By Andrea Meyer/IFC News
There were too many movies at the Tribeca Film Festival. In 12 days, it was impossible to scratch the surface of the 250-film program. I did not get to see Most Anticipated Film, Wong Kar-Wai’s “2046,” for example, or a load of others that reliable sources have called worthwhile, such as Sally Potter’s “Yes,” Chilean director Alicia Scherson’s “Play”(the winner of an award for Best New Narrative Filmmaker) and Craig Chester’s “Adam & Steve,” as well as docs “Slippin’–Ten Years with the Bloods,” “After Innocence,” “Czech Dream,” “The Power of Nightmares,” and “How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It).” Besides Sundance faves like “Mysterious Skin” and higher profile upcoming releases like “Layer Cake,” here’s the best of what I saw at Tribeca:
“Beautiful Country”: Hans Petter Moland directs this lyrical story of a Vietnamese man (Damien Nguyen) who travels to the U.S. to find his American GI father (Nick Nolte). The early segment in Vietnam is a perfect, self-contained unit that weaves the breathtaking details of the country into a portrait of the cruelty inflicted on the children of American soldiers there. The more chaotic, potentially sentimental American portion is also treated with commendable restraint. (In theaters July 8)
“Mad Hot Ballroom”: It’s hard to go wrong with cute kids and a competition. Think “Spellbound” with prepubescents wrapping their arms around each other to dance the merengue, the rumba and the foxtrot. The best kind of feel-good flick, this one had audiences bopping and cheering in their seats. (In theaters May 13)
“The Beat That My Heart Skipped”: In French director Jacques Audiard’s (“Read My Lips”) reworking of James Toback’s thriller “Fingers,” Romain Duris is Tom, a petty crook preparing for an audition to become a concert pianist. Two disparate worlds collide as Tom taps into a passion strong enough to fuel a complete transformation.
“Great New Wonderful”: A disclaimer: I don’t think this movie is one of Tribeca’s best just because my boyfriend shot it. Danny Leiner’s ensemble drama about people surviving in a world made scary and precarious by September 11 is one of Tribeca’s best because it is compassionate, sharp and absolutely riveting, while never taking itself or its subject matter too seriously. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Olympia Dukakis and Tony Shaloub star.
“The F Word”: In 1969, the great cinematographer and sometime filmmaker Haskell Wexler made “Medium Cool, a film that wove fictional and documentary elements together in the story of a fictional film crew covering the real Democratic National Convention. Jeb Weintrob takes on the same task here, with Josh Hamilton as a radio reporter who hits the NYC streets on the day of the 2004 Republican Convention. The film would have been more effective if it had been released on the heels of the convention. It would have felt more relevant if it had at least ridden the political-doc wave that hit just prior to the election. But even now, it packs a punch, especially if you’re a lefty who gets off on basic civil liberties and people willing to fight for them.