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Film Festivals

The Tournées Fest -- Diplomacy Through French Film

In the 15 years since the Tournées Festival began bringing contemporary French films to campuses across the U.S., it has stirred that warm, bubbly feeling for Gallic cinema normally induced by champagne. The Festival’s creators, Cultural Services of the French Embassy and French American Cultural Exchange (FACE), are downright giddy about its stats.

As well they should be. Some 350 films have reached 450,000 students in 350 universities since the program’s founding in 1995; and in 2009-2010 alone, 100 or so universities from nearly 40 states and Puerto Rico benefited from its largesse.

French cinephilia has even spread to l’Amérique Profonde. This includes a state school in Maine and a small bible college in Alabama, as FACE Chairman of the Board Jacques Bouhet told a glittering crowd assembled last night at the French Consulate in New York to fête the program’s anniversary.

Read more: The Tournées Fest -- Diplomacy...

Tribeca's Best NY Documentary -- "The Woodmans"

If asked to name an American female photographer who committed suicide, youClassic example of Francesa Woodman's photography'd probably first think of Diane Arbus. Until now.

Francesca Woodman may be about to give Arbus a posthumous run for her money. The doomed heroine lives on in The Woodmans, which won Best New York Documentary at the ninth Tribeca Film Festival.

Best known for her dreamy black-and-white stills and videos, Francesca often appeared in the raw. Ophelia herself couldn't have composed more intimate, unearthly meditations on the feminine and the floral. Francesca's work has entranced art insiders for 30 years, and now its mystique is spreading to the cinema world as well.

Read more: Tribeca's Best NY Documentary --...

Doc "Thieves by Law" Steals Hurrahs at Tribeca

Alexander Gentelev (photo: B. Balfour]

"Was it dangerous to make a documentary about the Russian mob?" director Alexander Gentelev was asked after his Thieves by Law premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival (April 22 to May 2, 2010).

"We will find out after the protagonists see the movie," he deadpanned. 

The heroes Gentelev was referring to are three retired godfathers of Russia’s underworld who muse about their colorful exploits on camera. As he explained, "A lot of criminal kingpins were willing to mouth off, but not on film." Finding insiders willing to help lift the "veil of secrecy" surrounding followers of the so-called "Thieves Code" took the Russian-born director two years. It was well worth the wait.

Read more: Doc "Thieves by Law" Steals...

Tribeca Film Festival - Here Come the Neighborhoods

"Modoki" is the Japanese word for "similar, yet different." Take for example the Tribeca Film Festival (April 21 to May 2, 2010), and October's New York Film Festival. Both are Manhattan cinema extravaganzas — whose overlaps end there. Populist Tribeca plays teriyaki to artsy NYFF's sashimi.   

Almost four decades the Lincoln Center event's junior, Tribeca was founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff to goad downtown development in the aftermath of 9/11. Never mind that the "Triangle Below Canal Street" has since ceased to be ground zero for the Festival. And who of today's TFF ticket buyers thinks he or she is subsidizing lower New York's economic and cultural revival?

Rather, what continues to flourish are the Spring fest's display of popular, indie and world cinema and the celebratory mood that envelopes it. For the non-auteurist crowd, there are accessible Hollywood entertainments, ESPN-sponsored sports docs and family movies. Bring your kids; wear your sweats; Tribeca is the cinema equivalent of a cherry blossom festival.

The inclusive spirit has its downside, however. TFF still grapples with the bad rap earned during its embryonic years, when the slate was crammed with duds. Around 2008, the Festival learned how to prune and the yield has generally improved.

Read more: Tribeca Film Festival - Here...

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