Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

Ok, first of all, let me issue an immediate disclaimer. There were hundreds of films to choose from and I only had 10 days to research, select and view films based on what Tribeca had to offer. Truth be told, it was completely overwhelming, and no matter how many hours of sleep I tried to shorten up on, there was no way I could get to them all.

So I did the best I could to research the titles, genres and film descriptions and watched quite a few films, and when all was said and done, though I lost count, I made a pretty good selection of films that appealed to me and my tastes as a film viewer and critic.

Tribeca did end a week prior, but in the process, I missed the new film, “No Sudden Move” by Steven Sodenbergh, which stars Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Benicio Del Toro, Julia Fox, and Kieran Culkin among others and since it was coming out on HBO Max, I wanted to watch it. I’m glad I did, because it is one of my top 10 picks.

Please know, dear Tribeca film directors, there were about 25-30 more films I wanted to watch, but I just couldn’t get to them in time. I have a strong feeling they were amazing, and I’ll do what I can to get to them in 2021 should the opportunity arise.

Also check out my selection of short films, as I watched over fifty and chose my favorites.

(Related: #NativeNerd at Tribeca: Top 12 favorite short films)

The summaries for each feature film comes directly from the Tribeca festival guide for 2021. Here are my Top 10 Tribeca feature film selections in no particular order:

No Sudden Move

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Ray Liotta, Benecio Del Toro and Don Cheadle in a scene from "No Sudden Move" (courtesy photo)

Summary: From director Steven Soderbergh comes the HBO Max original movie No Sudden Move. Set in 1954 Detroit, No Sudden Move centers on a group of small-time criminals who are hired to steal what they think is a simple document. When their plan goes horribly wrong, their search for who hired them–and for what ultimate purpose–weaves them through all echelons of the race-torn, rapidly changing city. With Don Cheadle, Craig muMs Grant, Brendan Fraser, Benicio Del Toro, Julia Fox, Kieran Culkin

My critique: This is one of those films that took me a little bit of time to get into. But once I did, I started to see the layers of the onion beginning to unfold. Though, I grew a bit confused as to who each character was in terms of names and connectivity to their criminal community, the storyline grew on me and revealed itself after a bit of thoughtful effort. The mixture of criminal groupings was a fantastic touch, and Benecio Del Toro and Don Cheadle were the leaders in this shuffle. I was glad to see Brendan Fraser as well as Ray Liotta take parts of this movie for a spin. This is a fantastic film I will watch again, as admittedly, I am still confused over some aspects.

P.S. Wonder why there are eleven images in the main image? I couldn't leave out the infamous Ray Liotta. And the other image with Benecio and Don also had to make the cut.

Poser

Directed by Ori Segev and Noah Dixon

"Poser" Lennon Gates played by Sylvie Mix (left) Bobbi Kitten played by Bobbi Kitten (right) Photographer: Logan Floyd

Summary: Ori Segev and Noah Dixon are award-winning directors who create and helm music videos, shorts, and documentaries. They are making their feature directing debut with Poser.

Lennon exists timidly on the sidelines of the thriving Columbus, Ohio indie music scene, yearning for a personal connection that might shepherd her into the inner sanctum of warehouse concerts, exclusive backstage, house parties and the cutting-edge art scene. As she fuels her desire for entrée into a podcast featuring live music and conversations with the artists she so fervently admires, Lennon finds inspiration for her own musical ambitions…and a growing sense of misdirected identity. With Sylvie Mix, Bobbi Kitten

My critique: Ori Segev and Noah Dixon did a masterful job in drawing me into the mental confines of Lennon, an untoward girl portrayed brilliantly by Sylvie Mix. If any of the films at Tribeca screamed 2021 from the rooftops it was “Poser,” a thought-provoking and truly poetic film. It delivers a magical story of truth that illustrates that nothing really is as it appears, sometimes with a subtle unfolding resolution while other times it is a handful of destruction. I was moved by this film, by its truth, by its simplicity and by its adherence to the reality of what exists today. It was a beautifully done film.

Ascension

Directed by Jessica Kingdon

Ascension, Directed by Jessica Kingdon

Summary: Factory workers diligently parse fabrics and prepare plastic products—like water bottles and binoculars—in clusters and in an assembly line. Men weld metal cylinders with precision, and a networking conference devotes its attention to training a predominantly female audience how to excel in business etiquette.

My critique: Wow. Just wow. There really is no dialogue in this film, and never once did I care. Jessica Kingdon explores the consumer world of China, from the essence of work ethics, to the militaristic scale of seeking to succeed. From factories to farmland, from skylines to riverscapes, Kingdon’s film “Ascension” is a sneak-peek into another world that is as amazing as it is even mildly disturbing. A profoundly magical documentary. (Some cartoonish adult themes.)

Mission: Joy—Finding Happiness in Troubled Times

Directed by Louie Psihoyos, Peggy Callahan

Mission -- Joy-Finding Happiness in Troubled Times

Summary: Academy Award®-winning director Louie Psihoyos returns to Tribeca with his latest film, a profound and jubilant exploration of the remarkable friendship between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Inspired by the international bestseller The Book of Joy, the documentary welcomes viewers into intimate conversations between two men whose resistance against adversity has marked our modern history. Through rare archival footage and affecting animation, the documentary reflects upon their personal hardships as well as the burden both men carry as world leaders dedicated to bringing justice to and fighting authoritarianism in their communities. With His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Thupten Jinpa Langri, Mpho Tutu van Furth, Doug Abrams.

My critique: Exploring the incredibly beautiful and heartwarming relationship between the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, directors Louie Psihoyos and Peggy Callahan deliver one of the most heart-wrenchingly emotional films I have seen in my years as a critic. It is a film filled with warm laughter, joyous smiles and yet extreme heartbreak in terms of life experiences that each of these iconic men have been through in their lives. The film demonstrates that friendship, in its purest forms, knows no cultural and/or social status barriers. A joy-filled, brilliant and wonderful film.

No Ordinary Life

Directed by Heather O’Neill

No Ordinary Life, Directed by Heather O’Neill

Summary: Witnessing the ravages of war and conflict, and the aftermath of violent uprisings, are circumstances that most people shun or avoid—but for news photographers and camera people, it provides them a conduit to spotlight injustices and turmoil for a global audience. Five women—Mary Rogers, Cynde Strand, Margaret Moth, Maria Fleet and Jane Evans—were pioneer camera people that were active participants in this dangerous line of work. Their resilient coverage of tumultuous events around the world—from the Arab Spring Uprising to upheavals in Lebanon and Iraq—provided a necessary window into how our world was changing, and their courageous access into these circumstances brought transparency and accountability to the forefront.

My critique: If I had to choose a few favorite favorites, “No Ordinary Life” would be in my top three. As a journalist, I marveled at the bravery of female camera people Mary Rogers, Cynde Strand, Margaret Moth, Maria Fleet and Jane Evans. Directed by heather O’Neill, this film pulled no punches and inasmuch as I was profoundly affected by the bravery of these women, I openly wept for their hardships and agonized over the difficult stories that they had to cover. A completely brilliant and eye-opening film.

Primera

Directed by Vee Bravo

Primera, Directed by Vee Bravo

Summary: On October 18 2019, a student uprising was triggered in Santiago over the Chilean government’s increase in metro fare. The uprising went on to generate a rising resistance from Chile’s working class–spurring student protesters, activists, street artists, and community leaders leaders to take to the streets to fight against class discrimination and the still-palpable remnants of laws harkening back to Pinochet’s dictatorship. As the country awakens to the unrelenting abuse of power enacted by a neoliberalist government, and a mistrust in the political class intensifies, we follow Angy and Felipe—two parents who embrace their new roles as activists and enlist in the expanding movement that is fighting for a new Constitution and a just society.

My critique: My heart ached in this film for the plight of so many Chilean people who fought for years to obtain the most basic of human rights in the face of an unbalanced political regime. “Primera” follows the strivings of the general populace as well as the plight of the Indigenous tribes in the area. Primera hurts to watch, but it is necessary to watch. “Primera” is an exceptional film, told with the expert eye of Vee Bravo.

They’re Trying to Kill Us

Directed by Keegan Kuhn, John Lewis

They’re Trying to Kill Us, Directed by Keegan Kuhn, John Lewis

Summary: Writer-director team and avid health advocates Keegan Kuhn and John Lewis make their Tribeca debut with their incisive exploration into the insidious relationship between structural racism and chronic disease. Co-director John Lewis crosses the country as he explores food injustice and the ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans, and other communities of color are exceedingly impacted by the lived intersections of race, class, disability, and civic irresponsibility. Executive produced by Billie Eilish and Chris Paul and featuring appearances from plant-based living advocates and cultural influencers such as Dame Dash, Angela Yee, Mya, Styles P, and Ne-yo, Kuhn and Lewis’ eye-opening film sheds light on ever urgent issues of food and health injustice.

My critique: As a Native American vegan, (yes, we exist) I was profoundly impressed by Keegan Kuhn’s and John Lewis’s film. It dives into every aspect of the food industry which does nothing to actually provide nutrition to communities of color, but does everything to destroy it and connect it to the pharmaceutical industry, thus generating the most income by facilitating sickness and a need for medical insurance programs to fix what ails the standard “human being of color.” Many times films about diet and animal factory farming can come off extremely idealistic and “finger pointy” but this film did not. It was well-done, beautifully researched and will be sure to scare a lot of the food industry, government agency and pharmaceutical companies due to its unflinching delivery of the truth.

Clean

Directed by Paul Solet

Clean, Directed by Paul Solet with Adrien Brody

Summary: Tormented by a past life, garbage man Clean attempts a life of quiet redemption. But when his good intentions mark him a target of a local crime boss, Clean is forced to reconcile with the violence of his past in this brutal and bloody thrill ride. With Adrien Brody.

My critique: Yes, Yes, yes, more please. Adrien Brody does a blazingly bright and unapologetic job as “Clean” the former bad dude turned good in this film directed by Paul Solet. The film is exceptional, and Brody does a fantastic job in bringing a chemistry to the screen I haven't quite seen before from him. I absolutely loved this film and am appealing to the director and Brody himself to dive more into this character's back story and future story. I loved and really do mean loved this film. “Clean” is anything but clean as it is gritty, ugly, bloody, and much much more. It’s everything I love about action and gritty thriller films today. Brody owned it and I bought it completely.

Socks on Fire

Directed by Bo Mcguire

Socks on Fire, Directed by Bo Mcguire

Summary: Bo McGuire returns home to rural Alabama to document the bitter property feud between his homophobic aunt and gay uncle. Blending home videos with cinematic reenactments, McGuire paints a riveting picture of a house divided.

My critique: Bo McGuire tells a heartwarming as well as heartbreaking story about the bitter property fight held by his family after the death of his mother. The saddest part of the film is that the difficulty is caused by the mere fact that Bo as well as his uncle are gay in an extremely conservative part of rural Alabama. McGuire tells the story without seemingly any fear, and for that I am most impressed. The story is a bit too real to fathom at times, and I constantly questioned why some people judge others based on sexual orientation. But all said, I applaud McGuire, the film tells a wonderful and truthfully unflinching story.

A-ha the Movie

Directed by Thomas Robsahm

A-ha the Movie, Directed by Thomas Robsahm

Summary: The music of Queen and the Velvet Underground instilled a sense of destiny in three teenagers living in a small town in 70s Norway. That dream led to A-ha: the synth-pop trio featuring keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, vocalist Morten Harket, and guitarist Pål Waktaar- Savoy. No Norwegian act had broken through internationally quite like they did when they burst onto the international scene with 1985’s “Take on Me,” buoyed by an iconic sketch animation video by Steve Barron. The band became global sensations and heartthrobs overnight, but it remained to be seen how they would adapt to their newfound fame. How would they follow their original dream: to make music?

My critique: At first, I thought I didn't like the film. This might sound strange, but I soon came to realize I was put off by the honesty of the film. This truth, in learning about the story of the band members in A-ha, I realized, fame can sometimes be really brutal. Not every claim to fame story is an overwhelmingly happy one, and the band members admittedly they didn’t get along, fought to share song writing credits and often didn’t agree on what version of a song to release. After I snapped out of my illusion, I saw the real story. Fame is hard. Fame is not always at all friendly. And that was the true story. Director Thomas Robsahm could have fed the viewer some generic bit of documentary fluff, but he didn’t, and that was the real story that needed to be told. An eye-opening version of the real truth I grew to appreciate. 

ICT logo bridge

Our stories are worth telling. Our stories are worth sharing. Our stories are worth your support. Contribute $5 or $10 contribution today to help Indian Country Today carry out its critical mission. Sign up for ICT’s free new