The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Broken Circle Breakdown
Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens in “The Broken Circle Breakdown.”

The Tribeca Film Festival is a whirlwind of screenings, events, and red carpets. I’m still dizzy, and as a result, I was unable to see nearly as many films as I wanted. There are a number of award-winners that I’ll have to wait to screen when they arrive in theaters or on VOD.

I’m saddest to have missed “The Rocket,” a film I started to watch online and was shut out due to computer problems. It not only won the audience award for best narrative feature, but it won best narrative from the professional juries as well. Young Sitthiphon Disamoe also won best actor. Check out the trailer below.

I will also look out for “Odayaka,” a Japanese film that depicts life after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident.

I had hoped to finish watching “Six Acts” as well, an Israeli film about teens that explores their sometimes exploitative sexuality. I was very curious to see how these themes in Israel compare to the U.S.

There are other films I will watch for, too, but some of my favorites among the films I did get to see are listed below. I’m not including on this list the films that I have already covered more in depth, but of those, I count the marriage equality documentary, “Bridegroom,” “Bluebird,” “A Birder’s Guide to Everything,” “The Moment,” and “The English Teacher” among my favorites.

The Rocket
Sitthiphon Disamoe as Ahlo in “The Rocket”

My number one film of the festival was, hands down, “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” which won best screenplay for Carl Joos and Felix Van Groeningen and best actress for Veerle Baetens. I loved the film so much that I question whether the big festival award-winner, “The Rocket,” could usurp it as my first place movie. It’s a charming, sexy, tragic tour de force.

A Belgian film, the title is a riff on the songs “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” We follow the lives of two Bluegrass musicians who fall in love, have a child, and deal with that child’s illness. The story is not told in a linear fashion, but moves back and forth in time. This is so skillfully done that I never lost track, and the technique shows their love story in such a beautiful, heartbreaking way that the film continues to haunt me days after seeing it.

Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, the script is based on a play by the lead actor, Johan Heldenbergh, with Mieke Dobbels. The soundtrack is also fantastic.

“Oxyana” is a chilling, sobering documentary about Oceana, West Virginia where the prescription drug culture has become an epidemic. The town has been dubbed “Oxyana” because of the rampant OxyContin abuse by its residents.

Murders, prostitution, and overdoses are commonplace in the community, and everyone there knows someone who has been “oxycuted,” as they call it – died as a result of drugs.

Sean Dunne won the best new documentary director award for his work and begins his film with images of the poverty and despair of this town. He ends with images of the faces of the people struggling with addiction and the doctors who are trying to help them. It’s a tragic story that everyone should know about.

“Farah Goes Bang” is a funny, touching chick flick that isn’t your average road trip/ buddy/coming of age picture. Three young women hit the road to campaign for John Kerry during that presidential election.

One of them wants to lose her virginity, and another one has a temper that gets in their way. Farah is Iranian-American and has to deal with prejudice at times as they knock on doors and try to make a difference.

Director Meera Menon won the first annual Nora Ephron Prize at the Festival for “embodying the spirit and vision of the legendary filmmaker and writer.”

“Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution” is a fascinating documentary account of the war in Timor that includes some great but often harrowing historical footage.

Australian documentarian Kirsty Sword went to Timor to film the struggle and ended up becoming an activist who then fell in love with the leader of the resistance, Xanana Gusmao. What a story!

“Who Shot Rock & Roll?” is a fun short documentary about the photographers who chronicled the early days of rock ‘n roll. As a big rock fan, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

A lot of these photographers fell into the field by accident and started photographing musicians before they were famous – people like David Crosby and Eric Clapton – not just on stage but at private gatherings like Mama Cass’s back yard. Bob Gruen is among those interviewed, and Mary McCartney talks about her mother, Linda’s iconic rock photography.

“Just a Sigh” is a romantic film set in Paris that isn’t your usual romance between two ridiculously beautiful young people. Granted, there’s still a significant age difference between the two lead actors (14 years), but neither is under 40. Gabriel Byrne plays the lead, and Emmanuelle Devos plays his love interest.

“Hide Your Smiling Faces” is an understated, yet dramatic, story of two brothers who must deal with the death of one of their friends at a young age. Never falling prey to clichés, the film shows in an utterly believable way how boys handle a tragic incident. Their relationship is forever affected, and their behavior is often far from rational. There is no trailer for this film, unfortunately.

The movies I saw during the festival were universally good. Some were better than others, of course, but there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.



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