The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to help NYC recover from the WTC attack. The 2018 edition reminds us that the buildings came down 17 years ago. One way to mark it isThe Proposal about Mexican architect Luis Barragan (1902–1988). After his death, his archives were sold to Rolf Fehlbaum of Vitra, a gift for his bride-to-be, Federica Zanco. They formed the Barragan Foundation, Switzerland, that “owns the copyright in all works—houses, buildings, developments, urban interventions, gardens, landscapes, images, sketches, plans, photographs, texts, manuscripts, films and other media—created by Luis Barragán.
In 2013, artist Jill Magid became interested in Barragan’s colorful, lean architecture. She wrote Zanco requesting access, and was turned down (as are virtually all overtures); their correspondence becomes a narrative feature of the film.
So she comes up with a proposition: with the family’s permission, Magid exhumes the architect’s cremated remains, takes 525 grams of ash, and crushes them into a 2-carat diamond, set into an engagement ring. This is proffered to Zanco, in exchange for the archives’ return to Mexico. It’s a replacement for Felbaum’s wedding gift. So far, Zanco has not accepted the proposal.
In Amateurs, a fictional Swedish factory town is in decline. The prospect of German big box store, Superbilly, locating there initiates a campaign against a rival town known for potatoes. Two best friends, Aida of Iraqi heritage, and Dana, whose is Turkish/Yugoslav, make a film about their multi-ethnic town, and question whether a store selling shoddy goods made by cheap labor is a prize worth winning.
Virtual Arcade, the digital gallery that shows VR, AR, MR and 360° video, showed works suggesting ways to express architecture. Biidaaban: First Light projects a future Toronto after a cataclysm, still recognizable — City Hall (1899 old building and Viljo Revell’s 1998 curved towers) and Osgoode station — but overgrown. Signs of life are apparent, so all is not lost. Poetry in native tongues speak of living in nature. Photographs and architectural models generate this city of the future.
Laurie Anderson’s Chalkroom (also on display at Mass MoCA) “in which the reader flies through an enormous structure made of words, drawings and stories” that Anderson says “define the space.” She says, “Words sail through the air as emails. They fall into dust. They form and reform.”
Fire Escape: An Interactive VR Series is an updated Hitchcockian Rear Window, where you peer into apartments in gentrifying Brooklyn from a fire escape. Vignettes show us the lives of a lesbian couple, an older black man, and a millennial, while the brash landlord discusses circumventing building inspectors with the super.
Hero thrusts you into a Syrian own square teeming with life until a bomb falls. You feel the earth shake and a hot wind blow across your face. You then follow the screams of a trapped child, inching along a precipice and although you want to rescue, you cannot. It’s a visceral, disturbing experience that allow us to experience space without being there.
Objects in Mirror AR Closer Than They Appear is an immersion of domestic and office objects, laced with AR technology that permit exploration of this playground of memory and things.
Short films tackled the built environment. Saul’s 108th Story is the tale of an Empire State Building window washer. Hula Girl, the 94-year old Australian woman who brought this 1960s classic design to the U.S., only to have the invention stolen from her, can still twirl. Another design icon is I Heart NY, Milton Glaser’s classic logo created when the ailing city needed love. Fire in Cardboard City is an animated tale of saving a metropolis from incineration. Cardboard is used in Paper Roof, where two sisters build a house to escape their troubled family life. Brooklyn Breeze is a romp through the borough to a Dreamland Orchestra soundtrack. Brooklyn locals, the Mafia, help a young evicted woman in So You Like the Neighborhood. Cassandra Bromfield chronicles her Lindsay Park Housing Cooperative in Brooklyn since 1985 in Into My Life. Cosmic Debris is a Hungarian animator’s unexpected friendship with his idol, Frank Zappa, and 9 @ 38 is the attempt to play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Korean border.
Visual and fashion arts were represented by The Man Who Stole Banksy about a scheme to extract a Banksy mural from a wall in Palestine to sell to the highest bidder; The Gospel According to André on the black, gay fashion icon, and his Jim Crow-era North Carolina background; the fashion maverick Alexander McQueen, who broke rules until his death in 2007; and Mapplethorpe, on photographer of both BDSM and flowers, who died at 42 of AIDS, was complemented by the documentary Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe, on the photographer and his partner/patron.
Films on music were deeply satisfying. Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA chronicles the creative process of the composer of the Oscar and Grammy winner (The Last Emperor) creating his album async (2017).
“Before Oprah, Before Arsenio, There was Mr. Soul!” the 1968-1973 PBS black Tonight Show, steered by Ellis Haizlip. It mixed black culture with politics, with guests Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou, Ashford and Simpson, Al Green, Muhammad Ali and Arsenio Hall, many for the first time on screen.
Another standout was Nico, 1988 a dramatic account of the lead singer of the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol superstar, during the last two years of her life. Danish actress Trine Dyrholm delivers a raw, arresting performance as this manic, worn-down talent goes on tour to save herself.
Bathtubs over Broadway about Late Night with David Letterman writer Steve Young’s quest for “industrial musicals,” the full-scale Broadway-style productions for the annual meetings of GE, McDonald’s, Ford and Xerox (think Diesel Dazzle and My Bathroom) and featured performers Florence Henderson, Martin Short, and Chita Rivera, and songwriters Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock (Fiddler on the Roof). Howard describes Broadway lyricist Howard Ashman, who with Alan Menken, wrote music for Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast before he died of AIDS at 40. Satan & Adam chronicles the unlikely partnership of one-man black blues band Sterling Magee (James Brown, Ray Charles) and white harmonica player Adam Gussow, who met on the street in 1986. Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes profiles the record label founded in 1939 by German Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff who believed in music as a revolutionary force, that presented Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Norah Jones. Songwriter tracks the making of Ed Sheerin’s album + (2017). The Velvet Underground Played at My High School recounts the band’s first performance at a NJ high school in 1965.
The literary and performative arts were represented by Mary Shelley, portrayed by Elle Fanning, as the author of Frankenstein; Rise of A Star, on the making of a ballet at the Paris Opera Paris (Catherine Deneuve plays the company head); Together, a 360° video of two male dancers; the documentary Every Act of Life on playwright Terrence McNally (Master Class , Love! Valour! Compassion! ; Love, Gilda a doc on the SNL comic; and You Shall Not Sleep, an unnerving feature about a theater performance in a disused mental asylum that hold secret in its walls.
9 @ 38, director Catherine K. Lee
Amateurs, director Gabriela Pichler
Bathtubs over Broadway, director Dava Whisenant
Biidaaban: First Light, Project Creators Lisa Jackson, Mathew Borrett, Jam3 and the National Film Board of Canada
Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe, director James Crump
Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, director Sophie Huber
Brooklyn Breeze, director Alex Budovsky
Chalkroom, Project Creators Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang
Cosmic Debris, director Patrick Waldrop
Every Act of Life, director Jeff Kaufman
Fire Escape: An Interactive VR Series, Project Creators Vassiliki Khonsari, Navid Khonsari, Andres Perez-Duarte and Sam Butin
Fire in Cardboard City, director Phil Brough
The Gospel According to André, director Kate Novack
Hero, Project Creators Navid Khonsari, Vassiliki Khonsari and Brooks Brown
Howard, director Don Hahn
Hula Girl , directors Amy Hill, Chris Riess
I Heart NY, director Andre Andreev
Into My Life, directors Ivana Hucíková, Sarah Keeling and Grace Remington
Love, Gilda, director Lisa D’Apolito
The Man Who Stole Banksy, director Marco Proserpio
Mapplethorpe, director Ondi Timoner
Mary Shelley, director Haifaa Al Mansour
McQueen, directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui
Mr. Soul!, directors Melissa Haizlip and Samuel Pollard
Nico, 1988, Susanna Nicchiarelli
Objects in Mirror AR Closer Than They Appear, Project Creators Graham Sack, Geoff Sobelle, John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser
Paper Roof, director Judith Tong
The Proposal, director Jill Magid
Rise of A Star, director James Bort
Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA, director Stephen Nomura Schible
Satan & Adam, director V. Scott Balcerek
Saul’s 108th Story, director Joshua Carlon
So You Like the Neighborhood, director Jean Pesce
Songwriter, director Murray Cummings
Together, Project Creator The Factory at Facebook
The Velvet Underground Played at My High School, directors Robert Pietri and Tony Jannelli
You Shall Not Sleep, director Gustavo Hernandez