Festivals collect films from around the world, narratives journeying into the dark recesses of the human heart and mind where taboo is no stranger at all, and events filled with familiar faces that are within an arm’s length but social and cultural chasms away. The sensory eclecticism presented is a gift, fashioned as one preposterous and seemingly inscrutable whole until the individual enters and carves out their own unique and precious gemstone. Each treasure becomes a tailor-made keepsake, just as the organizers and programmers envisioned.
At the start of the first weekend of Tribeca, I went streaming back in time with Martha, a time-travelogue from director Selina Miles about Martha Cooper, a photographer who documented New York City in the 1970s and 1980s as graffiti and early hip hop began to stamp an indelible imprint on the urban landscape. That mark, through her unblinking images, spread across the country and inevitably around the world, and Cooper like a crate-digging producer in pursuit, seeking photographic samples of an even more elusive groove that only she could see, but that she wished to share with anyone who dared to open themselves up to her vision. Her journey continues, which means, ours does as well.
The sense of movement in projected frames is best defined, at times, in jump-cuts. Short film groupings create a jagged approximation of the frenzy associated with whiplash as the senses and attention swing quickly from one instance to the next, next, next. We enter a moment – mid-story – and zero in. There’s just enough time to catch a glimpse of someone we thought we wanted to get to know better, maybe.
For instance from the Shorts Program: Streetwise, in Night Swim (Victoria Rivera, director), we meet three teenage girls, friends but there are links between certain pairs that are stronger than others, setting up disquiet and jealousy that triggers quakes in their bonds when they steal away together at a public pool, late one night. They think they’re alone, but they’re not and the uninvited guests pull them apart in ways that will last forever.
And then, Metronome (In Time) treats us to a wordless contemporary dream about the relationship between an aging piano teacher and his young charge, a spirited prodigy, to be sure, who will one day lure brand new audiences to the sounds of the old world. Who needs words as we follow this pair and the host of other, far richer sounds through the city. Writer-director Scott Lochmus knows music and musicians, having worked with the likes of Barbara Streisand, the Rolling Stones, and Prince, and his sense of time and rhythm shines perfectly.
In the WTF Shorts Program, time gets bent and twisted, broken and repaired in ingenious ways. Individual protagonists seek their own ends in direct opposition to others around them, couples fight over decisions in the moment tied to leftover wounds from their pasts, and in one case, we watch an endless loop take shape. Ten minutes that will last…
In the past two days I have covered the globe and decades (both past and future) and gone into unexplored regions of my psyche, asking questions, seeking answers, running away from both, not out of fear; rather in relief because I realized I didn’t need to limit or define these experiences in any particular way. That’s what spending an immersive day at a film festival teaches you. It allows you the opportunity to take a break from the regular and the routine of everyday life. It shows you how to see through another’s eyes.