With an impressive amount of virtual reality simulation stations and immersive screenings, the Tribeca Film Festival, which opened April 13 and runs through April 24, got a lot of toys for its 15th birthday. Inside of the festival’s hub at 50 Varick Street, participants were encouraged to don goggles and take part in the interactive technology featured in the Storyscapes and Virtual Reality programs.
As a special treat, Guy Maddin’s “Seances” project premiered as an installation. Behind a black curtain, small groups of viewers were invited to curate a set of images that, when put together, combined to show a one-time-only film. The footage, created through a collaboration with Evan and Galen Johnson, featured Maddin’s interpretation of lost films—or films that had, for some reason or another, disappeared as if they had never existed. For those not lucky enough to make it to the installation, “Seances” is now live online as an interactive website.
This year, the festival opened with Andrew Rossi’s glossy documentary First Monday in May, which delivers an inside look into the preparation of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition and gala. Though the main question of the film—whether or not the exhibition was offensive—is never really answered, the film succeeds in providing what feels like privileged access into one of the city’s most exclusive parties.
Some standouts in the documentary field are Alma Har’el’s experimental LoveTrue, Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai’s Reset (Relève), and Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway’s The Return. While LoveTrue finds its tenderness in its fluid exploration of love and loss, The Return (premiering on PBS’s POV on May 23) shows its heart through the pointed attention it pays its subjects: prisoners trying to reintegrate into society following Proposition 36, which reduced the life sentences of those imprisoned under the controversial “Three Strikes” law. In their best moments, these documentaries challenge the audience’s perceptions and call into question how we form our own judgements.
For the first time in the festival’s history, the narrative films are divided into two categories: American and foreign. In the American competition, comedian and illustrator Demetri Martin’s Dean mixes grief and whimsy to create an enjoyable film that will slide in easily next to a copy of Garden State, while Ingrid Jungermann’s morbid Women Who Kill provides subtle and witty commentary on Park Slope’s lesbian community. As for the foreign competition, Christian Tafdrup’s Parents is a disturbingly beautiful and funny tale that casts a side-eye gaze on the idea of resurrecting a past self.
Also new to the festival is Tribeca Tune In, an expansion of TFF’s television-centric programming. Tune In features special sneak peaks and conversations with directors, producers, writers, and stars.
The festival continues this weekend and tickets can be purchased online. For more TFF coverage, read our in-depth look at Vanessa Gould’s documentary Obit, which takes a peek inside the famed obituary department of The New York Times.