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9 Must-See Films From The 2009 Tribeca Film Festival

Now that the broken sprocket holes have been swept off the projection room floors, and New York’s Village VII can go back to being a mediocre theater full of bloated summer blockbusters, let’s take a look at some of the cinematic highlights from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, shall we? While there wasn’t any of the Spider-Man 3 glamor or United 93 controversies, of recent years, there were enough quality films to keep our eyes from crusting over. After the jump, a list (in no particular order) of a few favorites that we hope will be coming to a theatre near you some time soon.

1. STILL WALKING by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Dysfunction what’s your function? In this lovely portrait of the Yokoyama family, the minor-key Japanese auteur is characteristically — and thus beautifully — restrained in his handling of the left-behind. The remaining kinfolks gather for the 15th anniversary of the eldest son’s passing; what ensues is oh-so-subdued yet altogether resonant in its cumulative affect, as long-standing tensions are aired then bottled up for the next, never-guaranteed visit. As the pensive, ne’er-do-well-enough younger son, Hiroshi Abe embodies the perfect love-hate prism to glimpse a family with an universal DNA. Click here for Jason Jude Chan’s full review.

2. BLANK CITY by Céline Danhier
First-time helmer Danhier deserves instant street credit for this anthemic, high-octane look at two underground film movements: the No Wave and the Cinema of the Transgression. Born from the muck of downtown New York during the late-70s/early-80s, these we-the-poor groundswells were defined by a DIY aesthetic and the wild fact that every artist in the LES was (or seemed to be) in cahoots. Informative without ever being dry (Danhier weds telltale bits of the era’s films and music to plain-spoken interviews with Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, and Thurston Moore, among others), it’s a marvelous primer that deftly folds 10 offbeat years into 100 minutes. Click here for Jason Jude Chan’s full review.

3. KOBE DOIN’ WORK by Spike Lee
24 frames per second in the name of number 24. For basketball junkies and those who bleed purple and gold, this anticipated joint (premiering May 16 on ESPN) doesn’t disappoint. The titular superstar jukes, jives, and serves up a bounty of X’s and O’s as well as teammate counsel for an unsurprising yet undeniably fab chronicle of a player who’s sported the scarlet A (for Assumed heir to G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan) for over a decade now. Click here for Jason Jude Chan’s full review.

4. ABOUT ELLY by Asghar Farhadi
The rarely seen (by Western audiences) Iranian middle class in brought to light in a thriller vehicle, that is both an homage to Italian master Michelangelo Antonioni as well as offering up insights into the nuances of Persian male-female dynamics. Click here for Adam Eisenberg’s full review.

5. MY DEAR ENEMY by Lee Yoon-ki
Adapted from Japanese novelist Taira Azuko’s tale of love and money, this Korean film is a charmer. Both a critique of our cash-obsessed nature, as well as the role it plays in modern romance, this day-long voyage through Seoul with two Korean 30 somethings cements Lee Yoon-Ki’s ability to develop characters that hold a mirror up to our aspirations and fears. When this gets released we challenge you not to fall in love with Ha Jung-woo’s cuddly playboy antics and Jeon Do-yeon stoic refusal to be swayed by his charms. Click here to read more.

6. FISH EYES by Zheng Wei
This oh-so-bleak portrait of life in oh-so-bleak industrialized China is a meditative stunner. If you allow yourself to let the small moments suck you in, the film’s use of off-screen action and long takes full of dusty highways, have a big pay-off. Zheng Wei’s freshman effort also demonstrates that something is brewing in the Chinese indie film scene and that film scholars are going to have to start coming up with some new neologisms to label it for mass digestion. Click here to read Adam Eisenberg’s full review.

7. OUTRAGE by Kirby Dick
With a title like this, it’s no surprise Oscar nominee Kirby Dick thrusts us into a bold and searing documentary about the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who campaign against the LGBT community. Shedding light on a story otherwise kept secret in the media, Dick dishes up an all-star line up of subjects to address the innate problems with policymakers keeping personal secrets which contradict the very civil liberties they’re dictating. Moving, humorous, and at many points disturbing, Outrage fires up justified anger about the hypocrisy of these closeted politicians, but also against the media for casting a blind eye. Click here for Sara Sampson’s full review.

8. TRANSCENDENT MAN by Barry Ptolemy
First time filmmaker Ptolemy deserves ample credit for infusing a frightening and fascinating prediction of the future with ample doses of humanity. Both informative and touching, it’s hard to take a breath during this well-balanced tale of our fate relating to the impending advances of technology; the film follows the radical prediction that humans and technology will soon merge, made by respected inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. We’re not sure we’re ready to become robots or live forever, however Kurzweil’s sturdy case has left us sleepless for a few nights. Click here for Sara Sampson’s full review.

9. THE EXPLODING GIRL by Bradley Rust Gray
A beautiful character study, Bradley Rust Gray presents a tender and subtle story of emotionally maturing Ivy, a wide-eyed college student who happens to be epileptic (played by the talented Zoe Kazan). Back home in for the summer in Brooklyn, Ivy tromps around town with her longtime guy pal Al (played by the endearing Mark Rendall), Long, beautiful shots follow the duo in episodic fashion, capturing moments in parties, talking in parks, sharing pizza and walking endlessly through the streets of New York. The tenderness of this friendship contrasts to the vacant, cell-phone based relationship Ivy maintains with her boyfriend. Filled with the smallest, yet critical of gestures, we love how Grey intimately captures all of the confusion that ensues with friendship on the verge of something more. Click here for Jason Jude Chan’s full review.

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