Tribeca Film Festival - 2009The Tribeca Film Festival has been in the news lately for significant personnel changes, but what about the movies? This year's edition gets underway on April 22, and Cinematical has received a list of the first 38 of the 86 feature films that will be screened. A few titles that jumped out at me:

The Eclipse. The great Ciaran Hinds stars in an "atmospheric drama about a widower who sees and hears strange things in his house." Hinds was fairly magnificent in the TV series Rome and stood out in Steven Spielberg's Munich. Add to that Iben Hjejle and Aidan Quinn as writers the widower encounters at a literary festival, and this is a drama that I want to see.

The Fish Child. Lucia Puenzo made the well-regarded XXY and now comes a "a passionate love story in the arms of a pulsating thriller." I love the idea that for her sophomore feature, the director has made what is evidently a very different type of movie than her quieter debut drama.

Stay Cool. The Polish Brothers (Northfork) return with a "charming comedy" about a high school reunion of sorts, with Winona Ryder and Hilary Duff. Manure was sharply criticized at Sundance just a couple of months ago; could Stay Cool possibly be any good? Winona Ryder doesn't get seen enough, and Hilary Duff has made interesting choices, so this could be surprisingly good -- or another train wreck.

Outrage. Documentarian Kirby Dick, who made the terrific This Film is Not Yet Rated, turns to the subject of "the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who actively campaign against the LGBT community they covertly belong to." I'm hoping it's as sensational as it sounds.

After the jump: The complete announcement. Browse away, and tell us what looks good to you!


The 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by American Express, the founding sponsor of the Festival, today announced the first 38 films to be presented among the 86 feature length and 46 short films at this year's Festival. The titles unveiled include 24 World Narrative and Documentary Competition films, as well 14 Discovery selections, showcasing new and emerging voices in film. The eighth annual Festival also announced eleven advance selection and discount ticket packages, which will be available for purchase beginning March 9, 2009 for American Express Cardmembers and for the general public on Monday, March 16, 2009. The 2009 Tribeca Film Festival will take place from April 22 to May 3, 2009 in lower Manhattan.

The 2009 film selection encompasses feature films from 33 different countries, including 48 World Premieres, 5 International Premieres, 14 North American Premieres, 3 U.S. Premieres and 11 New York City Premieres, as well as 8 titles, which are part of the third annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. 81 directors will be presenting feature works at the Festival, with 37 of these filmmakers presenting their feature directorial debuts. 23 of the 81 directors are women. The 2009 feature films were chosen from a total of 2,254 feature submissions.

"Each year we look forward to bringing our films to the most engaged movie-going audience and providing filmmakers a global stage," said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival. "Film festivals play a critical role in the life of a film. Tribeca is here to support these films and filmmakers along their journey. We are very proud of the slate this year and hope everyone will come and enjoy the festival."

"The films this year will either entertain you, allow you to escape to faraway places, or encourage you to think about familiar stories in new ways," said Nancy Schafer, Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Festival.

"I'm really excited about the fantastic mix of talent we have this year. There are many impressive debut directors and astounding performances by up-and-coming actors whom I believe have strong futures ahead of them," said David Kwok, Director of Programming. "When considering these films alongside the remarkable new work being presented by established talent, I think viewers will be pleased by what they find in our competition and discovery sections."


World Narrative Feature Competition

About Elly (Darbareye Elly), directed and written by Asghar Farhadi. (Iran) – North American Premiere. A group of old college pals reunites for a weekend adventure on the sea, but compounding lies and deception quickly lead to catastrophe. Everyone hopes Sepideh's new friend Elly will hit it off with Ahmad, newly divorced from his German wife and in search of an Iranian bride, but Elly disappears on the second day, plunging the group into a complex mystery. Asghar Farhadi took the Best Director prize at Berlin. In Persian with English subtitles.

Accidents Happen, directed by Andrew Lancaster, written by Brian Carbee. (Australia) – World Premiere. There are dysfunctional families... and then there are the Conways. After a family tragedy, 15-year-old Billy Conway has become the de facto glue between his bitter mom (Geena Davis), distant brother, and stoic dad. But when Billy starts to act out, everything changes for him and his family in this visually stunning, bittersweet drama.

The Eclipse, directed and written by Conor McPherson. (Ireland) – World Premiere. Award-winning screenwriter and Tony-nominated playwright McPherson crafts an exquisite atmospheric drama about a widower (Ciarán Hinds, Munich) who sees and hears strange things in his house. His life converges with a beautiful author of supernatural fiction (Iben Hjejle, High Fidelity) and a full-of-himself pop novelist (Aidan Quinn) at an international literary festival that will alter their lives in surprising ways.

The Exploding Girl, directed and written by Bradley Rust Gray. (USA) – North American Premiere. A tender performance by Zoe Kazan is the centerpiece of this delicate, beautifully shot character study. Cherubic college student Ivy is back home in Brooklyn for spring break with her longtime platonic guy pal Al in tow. As her relationship with her boyfriend slowly disintegrates via cell phone, Al's friendship is cast in a new light.

The Fish Child (El niño pez), directed and written by Lucía Puenzo. (Argentina, Spain, France) – North American Premiere. Likened to a bold Argentine Thelma and Louise, Lucía Puenzo's follow-up to her Cannes winner XXY wraps a passionate love story in the arms of a pulsating thriller. When an upper-class Argentine falls for her family's sultry Paraguayan maid, the two make plans to run away together, but their hope for escape is derailed when shocking secrets become unveiled. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Handsome Harry, directed by Bette Gordon, written by Nicholas T. Proferes. (USA) - World Premiere. Harry (Jamey Sheridan), a divorced father and former sailor, lives a simple life in his small town. But when his dying best friend sparks Harry¹s drive to confront his past, buried secrets resurface and force him to deal with painful memories. This unique and eloquent film also features Aidan Quinn, John Savage, and Campbell Scott.

Here and There (Tamo i ovde), directed and written by Darko Lungulov. (Serbia) – World Premiere. Miserable middle-aged musician Robert suddenly finds himself homeless and in need of quick cash. He accepts an offer from a young, enterprising Serbian immigrant named Branko: Travel to Belgrade, marry Branko's girlfriend, and bring her back to the US. But while on the trip, Robert meets Branko's mother, discovers that happiness comes when least expected, and begins to question whether money or love would be the true cure to his ills. In English and Serbian with English subtitles.

North (Nord), directed by Rune Denstad Langlo, written by Erlend Loe. (Norway) – North American Premiere. A road movie without a road, North is a wry comedy about a former ski champion recovering from a mental breakdown and on a journey to start anew. Having just learned he has a five-year-old son, he hops on his snowmobile with some moonshine, bound for ex-girlfriend's home in Norway's Far North. His oddball encounters along the way make this fresh and original debut both tender and amusing. In Norwegian with English subtitles.

Queen To Play (Joueuse) – directed and written by Caroline Bottaro. (France, Germany) – World Premiere. Sandrine Bonnaire plays an inquisitive hotel maid captivated by a vacationing couple (Jennifer Beals, Francis Renaud) playing chess. Thus begins her obsession with mastering the game and transforming her uninspired life. An American expat (Kevin Kline) mentors her in the game that alters both their lives in this delightful feel-good French import. In French with English subtitles.

Seven Minutes in Heaven (Sheva Dakot Be'gan Eden), directed and written by Omri Givon. (Israel) – International Premiere. A young woman struggles to reconstruct her memory of the events immediately following the Jerusalem bus bombing that took the life of her boyfriend and left her back badly scarred. Part memory play, part love story, and part metaphysical thriller, this startling debut feature announces Givon as a forceful storyteller and exciting new voice in international cinema. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

Stay Cool, directed by Michael Polish, written by Mark Polish. (USA) – World Premiere. Henry McCarthey (Mark Polish) returns home to give the commencement speech at his high school. But even after almost 20 years, it's as if he never left - he again wants the girl, gets suspended by the principal, and is grounded by his parents. This charming comedy, featuring Winona Ryder and Hilary Duff, reminds us that time certainly does fly and old flames are hard to put out.

Vegas: Based on a True Story, directed by Amir Naderi, written by Susan Brennan, Bliss Esposito, Charlie Lake Keaton and Naderi. (USA) – North American Premiere. Returning to the Festival, acclaimed director Amir Naderi applies his inimitable cinematic style to Vegas. The film takes place away from the glittering strip of luxury mega casinos, but the judgment-clouding greed of Sin City is just as pervasive on the desert outskirts of town, where an otherwise happy family is thrown into turmoil after learning of a forgotten fortune that may be buried beneath their scrubby little home.

World Documentary Feature Competition

The Burning Season, directed by Cathy Henkel. (Australia) – International Premiere. TFF award winner Henkel returns with this powerful portrait of three lives affected by deliberately lit fires raging across Indonesia. Destroying pristine rainforest, endangering wildlife, and contributing to climate change, these fires only benefit the lucrative palm oil industry. Following a carbon-trading entrepreneur, an orangutan rescuer, and a palm oil farmer, this doc inspirationally shows those caught at the intersection of big business and conservation. Hugh Jackman narrates. In English, Indonesian with English subtitles.

Defamation (Hashmatsa), directed by Yoav Shamir. (Denmark, Austria, USA, Israel) – North American Premiere. Is anti-Semitism an extant threat on the verge of coalescing into a second Holocaust? Or is it a scare tactic used by right-wing Zionists to discredit their critics? Speaking with the head of the Anti-Defamation League, controversial author Norman Finkelstein, and others, Shamir sets out to discover the realities of anti-Semitism today. His findings are both shocking and wryly funny. In English, Hebrew, Russian with English subtitles.

Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi, directed by Ian Olds. (USA) – North American Premiere. In 2007, the Taliban kidnapped 24-year-old Ajmal Naqshbandi and an Italian journalist. Naqshbandi was one of Afghanistan's best "fixers"-someone hired by foreign journalists to facilitate, translate, and gain access for their stories. This gripping, tragic story is a behind-the-scenes look into the dangerous and unseen world that happens before we get the news. In English, Dari, Pashto, Italian with English subtitles.

Garapa, directed by José Padilha. (Brazil) – North American Premiere. Director José Padilha follows up his Golden Bear-winning Elite Squad with this austere, unflinching examination of the realities of chronic hunger for three Brazilian families. At once intimate and universal, Padilha's hauntingly visual film humanizes the enormity of the global hunger crisis. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Only When I Dance, directed by Beadie Finzi. (Brazil, UK) – World Premiere.
Two teenage ballet dancers from the working-class favelas of Rio are determined to dance their way to a better life, but to do so they must grow up against harsh prejudice, doubt, and some of the best dancers in the world. This inspiring doc trails their path to beat the odds and follow their dream of making it in the elite world of professional ballet. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Outrage, directed by Kirby Dick. (USA) – World Premiere. Academy Award® nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated) delivers a searing indictment of the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who actively campaign against the LGBT community they covertly belong to. Outrage boldly reveals the hidden lives of some of our nation's most powerful policymakers, details the harm they've inflicted on millions of Americans, and examines the media's complicity in keeping their secrets. A Magnolia Pictures Release.

Partly Private, directed by Danae Elon. (Canada) – World Premiere. To cut or not to cut? Pregnant with a baby boy, director Danae Elon and her husband face "a big choice about his little penis." From New York to London, Istanbul to Israel, Elon travels the world in a shockingly funny, sometimes cringe-inducing (they show it, fellas) effort to understand the controversial ritual of male circumcision.

Racing Dreams, directed by Marshall Curry. (USA) – World Premiere. What Little League is to baseball, go-karting is to auto racing. Oscar®-nominated director Marshall Curry (Street Fight) follows the exhilarating and emotional journeys of three top racers competing for the national championship. Three adolescents and their families must discover if they have the talent and dedication-and sponsorship dollars-to one day become NASCAR superstars. Part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Shadow Billionaire, directed by Alexis Manya Spraic. (USA) – World Premiere. When DHL founder Larry Hillblom disappeared following a 1995 plane crash off his Micronesian island home, dozens of would-be heirs from the Philippines came out of the woodwork to lay claim to his mega fortune. Within the framework of the fantastic legal battle, Spraic's debut doc slowly uncovers the stranger-than-fiction life of this eccentric billionaire.

Team Qatar, directed by Liz Mermin. (UK) – World Premiere. Equal parts competition movie and cultural examination, Team Qatar follows the first Qatari national debate team and their springy English coach as they train in Doha, London, and New York in preparation for the world championship in DC. Will this vibrant multicultural team handle the pressure and succeed on the world stage? Part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Transcendent Man, directed by Barry Ptolemy. (USA) – World Premiere. Some hail him as a modern-day Nostradamus, others dismiss him as a crackpot. Futurist and famed inventor Ray Kurzweil is the preeminent theorist on the pending fusion of humans and super-intelligent machines as the next phase of evolution, a "singularity" he predicts will occur within 30 years. This fascinating (and at times terrifying) doc explores the personal ideals behind his controversial ideas.

Yodok Stories, directed by Andrzej Fidyk. (Norway, Poland) – North American Premiere. Exposing subject matter notoriously shrouded in secrecy, this uplifting and sobering doc chronicles a group of North Korean concentration camp escapees and their contributions to a powerful musical based on their experiences. Blending interviews and scenes from the controversial stage show, director Andrzej Fidyk explores the atrocities they faced as prisoners-and the challenges they face while trying to express them through art. In English, Korean with English subtitles.


American Casino, directed by Leslie Cockburn. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Politicians and the media like to talk about the relationship between Wall Street and Main Street, but investigative journalist Leslie Cockburn's debut feature gets to the guts of the matter, visiting defectors from Bear Stearns and Standard & Poor's and other high-level players in the subprime mortgage gamble and, on the flipside, visiting the working-class Americans who were the unwitting chips on the table.

Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB, directed by Mandy Stein. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Fueled by vintage performances by the likes of Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Television, Bad Brains, and The Ramones, this doc charts the history and far-reaching influence of iconic downtown club CBGB and its fight for survival against the Bowery homeless shelter that sought to shut it down. Sonic Youth, Debbie Harry, Ice-T, Fab 5 Freddy, and others share their passion for the anything-goes spirit of the club and its founder, Hilly Kristal.

Con Artist, directed by Michael Sladek. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. One of the biggest names in the East Village art scene of the '80s, "business artist" Mark Kostabi gleefully made a fortune signing and selling artworks painted by a revolving stable of hired hands. This punk-fueled docu-comedy looks back at Kostabi's ultimately self-destructive skewering of the celebrity art world, and gets as close as one can to a man who's been called "the black hole of irony."

Entre nos, directed and written by Gloria La Morte and Paola Mendoza. (USA, Colombia) – World Premiere, Narrative. Adoring mother Mariana (talented codirector Paola Mendoza) has toted her two children from Colombia to New York to indulge her husband's whim. But when he abruptly abandons the family, she'll have to rely on her own imagination and courage-and that of her remarkable kids (breakthroughs Sebastian Villada and Laura Montana)-to survive insurmountable odds during their first summer in the United States. In Spanish with English subtitles.

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, directed and written by Damien Chazelle. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. First-time director Damien Chazelle infuses his black-and-white, vérité-style relationship drama with all that jazzy romance of an old-Hollywood musical. Backed by a grand, alternately rollicking and melancholy score, Guy and Madeline tracks a pair of young lovers in Boston after they separate, search for new romance, and perhaps find their way back to each other.

A Matter of Size (Sipur Gadol), directed by Erez Tadmor and Sharon Maymon, written by Danny Cohen-Solal and Maymon. (Israel) – World Premiere, Narrative. In this touching, lighthearted comedy, an overweight, underemployed chef and three close friends abandon their weight-loss group to pursue an activity for which girth is a virtue: sumo wrestling. While training, they discover the soul of sumo, realizing that-fat or thin-love and success will only come from being true to themselves. In Hebrew with English subtitles. Part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

My Last Five Girlfriends, directed and written by Julian Kemp. (UK) – World Premiere, Narrative. Based on the international best seller On Love by Alain de Botton, this delightful romantic comedy explores with delicious wit and whimsy just how modern urban relationships go wrong. Surveying the wreckage of his last five relationships, thirtysomething Duncan (Brendan Patricks) concludes that love is a battleground where only the fittest survive.

Off and Running, directed by Nicole Opper, written by Avery Klein-Cloud and Opper. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. With white Jewish lesbians for parents and two adopted brothers-one mixed-race and one Korean-Brooklyn teen Avery grew up in a unique and loving household. Even so, she can't quell her curiosity about her biological African-American roots and decides to contact her birth mother. This choice propels Avery into her own complicated exploration of race, identity, and family that threatens to distance her from the parents she's always known.

Original, directed and written by Alexander Brøndsted and Antonio Tublén. (Denmark) – World Premiere, Narrative. In this fresh and colorful lovable loser tale, Henry has spent most of his life trying to blend in. When his seemingly normal life turns upside down, his friend convinces him to move to Spain and open a restaurant. But before he can break free of the mundane, he gets sidelined caring for his mentally unstable mother, running into a lost-soul feminist who does performance art in a strip club, and a big bag of steroids. In English, Swedish, Danish with English subtitles.

P-Star Rising, directed by Gabriel Noble. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In the early '80s, Jesse Diaz was a rising star in the hip-hop world. Now a broke single father in Harlem with two children to support, Jesse finds a shot at redemption in his nine-year-old daughter Priscilla Star, a precocious and immensely talented rapper. Director Gabriel Noble follows four years of father-daughter ups and downs as they navigate the grit and the glamour of the music biz.

Playground, directed by Libby Spears. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Executive produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Steven Soderbergh, this astonishing doc travels to the dark heart of one of the world's most sinister industries-the child sex trade. Beginning her journey infiltrating brothels in South Korea and Thailand, director Libby Spears soon discovers that the United States is a major player in the human trafficking racket and turns her attention to the homeland. Featuring original artwork by Yoshitomo Nara.

The Swimsuit Issue (Allt flyter), directed by Måns Herngren, written by Jane Magnusson, Brian Cordray and Herngren. (Sweden) – International Premiere, Narrative. What begins as a joke turns into a new shot at glory for a group of over-the-hill athletes who decide to form Sweden's only all-male synchronized swimming team. The less they're taken seriously, the more determined they are to win the world championship in this fun, feel-good comedy about friendship and family. In Swedish with English subtitles. Part of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

TiMER, directed and written by Jac Schaeffer. (USA) – World Premiere, Narrative. Finding true love is easier than ever thanks to a bio-technological implant called the TiMER, which counts down to the exact time people meet their soul mates. Love-starved Oona (Emma Caulfield, TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is pushing 30, but her TiMER hasn't even started counting down yet. What's worse, she's falling for a guy (John Patrick Amedori, Gossip Girl) who is set to meet his true love in four months. Newcomer Jac Schaeffer crafts a smart romantic comedy that leaves behind the burning question... would you want to know?

Which Way Home, directed by Rebecca Cammisa. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. In this unprecedented, revelatory doc, director Rebecca Cammisa (Sister Helen) follows three unaccompanied children on a harrowing odyssey away from their homes in Latin America and through Mexico with one mighty shepherding hope: to reach the United States, where they can either reunite with their own families who made the journey before them, or create new lives for themselves.