One of Manhattan’s best cultural offerings, the Tribeca Film Festival, finished up its 11th annual showings last week. In 2002, as a reaction to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, founders of the festival wanted to inject hope into the ever-present fear in Lower Manhattan through the magic of film, aligning with a communal desire to display New York City’s resilience. This year, that spirit continues as this cinematic nexus shared messages of hope and resilience from all over the world with 46 different countries represented at the festival.
“Film is a universal language,” said Director Jeroen van Velzen, winner of Tribeca’s Best New Documentary Director Award for his film, Wavumba. Set in Kenya, the film documents Masoud, a celebrated shark fisherman, and his final voyage. Masoud’s fervent narration of his maritime career evokes a universally recognized nostalgia for one’s youth.
This global reach extends to films like Kim Nguyen’s War Witch, which won the Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film Award. Nguyen, inspired by the optimism in the people he met while filming in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, wanted to make sure his story about child soldiers focused on a character that can endure loss and overcome senseless cruelty.
A favorite, Bryan Buckley’s short film, Asad, elegantly tells a fable about a Somali boy who decides between living the pirate life or the life of his mentor, a humble fisherman. With an all-Somali refugee cast, the tale addresses hunger, rebel killings, and friends dying in the pirate trade. But Buckley jocosely reveals all this suffering amongst locals light-heartedly teasing each other and many memorable moments of poetic charm that epitomizes the short film format.
About 400 films graced the screens throughout the Tribeca area in the course of 12 days, and the organization of the festival was laudable. The easiness and accessibility to the public remains unprecedented compared to the esteemed but hectic Sundance Film Festival or exclusive Telluride Film Festival. One of the most offbeat aspects of the festival is the unique juxtaposition of mismatched screenings: the world premiere of independent and minimally distributed films such as Consuming Spirits or The List, mixed in with the premiere of the star-studded and action-packed box office choice, The Avengers.
Resembling NYC’s culture, Tribeca’s objective is clear: to rout the under-represented with an impressive army of the glitz-loving press. The globally conscientious aspect of this year’s showing connects back to the city’s eminent appeal as a melting pot for the world to clash and connect via shared human truths. The Tribeca Film Festival’s mission to confirm NYC as a breeding ground for great filmmaking and to revive the cultural vitality of Lower Manhattan translates into this distinct film-viewing experience.