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Tribeca Film Festival’s best include ‘Diane,’ ‘To Dust’

Powerful, must-watch titles to keep an eye on for future distribution.

Mary Kay Place stars in

Mary Kay Place stars in "Diane," which played at the Tribeca Film Festival. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

The Tribeca Film Festival’s 17th edition came to an end Sunday night, and if it didn’t produce any world premieres that seem poised to change the conversation in the upcoming months, it certainly featured its fair share of movies worth keeping an eye on.

These are some of the high-quality titles that showed at the festival, all of which are worth catching up with down the road.

 

‘Diane’

The fiction feature filmmaking debut of Kent Jones, director of the New York Film Festival, won the top juried prize for U.S. narrative cinema at Tribeca, and it’s easy to see why.

Starring Mary Kay Place as the title character, a lonely woman struggling to save her drug-addicted son (Jake Lacy) and to persevere amid a cascade of personal losses, it’s a work of rigorous formal qualities and astute philosophical insight.

“Diane” takes place in a sort of proverbial twilight, with images of sickness and death that are rendered in restrained tones. They unfold slowly and against innocuous American backdrops like buffets, churches and country roads. When big moments happen, they arrive in sudden cuts, without the expected languorous emotional buildup, and the focus remains resolutely on the star, who captures a universe of emotions as she grapples with everything she’s left unresolved.

 

‘To Dust’

The narrative feature audience award went to this deeply strange fable, the feature debut of filmmaker Shawn Snyder, which tells the story of a Hasidic cantor named Shmuel (Géza Röhrig) who finds himself haunted by images of his dead wife’s body decaying.

To better understand the science behind what’s happening to her as her body returns to the earth, he enlists the help of a downtrodden community college professor (Matthew Broderick).

Their pursuit of this greater understanding relies on a series of events that occasionally stretch credulity, but the movie never pretends to be immersed in the real world. It is darkly comic and owes a great debt to Jewish folklore. It’s practically Talmudic in its elliptical nature, in telling the story of a holy man who finds himself compelled to sin while in search of inner peace and a much-less holy man seized with the desire to help him.

It’s also got Broderick’s best big-screen performance in a long time, in which the veteran shows off his flair for playing comically beleaguered everymen.

 

‘When Lambs Become Lions’

This is a powerful documentary about the ivory trade in Kenya as captured on the front lines, with filmmaker Jon Kasbe offering up-close portraits of an ivory dealer and a wildlife ranger, cousins on opposite sides of the conflict, as they navigate through very real mortal dangers and complex moral terrain.

These films do not yet have distribution deals announced.

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