My Tribeca Trifecta – By Philip Smolen

I’m not a fan of big cities. I grew up in suburban New Jersey and I got really used to its pace, which is relaxed and measured. The hustle and speed of New York City can sometimes overwhelm me (just ask my lovely wife and children). But for two weeks this past April, New York City put me in cinematic heaven. I received a press pass to the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival in lower Manhattan, and I got to indulge my passion for great cinema.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Tribeca Film Festival is one of the largest and most well known movie festivals. It was founded in 2002 by film producer Jane Rosenthal, actor Robert DeNiro and real estate investor Craig Hatkoff. It was created after the September 11th tragedy and was designed to re-stimulate the businesses of lower Manhattan. It has been a runaway success and shows no signs of slowing down.

Over the last two weeks in April, there were concerts, screenings, special family events, discussions and street fairs. And of course, there were celebrity sightings galore. In 2013 there were almost 200 films shown at the festival, from horror and sci-fi to dramas, comedies and documentaries. It seemed to me that it didn’t matter what type of film you were into, Tribeca was showing examples of them all. The festival is so huge that it’s literally impossible to watch every film. There were 12 locations in the area strictly dedicated to the festival, showing films all day long.

I was really astounded by the sheer number of indie films that were shown. The indies represented the largest number of films at the festival, and it gave me a great feeling to know that on one of the largest stages in the country, indie cinema casts a very large and distinctive shadow.

So here’s a brief look at the three components that went into my Tribeca Trifecta. I wish that all Rogue Cinemaniacs could have shared my Tribeca film experience with me.

Trifecta #1 – Press Pass Time

I was lucky enough to have a connection to the festival and I thought that it was time to cover Tribeca for Rogue, so when the press representative of Tribeca e-mailed me and told me that I could pick up my press pass at their office, I was thrilled. I think I actually floated to New York. When I arrived to pick up my pass, the Tribeca staff treated me as if I was the film critic for The New York Times (well it’s true that Rogue Cinema is very cool). They did everything they could to make my experience fantastic. They really powered up my movie mojo.

Trifecta #2 – Some Excellent Cinematic Experiences

I couldn’t get to the festival every day (although I sure wish I could have!). But I was still fortunate to see some first class films. The first two were part of the ESPN “Nine for IX” Series. This is a series of nine documentary films that celebrates women in sports and are directed by women filmmakers. They will run this summer on ESPN from July 2nd to August 27th. The first movie “The Diplomat” (2013) and was written and directed by Jennifer Arnold and Senain Kheshgi. It tells the story of famed East German figure skater Katarina Witt. If you’re old enough to remember the Cold War, this film puts a very human face to the extremely competitive world of figure skating. Witt’s story is amazing, and Arnold and Kheshgi outline the highs and lows of her career, from being embraced by the communist government, to being ridiculed by her fellow countrymen when they discovered some the perks that the government gave her. After the film, Arnold and Kheshgi came down to the front of the theater for a Q&A. They also introduced Witt (who was also in the audience) and had her join them to answer some questions herself.

The next film I saw was entitled “No Limits” and was directed by Alison Ellwood. Its focus was on Audrey Mestre, a young woman who excelled at the exotic sport of free-diving. This is a sport where you ride a lead sled down hundreds of feet on a single breath of air without a mask or air tank, release the sled and then rocket back up to the surface. Tragically, Mestre died during an attempt to break the women’s world’s record for this event. Controversy ensued after her death, and her husband was investigated for his potential culpability. Ellwood’s film was a sad and sobering look at the dark side of competitive sports.

If you’ve read my reviews here at Rogue Cinema, then you know that I love short films, so I was particularly delighted to see “The End is Near”, a collection of six similar-themed shorts about personal and global apocalypses. The films I saw ran the gamut from straight drama to outrageous comedy. My personal favorite of the shorts was Andrew Napier’s “Grandma’s Not a Toaster”, a nine minute hyperactive look at three greedy siblings who hope to change Grandma’s will before she kicks the bucket. Imagine the Kurasawa classic “Rashomon” (1951) on speed and told in the style of the TV show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and you’ve got a good idea of the onscreen insanity.

Trifecta #3 – Potential Filmmaker Interviews

I hope to interview many of the fantastic indie filmmakers whose films I was lucky enough to watch during my time at Tribeca. Hopefully, they’ll be arriving in the near future to the online pages of Rogue Cinema. I was blown away by these talented cinema mavens. So keep checking the magazine each month.

The Tribeca Film Festival was marvelous and I am now hooked on it. I’m clearing my schedule out in 2014 so that I can spend a lot more time in New York City doing what I love most – watching great movies!

For information on the Tribeca film Festival, please visit: