Capsule reviews and ratings of the films of the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival
Land of Gold ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A second generation Sikh-American truck driver sets out on one last long haul trip before his wife is due to give birth. As he does he discovers an unexpected addition to his cargo, an undocumented Mexican-American girl of maybe 10 who also is headed to Boston.
This is a movie about immigrants, told from their perspective by a director, Nardeep Khurmi, who is an immigrant himself. He also plays the role of Kiran, the trucker.
Elena turns out to not be the shy, scared little girl you’d expect. Instead Kiran ends up sharing his cab with a saucy, articulate, opinionated young lady. A pretty good companion for long days on the road. He introduces her to Indian food, she talks him into a burger run. She takes him to church, he brings her to a Sikh temple.
Eventually she tells her story. She ran away as the rest of her family was taken away in a raid by immigration police. He flashes back to his own family’s experiences. Along the way they encounter the occasional scowl which immigrants in America must be all too familiar with. More consequential are the encounters with immigration police.
This is a touching, emotional movie that rings true at every turn. I hated to see it end.
Land of Dreams ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Haunting and mysterious. A young Iranian-American woman is a census worker, knocking on doors and not just getting demographic data but asking people to recall their most recent dreams. She records this, brings it back to the office, and plugs it into some high tech apparatus through which, amidst a flurry of blue lights and bar graphs, it is processed.
Why? “For your security” says Simin the census taker, but she knows nothing further. And the stone faced census execs at headquarters aren’t letting on. It’s a little like a next-century 1984. Some unseen technology enables ank enhanced level of surveillance.
The movie is structured as a series of vignettes as Simin goes on her different appointments. The setting is New Mexico, beautifully filmed in all its starkness.
The festival blurb suggests it’s political satire mixed with science fiction. Maybe. There’s a scene where she visits a “colony” where Iranian revolutionaries who fought the Islamic state are holed up. There’s another where she encounters an evangelical cult. How it all fits together I’m not sure but the movie is as much about how immigrants are perceived in America as anything else. As with Land of Gold, the Iranian-American directors are both immigrants. Sheila Vand, who plays Simin, is a second generation Iranian-American.
If you’re the kind of person who likes their movies to tie up all the loose ends and spell things out, this may not be for you. This one’s vague. But I found the movie captivating, and Vand’s performance mesmerizing.
Jerry and Marge Go Large ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It’s an overused expression but this is truly a feel-good comedy. Gerry is involuntarily retired from a corn flakes plant in Michigan. He mopes around a bit not knowing what to do with himself. Then he comes up with the key to his so-called Golden years. He discovers a flaw in a state lottery game which he exploits in a big way.
There are morals to the story. One is about how a guy who could do this had been stifled for decades working as a line manager. Another is about the wise-ass Harvard kid who turns out to not be quite as smart as he thinks he is. And another is the neighbor helping neighbor theme. Indeed, Jerry and Marge’s small town Michigan is like a new age Mayberry.
This is now the third movie I’ve seen at the festival from three different countries about a long-time married couples overcoming their boredom. As if there weren’t more serious societal problems. This one is the funniest. And the fact that it is supposedly based on a true story makes the feel-good part even better.
Katrina Babies ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
You don’t need millions of dollars, a fancy set and state of the art equipment to make a good movie. Katrina Babies has some interviews, a bit of animation and some archival footage. And it couldn’t be more interesting.
It’s 2005 in an underwater New Orleans when this documentary begins. Small children are being rescued from rooftops in a basket hanging from a helicopter. One of the children who evacuated, although he was fortunate enough to do it in the family car, was Edward Buckles Jr. Since then, Buckles has used his camera to record friends, family and neighbors, children at the time but adults now, as they talk about the hurricane, the evacuation and eventually coming back to the city. The result is this movie.
Above all else Buckles message is that the story is ongoing. There is a scene of tourists eating beignets at Cafe du Monde. All seems as it was. That’s not the case for the people Buckles introduces us to. One young woman tells how her family was put up in FEMA trailers that were full of formaldehyde. Not long after she developed a cancerous tumor on her stomach.
While Buckles doesn’t emphasize this point, it’s clear that the losses of family, of homes, of neighborhoods would have played out a lot differently if those neighborhoods weren’t predominantly black. “What we lost we’ll never get back,” Buckles last word.
A somber movie about a depressed film school student in Riga, Latvia, in 1991, as that country was fighting for its independence from the USSR.
Jazis, the student, approaches most of life with seeming indifference. That includes the girlfriend he should have cared about losing and his position of being subject to conscription into the Russian army. It also includes his parents: a father who is still a member of the Communist Party and a mother who is out on the streets demonstrationing for independence.
Jazis views it all through the lens of his father’s old camera. He films his girlfriend Anna, some drunken teen romps, the quiet sea, and gets knocked around filming the police. One wonders how this collection of random scenes would fit together as the movie he aspires to make. In January, these pieces of this and that somehow do fit together.
This is an artistic but darkly filmed movie. More than once I found myself wondering if it was in color, because there is little. It is slow and pensive and brings us no conclusion, but is eminently watchable.m
Roving Woman ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The roving woman is Sara. We are introduced to her wearing a sleek dress standing in her driveway banging on the door of a house. Inside, a boyfriend/fiancé who is apparently through with her.
With no money, clothes or pretty much anything else, Sara hits the road. Eventually she finds her way to a gas station where she steals a car and heads out on the road to some pretty desolate place. She meets a number of people along the way: a mystical dude with a face mask, a couple honeymooning in a trailer, a guitar-playing recluse. Mostly these encounters are just odd.
This is the moodiest of movies. The scenery is stark. The music is dirge-like. None of the things you might fear would happen to a half-dressed woman sleeping alone in a stolen car actually happen. Nor does much else happen.
My interest in this one didn’t last as long as the movie did.
Good Girl Jane ⭐️⭐️
This movie won the jury award for best U.S. narrative feature. Beats me why.
Jane is a high school girl trying to adjust to a new school. Her parents are divorced. Her mother turns every conversation into complaining about her father and her father is MIA. Jane connects with the wrong crowd and you can pretty much guess what happens from there.
A good part of the movie becomes a whirlwind drug fueled maze of partying and car seat sex. Making matters even worse is a toxic 21-year-old boyfriend and con artist who ups the ante on the drugs.
Rain Spencer won the jury prize for best performance in a U.S. narrative feature for her portrayal of Jane. I’m okay with that but as for the film, we’ve all seen this story before and it’s pretty predictable.