Volume 20, Number 49 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 20 - 26, 2011
Photo courtesy of the Tribeca Film Institute
Ashley Turizo (The Image of My Perception).
On screen and in the streets, TFF focuses on the family
Tribeca Film Institute nurtures young filmmakers
BY STEPHANIE BUHMANN
This year’s Tribeca Film Festival dedicates much energy to family entertainment, films focusing on family concerns and forums for teenage filmmakers. Events range from one of New York’s largest and most unique street festivals to screenings of independent films exploring complex family matters. Crucial space has also been allotted to projects by local students — whose efforts have been supported by the Tribeca Film Institute (www.tribecafilminstitute.org).
Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, TFI empowers professional filmmakers through grants, and its educational programming enables underserved New York City public middle and high school students to express themselves in film. Since its launching in 2006, the Institute’s education program has grown from serving 30 to 12,000 students — providing them with the opportunity to create their own documentaries based on the theme of change and progress. Each year, the Institute selects 20 teenagers, who receive an all-access look at the film industry through a series of workshops, creative filmmaking exercises, screenings, panels and mentoring by Tribeca Film Festival film directors.
Students create short films that tackle local concerns. The results are screened as part of the TFF’s annual “Our City, My Story” event — which celebrates the vision, excellence and diversity of New York City youth-made media. When asked about how last year’s participation in “Our City, My Story” affected them, José Velez (“Little Dominica NYC”) said, “It changed my life completely,” and Ashley Turizo (“The Image of My Perception”) stated, “It has definitely had a great impact. It opened up my eyes to all the possibilities of my future — I do want to continue my career in filmmaking, and it is just a great experience. I never thought I would be chosen to show my film at the Tribeca Film Festival. The experience speaks for itself! It made me want to continue to create films.”
In “Violence in the Lower East Side” (by Cecilia Bonilla, David Evans, Aaron Farooqi, Samantha King, Kiralie Mogollon, Tristan Reginato and Jeremy Santana), for example, the audience encounters Bonilla’s conflicted view of her neighborhood and life in general — which has been shaped by the acts of violence she has witnessed in her environment. The documentary “Growing Food Justice in Brooklyn” (by Stevenson Catul, Christian Filus, Alfonso Francois Gonzalez, Jerry Joseph and Luishka Roberts), makes a case for the necessary creation of new healthy food options in some Brooklyn communities, where obesity rates are high and fast food predominates. In a film that could serve as an interesting companion piece to the acclaimed “Waiting for Superman,” “Isa’s Final Draft” (by Jesus Villalba, Kadiatou Diallo, Nataly Garzon and Rayhan Islam), follows the path of Isabella — a promising student who dreams of attending college. When her guidance counselor discovers that she is an undocumented resident, Isabella and her family are forced to face unimaginable challenges.
The TFF narrative film, “Janie Jones” (one of 93 features) sheds light on family dynamics and psychology. A talented but struggling musician learns that he has a 13-year-old daughter. Instantly, his rock-and-roll lifestyle (which in part involves a much younger girlfriend) is turned upside down and then around. The daughter, Janie, turns out to be an aspiring musician herself — and they bond on a road trip during which both father and daughter grow as artists.
The feature documentary “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia” describes the sobering reality of the White family of Boone County, West Virginia. Far from a traditional family unit, the Whites are as legendary for their criminal ways as they are for their most famous member, Jesco White, star of the documentary “Dancing Outlaw.” Staying true to the spirit of executive producers Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine (of TV’s infamous “Jackass”), the film is a shocking, highly eccentric, humorous and sometimes moving account of a year in the Whites’ life. Shoot-outs, robberies, gas huffing, drug dealing and consuming (and especially tap-dancing) are only some of the everyday activities at hand. This film provides a fascinating portrait of a family existing on the other side of the law, while addressing some of the corruption, poverty, and environmental devastation found in the coal mining culture of West Virginia.
For the first time, the TFF will debut NYFEST, on April 23. The city’s first Film and Entertainment Soccer Tournament will allow New York youth to interact with celebrities and industry professionals from the worlds of film, music, sports and entertainment. Soccer legend Pelé will kick off the game with a coin toss. For info, visit www.nyfest.org.
On April 30, the Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair puts on “the ultimate street fair and family celebration” by showcasing a variety of activities and performances (10am-6pm, Greenwich Street from Hubert to Chambers Streets). In contrast to last year, when road repairs forced organizers to modify the overall set up last, this edition will truly be back on the street.
The Street Fair is produced by Peter Downing — whose time spent on Broadway as an actor and stage manager has allowed him to, as he acknowledges, “build relationships over the years with theatrical press and marketing reps who recognize the great opportunity that the Family Festival provides for exposure and promotion for family-friendly shows.”
This year, stages will highlight special segments from Broadway shows and emerging talents from the neighborhood. The New York Philharmonic’s Credit Suisse Very Young Composers will present original works created by young musicians. Popular family-friendly bands will also perform (including The Fuzzy Lemons and Hot Peas N’ Butter). Local restaurants and merchants will offer samples of their fare, ranging from gourmet treats to simple refreshments.
As the Festival also serves as a fundraiser, various local schools will organize activities, such as Taekwondo lessons or hairspray painting, to help the cause. “This Festival was founded as a response to the tragic events of 9/11,” explained Downing. “The key to the mission of our founders was to support the local community and help drive people back Downtown. Nothing serves this objective better than to offer free public events in and for the neighborhood.”
For more info on family-friendly films, events and activities, visit www.tribecafilm.com.
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