At Home with the Big Shots: Tribeca Film Festival
by E. Nina Rothe
Life for me these days seems a lot like a giant puzzle, where each piece is interconnected and could not possibly be there, were it not for the surrounding pieces... Like dominoes carefully placed upright next to one another, when the first one tumbles, it takes all the other piece down with it. At the end of that domino line is my career at the moment, the movement of it made possible by all the other connections, turns, contacts and jobs.
For the past few years I have been trying to get press credentials for the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival. Established in 2002 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal to help bring business back to their neighborhood, the festival represents the spirit of survival of NYC, after the horrific events of 9/11. It screams Downtown New York more than any other event and it truly transforms the landscape and lives of the inhabitants of the Big Apple while it unfolds during the last two weeks of April.
Needless to say, an event of such magnitude has pretty high standards of certification for the press wanting to cover it. But last year the puzzle that is my life brought to me luxury magazine Bespoke, based in the Gulf, asking for an article about Arab arts in the US and how the cultures are beginning to share exchanges. Right around the same time, Tribeca announced the launch of a sister festival in Doha, Qatar and that was the angle I needed for my story. This year, I got my press credentials.
Once in, I immediately began to realize why it's so difficult to attain entrance - through the press door - at TFF: It's a super classy affair, with wonderful access to celebrities and filmmakers and not an inch of attitude in sight. If you can think of a favorite starlet or hunky actor, they will be at TFF, at some point during the festival. And you'll know about it before it happens, so you can be there to admire them from not-so-afar.
For me personally - the strikingly tall and strong Vince Vaughn and sublimely pretty and milky-skinned Patricia Clarkson notwithstanding - it was all about the filmmakers of the projects I fell in love with before TFF even began... While watching the pre-festival screening of these films in the three weeks that lead up to the start of TFF.
Since I don't want this blog post to read like a thesis on the films participating in the Tribeca Film Festival, I'll keep it to top favorites only. First on the list, any list this year actually, is 'Cairo Time', written and directed by Ruba Nadda and starring Patricia Clarkson andthe smoldering Alexander Siddig. If you think you have an idea of what a romantic hero is, well I've got news for you! Siddig will not only change your mind but leave you breathless and hopelessly smitten in the process. He's classy, he's lanky, he's soft-spoken, he's kind and his eyes sparkles when he talks to you. REALLY! I interviewed him on the red carpet for the premiere of the film, and I could not believe the reflecting glimmer in his eyes. It was all I could do from melting into a puddle of girlish longing. Of course, for those of you who are in Canada, the film already released in theaters there, but if you are in the US, 'Cairo Time' is being distributed by IFC and will be in theaters later this summer.
The second film on my list is a documentary about a group of comedians from the US who perform in the Middle East and end up discovering much about the places they visit, but even more about themselves. Titled 'Just Like Us' and directed by Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed, the film stars Ahmed, Omid Djalili, and a few other fabulously funny men and women. As soon as it will get distribution, I'll share info about their screenings. Don't miss it, it will change the way you think of the Arab world. And it will definitely make you laugh all along that journey. As an aside, Ahmed was by far my favorite personality in the festival, always available and kind to every single reporter. And he is taller and more handsome in person. Just saying...
In the Indian category - indeed you know by now that there is no Nina without Indian films - I loved Dev Benegal's 'Road, Movie'. Not your typical Hindi flick - it only lasts 95 minutes and is completely devoid of wet sari scenes and lavish wedding shots - this felt like a journey I took along with the protagonist of the film. It allowed me to understand the reason I love India so much and now I can point to something concrete that will explain my passion for this magical land. The film is being distributed by Tribeca Films and you can even view it on cable, through their On-Demand option.
I also enjoyed a few other films at TFF such as Christy Turlington Burns 'No Woman, No Cry' about the uncertainty of delivering a child in countries in the Third World, 'The Infidel' starring the hilarious Omid Djalili - you may remember him from the sitcom 'Whoopi' - about a
relaxed Muslim man who must come to terms with the discovery that he's adopted and his birth parents were Jews, and the documentary 'Budrus' about a small town in Palestine that not only stood up to the Israeli army, but also united the two cultures in the process.
Finally, I'll leave you with a yet undeveloped project but one that sounded pretty cool to me. Having watched his previous film, 'West Bank Brooklyn', I'm probably not going too far out on a limb... Ghazi Albuliwi's next film is titled 'Peace After Marriage' and was part of the Tribeca All Access program, a wonderful initiative within the Tribeca Film Institute which concentrates on helping budding filmmakers get their projects made, by creating connections and opening doors. The film is about a porn-addicted young Palestinian-American man who is desperate for companionship and agrees to marry an Israeli girl to help her get a green card. What follows isa funny story with a unifying theme. And those are always personal favorites. Your guess is as good as mine as to how the project will turn out once it's developed. What sounds good on paper doesn't always translate - can anyone say 'David & Layla'?? Similar premise, but not a great outcome. But the story is a definite pull for me.
So there you go, my own personal voyage through Tribeca Film Festival 2010, an affair to be remembered! What films are you eagerly anticipating this year?
Images courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival