Friday, April 18, 2014

Kinda Like Being There: Tribeca 2014 Day 1 Drugs, Guns, and Swords

Director Josef Wladyka (Manos Sucias)

Today was day 1 of the 2014 Tribeca Festival and no doubt a different wonderful experience for everyone partaking. There are so many different paths to follow and it is incredible to me that this was only the first of many more. Having a day off from work and having a press badge thanks to this here humble online abode, I was able to take in press screenings starting this morning and at last, a few public screenings, which always bring a crucial level of energy and sense of community - both important elements in getting the most out of many films.

I first watched Der Samurai. This was a beautiful nihilistic dream of lurid colors that thrusts the inner turmoil of a sexually and emotionally repressed cop in a quaint German town violently outward. It manifests in the form of a mirror image of himself, only feral in his physicality and with a samurai sword he weaves an alluring and destructive dance. Best appreciated on the big screen.

Next was a film of immense proportions: the Norwegian production In Order of Disappearance. The action thriller filled with breathtaking visuals of snowscapes and ledges overlooking icy rivers takes on a difficult balance of deadpan satirical humor, genuine action, and sympathetic characters' earnest struggles and pulls it all together with panache. Taking a scathing look at Norway's national identity and the tenuous relationship between various ethnic groups, it looks at the pointless folly of men playing gangsters. It also calls to mind a brilliant knack for suspenseful storytelling, seen in other productions from Norway like Headhunters.

Manos Sucias (Dirty Hands), directed by first time director and student of Spike Lee, Josef Wladyka is a nerve wracking trip into the islands of Puerto Rico and Cuba where two brothers unwittingly sign on for the same risky job transporting drugs by way of a small motor boat. The feeling of dread and of how fleeting human life can be in this environment is summed up by the words "It's either us or them." When the brothers are not racing for their lives, the film brings out soulful moments of bonding over music and football. An amazingly accomplished debut from a promising new voice in film.

Director Midi-Z (left) and actress Ke-Xi Wu (Ice Poison)

Ice Poison (Bing Du) takes on the drug trade in a very different part of the world and with a vastly different feel. Another first time feature director Midi-Z shot this film in Burma, his native country, but brings his experience studying film in Taiwan. It shows a lifestyle in a hilly village of Myanmar that is heavily influenced by drug use and poverty. Two adult characters, both afflicted by a desire to make enough money to live on, are drawn to each other and an opportunity to sell drugs. As they begin using the product themselves they find a blissful escape from the droll reality around them, but not without a toll on their minds. The views of rural Myanmar are magnificent. At times the film doesn't seem to move, but rather rests in one place, embracing the languid pace of its setting.

More should be said about each of these films, and hopefully will be. For more information or to buy tickets visit the Tribeca Film Festival Website.


  1. Nice work here! I personally found ICE POISON intolerable and slight (that metaphorical ending was appalling!) but I did like MANOS SUCIAS, and much appreciate your fine sizing up. And great Tribeca lead in!

    I also saw the Swedish SOMETHING MUST BREAK which I urge avoiding and ART AND CRAFT, which is a pretty good documentary.

    1. What was bad about Something Must Break? The story sounded interesting to me, so I'm curious, almost saw it tonight but it was too late

  2. Thanks for reading! Ice Poison is interesting...I talked to the director and lead actress this morning and will post some words on it soon. He wanted it to be VERY real life like, so i think there are some long, slow drags that capture a very particular feeling of non-momentum, being stuck. Kinda alienating, but i found it pretty absorbing after a while,

    I didn't see much point in the ending either; i didn't bring it up talking to Midi-Z, but i almost have the impression he would not have even considered it metaphorical...just another instance of real life happening. It didn't add or take away much from the film for me.

    I imagined Something Must Break might be great or a struggle; sounds like the latter. I've heard other good things about Art and Craft. intrigued...