Within the many, sometimes obscure, selections of the Tirbeca Film Festival, one can always find a few groundbreaking films. Tribeca Film Festival is a much-needed institution. As our American film industry grows more commercial, we need major festivals beyond Sundance to celebrate the independent voice and artistic visions in America. Over the years, Tribeca has had a hard time finding its voice in the film world. At times it seemed lost between overtly commercial selections and second-rate art-house films. As Sundance continues to grow as a major force, Tribeca is still searching for its voice in the vast film festival market.
There is no doubt that Tribeca is a sought after film festival and probably among the top ten most influential festivals worldwide. Still, it falls far from having the reputation of a market such as Toronto or Berlin, or the artistic credibility of The New York Film Festival or Sundance Film Festival. Its location and large funding makes Tribeca a major event, but what is the festival known for? What need is it really serving beyond a platform for American Express?
Both the film industry and the public do not know what to make of Tribeca. In an over saturated market, there is no need for them to become more commercial. In a digital film world, more people are making films than ever before, and many potentially great voices are getting lost in the noise. Tribeca needs to be the voice for the films that are unheard. They need to discover the next Tarantino, who would probably not be included in Sundance these days as he is not commercial enough. Truth be told, Tribeca has a wonderful foundation that does support diversity and inclusivity often left out of mainstream films. Sadly, this valiant initiative feels like the ignored stepdaughter in the Tribeca machine. Last year, there was clear under-representation of women filmmakers at the festival (on an astonishing level) which I feel defeats the purpose of Tribeca. Like New York, Tribeca Film Festival should be using its power to celebrate our diversity.
This year's Tribeca Film Festival, within the over 100 films, there are many gems, but they are sometimes hard to find. One platform it does serve is the ever-overlooked world market. Americans do not like to read subtitles and often ignore many wonderful international films. They hide in small art-houses and play for limited audiences. These films are no longer only a glimpse into a foreign world, as our world gets smaller, these international films become more relevant to every day American life - which is also growing more diverse by the day.
For example, take the Israeli film industry. This is one of the leading emerging film industries in the world. Every major international festival includes a few Israeli films. Surprisingly, these films are often much more successful in Europe. Many times, Israeli films dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict are embraced due to the political nature of the films and come from a critical perspective. What is slowly emerging are actually, the social political tales coming out of Israeli society.
The Tribeca Film Festival includes annually a few Israeli films. Often they are the more mainstream appealing films. This year's selections include Big Bad Wolves a follow-up Israeli horror film to the Tribeca Selection Rabies from a few years ago. The intrigue of these films is the political connotations that lie beneath the horror. The festival is also premiering the documentary Dancing in Jaffa about a Palestinian born ballroom dance teacher who returns to his hometown of Jaffa to teach manners through dance.
Beyond the political intrigue, comes a film that is one of the freshest international films I have seen in a while. Six Acts by Jonathan Gurfinkal tells a universal story about the modern experience of being an over-sexed, over-privileged teenager, and follows a lost girl, who is taken advantage of sexually due to her attempts to fit in. Though there is a level of internal social criticism, the film resonates far beyond boundaries. I have noticed a theme in Israeli films of violence towards women. Last year I was selecting short films for a festival, and an overwhelming number of submissions from Israel dealt with this topic. Clearly this is a society dealing with social violence beyond (though probably connected to) the greater political violence. One cannot ignore that this is coming out of a society with great separations in its socioeconomic society. Israel was once a socialist state with deeply rooted nationalism. Scenes of the Six Acts take place around a statue of Theodore Herzl, Israel's visionary leader, who saw the potential of building a Jewish nationalist utopia. As Israel has long ago shed its socialist/kibbutz lifestyle and has become a leading capitalist player, one can find the youth is as corrupted there as anywhere else. Was this Herzl's vision?
Six Acts is both stylistically innovative as it captures a realism and represents a new lost generation similarly to Larry Clark's Kids. Yet, the lead character's tragic beauty can be compared to Fellini's masterpiece Night's of Cabiria. Six Acts represents the films The Tribeca Film Festival should be bringing to the public. A film with independent spirit, and an important social statement that can often get lost in a world of too many films.