I saw reporters crying at Tribeca’s pre-festival screenings. Actually, I heard them sobbing in the dark. Old-timers told me this happened rarely. If ever. Never. So why was I so lucky?
Maybe it is 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. Prevalent in the festival is a calling for a fight some cannot resist. My first week at the screenings, I felt depressed and encouraged at the same time.
With digital replacing film, directors enjoy more technical and, in some cases, more artistic mobility. Narrative and documentary cinema are merging into one. Directors give up on plot or accept clichés in order to stay closer to social missions. It seems protests are more potent through fiction, and documentaries through storytelling. Tribeca 2012 is a docudrama festival. Sure, there’s Hollywood, confident raincoats, and “swagga” cries at premieres. But when the red carpets rolled back and the lounges got smaller, people finally “got into” the movies.
“You fight back against corrupt governments,” said Mario Casas, the star of the Spanish Unit 7, punching his fist on the table during drinks and tapas 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 into bread-making solidarity.
“I had to go back to my childhood,” Dariel Arrechada, the 21 year-old from Havana and winner of the Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film for Una Noche, replied when I asked him how easy it was to play a homophobic bully desperate to leave Cuba.
Xingu, Headshot, Una Noche, Polisse, Rat King, Room 514, and Wasted Youth (screening in the shadows of the festival) all tackle the man-versus-the-system universal battle. Flee, fight, talk, give-up, or give-in—the endings are not always pretty, but some 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 “when you dive into experimentation, you inevitably face the possibility of failure.”