Over the course of its 12-day run from June 8-19, the 2022 edition of New York’s Tribeca Film Festival screened over 110 feature films from 40 different countries, 88 of them world premieres. These are big numbers, to be sure, and that doesn’t include the vast array of short films that were screened, or the retrospective screenings of classic films that included “The Godfather,” “Heat,” and Abel Ferrara’s Fun City exploitation classic “Ms .45.” Not counting movies that I had already seen during earlier stops on the festival circuit, such as the lovely “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” and the mostly inexcusable “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” I managed to view roughly 50 or so of this year’s titles, an array of films from well-known names and newcomers alike covering virtually every imaginable screen genre and perhaps even creating a couple of new ones. Although the lineup may not quite as strong as last year’s—especially regarding the Narrative section, which last year included such knockouts as “The Novice” and “Catch the Fair One”—a good number of the selections still had qualities of note, and some proved to be good enough to make them worth seeking out when they are released.
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On the awards side of things, the big winner in the U.S. Narrative Competition was Sarah Elizabeth Mintz’s “Good Girl Jane,” a 2005-set drama about a lonely high school outcast named Jane (Rain Spencer) who falls under the spell of a young man (Patrick Gibson) and quickly falls into his world of sex, drugs and trouble. Although the film (an expansion of Mintz’s short film of the same name) is decently made and contains a good central performance from Spencer, the whole thing may strike viewers as reminiscent of many earlier movies, including “Thirteen” and this year’s controversial Sundance entry “Palm Trees and Power Lines.” Nevertheless, it won the prize for Best U.S. Narrative Film and Spencer received the Best Performance award. Best Screenplay went to “Allswell,” a middling drama about a trio of Nuyorican sisters navigating a series of increasingly melodramatic hurdles involving family, motherhood, and careers. The Cinematography award went to Azuli Anderson for “Next Exit,” a futuristic road movie in which life after death has been conclusively proven to exist and two people travel cross-country to end their lives after learning this. A Special Jury Prize was also presented to newcomer actress Liz Carbel Sierra for her electrifying work in “God’s Time,” Daniel Artebi’s darkly comic tale of two friends in addiction recovery who try to prevent the fellow former addict they both are in love with from murdering her ex-boyfriend.
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The prize for Best International Narrative feature went to “January,” Viesturs Kairišs’ striking coming-of-age saga set amidst the backdrop of Latvia’s struggle for independence in the early ’90s and focusing on a young film school student navigating everything from first love to political upheaval. The Screenplay award went to Martín Boulocq and Rodrigo Hasbun for “The Visitor,” a familiar but effective drama about an ex-convict who returns home after serving time in order to reconnect with his young daughter, only to face opposition from his in-laws, who are high-ranking members of the local Evangelical community. Dorota Pomykala won the prize for Best Performance for her performance in “Woman on a Roof” and Jan Mayntz won the Cinematography award for his work on the offbeat “We Might As Well Be Dead.” Like a lot of film festivals, Tribeca is in many ways a celebrity-driven affair (it did, after all, kick off with a splashy premiere of the mediocre Jennifer Lopez documentary “Halftime,” with Lopez in attendance). Likewise, the presence of such familiar faces as Matt Dillon, Isabella Rossellini, and Anna Gunn no doubt lured some curious viewers into checking out Shoja Azari and Shirin Neshat’s “Land of Dreams.” The near-future-set political satire/drama, about an Iranian-American census department employee who grills citizens about their dreams as part of some mysterious government project, is a listless and largely incomprehensible mess that feels more like Wim Wenders’ last few narrative features rolled into one and without a killer soundtrack to help it seem more palatable.
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On the other hand, one of the more notable star-driven projects, Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat’s “Official Competition,” proved to be one of the festival’s most unquestioned delights. In this deft satire, a wealthy businessman decides to finance a film in the hopes of bolstering his legacy and hires an acclaimed art-house filmmaker (Penelope Cruz) to adapt a Nobel Prize-winning novel about the fraught relationship between two brothers. The director hits upon the idea of hiring two wildly different actors—one a worldwide movie star (Antonio Banderas), the other an extremely self-serious Method type (Oscar Martínez)—in the hopes that their disparate attitudes towards acting will help inform their performances. A chaotic game of one-upmanship then develops between all three during the bizarre rehearsal period. Sure, pretentious actors and weirdo filmmakers are relatively easy targets but this film manages to score a lot of big laughs along the way, thanks in large part to the performances from the three leads—this is one of Cruz’s best performances (certainly her funniest), and Banderas is hilarious as he deftly mocks his own star persona.