pleaser Live from New York! about the behind the scenes goings-on of SNL. There’s also been high profile films like the James Franco-starrer The Adderall Diaries and the Jessica Biel-starrer Bleeding Heart, but both have received lackluster reviews. Some films have already been picked up for U.S. distribution like the Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie thriller Maggie to be distributed by Lionsgate, Good Kill with Ethan Hawke that was bought by IFC films after Venice, Slow West with Michael Fassbender bought by A24 and the excellent doc Cartel Land to be distributed by Orchard.
Here at SSN we’re pushing past the hype to narrow down the five documentaries and five narrative films that we think are not only bankable but thought-provoking and deserve some attention.
5 NARRATIVE FEATURES
Writer/Director: Andrew Renzi
Cast: Richard Gere, Dakota Fanning, Theo James, Cheryl Hines
Logline: A self-indulgent philanthropist insinuates himself into the lives of a newlywed couple in an effort to recreate his earlier life.
SSN Insight: The film marks the narrative feature debut for Renzi and was followed by an eruption of applause at its premiere at the fest. Reviews have cited a weak plot structure, but have lauded the wonderfully complex performance given by Gere. Gere took a chance with the character as Renzi told THR. “He’s Shakespearian and over-the-top, but very interior and conflicted. It’s exciting to see something from him that’s different than what he’s been doing for a long time.” The addition of Theo James, hot off the Divergent franchise certainly raises the radar of the film along with Fanning who always delivers.
Sales: Dem McIntosh, WME (U.S.) and Sasha Shapiro, QED International (Int’l)
Slow Learners (Comedy)
Director: Don Argott and Sheena M Joyce, Writer: Heather Maidat
Cast: Adam Pally, Sarah Burns, Catherine Reitman, Kate Flannery, Kevin Dunn, Reid Scott
Logline: Jeff and Anne are close friends and co-workers who are unlucky in love. When Jeff notices Anne’s obsession with bad boy Max, and Anne notices Max’s obsession with his crazy ex-girlfriend, the two embark to become “bad” and “crazy.”
SSN Insight: Amidst all the arthouse fare is a film by directors and real life couple, Argott and Joyce with a goal to make films, “like comfort food- something that makes them feel good, that they want to revisit over and over.” Casting actors from comedies like Mindy Project, Veep and The Office is a smart decision. The characters’ antics while breaking free of their routines supply wish fulfillment for audiences that maybe enjoy their 401k and Prius’ too much to get crazy. The script is hilarious with lines like, “I want to be a guy that no matter where they are, there’s the possibility that he could have sex in the bathroom.” Make way for the next Apatow.
Sales: Nate Bolotin and Mette-Marie Katza, XYZ Films
Director: Carleton Ranney, Writer/Director: Carleton Ranney, Destin Douglas
Cast: Josh Barclay Caras, Ian Christopher Noel, Joslyn Jensen, Reed Birney
Logline: When a friend’s suicide leaves behind a mysterious computer drive, a fringe hacker and accomplished computer technician come together to decipher the message left in his wake.
SSN Insight: Wired ran with this headline about the film recently, “Post-Apocalypse Hacker Flick Jackrabbit Actually Looks Good” which means a lot coming from the emerging tech mag. Typically hacker movies aren’t the greatest (see Blackhat’s poor box office) but Ranny’s a fresh voice in the scifi genre with his hacking/post-apocalypse mash-up. He’s fleshed out a well-detailed world that uses retro tech to its max and an intriguing mystery to boot. Ranney’s take is reminiscent of another scifi indie standout, Safety Not Guaranteed whose director, Colin Trevorrow, was chosen for Jurassic World. Look for Ranney to follow.
Sales: Kevin Iwashina, Preferred Content (U.S. and Int’l)
Director: Sean Mewshaw, Writer: Desi Van Til
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Jason Sudeikis, Blythe Danner, Joe Manganiello, Dianna Agron
Logline: A young woman struggles to move on with her life after the death of her husband, an acclaimed folk singer. The arrival of a brash New York academic in her rural Maine town forces her to confront her loss as his determination to write about her husband’s genius provokes unwelcome scrutiny about the ambiguous circumstances of his death.
SSN Insight: Packaged at CAA, Tumbledown marks the feature debut for director Mewshaw who previously directed the short Last Night alongside producer Van Til. There are so many clumsy women with glamorous jobs in romcoms, that this film is a breath of fresh air to the genre. The romcom doesn’t start from a happy place as Hannah (Hall) has lost her husband and that’s ok, as that loss addresses an authentic part of life. Sudeikis is definitely one of the busiest actors in the industry with another film, Sleeping With Other People also at Tribeca. His pairing here with the lovely Hall will certainly pay dividends.
Sales: Laura Lewis, CAA (U.S.) and Kristen Figeroid, Sierra/Affinity (Int’l)
The Cut (Period Drama)
Director: Fatih Akin Writer: Fatih Akin, Mardik Martin
Cast: Tahar Rahim, George Georgiou, Makram J Khoury, Akin Gazi
Logline: Mardin, 1915. One night, the Turkish police rounds up all the Armenian men in the city, including Nazaret Manoogian who is separated from his family. Years later, after managing to survive the horrors of the genocide, he learns his two daughters are also still alive and is determined to find them.
SSN Insight: There’s been few films on the genocide that wiped out an estimated 1.5 million Armenians and Turkey has outlawed talk of the subject. So it was a brave move for Turkish-German filmmaker Akin to take on the film. Like other decisive moments in history, this subject is best seen through an individual’s struggles, in this case a dad trying to find his kids. The film is beautifully shot and you can almost feel the sand in this human odyssey that’s akin to Elia Kazan’s America America. Oscar voters love a period film about one man’s quest that shines a light on little known history and Radius-TWC would be smart to pick it up for next year’s season.
Sales: Nathan Faustyn, Strand Releasing (U.S. and Int’l)
5 DOCUMENTARY FEATURES
A Ballerina’s Tale
Director/Writer: Nelson George
Logline: Misty Copeland was the first African-American female soloist at New York’s American Ballet Theatre in two decades. Her career was a challenge to every stereotype of what the ballerina symbolizes and should be.
SSN Insight: Hollywood loves a good underdog story and true stories about people who are different and achieve greatness, and Misty Copeland gives the latest example of that. In her own words, “based on body type, pedigree and background I should not have been of one of the world’s greatest ballet companies…through ballet I found my voice.” The film’s subject was inspiring enough to secure more funding than was asked during its Kickstarter campaign and if distributed, will serve as inspiration for many more. It should be an easy sell considering it’s also about beautiful art that can appeal to a large age range.
Sales: Andrew Herwitz, The Film Sales Company (U.S. and Int’l)
Thank You For Playing
Filmmaker: David Osit
Logline: Ryan Green’s four-year-old son Joel has terminal cancer. Ryan, an indie video game developer, is building an unusually poetic video game to document his experiences raising a dying child, and to honor Joel while he is still alive.
SSN Insight: The video game industry is inundated with first-person shooters, racing games and fantasylands, but this film about the experimental game, That Dragon, Cancer?, uses the medium as “a chance to make games mean something.” When Green goes to conventions, people open up “about life, death, faith, belief, hope and sorrow”, not typical discussion of a video game. The film, by Tribeca Film Institute’s All Access Program alumnus Osit, explores Green’s journey in creating the game through his pain. It’s intimate, real and above all proves great art that connects with others often comes from revealing your strongest, most personal emotions, no matter the medium.
Sales: Philippa Kowarski, Cinephil (U.S. and Int’l)
Havana Motor Club
Filmmaker: Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt
Logline: Change is racing down Havana’s streets, where Cuba’s top underground drag racers prep for the first official car race since the Revolution.
SSN Insight: After Castro outlawed street racing, the sport went underground. Sound familiar? Named one of Filmmaker Magazine “25 New Faces of Indie Film”, the Student Academy Award-winning filmmaker Perlmutt, mixes Fast and Furious with Cuban culture for a documentary that couldn’t be more now. Perlmutt’s use of lively Cuban music also submerges you in the culture. Discovery Network will dive more into the subject with their series, Cuban Chrome and I’m sure that’s only a mark of content to come. Better act fast and nab the rights if you want to be the first to cross the finish line.
Sales: Josh Braun, Submarine Entertainment (U.S.)
Play It Forward
Writer/Director: Andrea Nevins
Logline: An intimate portrait about All-American NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez — renowned for his sure hand and intrepid heart — and his older brother and wingman, Chris. They speak candidly about how they overcame disappointment and supported each other through tragedies in order to fulfill their dreams.
SSN Insight: Executive produced by Michael Strahan, this film could be like so many others and chronicle the feel-good story of one man’s quest for sports glory and instead makes it about brothers. It’s refreshing to see a sports film that also shows an athlete who didn’t make it and yet is still inspiring- that injury doesn’t have to stop a person’s dreams, if the dream is changed. Another football documentary, Undefeated won the Academy Award for Best Documentary and films about the sport remain popular. This film should do well if marketed not just to sports fans but the faith-based audience as well.
Sales: Cristan Reilly, Rare Bird Films (Int’l)
Roseanne for President!
Filmmaker: Eric Weinrib
Logline: Comedian Roseanne Barr tests the limits of the two-party system as she vies for candidacy on the 2012 ballot. Here, we follow her impassioned campaign journey.
SSN Insight: “I’m not running as a publicity stunt,” says Roseanne Barr, “since my political views have pretty much ended my career anyway.” So then why is she running? To illuminate a problem within our political system- that it takes a billion dollars to be an actual Presidential contender, and that figure leaves many qualified potential leaders in the dust. It’s filmed by award-winning director and producer Eric Weinrib, who cut his teeth as a longtime Michael Moore collaborator who’s also featured in the film along with Rosie O’Donnell and Sandra Bernhard. If marketed less on Roseanne Barr’s name and more on Presidential campaigning, like a grassroots Veep, it could prove a good bet.
Sales: Jay Cohen, The Gersh Agency (U.S. and Int’l)