For those who enjoy their movies with a side of world affairs, here are seven must-see movies at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival:
1. Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution
Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution tells the story of Kirsty Sword, a young activist and documentarian covering the East Timorese resistance to Indonesia rule in the 1990s. Sword becomes clandestinely involved in the resistance and falls in love with revolutionary leader Xanana Gusmão, whom she eventually marries.
The film frames this love story within the context of the resistance in East Timor. The nation of Timore-Leste has since achieved independence and its people elected Gusmão as their first president. As the film’s website notes, Alias Ruby Blade provides an intimate look at the inner workings of a revolution, with "deep resonance in the events of the Arab Spring."
Get Tribeca Film Festival showtimes for Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution here.
2. Dancing in Jaffa
Dancing in Jaffa documents the efforts of world-renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine to bring together Palestinians and Israelis together through dance in Jaffa, Israel. Dulaine has developed his own method of teaching dance, The Dulaine Method, and co-founded the famous Dancing Classrooms program in the United States that has served over 300,000 students since its inception in the 1990s. Antonio Banderas played Dulaine in the 2006 movie Take the Lead.
In this film, Dulaine pairs Jewish and Palestinian residents of Jaffa in ballroom dancing lessons. The residents of Jaffa have long been embroiled in racial tension and Dulaine’s program must overcome ingrained societal norms in order to succeed.
Get Tribeca Film Festival showtimes for Dancing in Jaffa here.
According to its website, Wadjda is the "first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first by a female Saudi filmmaker," so it is no surprise that the movie also depicts a groundbreaking Saudi female protagonist. 10-year-old Wadjda longs to race her male friend Abdullah on a bicycle. Wadjda will do whatever it takes to raise the money to buy a bike of her own, despite the societal pressure confronting her.
Wadjda does not gloss over the challenging reality for women in Saudi Arabia. These challenges are underscored by the real-life experiences of the director; Telegraph reports that the film’s female director "often had to direct from her production van via walkie-talkie when filming in more conservative areas." To hear more from the director, check out her Tribeca Talks panel after the 4/21 showing.
Get Tribeca Film Festival showtimes for Wadjda here.
Odayaka is an unflinching look at the response of Japanese society to the March 2011 tsunami and the ensuing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The film focuses on two fictional families dealing with an all too real crisis. Two wives wait for their husbands’ returns after the earthquake and grapple with the implications of the tragedy unfolding across the country.
Fear dominates the narrative as the film exposes the psychological impact of the radiation scare on everyday life in Japan. This impact may be most keenly felt by refugees from the disaster zone, who face discrimination due to radiation fears. In an emotional portrait of a country in crisis, Odayaka offers a window into the everyday tensions and triumphs in Japanese society.
Get Tribeca Film Festival showtimes for Odayaka here.
5. Big Men
The documentary Big Men tackles the challenging and complicated role of the oil industry in Africa. Acclaimed filmmaker Rachel Boynton examines the actions of international oil executives and local African politicians in Nigeria and Ghana. It highlights the popular pressure faced by governments to more equitably distribute oil revenue among its population. In recent years, this pressure has manifested in militant violence.
Boynton spent six years making Big Men, during which time she gained unprecedented access to the inner workings of the oil industry. Her persistence has paid off; Big Men has film industry heavyweights lined up behind it, including executive producer Brad Pitt.
Get Tribeca Film Festival showtimes for Big Men here.
6. The Reluctant Fundamentalist
One of the most high-profile and mainstream films at the festival, the big-name stars of The Reluctant Fundamentalist include Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, and Kiefer Sutherland. Based on the popular book of the same name, the movie chronicles the life of a young Pakistani man who chases the American dream all the way to Wall Street before becoming disenchanted. The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks helps catalyze his radicalization against U.S. foreign policy, ultimately leading the protagonist to return to his homeland.
The film comes at a defining moment in U.S.-Pakistan relations, which have been deteriorating of late over concerns about U.S. drone usage. This movie is part of an important conversation about U.S. foreign policy and its impact and reception abroad.
Get Tribeca Film Festival showtimes for The Reluctant Fundamentalist here.
7. The Project
The Project promises to be an exhilarating look inside the world of Somali piracy. The filmmakers were embedded with the controversial Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), a privately-run clandestine paramilitary organization created to fight Somali pirates. A New York Times article in October 2012 noted the organization’s ties to the United Arab Emirates, former CIA employees and Blackwater Worldwide.
The Project digs into the story behind the PMPF, featuring firsthand footage from its activities off the Somali coast and exclusive interviews with the founder of Blackwater. As co-director Adam Ciralsky told Indiewire, making The Project wasn’t easy: "At the outset of production, our camera crew was detained and held at gunpoint for 12 days after being falsely accused of "impersonating a camera crew."
Get Tribeca Film Festival showtimes for The Project here.
The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 17-28 in Manhattan.