TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2014: MUST-SEE FILMS

Robert De Niro and movie producer Jane Rosenthal put together the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 as a place for indie directors from around the world to come together and get their day in the sun, showcasing their work. Lower Manhattan is infiltrated for two weeks in April (16th-27th) with dreamers and creative with wares for sale, looking to showcase art in the form of film that they have put blood, sweat and tears into. Filmmakers and distributors collide and magic is inevitably made. Here are HYDROGEN’s must-see films for this year’s festival.

TIME IS ILLMATIC (opening film)
Director: One9

TIME IS ILLMATIC

The mere fact that Time is Illmatic is opening the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival is dope. It also shows how far we have come, where a documentary about a rapper from New York can open a prestigious film festival.

Nasir Jones a.k.a. Nas’ 1994 debut album, Illmatic, is universally held up as a defining body of work, and one of rap’s most important albums. “N.Y. State of Mind” changed the game – the first prolific track of the album and 20 years on, director One9 takes us back to the beginning with his documentary, Time is Illmatic, tracing Nas back to his Queensbridge roots, fighting to make inroads into the rap game.

Nas is reflective here, lending personal thoughts that flesh out along with his collaborators, that give a layering to the Illmatic story like never before and places it in a historical framing that is a gift, particularly to a younger generation growing up on a steady diet of Drake, Kanye West ad Lil Wayne. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the value of taking a look back at the work of a master lyricist is an education worth having.

GABRIEL
Director: Lou Howe
Who’s in it: Rory Culkin, David Call, Deirdre O’Connell, Louisa Krause, Emily Meade, Alexia Rasmussen, Lynn Cohen

GABRIEL (IMG: CLEAN MACHINE PRODUCTIONS)

There are many Culkins out there, Macaulay (Home Alone, Party Monster, Saved!) being the most famous. There’s also Kieran (The Cider House Rules, Paper Man, Margaret) and then there is younger brother Rory Culkin – lesser known, but with his triumphant and raw performance in Gabriel, that will soon change. Culkin is directed by Lou Howe – a relative newcomer to the scene, starring as a damaged teenager on an a quest to reunite with his true love. But this is no ordinary search. It is obsessive, desperate, dangerous. Undeterred by his worried family, nothing will stand between Gabriel and happiness that seems elusive. Howe directs affectingly, and Culkin shines, giving a nuanced and complex performance fraught emotion that rings so true.

BEGIN AGAIN
Director: John Carney
Who’s in it: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Catherine Keener, James Corden, Yasiin Bey

BEGIN AGAIN (IMG: THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY)

Once director John Carney is at it again, with musical feature, Begin Again, where the sweet strummings of music are as much a character as anyone or anything else. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo star here, as two music lovers – a music label executive and a singer/ songwriter – on the come-down, who set out on a musical exploration together, their detractors be damned

ALEX OF VENICE
Director: Chris Messina
Who’s in it: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Messina, Don Johnson, Derek Luke, Skylar Gaertner, Katie Nehra

ALEX OF VENICE (IMG: ELECTRIC CITY ENTERTAINMENT)

Scene stealer Chris Messina (Argo, The Newsroom, The Mindy Project), rises to the occasion, directing and starring in Alex of Venice. Playing George, husband to Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who asked for a separation from his attorney wife who puts work above all else. Yes, its well-trodden path as movies go, especially the indie variety, but the combination of Messina and particularly Winstead (Smashed, The Spectacular Now, Faults) brings something special to this drama with Winstead generously given room to spread her wings, rising to the occasion.

THE ONE I LOVE
Director: Charlie McDowell
Who’s in it: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ted Danson

THE ONE I LOVE (IMG: TRIBECA FILM)

The One I Love was a darling of the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Charlie McDowell explores a marriage falling to pieces after infidelity in this dramedy, with a couple (Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass) escaping on a weekend adventure in order to regain their footing only to be presented with the unexpected.

ABOUT ALEX
Director: Jesse Zwick
Who’s in it: Maggie Grace, Max Greenfield, Aubrey Plaza, Max Minghella, Jane Levy, Nate Parker, Jason Ritter

ABOUT ALEX (IMG: FOOTPRINT FEATURES)

A pack of friends who have grown apart over the natural course of life, come together for a weekend when a friend faces a tragedy, in the Jesse Zwick-directed About Alex. And time has a funny way of changing people as no one is who they once were and the passage of time and these changes might prove insurmountable. But don’t get too down-in-the-mouth as this funny cast of characters from Aubrey Plaza to Max Greenfield and Jason Ritter make this pill easier to swallow with fine work that makes this gem of a thing one to watch at Tribeca 2014.

EVERY SECRET THING
Director: Amy Berg
Who’s in it: Dakota Fanning, Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Danielle Macdonald, Common, Nate Parker

EVERY SECRET THING (IMG: HYDE PARK ENTERTAINMENT)

Best selling author Laura Lippman’s tome Every Secret Thing has been adapted into a feature, directed by Amy Berg (West of Memphis). This is a tough tale of two girls (Dakota Fanning and Danielle MacDonald), convicted of the kidnapping of an infant, now reintegrating back into society and struggling to do so after being locked up for seven years. But when another child goes missing, and two investigators (Elizabeth Banks and Nate Parker) are tasked with solving the tangled case, suspicion again surrounds the two girls, now young women, and more secrets come out, rocking the community once again.

STARRED UP
Director: David Mackenzie
Who’s in it: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend

STARRED UP (IMG: TRIBECA FILM)

Jack O’Connell (Skins)is a revelation. The 23 year-old is a talent beyond his years and a rough diamond in the polishing process that shows scary potential and a natural ability to move that cannot be taught. In Starred Up, a prison drama, O’Connell plays Eric who is reunited with his father (Ben Mendelsohn) in the unlikeliest of places, in prison. The two are forced to confront demons from the past, and find a way to mend the brokenness between them.

BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY
Director: Aron Gaudet, Gita Pullapilly
Who’s in it: Emory Cohen, Aidan Gillen, Callan McAuliffe, Zoe Levin, Sarah Sutherland

BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY (IMG: TRIBECA FILM)

Set in Maine, Beneath the Harvest Sky, has shavings of Stand By Me, the 2.0 version. The growing pains of adolescence are tested here when Casper (Emory Cohen) with the help of wayward parenting of his father (Aiden Gillen – Game of Thrones) gets tangled up with drugs. Buddy Dominic (Callan McAuliffe) wants out of Maine for good, with his eyes set on Boston and new beginnings.

THE CANAL
Director: Ivan Kavanagh
Stars: Rupert Evans, Antonia Campbell Hughes, Steve Oram, Kelly Byrne, Hannah Hoekstra

THE CANAL (IMG: PARK FILMS)

Ivan Kavanah offers up dread and horror with visual genius in Irish entry, The Canal (think The Shining, but darker). Rupert Evans plays a film archivist who moves into a new house with his wife and son where a massacre has occurred. And if you think you know what comes next, you are wrong. This horror movie is inventive, taking a bite out of the conventional and intent on keeping you up at night.

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