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A Trio of Documentaries At The Tribeca Film Festival

 

Monday, April 30-------While the narrative offerings at the Tribeca Film Festival remain an oil-and-water mix of glossy Hollywood product and uneven independent fare, the documentaries on tap are refreshingly nimble and powerful. Three docs seen this past weekend illustrate the top-flight work being done by non-fiction masters and newcomers at this year's Tribeca Film Festival.

The master is UK director Michael Apted, who is one of the rare filmmakers who have simultaneously invigorating careers in both the dramatic and documentary camps. Best known for his 7-UP series of films that follows the same group of English young people from pre-adolesence to middle age in a series of films produced every seven years, Apted has turned his attention to the 2006 World Cup to create an invigorating examination at the social impact of soccer around the world. THE POWER OF THE GAME, which has its World Premiere at the Festival, intertwines six stories from all over the world to illustrate the obsession with the game shared by peoples of different cultures (the Americans, notwithstanding) and the potential of the sport to bridge cultural and religious gaps to create a true global community.

Another form of self-expression, the creation of graffiti art by mainly dispossessed young people anxious to literally leave their mark on an often inhospitable environment, is the common thread in the wonderfully entertaining BOMB IT by writer/director Jon Reiss, which is also having its World Premiere at the Festival. The film, told in a kinetic style that mirrors the "action painting" style of its artists, tells the story of contemporary graffiti from its "tagging" roots in Philadelphia and New York in the 1970s, to its international explosion in cities as diverse as London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sao Paolo and Tokyo....in each culture taking on a slightly different dynamic. The ambitious film travels around the world to hear from the graffiti artists themselves and to witness how their artwork transforms their environments. Creating sometimes unruly work in public spaces is not necessarily embraced by everyone...and the film details the struggles that these artists have with the police and civil authorities who regard their self expressive artwork as offensive and a kind of visual pollution. Wherever you stand on the issue (and I myself am not sure of what I myself think), the film is wildly entertaining, using its visual style and urban music to fantastic effect. In many ways, the perfect Tribeca movie.....

The struggles of the artist to discover their own unique expression and their place in the often unforgiving world of fine arts is also the theme of another arresting documentary offering at the Festival. A WALK INTO THE SEA by Esther Robinson is the portrait of a little-remembered member of Andy Warhol's entourage, who mysteriously disappeared at the age of 27 after falling out of Warhol's favor. Danny Williams, the uncle of the filmmaker, was a Harvard graduate filmmaker and visual artist who eventually made his way to New York in the mid 1960s and fell into the intoxicating and often deadly community of artists, drug users, drag queens and free love fashionistas who made up the notorious Factory. Williams was a filmmaker in his own right and also designed the groundbreaking light shows that were part of the mind-bending environments of the performance art/music concerts produced by Warhol in that period (which showcased the "downtown" talents of such legends as The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and Nico).

Williams, a sensitive young man, eventually became Warhol's lover, but his own self-destructive path of drugs and drama forced a wedge in their relationship (or perhaps, as the film suggests, the emotionally dysfunctional Warhol simply grew tired of his newest boy toy) which seemed to have led to his apparent suicide by drowning while visiting his family compound on Massachusset's Cape Anne. As filmmaker Robinson attempts to solve a forty-year-old mystery of her uncle's final days, she unearths a fascinating, if not always complimentary, commentary on the callousness and pretension of the Warhol universe, and his own passive-aggressive manipulation of his coterie of damaged souls. Fascinating stuff......

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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