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Tripping to Tribeca

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I already have my plane tickets and a list of movies I want to see because New York City's Tribeca Film Festival is less than a month away, and I can't wait.

I've been a movie fanatic all my life. I remember watching Romeo and Juliet on a 1955 Sylvania black and white TV every day for a week on Million Dollar Movie and then crying when its run was over. So can you believe that Tribeca will be my first festival? But now is the time to go because the film industry is in a sort of crisis. For years I have been too often dissatisfied by the mostly adolescent fare I've been fed at my local multiplex. As Francois Villon, the French vagabond poet, might put it, "Where are the great films of yesteryear?"

They are waiting to be discovered at film festivals! My friend and fellow blogger Stewart Nusbaumer has been telling me this for months, as he's been on the road from Woodstock to Sundance to SXSW. A film festival is "a gathering of the tribe, a formation of a temporary community," he says. "You see good, serious, moving, emotional films that make you think. These are films for adults." Stewart insists that documentaries and independent films are rising art forms that are "attracting many of the best, smartest, most talented and dedicated artists in America." These films fill a soul-gap in the psyches of serious moviegoers. They satisfy "a desperate need" Americans have "to understand themselves and their nation in the world." People need "something to feed their souls and stimulate their minds, something to fill the void when a nation's film industry has turned to shallow formula and its journalism is corrupted by a marketplace that leaves the search for truth an orphan."

At the top of my list is a film called Soul Kitchen, directed by Fatih Akin, a Turkish-German filmmaker whose movies I was recently introduced to by another friend. I enjoyed both Head-On and The Edge of Heaven, two very personal films that reveal touching, complex human relationships amid arduous emotional adversity. The stuff at the cineplex can't even approach Akin's depth of cinematic verity. Here's what Tribeca's online film guide has to say about Soul Kitchen:

Acclaimed director Fatih Akin's latest is a lively and delicious romp centered on hapless young restaurant owner Zinos, who's juggling a working-class clientele alienated by his new gourmet chef, a larcenous brother, tax inspectors, health officers, and real estate sharks ... but his biggest concern aside from pleasing palates is mending the broken heart he was left with when his girlfriend moved to Shanghai.

Another film I am feverishly anticipating is Into Eternity, a documentary by Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen (not to be confused with the American actor) about the dangers surrounding nuclear power, a topic that has troubled me for many years, especially after the infamous Three Mile Island incident in March of 1979. Here again, from Tribeca's film guide:

Three miles below the earth, the people of Finland are constructing an enormous tomb to lay to rest their share of humans' 300,000 tons of nuclear waste. To avoid disaster, it must remain untouched for at least 100,000 years. In this poetic, hauntingly beautiful, and thought-provoking doc, Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen ponders how to warn future civilizations that the buried treasure of our nuclear era--unlike the pyramids and great tombs of pharaohs--must never, ever be discovered.

I am hungry and thirsty for good movies! I want to exit a theater thinking, "Wow, that was really stimulating. I actually learned something about the world--and about myself--by having that experience." After too many sappy romantic comedies and high-tech blow-'em-ups, I think I deserve better, and so does everybody else. A third film I really want to see is Buried Land, directed by Geoffrey Alan Rhodes and Steven Eastwood. Once again, from Tribeca's guide:

The small town of Visoko heralds to the world a remarkable discovery: A valley of ancient pyramids predating Egypt exists under the hills of central Bosnia. Tourists flood the war-scarred region, and locals are caught between the real and the imagined (mirroring the film's vacillation between documentary and fiction). With the help of a young man returning to his homeland, an American film crew determines the role of faith in capturing what cannot yet be proven.

So Tribeca, here I come. Sure, I could eventually find some of these films on Netflix, but I'm betting that being at the film festival surrounded by thousands of other film fanatics will enhance my viewing experience exponentially.

I will be blogging from Tribeca, writing a few reviews and talking about some of the people and the atmosphere. The festival runs from April 21st through May 2nd. Stay tuned.