03/05/2006

Another Tribeca Paradox

The New York press has found yet another paradox in the Tribeca Film Festival. According to the NY Times [registration req'd], foreigners make better films about what is happening in the world than Americans.

Five years into the festival's existence, one of the paradoxes of this New York-centric event is that many of its freshest, most startling films are political dramas and satires from non-American perspectives.

No kidding. In the land of individualism, filmmakers prefer the coming-of-age or the David-Goliath success stories. Art in general is less about examining the larger world and more about examining every square inch of your own tortured soul.

I walked out of yet another sloppily scripted, shot-on-video New York indie only last week. East Broadway applies the Cinderella myth to a young Cantonese financial wizard who has her own corner office and a studio on the Upper East Side. 'Poor' Cinderella! She wants to play with the really rich folk who live on Park Avenue! It's hard to sympathise with such a goal, even though there was a convoluted plot line about illegal sweatshops in Chinatown. The problem with this film, and another one I walked out of (Return to Rajapur) is that yes, if you are psychotic (ehm, driven?) enough you can find some money in New York to shoot a feature.

In both cases, the filmmakers had written, directed and produced their debut features based on their own wobbly first-time scripts. There was no one experienced on board to guide their weak screenplays towards completion. At least in Europe, the funding bodies have committees or consultants to do that. It's a myth that struggling filmmakers are always battling those 'enemies' who are supposedly intent on butchering their personal vision. They might be highly overestimating their creative powers. These self-made Newyorkers shot everything the way they wanted to, without a seasoned producer for guidance, but I couldn't bear to sit through the results.

Video is just an excuse to shoot features that nobody wanted to finance. And they end up looking it. Return to Rajapur could only afford film because it was shot in India with cheap labour. No wonder East Broadway was merely selected for the festival's NY Features section and not the feature competition.

Stay tuned for a round-up of Tribeca's truly worthy discoveries.

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