Review: ‘She Is Love,’ starring Haley Bennett and Sam Riley

February 7, 2023

by Carla Hay

Sam Riley and Haley Bennett in “She Is Love” (Photo courtesy of Brainstorm Media)

“She Is Love”

Directed by Jamie Adams

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in an unnamed city in England, the dramatic film “She Is Love” features an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two former spouses, who haven’t seen or spoken to each other in 10 years, have an awkward reunion when she checks into the inn where he lives with his current girlfriend, who owns the inn. 

Culture Audience: “She Is Love” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching aimless movies that have no real plot and mainly show people looking and acting uncomfortable with each other.

Marisa Abela in “She Is Love” (Photo courtesy of Brainstorm Media)

Everything about the rambling drama “She Is Love” looks like an improvisational sketch that was dragged into an unnecessary and tedious movie. The cast members are talented, but the characters they play are empty and annoying. The movie’s fake-looking ending looks like a lazy cop-out that doesn’t ring true. It’s one of many misguided aspects of this dreadfully dull film.

Written and directed by Jamie Adams, “She Is Love” had its world premiere at the 2022 BFI London Film Festival. The movie takes place in an unnamed city in England, primarily at one location: a bed-and-breakfast inn. In the beginning of the movie, it’s a Friday, and a restless woman named Patricia (played by Haley Bennett), who also goes by the name Pat, has arrived at the inn because her boyfriend Taylor (voiced by Jay Jippet) has booked a room for her at the inn.

Patricia is a creator of TV shows, and she travels a lot for her job. It’s vaguely explained that she’s at the inn on some sort of vacation where she wants to spend some time alone. The movie’s story begins on a Friday and ends on a Sunday. By the end of this weekend, Patricia will not only have the opposite of a vacation of solitude, she’s also so “in your face” irritating, viewers of “She Is Love” will want to Patricia to go away.

The first thing that Patricia does when she checks into her room is complain. She mutters to herself, “This room is ugly.” It doesn’t take long before her so-called restful vacation gets interrupted by loud music coming from another room. Patricia goes to the source of the noise and sees a musician named Idris (played by Sam Riley) playing music on DJ equipment, as if he’s in a nightclub. Idris and Patricia look at each other in shock. She’s so in shock, she quickly walks out of the room.

Idris follows her and says, “I’m sorry about the noise. I didn’t know anyone was here.” Patricia says to him, “What are you doing here?” Idris replies, “I kind of live here. I can’t believe it. The last I heard, you were living in America.” It’s soon revealed how Patricia and Idris know each other: They used to be married to each other, they got divorced, and they haven’t seen or spoken to each other in about 10 years.

Patricia insists that she’s at this inn purely as a coincidence, because her boyfriend booked the room at the inn for her. More awkwardness ensues because the person who owns the inn and lives there too is Idris’ current girlfriend Louise (played by Marisa Abela), a perky aspiring actress who’s about 15 years younger than 39-year-old Idris. Quicker than you can say “formulaic sitcom idea,” Louise suddenly comes home to tell Idris the good news that she got a role that she really wanted. Idris nervously steers Louise outside and doesn’t want her to go inside until he tells her the news that his ex-wife unexpectedly showed up and is staying at the inn.

Idris tells Louise it’s a bizarre coincidence that Patricia is a guest at the inn, and he assures Louise that nothing is going to happen between him and Patricia. And what a coincidence: Louise has to go out of town for a few days because of this new acting job. The rest of the movie shows what happens when Patricia and Idris spend a lot of time alone together, get drunk, and act like people who have too much time on their hands but have nothing meaningful to say for most of that time. It’s all just so boring to watch.

Bennett and Riley seem to be attempting to make Patricia and Idris believable as an ex-couple with unresolved feelings for each other. The problem is that it never looks genuine that these two were ever in love. Anything that’s supposed to pass for “sexual tension” between Patricia and Idris just come across as forced. And to make matters worse, insufferable Patricia is so insulting to Idris, it’s even harder to believe that Idris could possibly be falling back in love with her.

In one of their early “reunion” conversations, Idris (who performs in a semi-famous rock band) tells Patricia that he’s still a musician. Patricia rudely says, “So, you’re doing the same thing. I’m a bit disappointed.” It’s quite the display of disrespectful and condescending judgment from someone who has no say in how Idris should lead his life and what should make him happy.

Later, when Idris and Patricia have a drunken argument, she says to him: “You can’t deal with anyone broken. That’s why you go for Louise.” Irdrs replies, “You break everything you touch!” And then, Patricia shows how cruel she can be when she says to Idris: “The only good thing about you is your dad. And he’s dead.”

“She Is Love” is a misnomer, because Patricia is not a very loving or lovable person. The movie becomes a slog of Patricia and Idris lurching from drunken activity to drunken activity, all while having witless conversations. They play tennis while intoxicated. They put on face powder, wear white clothes, and run around the inn, as they pretend that they are ghosts.

And (cliché alert), at one point, Idris brings out his acoustic guitar and plays a drippy love song about you-know-who. And through it all, Idris and Patricia continue to argue. It’s as if Patricia and Idris are trying to convince themselves that maybe they’re smart and interesting, but the results prove that they are just the opposite.

Another thing that looks phony about this movie is that for an inn of this size (it looks like there are at about six to eight bedrooms), no one seems to be taking care of this property except Louise and Idris. There are no signs of any maids, caretakers, maintenance workers or cooks. Even if business is slow, it’s hard to believe that Louise and Idris are doing all the physical upkeep of this property all by themselves.

Louise is preoccupied with auditions, while Idris just seems to lounge around the inn and play music when he’s in between gigs. The inn has one quasi-receptionist named Kate (played by Rosa Robson), who walks around with a clipboard and doesn’t seem to do much. Kate certainly isn’t scrubbing toilets, cleaning up the yard, or fixing broken equipment.

It’s an example of how the filmmakers of “She Is Love” couldn’t adequately make a cinematic experience from this very poorly conceived story that has a virtually non-existent plot. At best, “She Is Love” is a story that should have been a very short sketch. It’s too bad that the filmmakers decided to pad it with too much shallow filler and make it into a very disappointing 82-minute movie.

Brainstorm Media released “She Is Love” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on February 3, 2023.

Review: ‘Till,’ starring Danielle Deadwyler, Jalyn Hall, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett and Whoopi Goldberg

October 2, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jalyn Hall and Danielle Deadwyler in “Till” (Photo by Lynsey Weatherspoon/Orion Pictures)

“Till”

Directed by Chinonye Chukwu

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1955 in Illinois and Mississippi, the dramatic film “Till” features a predominantly African American cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After her 14-year-old son (and only child) Emmett Till is murdered in a racist hate crime, Mamie Till-Mobley fights for justice in a system where white supremacy is enabled and enforced. 

Culture Audience: “Till” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Danielle Deadwyler and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as to people who are interested in well-acted biographical stories about the civil rights movement in the United States.

Danielle Deadwyler and Whoopi Goldberg in “Till” (Photo by Lynsey Weatherspoon/Orion Pictures)

The heartbreaking and inspiring drama “Till” admirably tells the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley and how she not only fought for justice for her murdered son, Emmett Till, but also how she became an often-overlooked pioneer in the U.S. civil rights movement. Even though the events in “Till” take place in the 1955, everything about the movie remains relevant, as long as people are getting murdered, abused or harassed simply because of race or other parts of their identities. Danielle Deadwyler gives a stunning and emotionally stirring performance as a humble woman who channeled her grief over her murdered son (who was beaten, shot and lynched) into positive activism that has far-reaching effects that can be felt for years to come.

Directed by Chinonye Chukwu, “Till” could have easily been yet another civil rights movie about a crusading lawyer, a law-making politician, a famous activist with a large following, or a hate-crime victim. And although these characters are definitely in “Till,” all of these characters in this history-based movie are male. It’s rare that a movie about the U.S. civil rights movement focuses on an African American woman, even though African American women have been the backbone of many important social movements in the United States.

“Till” had its world premiere at the 2022 New York Film Festival in New York City. At the New York Film Festival’s “Till” press conference, which took place on the morning of the gala premiere, filmmaker Chukwu said that she didn’t want to direct the movie unless it centered on Till-Mobley. The movie’s producers agreed, and Chukwu presented her vision of the story, which included a rewrite of the screenplay to focus on Till-Mobley’s perspective. (Chukwu co-wrote the “Till” screenplay with Keith Beauchamp and Michael Reilly, two of the movie’s producers.)

It turned out to be the correct decision. One of Chukwu’s strengths as a director is in making great casting choices. Deadwyler, in the role of Till-Mobley, anchors the movie in a way that is the epitome of portraying inner strength and an ordinary person who becomes an extraordinary catalyst for social change. The movie also shows in subtle and not-so-subtle ways how grief and pain can be turned into something positive that becomes much bigger than being about just one person.

Many people watching “Till” might already be familiar with the name Emmett “Bo” Till and might already be aware of how the racist torture and murder of this innocent 14-year-old boy in 1955 was a turning point in the U.S. civil rights movement. The movie “Till” brings him to life in the performance of Jalyn Hall, who depicts Emmett as an outgoing and fun-loving teenager who liked to hang out with his friends and occasionally flirted with girls who caught his attention. People who know Emmett very well usually call him by his nickname Bo.

Born in 1941 in Chicago, Emmett was raised in Chicago, where his mother Mamie worked as an educator. Emmett was Mamie’s only child. In 1945, Emmett’s military father, Louis Till, died at the age of 23 in combat during World War II. Mamie then had a short-lived marriage (lasting from 1951 to 1952) to Pink Bradley, with the marriage ending in divorce. Mamie grew up in her home state of Mississippi but had relocated to Chicago in search of better work opportunities and a less oppressive racial environment.

That doesn’t mean racially integrated Chicago or anywhere is immune to racism. An early scene in “Till” shows Mamie shopping in a Chicago department store and asking a white store clerk about an item. The store clerk suggests to her that she shop in the basement, which was his way of saying that he didn’t want black customers to be shopping in the store’s main area.

With her head held high, Mamie looks him in the eye and calmly asks him, “Do the other customers know that too?” In other words, “Are you telling the white customers the same thing? Probably not.” It’s the first sign in the movie that Mamie is not going to play the role of a head-bowing, foot-shuffling servant, and that she can stand up for herself with intelligence and class.

In 1955, Mamie was in a happy and supportive relationship with Gene Mobley (played by Sean Patrick Thomas), who would eventually become her husband. Gene would become one of strongest sources of support during the family’s ordeal. Mamie and Gene didn’t legally marry until 1957 (two years after Emmett’s death), but they referred to each other as spouses, in a common-law way.

In August 1955, Mamie allowed Emmett to visit some of her relatives near Money, Mississippi, as part of his summer vacation. In the movie, perhaps out of a maternal instinct and concern, Mamie is apprehensive about sending Emmett to Mississippi by train on his own. At a time when racial segregation was legal and enforced in the South, she warns him that that “there are a different set of rules” for people who aren’t white in the South.

Emmett thinks that Mamie is being overprotective and maybe paranoid. Mamie’s mother Alma Carthan (played by Whoopi Goldberg) thinks so too. Alma tells Mamie that it’s time that Emmett be more independent since he’s close to being an adult and has to learn how to do things on his own. While Mamie says goodbye to Emmett the train station and he boards the train, she has a sudden look of fear on her face, which could be interpreted as a premonition that something terrible might happen to Emmett.

In Mississippi, Emmett stays with the Wright family, who are relatives on his mother’s side of the family. They include Emmett’s great-uncle Moses Wright (played by John Douglas Thompson); Moses’ wife Elizabeth (played by Keisha Tillis); and their son Maurice (played by Diallo Thompson). Moses makes money as a seller of cotton, and he oversees other African American men who pick cotton in the fields.

Emmett is expected to help out with this field work while he’s in Mississippi, but a city boy like Emmett immediately dislikes this type of physical labor. In the cotton fields, Emmett complains that picking cotton is a “square thing to do” (in other words, it’s too “country” for him), and he doesn’t take the work seriously. Instead, he sometimes goofs off on the job, such as pretending to pass out and getting a laugh when he reveals that nothing is wrong with him. It’s an example of Emmett’s impish sense of humor but also his naïveté at how different the lifestyle is for his working-class relatives in rural Mississippi, compared to the middle-class lifestyle he has in a big city like Chicago.

Maurice, who is in his late teens or early 20s, is a stern taskmaster who constantly warns Emmett not to be so cavalier about work and being an African American in an area where African Americans are targeted for lynchings and other hate crimes by white racists. During his stay in Mississippi, Emmett hangs out with Maurice and two of Maurice’s teenage pals who also work in the cotton fields: Wheeler Parker (played by Gem Marc Collins, also known as Marc Collins) and Simmy (played by Tyrik Johnson). Maurice is the unofficial leader of this group of friends.

When Emmett playfully flirts with some white teenage girls nearby, Maurice tells Emmett that he better not act that way with any white people, or else he could be killed. Emmett doesn’t take this warning seriously, because in his young life, he has personally never known anyone who was killed because of racist hate. And in Chicago, it’s not taboo for black people and white people to interact with each other.

One day, when Emmett, Maurice, Wheeler and Simmy have some time off from work, they hang out in front of a small grocery store. Emmett goes inside to buy a bottle of soda. The cashier behind the counter is Mrs. Carolyn Bryant (played by Haley Bennett), a white woman in her late 20s or early 30s. Emmett is friendly and open with everyone he meets, so he greets Carolyn with a smile and looks directly in her eyes.

In this racist area, where a black person is expected to act fearful and deferential toward white people, Emmett’s friendly confidence immediately makes Carolyn fill uneasy. She glares at him suspiciously has he pays for his soda. Emmett then tells her as a compliment, “You look like a movie star.”

Carolyn stares at him as if she can’t believe a black person is talking to her in this way. Emmett is oblivious to her silent hostility and takes his wallet and shows her a photo of actress Hedy Lamarr that he keeps in his wallet. “See?” Emmett says to Carolyn, as a way to point her physical resemblance. Carolyn looks even angrier, but Emmett doesn’t seem to notice.

Instead, Emmett cheerfully waves goodbye. And as if to make it clear that he thinks that Carolyn is pretty, she looks back at her and gives a flirtatious whistle. Carolyn is so incensed at this point, she leaves the counter to get a shotgun, which she plans to aim at Emmett. When Emmett sees that he could get shot but this angry racist, he suddenly understands the enormity of the situation.

Emmett runs outside while Carolyn follows him with the shotgun in aimed at him. Emmett and his pals quickly get in their truck and drive away before the situation escalates. Maurice is furious when he finds out what Emmett said and did. Maurice immediately wants to tell his father what happened, but Wheeler and Simmy convince Maurice to keep it a secret between the four of them.

However, this incident isn’t kept a secret by Carolyn. A few days later, her husband Roy Bryant (played by Sean Michael Weber) and his half-brother JW Milam (played by Eric Whitten) force their way with guns into the Wright family home, kidnap Emmett, and take him in their truck, where Carolyn and a few other men have come along for the ride. After Carolyn identifies Emmett as the teenager who flirted with her, Emmett is taken to an isolated farm area.

“Till” does not show on screen what happened to Emmett after he was kidnapped, but the movie does have some disturbing sound effects that don’t leave any doubt that he was tortured and beaten. At the New York Film Festival press conference for “Till,” Chukwu said she made a conscious decision for the movie not to show any physical violence against “black bodies.” It was the correct choice, because showing this type of violence could be thought of as exploitation and gives too much agency to the murderers.

Mamie finds out that Emmett has been kidnapped. Friends, family—including Mamie’s father, John Carthan (played by Frankie Faison), who is divorced from Alma and has remarried—as well as other people in the African American community join Mamie in their frantic search for Emmet. And then, they get the devastating news three days after his abduction that Emmett was found murdered (he was beaten and shot to death) in the Tallahatchie River. These scenes are heart-wrenching to watch.

Overwhelmed by grief, Mamie’s first priority was to get Emmett’s body returned to her so that he could be buried in Chicago. She wasn’t thinking about becoming an activist. But after seeing his disfigured and bloated body (which is replicated on screen), Mamie makes a crucial decision to let Emmett’s body be photographed and published by the media.

Mamie also decides that his funeral would be an open-casket funeral, where the thousands of attendees could see for themselves what the horrors and evils of racism look like up close. As Mamie says later in the movie when she tells reporters how she felt when she saw Emmett’s dead body: “My son came home to me reeking of racial hatred.”

The rest of “Till” takes viewers on an emotional journey as Mamie uses her inner strength to get justice for Emmett, which was also really a battle for anyone else wronged by a racist American society. Along the way, she meets some influential people who help her and teach her how to navigate being a civil rights activist with the agendas of politicians, lawyers and the media. Mamie also became more involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a result of her political awakening.

Rayfield Mooty (played by Kevin Carroll), a Chicago labor who also happened to be Mamie’s second cousin, was instrumental in putting Mamie in with the NAACP. In the movie, Rayfield is the first person to bluntly tell Mamie that she has to think strategically. “It would be a good opportunity for a politician to take on Emmett’s cause in an election year,” he advises her.

Her other allies include NAACP attorney William Huff (played by Keith Arthur Bolden), who was recommended to Mamie by Rayfield; civil rights activists William Medger Evers (played by Tosin Cole) and Myrlie Evers (played by Jayme Lawson), Medger’s wife. “Till” shows how the murder of Emmett was just the beginning of the trauma, since murder trial was a continual barrage of racial inequalities that gave preference to the white defendants. Although it is widely believed that several people were involved in Emmett’s murder, only Bryant and Milam went on trial for the murder.

The murder trial in September 1955 (a quick turnaround, considering the murder happened just a month before) is an example of how there are often two types of justice, based on the races of the people involved. Although many “Till” viewers will already know the outcome of the trial before seeing the movie, it doesn’t make the outcome any less impactful. “Till” has a lot of riveting scenes that are meant to upset and enlighten people.

“Till” also shows that sexism against women also played a role in how Mamie was mistreated and misjudged by bigoted members of society during the media coverage of the trial. (Her morality was attacked because she had been divorced, which is criticism that would have been less likely to be inflicted on a divorced man.) She was also advised to not look angry in public, even though she had every right to be angry about what happened to her only child.

And that’s why it’s important for this movie to be shown from a female perspective. In 1955 American society, Mamie didn’t have the privilege of being a church leader or a chapter president of the NAACP, since those leadership positions were almost always were held by men. Even in the early civil rights movement, women were rarely allowed to give long and passionate speeches in public. It’s why what Mamie accomplishes goes beyond racism but also speaks to how she dealt with gender inequalities within the civil rights movement.

“Till” also shows in effective ways the burden of guilt that the women in Emmett’s family feel because they made the decision to let him take that fateful trip to Mississippi. One of Goldberg’s best scenes in the movie is showing through her body language the heavy heart that Alma must have felt in knowing that she was the one to convince Mamie that Emmett needed to go to Mississippi on his own. When Alma breaks down in tears and expresses an outpouring of guilt to Mamie, it’s an example of how trauma often makes loved ones feel responsible for what happened, or feel like they didn’t do enough to protect their loved one, even though it wasn’t their fault.

The movie also accurately depicts that Mamie did not become an activist overnight. It was a gradual process as she began to understand that no one else could be a better advocate for Emmett than she was. Mamie did not ask to become a public figure who was thrust into the spotlight. It was a calling that she answered, out of love and necessity.

Chukwu brings solid direction to “Till,” with many artistic choices in sound, production design, film editing, music, costume design and cinematography. It would be tempting for any filmmaker to make “Till” look like a sweeping epic melodrama. But thankfully, Chukwu and the other “Till” filmmakers refrained from making “Till” look like a social justice soap opera. An over-the-top tone would ruin the whole point of the movie, which is to make the story relatable.

“Till” shows in many ways that the horrific crime that happened to Emmett and his family can, has and does happen to ordinary, law-abiding people through no fault of their own. And, just as importantly, the movie helps people understand that you don’t have to come from a rich or privileged background to make a difference in society. “Till” arrives in theaters in the same year that the Emmett Till Antilynching Act was signed into law by U.S. President Joe Biden on March 29, 2022. The law now makes lynching a federal hate crime in the United States.

The technical aspects of “Till” work very well for the movie, but the story unquestionably has a particular resonance because of how Deadwyler and the rest of the cast members fully embody their characters with authenticity. Even when experiencing so many indignities, Deadwyler shows through her nuanced and outstanding performance how Mamie remained dignified and steadfast in her search for justice. “Till” is a necessary reminder that the work of Till-Mobley and other civil rights advocates is far from over, because racism is everyone’s problem, not just the problem of the people who are targets of this hate.

Orion Pictures will release “Till” in select U.S. cinemas on October 14, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on October 28, 2022.

Review: ‘Cyrano’ (2021), starring Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

February 23, 2022

by Carla Hay

Haley Bennett and Peter Dinklage in “Cyrano” (Photo by Peter Mountain/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

“Cyrano” (2021)

Directed by Joe Wright

Culture Representation: Taking place in France sometime in the 1600s, the musical “Cyrano” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A highly intelligent and articulate soldier named Cyrano de Bergerac is secretly in love with a maiden named Roxanne, who has a mutual infatuation with Christian, a soldier who befriends Cyrano and asks Cyrano to write love letters to Roxanne for him. 

Culture Audience: “Cyrano” will appeal primarily to people who are inclined to like movie musicals and are fans of star Peter Dinklage.

Haley Bennett and Kelvin Harrison Jr. in “Cyrano” (Photo by Peter Mountain/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

Elegantly designed but with song lyrics and dialogue that can be corny, the musical “Cyrano” features above-average performances that elevate the movie’s tendency to sink into old-fashioned stodginess. Based on Edmond Rostand’s 1897 “Cyrano de Bergerac” play, the movie can be enjoyed by people of many different generations, but some viewers might think the tone is too earnestly sappy. Love it, like it or hate it, “Cyrano” director Joe Wright, screenwriter Erica Schmidt and this movie’s talented cast give this version of “Cyrano de Bergerac” their own unique and heartfelt stamp.

The story is essentially about an unorthodox love triangle between an intelligent but insecure man named Cyrano de Bergerac, who’s hopelessly in love with a woman who is his friend, but she loves someone who is considered more physically attractive by society’s standards. The more physically attractive man has intelligence shortcomings, so he asks the lovelorn man to write letters to the woman to impress her. How long the two men can keep this secret depends on how the story is adapted. Different versions of “Cyrano de Bergerac” also vary the time periods and occupations of the three people in the love triangle.

In the “Cyrano” musical, which takes place in France in the 1600s (and was actually filmed in Italy), Cyrano de Bergerac (played by Peter Dinklage) is an unlucky-in-love cadet who has been secretly in love with maiden Roxanne (played by Haley Bennett) for her entire adult life. Roxanne only sees Cyrano (who works for the King’s Guard) as a friend. She appreciates his wit and his creativity. He writes poems, and they both share a love of literature.

The movie’s timeline of Roxanne and Cyrano’s relationship is vague. Conversations in the movie suggest that Roxanne and Cyrano have known each other since their childhoods. Even though the “Cyrano” filmmakers try to pass off Cyrano and Roxanne as being fairly close in their ages, it’s impossible not to notice the 19-year age difference between Dinklage and Bennett.

In the beginning of the movie, Roxanne and her lady-in-waiting Marie (played by Monica Dolan) are getting Roxanne ready for a date with a wealthy duke, who is taking her to see a theater play. Roxanne is financially broke and behind on her rent. Marie advises Roxanne to marry the duke for his money. “Children need love. Adults need money,” Marie quips.

The problem is that Roxanne’s suitor Duke DeGuiche (played by Ben Mendelsohn) is an overbearing, pompous lout whom Roxanne can barely tolerate. Roxanne is a romantic who would prefer to marry for love. While Roxanne and DeGuiche drive by carriage to the theater, a wayward man on the streets named Christian Neuvillette (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) sees Roxanne. And it’s infatuation at first sight for Christian, but he’s told by someone on the street that Roxanne is “way above your station.”

This movie’s Cyrano is not the bashful sad sack that he’s depicted as in other “Cyrano de Bergerac” adaptations. Cyrano is still self-conscious about his physical appearance, which is an intrinsic part of his personality. However, this version of Cyrano has a feisty and combative side that he shows during this theater play. Cyrano is at this theater venue because he wants to be the star of the show.

On stage, Cyrano confronts an actor named Montfleury (played by Mark Benton) in an imperious voice: “What are you doing here? I sent you a letter last week urging you to retire.” Montfleury snaps back, “I received your letter, and I burned it!” Cyrano’s response is to chase Monfleury off of the stage. The audience is amused when Cyrano announces about Montfleury’s departure: “I have saved you from seeing a fiasco!”

But things soon get dangerous when a man in the audience named Valvert (played by Joshua James) calls Cyrano a “freak.” Valvert and Cyrano end up fighting with swords on stage. Their duel ends with Cyrano’s victory. Cyrano then makes this self-deprecating comment to the audience: “What you heard is not a rumor. I’m living proof that God has a sick sense of humor.”

However, Valvert is a very sore loser. He lunges at Cyrano, a tussle ensues, and Cyrano stabs Valvert, who dies. Needless to say, all the chaos and violence have abruptly ended this show, as people in the audience leave, with many of them feeling horrified or in shock.

One of the people who’s disgusted by what took place is De Guiche, who tells Roxanne on the way back home that Cyrano went too far. Roxanne tells De Guiche that Cyrano was only acting in self-defense. She says that Cyrano is her oldest friend, and she knows him as someone who would never intentionally murder someone. De Guiche is not impressed, and he advises Roxanne to end her friendship with Cyrano.

Cyrano has another close confidant. His name is Captain Le Bret (played by Bashir Salahuddin), who is also a member of the King’s Guard. Cyrano has confided in Le Bret about his love for Roxanne and has sworn Le Bret to secrecy about it. For all of Cyrano’s bravado in public, he’s still very insecure about expressing many of his private feelings, especially when it comes to love.

When Christian becomes a newly recruited soldier for the King’s Guard, Roxanne sees him for the first time. And she’s convinced that it’s love at first sight. Christian wants to act on his attraction to Roxanne, but he doesn’t think he’s smart enough for her. Christian and Cyrano become friends, and Christian notices how Cyrano is an excellent writer. And so, Christian asks his new friend Cyrano to pretend to be Christian in writing love letters to Roxanne. After some reluctance, Cyrano obliges.

People who know the original “Cyrano de Bergerac” story will know how the rest of the movie will go, because this musical adheres fairly close to the source material. The love letters work their charm, but Roxanne is confused over why Christian is so inarticulate in person, compared to his letters. Cyrano is torn about whether or not to tell Roxanne the truth, because Cyrano’s role in this deception could permanently ruin his relationship with Roxanne. Meanwhile, the love triangle saga plays out on battlefields, in bedrooms and in the neutral meeting place of Cyrano’s baker/poet friend Ragueneau (played by Peter Wight). Ultimately, difficult choices must be made.

Dinklage, who is immensely talented and has a wonderfully expressive face, makes some of the scenes almost heartbreaking to watch. Dinklage’s Cyrano isn’t a flimsy caricature but rather complex in how Cyrano deals with his inner turmoil but often puts up a brave front to the public. Bennett performs well as Roxanne, while Harrison is good but a little generic in his role as Christian. Harrison is the best singer of the three cast members portraying this love triangle.

The rest of the cast members in supporting roles are serviceable but stereotypical. Salahuddin plays a predictable loyal sidekick. Mendelsohn portrays yet another villain in a long list of movie villains that he’s depicted in his career. Still, there’s that touch of swagger that Mendelsohn brings to the role of De Guiche that makes this character somewhat amusing to watch.

“Cyrano” has 13 original songs, with music written by twin brothers Bryce Dessner and Aaron Dessner and lyrics by Matt Berninger and Carin Besser. The Dessner brothers also wrote the movie’s musical score. Berninger, Bryce Dessner and Aaron Dessner are all members of the rock band The National. The music of “Cyrano” carries the story along just fine, but it’s not an exceptional soundtrack. Where the movie falters the most is in how the lyrics for these original songs are sometimes cornball and trite, like something written for a school production.

In De Guiche’s big showcase song “What I Deserve,” he pouts as he bellows these lyrics: “Come, Roxanne, am I asking for too much? Why should I have to beg for what everybody wants? Take me right now. I don’t care if I have your love. I don’t have fear. Nothing’s even, nothing’s fair. Roxanne, I didn’t ask you to be here. I’ll pick the lock, I’ll draw the knife. I’ll climb the walls, I’ll crash the gate, because I deserve a happy life.” This is supposed to be the defining song for the movie’s chief villain? No thank you.

And although the movie’s dialogue is thankfully not too flowery, sometimes it veers too much in the opposite direction of being overly simplistic and dull. This is what Roxanne has to say when she begins to see that Christian isn’t as smart as she was expecting: “He might be an incredibly beautiful man with the mind of a rabbit. He can’t be. I need him not to be.” Maybe those lines might pass muster in a TV soap opera, but they just sound a little out of place in a movie with such lavish costumes and elaborate production design.

“Cyrano” keeps a fairly good pace throughout the story, but there are still a few moments that drag monotonously. Some viewers might be disappointed that there aren’t more scenes of Roxanne and Cyrano together. Because this version of Cyrano has a personality that’s less predictable and more volatile than other movie interpretations of the character, Dinklage really carries the film when it comes to keeping viewer interest. For all of the movie’s flaws, Dinklage’s riveting performance is a memorable and spirited interpretation of a character that is often portrayed as self-pitying and borderline pathetic in other versions of “Cyrano de Bergerac.”

Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures released “Cyrano” for a limited engagement in Los Angeles, beginning on December 17, 2021. The movie is set for a wide release in U.S. cinemas on February 25, 2022.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival: complete list of winners

May 4, 2019

Tribeca Film Festival - white logo

The following is a press release from the Tribeca Film Festival:

The 18th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, announced the winning filmmakers, storytellers, and actors in its competition categories at this year’s awards ceremony on May 2, 2019, at the Stella Artois Theatre at BMCC TPAC. The top honors went to Burning Cane for the Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature, House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae) for Best International Narrative Feature, and Scheme Birds for Best Documentary Feature. The Festival awarded $165,000 in cash prizes. The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival runs through May 5.

Rania Attieh won the Nora Ephron Award and a $25,000 prize for Initials S.G. (Iniciales S.G.). The award, created seven years ago, honors excellence in storytelling by a female writer or director embodying the spirit and boldness of the late filmmaker.

Tribeca honored innovation in storytelling with its Storyscapes Award, which went to The Key, created by Celine Tricart.

“I’m so proud to see our juries reward a group of winners that is truly representative of the diversity of story and accomplishment in craft at this year’s Festival.  We are particularly excited for the many first-time filmmakers the jury chose to recognize, and feel like this year’s winners signal a bright future ahead for independent film,” said Festival Director Cara Cusumano.

Awards were given in the following feature film competition categories: Founders Award for Best Narrative, International Narrative, Documentary, New Narrative Director, The Albert Maysles New Documentary Director, and the Nora Ephron Award, honoring a woman writer or director. Short films were honored in the Narrative, Documentary, Student Visionary and Animation categories.

This year’s Festival included 113 feature-length films, 63 short films, and 33 immersive storytelling projects representing 44 countries.

Screenings of the award-winning films will take place throughout the final day of the Festival: Sunday, May 5, at various venues. Specific times and ticketing information are available at www.tribecafilm.com/festival.

The winners of the Audience Awards, powered by AT&T, which are determined by audience votes throughout the Festival via the Festival app, were announced on May 4.

In addition to cash awards and in-kind services provided by sponsors including AT&T, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, CHANEL, CNN Films, and PwC, a number of the winners were presented with original pieces of art created by contemporary artists: Jane Dickson, Shepard Fairey, Stephen Hannock, JR, Eddie Kang, Jeff Koons, Walter Robinson, Amy Sillman, Swoon, and Fred Tomaselli.

The winners, awards, and comments from the jury who selected the recipients are as follows:

U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION CATEGORIES

The jurors for the 2019 U.S. Narrative Competition were Lucy AlibarJonathan AmesCory HardrictDana Harris, and Jenny Lumet.

Wendell Pierce in “Burning Cane” (Photo by Phillip Youmans)

Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature – Burning Cane, directed by Phillip Youmans. The winner receives $20,000, sponsored by AT&T, and the art award “Bloom” by Fred Tomaselli. The award was given by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal on behalf of the jury. Jury comment: “The Founders Award goes to a voice that is searingly original. One of the jurors compared this filmmaker’s unique voice to a latter day Faulkner, Welty, Williams. We loved this filmmaker’s vision and we love this filmmaker’s inevitable brilliant future. We are honored to present this award to Phillip Youmans for Burning Cane.”

Haley Bennett in “Swallow” (Photo by Katelin Arizmendi)

Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Haley Bennett in Swallow. Jury comment: “For a sensitive, engaging performance the best actress award goes to Haley Bennett for Swallow.”

  • Jury special mention: “For her always surprising and deeply engaging work in Stray DollsGeetanjali Thapi.

Wendell Pierce in “Burning Cane” (Photo by Phillip Youmans)

Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Wendell Pierce in Burning Cane. Jury comment: “For his portrayal of a troubled, passionate Preacher the best actor award goes to Wendell Pierce in Burning Cane.”

Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Phillip Youmans for Burning Cane. Jury comment: “The cinematography was bold and swung for the fences, the award goes to Phillip Youmans for Burning Cane.”

  • Special Jury mention: “For work that took us to the icy coasts and sweltering kitchens of rural Maine, Todd Banhazl for Blow the Man Down.

Morgan Saylor and Priscilla Connolly in “Blow the Man Down” (Photo by Jeong “JP” Park)

Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy for Blow the Man Down.  The winner receives $2,500. Jury comment: “For a stylized, thrilling story of secrets, Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy for Blow the Man Down.”

  • Special jury mention: “To a story of a woman finding her biological family and her logical family on the highway, Ani Simon-Kennedy for The Short History of the Long Road.”

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE COMPETITION CATEGORIES

The jurors for the 2019 International Narrative Competition were Gbenga AkinnagbeAngela BassettBaltasar Kormákur,Rebecca Miller, and Steve Zaillian.

Saebyuk Kim and Ji-hu Park in “House of Hummingbird” (Photo courtesy of Epiphany Films)

Best International Narrative Feature – House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae) (South Korea, USA) directed and written by Bora Kim.The winner receives $20,000 and the art award “Easter” by Eddie Kang. Jury comment: “In this beautiful film, a seemingly un-exceptional girl is truly seen by another human being for the first time. Through that random connection, her perspective of herself, and hence her life, is transformed. The award for Best International Narrative Feature goes to Bora Kim for House of Hummingbird.

Ji-hu Park in “House of Hummingbird” (Photo courtesy of Epiphany Films)

Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature Film – Ji-hu Park in House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae) (South Korea, USA). Jury comment: “For a subtle performance of enormous range and complexity, the award for Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature goes to Ji-hu Park in House of Hummingbird.

Ali Atay and Haluk Bilginer in “Noah Land” (Photo by Federico Cesca)

Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature Film – Ali Atay in Noah Land. Jury comment: “For an emotionally powerful and truthful portrayal of a conflicted and self-destructive man struggling to make sense of his life, the award for Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature goes to Ali Atay in Noah Land.”

“House of Hummingbird” (Photo courtesy of Epiphany Films)

Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature Film – Cinematography by Kang Gook-hyun for House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae) (South Korea, USA) directed by Bora Kim. Jury comment: “For empathetic, patient, yet specific and assured cinematography which allows us to embark on a young girl’s journey as she comes to terms with who she truly is, the award for Best Cinematography in an international narrative feature goes to Gook-hyun Kang for House of Hummingbird.”

Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature Film – Noah Land (Nuh Tepesi) written by Cenk Ertürk (Germany, Turkey, USA). The winner receives $2,500. Jury comment: “For its perceptive and nuanced storytelling of an estranged father and son struggling to understand the past, each other and themselves, the award for Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature goes to Cenk Ertürk for Noah Land.

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION CATEGORIES

The jurors for the 2019 Documentary Competition were Drake DoremusRobert Greene, Julie GoldmanAndrew LaVallee, and Cheryl McDonough.

“Scheme Birds” (Photo by Ellinor Hallin)

Best Documentary Feature – Scheme Birds (Scotland, Sweden) directed and written by Ellen Fiske, Ellinor Hallin. The winner receives $20,000, and the art award “Oil Lotus Woman” by Shepard Fairey. Jury Comment: “For its poetic, haunting depiction of compelling characters living on the edge. Every element of the film, from editing to cinematography to point of view, is superb. The filmmakers convey their voice in a unique and present-tense way. We’re proud to present the award for best documentary feature to Scheme Birds.”

“Our Time Machine”

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film – Cinematography by Yang Sun, Shuang Liang for Our Time Machine (China) directed by Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang. The winner receives $2,500. Jury comment: “For its insightful visual style that captures loss and uses both intimate and grand spaces to maximum effect. The images elevated a universal story to the realm of dream and metaphor. The award for best cinematography goes to Our Time Machine.

Emmanuel Sanford-Durant in “17 Blocks” (Photo by Davy Busta)

Best Editing in a Documentary Film – Editing by Jennifer Tiexiera for 17 Blocks (USA) directed by Davy Rothbart.  The winner receives $2,500. Jury comment: “The award for best editing goes to a film for its profound treatment of vast amounts of honest, often raw footage. The film is structured in a way that renders some of the most affecting moments with great subtlety. Viewers are transformed over the course of the film, a testament to the choices made in its making. The award for best editing goes to 17 Blocks.”

  • Special Jury mention: “This brave film uses editing to reveal narrative layers that weren’t immediately apparent, challenging and surprising viewers along the way. The special jury mention goes to Rewind.”

BEST NEW NARRATIVE DIRECTOR COMPETITION

The jurors for the 2019 Best New Narrative Director Competition were Stephen Kay, Bill KeithJustin LongPiper Perabo, and Mélita Toscan du Plantier.

Ana (Regina Reynoso) and Lalo (Eduardo Banda) in “The Gasoline Thieves”

Best New Narrative Director – The Gasoline Thieves (Huachicolero) (Mexico, Spain, UK, USA) directed by Edgar Nito. The winner receives $10,000, and the art award “Love Trap” by Walter Robinson. Jury comment: “A coming of age story, social commentary, and at some points a revenge tale, this new director juggles each genre with equal sensitivity and truth. The film is impressively shot, with the messy and complicated inner workings of the characters’ situations reflected in the emotional camera work that has a blazing intensity. Like the movie’s central character, this movie is defined more by its heart than its swagger. We present the Best New Narrative Director award to Edgar Nito for The Gasoline Thieves. We can’t wait to see more from Edgar.”

BEST NEW DOCUMENTARY DIRECTOR COMPETITION

The jurors for the 2019 Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award were David CrossOrlando von Einsiedel, and Kathrine Narducci.

“Scheme Birds” (Photo by Ellinor Hallin)

Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award – Scheme Birds (Scotland, Sweden) directed by Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin. The winner receives $10,000 sponsored by CNN Films, and the art award “Indigo Rocket Over Tribeca” by Stephen HannockJury comment: “For a film that tells a deeply compelling story, but realised with cinematic vision and invited us intimately into the lives of the film’s characters. This film is a remarkable achievement, made even more so because it’s from first time feature directors. The winners for the Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director are Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin for Scheme Birds.”

THE NORA EPHRON AWARD

The jurors for the 2019 Nora Ephron Award, presented by CHANEL, were Debra MessingChloë Sevigny, and DeWanda Wise.

Diego Peretti in “Initials SG (Iniciales SG)” (Photo by Roman Kasseroller)

The Nora Ephron Award – Rania Attieh for Initials S.G. (Iniciales S.G.) (Argentina, Lebanon, USA) directed by Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia. Rania receives $25,000, sponsored by CHANEL, and the art award “Alison the Lacemaker” by Swoon. Jury comments: “The film we chose is thrilling, distinct, and fully immersive. It was also something we’d never seen before. A true cinematic experience. We are elated to award this years’ Nora Ephron Award to Rania Attieh for Initials S.G.

SHORT FILM COMPETITION CATEGORIES

The jurors for the 2019 Narrative Short Competition and Animated sections were Maureen Dowd, Topher Grace, Rosalind Lichter, Hamish Linklater, Lily Rabe, Phoebe Robinson, and Jeff Scher.

“Maja” (Photo by Manuel Claro)

Best Narrative Short – Maja (Denmark) directed by Marijana Jankovic. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Amy Sillman” by Amy Sillman. Jury comment: “A deftly told story of a misunderstood young immigrant girl on her first day at a new school rides a line of danger and yearning innocence, challenging our assumptions and twisting the personal into the political with a grace our moment requires.”

  • Special Jury Mention: “This film celebrates the humanity and ingenuity of a character from the margins of society on a propulsive, fast-pedaling quest for the best tortilla in New York, The Dishwasher directed and written by Nick Hartanto, Sam Roden.

“My Mother’s Eyes” (Image by Jenny Wright)

Shorts Animation Award – My Mother’s Eyes (UK) directed and written by Jenny Wright. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Balloon Dog, Magneta” by Jeff Koons. Jury comment: “For its delicate, elegantly simple, breathtakingly imaginative animation and its ability to hold the heart of anyone who has a mother — whether beating in grief or in celebration. To this indelible portrait of immeasurable love, we are thrilled to give this award to My Mother’s Eyes.

The jurors for the 2019 Short Documentary and Student Visionary Competitions were Dr. Kevin Cahill, David Krumholtz, Kathy Najimy, Sheila Nevins, Agunda Okeyo, Aaron Rodgers, and Buster Scher.

“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)” (Photo by Lisa Rinzler)

Best Documentary Short –Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl (UK) directed by Carol Dysinger. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “28 Millimeters, Portrait of a Generation” by JR. Jury comment: “A revelatory tale of how skateboarding can fuel the future of dignified resistance to gender oppression in war torn Afghanistan. Told through the Innocent confessions of young girls and the steadfast dedication of their headstrong female instructors, this film shines an uncompromising and ultimately uplifting light onto righting injustice.”

  • Special Jury Mention: “An unflinching and delicate portrait of a loving father with a haunted past who bravely decides to stand up to the powers that be in Ferguson, Missouri in St. Louis Superman.”

Jala Hesham and Sara Abed in “Jabel Banat” (Photo by Moustafa El Kashef)

Student Visionary Award – Jebel Banat (Egypt) directed and written by Sharine Atif. The winner receives $5,000 sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, and the art award “Chrysler Building” by Jane Dickson. Jury comment: “This tale of gendered oppression and aspirant liberation paints a searing portrait of life in the Egyptian countryside. Two inseparable young women are tested on their commitment to local mores despite their growing fear of losing themselves and each other.”

  • Special Jury mention: “Set in rural China, this stunningly cinematic short Pearl (Zhen Zhu) follows the strife of a small family down a path of rupture and loss.”

STORYSCAPES AWARD

The 2019 Storyscapes Award, presented by AT&T, which recognizes groundbreaking approaches in storytelling and technology, jurors were Lisa OsbornePaul Smalera, and Adaora Udoji.

“The Key” (Image courtesy of Lucid Dreams Productions)

Storyscapes Award – The Key (USA, Iraq), created by Celine Tricart.  The winner receives $10,000, presented by AT&T. Jury comment: “This piece was the full package. Emotionally resonant, the winner demonstrates a seamless fusion of technology and narrative. The experience combines a real actor with fantastical, immersive visuals and achieves a rarity in VR storytelling with its use of metaphor to represent an ongoing, real-world crisis. Of particular note are the superbly executed virtual reality technical details, including character design, use of color, and sound design.”

TRIBECA X AWARD

Previously awarded last week were the 2019 Tribeca X Awards, sponsored by PwC. Tribeca X recognizes excellence in storytelling at the intersection of advertising and entertainment. The jurors were Nabil ElderkinKim GehrigJason KreherKinjil Mathur,Patrick Milling-Smith, and John Osborn.

Feature

“Almost Human” (Photo by Sine Vadstrup Brooker)

The winner of the Best Feature Film was awarded to Almost Human for The Carlsberg Foundation. Directed by Jeppe Rønde.

Short

“The Face of Distracted Driving” (Photo by Errol Morris)

The winner of the Best Short Film was awarded to The Face of Distracted Driving for AT&T. Directed by Errol Morris for BBDO New York.

Episodic

“History of Memory” (Photo courtesy of HP)

The winner of the Best Episodic Film was awarded to History of Memory for HP. Directed by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason for Redglass Pictures, The Garage by HP.

VR

“The 100%” (Photo courtesy of Springbok Entertainment)

The winner of the Best VR Film was awarded to The 100% by Stand Up to CancerHP and Intel. Directed by Hernan Barangan for Springbok Entertainment.

AUDIENCE AWARDS WINNERS

Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid in “Plus One” (Photo by Guy Godfree)

In addition, the festival announced the winners of the Audience Awards: the audience choice for Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature films, sponsored by AT&T.  Plus One, written and directed by Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, was honored with the Narrative Audience Award and Gay Chorus Deep South, directed by David Charles Rodrigues, was given the Documentary Audience Award. The winner of each received a cash prize of $10,000.

“These stories are crowd pleasers and united audiences at the Festival,” said Tribeca EVP Paula Weinstein. “Our audiences laughed their way through the screenings of the romantic comedy Plus One lead by Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid and were moved by Gay Chorus Deep South, a timely story that uses music to unite communities around LGBTQ+ rights. We were honored to world premiere these films and know audiences elsewhere will love them as much as ours did at Tribeca.”

“So many of the people who worked on Plus One met in New York, and bringing the film back to this city has been an overwhelmingly emotional experience,” said directors Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer. “We are over the moon excited by the audience response to our film and can’t wait to share it with the rest of the world when it releases on June 14th!”

“Gay Chorus Deep South” (Photo by Adam Hobbs)

“The entire reason we made this film was to bring this message of belonging of the LGBTQ community and all other communities that are considered “the other” to as many people as possible in the world and the Audience Award at Tribeca is the ultimate celebration of exactly this,” said David Charles Rodrigues. “We are honored and humbled by this award. Thank you Tribeca from the bottom of our hearts.”

The runners-up were See You Yesterday, directed by Stefon Bristol, for the Narrative Audience Award and Watson, directed by  Lesley Chilcott, for the Documentary Audience Award. Throughout the Festival, which kicked off on April 24, audience members voted by using the official Tribeca Film Festival app on their mobile devices and rated the film they had just viewed from 1-5 stars. Films in the U.S. Narrative Competition, International Narrative Competition, Documentary Competition, Viewpoints, Narrative Spotlight, Narrative Documentary, Movies Plus, Midnight, This Used to Be New York, and Tribeca Critics’ Week sections were eligible.

Audience Award winners and runners-up will screen Sunday, May 5 at Regal Cinema Battery Park Theater along with the winners selected by the Tribeca Film Festival Jury, which were announced on May 2.

  • Plus One: 2:45 PM & 9:00 PM
  • See You Yesterday: 5:45 PM
  • Gay Chorus Deep South:  12:15 PM & 6:00 PM
  • Watson: 3:00 PM & 9:45 PM

For more information on all of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival films and programming, please visit tribecafilm.com/festival

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON PROJECTS RECEIVING HONORS

U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION WINNERS

Blow the Man Down, directed and written by Danielle Krudy, Bridget Savage Cole. Produced by Drew Houpt, Alex Scharfman, Tim Headington, Lia Buman. (USA) – World Premiere. While grieving for the loss of their mother, the Connolly Sisters suddenly find they have a crime to cover up, leading them deep into the underbelly of their salty Maine fishing village. With Morgan Saylor, Sophie Lowe, Margo Martindale, June Squibb, Annette O’Toole, Marceline Hugot.

Burning Cane, directed and written by Phillip Youmans. Produced by Wendell Pierce, Mose Mayer, Ojo Akinlana, Karen Kaia Livers, Cassandra Youmans, Phillip Youmans. (USA) – World Premiere. Set among the cane fields of rural Louisiana, Burning Canefollows a deeply religious mother struggling to reconcile her convictions of faith with the love she has for her troubled son. With Wendell Pierce, Karen Kaia Livers, Dominique McClellan, Braelyn Kelly.

Swallow, directed and written by Carlo Mirabella-Davis. Produced by Mollye Asher, Mynette Louie, Carole Baraton, Frederic Fiore. (USA) – World Premiere. Hunter, a newly pregnant housewife, finds herself increasingly compelled to consume dangerous objects. As her husband and his family tighten their control over her life, she must confront the dark secret behind her new obsession. With Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche and Denis O’Hare.

INTERNATIONAL NARRATIVE COMPETITION WINNERS

House of Hummingbird (Beol-sae), directed and written by Bora Kim. Produced by Zoe Sua Cho, Bora Kim. (South Korea, USA) – North American Premiere. In 1994 Seoul, quiet eighth-grader Eunhee spends her time consumed by love and friendship, shoplifting, and karaoke. But it’s in her new teacher that Eunhee finds the unlikely connection that she has been desperately seeking in this touching coming-of-age drama. With Ji-hu Park, Saebyuk Kim, Seungyeon Lee, Ingi Jeong.

Noah Land (Nuh Tepesi), directed and written by Cenk Ertürk. Produced by Alp Ertürk, Sevki Tuna Ertürk, Cenk Ertürk. (Germany, Turkey, USA) – World Premiere. A son strives to honor his terminally ill father’s last wish to be buried under a tree he planted as a child, but clashes with villagers who claim the tree is in fact a holy relic planted by Noah after the Great Flood. With Ali Atay, Haluk Bilginer, Arin Kusaksizoglu, Mehmet Ozgur, Hande Dogandemir.

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION WINNERS:

17 Blocks, directed by Davy Rothbart, written by Jennifer Tiexiera. Produced by Alex Turtletaub, Michael B. Clark, Marc Turtletaub, Rachel Dengiz, Davy Rothbart. (USA) – World Premiere. Using two decades of intimate home video, 17 Blocks tells the story of the Sanford family, whose struggles with addiction and gun violence eventually lead to a journey of love, loss, and acceptance.

Our Time Machine, directed by Yang Sun, S. Leo Chiang, written by S. Leo Chiang, Bob Lee. Produced by S. Leo Chiang, Yang Sun. (China) – World Premiere. Conceptual artist and puppeteer Ma Liang begins work on an ambitious performance piece about time and memory. For collaboration, he turns to his father, a former director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera, who is beginning to lose his own memories. TFI Supported.

Scheme Birds, directed and written by Ellen Fiske, Ellinor Hallin. Produced by Mario Adamson, Ruth Reid. (Scotland, Sweden) – World Premiere. As her childhood turns into motherhood, teenage troublemaker Gemma comes of age in her fading Scottish steel town. But in a place where “you either get knocked up or locked up,” innocent games can easily turn into serious crime.

BEST NEW NARRATIVE DIRECTOR WINNER

The Gasoline Thieves (Huachicolero), directed by Edgar Nito, written by Alfredo Mendoza, Edgar Nito. Produced by Victor Leycegui, Annick Mahnert, Joshua Sobel. (Mexico, Spain, UK, USA) – World Premiere. Propelled by a need for cash to impress a crush, 14-year-old Mexican farmhand Lalo finds himself dangerously in over his head after entering into the country’s underworld of illegal gasoline extraction. With Eduardo Banda, Pedro Joaquin, Regina Reynoso, Fernando Becerril, Pascacio López, Leonardo Alonso.

BEST NEW DOCUMENTARY DIRECTOR WINNER:

Scheme Birds, directed and written by Ellen Fiske, Ellinor Hallin. Produced by Mario Adamson, Ruth Reid. (Scotland, Sweden) – World Premiere. As her childhood turns into motherhood, teenage troublemaker Gemma comes of age in her fading Scottish steel town. But in a place where “you either get knocked up or locked up,” innocent games can easily turn into serious crime.

THE NORA EPHRON AWARD

Initials S.G. (Iniciales S.G.), directed and written by Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia. Produced by Ivan Eibuszyc, Shruti Ganguly, Georges Schoucair. (Argentina, Lebanon, USA) – World Premiere. An aging Argentine Serge Gainsbourg wannabe struggles with a career he can’t seem to get on track, an affair he doesn’t want, and a crime he didn’t mean to commit. With Diego Peretti, Julianne Nicholson, Daniel Fanego, Malena Sanchez, Francisco Lumerman.

SHORT FILM COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

Jebel Banat, directed and written by Sharine Atif. (Egypt) – North American Premiere, Short Narrative. Two Bedouin sisters hide on a mountain, escaping forced marriages and embarking on a journey of freedom. With Sara Soumaya Abed, Jala Hesham, Soliman El Jebaly. In Arabic with English subtitles.

Learning to Skateboard In a Warzone (If You’re A Girl), directed by Carol Dysinger. (UK) – World Premiere, Short Documentary. Learning To Skateboard In A Warzone (If You’re A Girl) is the story of young Afghan girls learning to read, write—and skateboard—in Kabul. In Dari with English subtitles.

Maja, directed by Marijana Jankovic, written by Marijana Jankovic, Adam August. (Denmark) – New York Premiere, Short Narrative. Maja, a six-year-old Serbian girl, has a difficult time interacting with the other kids—and she ends up being misunderstood and lonesome. With Selena Marsenic, Jesper Christensen, Dejan Cukic, Marijana Jankovic. In Danish, Serbian with English subtitles.

My Mother’s Eyes, directed and written by Jenny Wright. (UK) – New York Premiere. My Mother’s Eyes is a story about motherhood and loss in the abstracted world of childhood memory.

STORYSCAPES AWARD

The Key (World Premiere) – USA, Iraq

Project Creator: Celine Tricart

Key Collaborators: Gloria Bradbury

An interactive VR experience taking the viewer on a journey through memories. Will they be able to unlock the mystery behind the mysterious Key without sacrificing too much?

TRIBECA X  AWARD

X Best Feature

Almost Human

Notes on the human condition by 10 scientist and a robot. Stephen Fry narrates Jeppe Rønde’s visionary science essay, where the artistic ambitions have intergalactic dimensions.

Director: Jeppe Rønde

Brand: The Carlsberg Foundation

X Best Short Film

The Face of Distracted Driving – Forrest

Tells the story of Forrest Cepeda, a 16-year-old boy who was killed in a distracted driving accident.

Director: Errol Morris

Brand: AT&T

Agency: BBDO New York

X Best Episodic

History of Memory

From Florida to India, Beijing to New Orleans, History of Memory is a documentary series about people whose lives were forever altered by the discovery, creation, or preservation of one photograph.

Director: Sarah Klein, Tom Mason

Brand: HP

Agency: Redglass Pictures, the Garage by HP

X Best VR

The 100%

An immersive experience following the harrowing and inspirational journey of Maggie Kurdirka, a ballet dancer and rising star at the Joffrey Concert Group, who at 23 years old was diagnosed with incurable stage four metastatic breast cancer.

Director: Hernan Barangan

Brand: Stand Up To Cancer, HP

Agency: Springbok Entertainment

ABOUT THE AUDIENCE AWARD WINNING FILMS AND RUNNERS-UP

WINNERS:

Gay Chorus Deep South, directed by David Charles Rodrigues, written by David Charles Rodrigues, Jeff Gilbert. Produced by Bud Johnston, Jesse Moss. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Documentary. To confront a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ laws, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarks on an unprecedented bus tour through the Deep South, celebrating music, challenging intolerance, and confronting their own dark coming out stories. With The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Dr. Tim Seelig, Ashlé, Jimmy White

  • The film played in the Movies Plus section.

Plus One, directed and written by Jeff Chan, Andrew Rhymer. Produced by Jeremy Reitz, Debbie Liebling, Ross Putman, Jeff Chan, Andrew Rhymer, Greg Beauchamp. (USA) – World Premiere. In order to survive a summer of wedding fever, longtime single friends Ben and Alice agree to be each other’s plus one at every goddamn wedding they’re invited to. With Maya Erskine, Jack Quaid, Ed Begley Jr., Rosalind Chao, Beck Bennett, Finn Wittrock.

  • The Film played in the Spotlight Narrative section.

RUNNERS UP:

See You Yesterday, directed by Stefon Bristol, written by Stefon Bristol & Fredrica Bailey. Produced by Spike Lee, Jason Sokoloff, Matt Myers. (USA) – World Premiere, Feature Narrative. Two Brooklyn teenage prodigies, C.J. Walker and Sebastian Thomas, build make-shift time machines to save C.J.’s brother, Calvin, from being wrongfully killed by a police officer.

  • The film played in the Viewpoints section.

Watson, directed by Lesley Chilcott. Producers: Louise Runge, Lesley Chilcott, Wolfgang Knöpfler. . (USA, Costa Rica, Tonga) – World Premiere. Co-founder of Greenpeace and founder of Sea Shepherd, Captain Paul Watson has spent 40 years fighting to end the destruction of the ocean’s wildlife and its habitat. Part pirate, part philosopher, Watson’s methods stop at nothing to protect what lies beneath.

  • The film played in the Documentary Competition section.

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 About the Tribeca Film Festival:

The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, brings visionaries and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, VR, gaming, music, and online work. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is a platform for creative expression and immersive entertainment. The Festival champions emerging and established voices; discovers award-winning filmmakers and creators; curates innovative experiences; and introduces new technology and ideas through premieres, exhibitions, talks, and live performances.

The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. Now in its 18th year, the Festival has evolved into a destination for creativity that reimagines the cinematic experience and explores how art can unite communities. The 18th annual edition will take place April 24 – May 5, 2019.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Swallow’

May 1, 2019

by Carla Hay

Haley Bennett in "Swallow"
Haley Bennett in “Swallow” (Photo by Katelin Arizmendi)

“Swallow”

Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 28, 2019.

People familiar with reality TV might know about the TLC series “My Strange Addiction,” which was on the air from 2010 to 2015. Every episode documented people with unusual compulsions and obsessions, and a great deal of these episodes featured someone addicted to eating non-food objects. That eating disorder is called pica. The dramatic film “Swallow” is a disturbing fictional look at a young woman who has that disorder.

In “Swallow” (written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis), Haley Bennett plays a housewife named Hunter, who seems to have it all: a wealthy and handsome husband who dotes on her, a baby on the way (her first child), and a beautiful home that she can decorate any way she pleases. But underneath her meek and soft-spoken surface, Hunter is a very disturbed person, and her husband Richie (played by Austin Stowell) is a control-freak perfectionist who treats her like a trophy.

Richie is the type of controlling spouse who gets angry at Hunter because she didn’t iron a silk tie the way he wanted it ironed. Hunter is also living a fairly isolated existence. She seems to have no friends of her own because the people with whom she and Richie socialize are Richie’s friends. Image-obsessed Richie wants the world to think he has a perfect marriage.

It’s widely known that people who develop eating disorders do so because they don’t feel in control of their lives, and their eating habit is their way of trying to feel in control. Hunter’s descent into self-harm begins when she reads a book called “A Talent for Joy” by Bing Roden. (The book and author have been fabricated for this movie.) The book advises readers to try new and adventurous things.

We get the first hint that something is off with Hunter when she’s having dinner at a fancy restaurant with Richie and his snooty parents, Katherine (played by Elizabeth Marvel) and Michael (played by David Rasche), who treat their son like a prince and treat Hunter like a minor inconvenience. However, they seem to be happy that pregnant Hunter will produce an heir for their family. At the dinner, Hunter seems to get excited, perhaps sexually aroused, when she begins chewing on something uncomfortable—ice.

During the course of the movie, we find out that Richie’s parents don’t really approve of the marriage because they think he could have married someone from a better socioeconomic class. Hunter used to work as some sort of clothing retail clerk before she married Richie—something that Katherine sniffs about in hushed tones when she brings up Hunter’s past.

Meanwhile, eating that ice triggers Hunter into consuming several objects that might be too disturbing for some people to see it portrayed on screen. (There were a few people who walked out of the screening I attended, apparently because the idea of a pregnant woman doing this was just too much for them to handle.) The objects that Hunter swallows include a marble, a tack, a battery, paper, a thimble, a button, dirt and a safety pin. The fact that she’s harming her unborn child is of little concern to her, because she apparently doesn’t want to be pregnant.

It’s no surprise that Hunter ends up in the emergency room, where her secret is exposed. Richie and his parents are naturally alarmed and furious. Because she is pregnant, they’re going to do whatever it takes to get her to stop harming herself. They immediately put Hunter into therapy, where she tells her therapist Alice (played by Zabryna Guevara) why she likes to swallow inedible objects: “I like the texture in my mouth. It makes me feel in control.”

And where is Hunter’s biological family in this crisis? That’s an answer the movie reveals but it’s best not to include that spoiler information in this review. However, it is enough to say that her family background has a lot to do with her eating disorder. Even though Hunter promises Richie that she’ll stop, she can’t get rid of her eating disorder that easily. Richie and his parents then take extreme measures to get control of Hunter’s disturbing obsession, which results in Hunter confronting her past.

“Swallow” has a very small cast, which is a reflection of how small and insular Hunter’s world is. In her portrayal of this troubled soul, actress Bennett does a chilling but impressive performance as someone who seems mild-mannered on the outside but has raging self-hatred on the inside. Hunter’s repressed desperation seems to seep through her pores and linger in the air, even in moments of silence.

“Swallow” writer/director Mirabella-Davis says that the Hunter character was inspired by his real-life grandmother Edith, who was afflicted with pica. Like Hunter, Edith was a housewife who was stuck in a miserable marriage, according to Mirabella-Davis. The director also consulted with Dr. Rachel Bryant-Waugh, a leading psychology expert on pica. All of that background information makes a difference, because the movie has a level of authenticity that will make people very uncomfortable and might leave some haunting memories.

 UPDATE: IFC Films will release “Swallow” in New York City and Los Angeles and on VOD on March 6, 2020. The movie’s theatrical release expands to more U.S. cities on March 13, 2020.

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