The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival Diaries

In the past, the only film festival that I’ve ever really been able to attend was the Toronto International Film Festival, because it was the only one that just happened to be incredibly close to where I live. Had I not been urged to come along by my friend Rendy Jones (@Rendy_Jones on Twitter, writer for Rendy Reviews), I don’t think I’d even have planned out attending the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival too. But even before I headed there, I was always so nervous about how I would end up going in the first place, because I don’t have a full-time job yet – I was a mere student still stuck within Sheridan College’s Media Fundamentals program trying to find a place to turn what I loved most into something more meaningful. Yet an opportunity came my way from the fact that I was lucky enough to be able to cover press at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, because it simply means the world to me to be able to share how people like myself, on the autism spectrum, are capable of using everything that they’ve got within them, to do great things. For most of my high school years, I have started off as a nervous high school kid who simply loved movies, but I turned that love of film into something that would eventually bring me somewhere. First it brings me to TIFF, but not only into a chance to network with so many celebrities, but rather what I think happens to be more important, new friends along the way.

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me and Rendy (left), who was the main reason I had ended up going in the first place.
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a picture taken at Village East with Dilara Elbir, with whom I saw House of Hummingbird

Upon my arrival, I was a bit worried that I would end up getting lost in New York City, because I had not been there in so many years. Yet in the four days that I have spent there, going back and forth between cinemas and my hotel all the way in New Jersey, I had suddenly realized that maybe navigating my way through the city wasn’t going to be so bad after all. I ended up getting lost with a new friend Carl Broughton (@Carlislegendary on Twitter, creator of TheFilmEra) after we took the wrong train to get back to the Tribeca hub, and eventually what happened then was a run-in with the director of House of Hummingbird, which was the first film that I saw at the festival. And even going back to that, I was not planning on seeing it at first but because I could not resist spending time with Dilara Elbir (@elbirdilara on Twitter, editor-in-chief of Much Ado About Cinema, a site which I had contributed to during its start) at a screening. Given the film I was initially supposed to watch at the time (that being Guy Nattiv’s Skin), I feel as if changing the plan right at the theater since the two screenings were not very far apart from one another might also have proven itself to have been for the best. For the duration of the festival, I think it was easy enough for me to say that it had remained my favourite of the films that I saw there – despite some rather stiff competition with Luce.

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from left to right: Brianna Zigler, Cody Corrall (@dykediscourse on Twitter), and me, at an after party following a screening of Good Posture

On that same day, I ended up running into Brianna Zigler (@briannazigs on Twitter, staff writer for Screen Queens) and for the duration of my time at the festival, I primarily went along with her for most of my ventures. Of course, the inevitable selfies with friends had to come along the way and obviously, some celebrities (I ended up getting a picture with Werner Herzog of all people), but making new connections during the festival also made the time there all the more worthwhile. Yet there was a nice feeling coming by in the fact that people whom I had only known for a long while solely through being Twitter mutuals wouldn’t only remain that, but friends whom I now know up close and personally. It feels nice to have a comfort of this sort because of course it was never easy to build up my network during my high school years and although I’ve slowly found myself getting better through my first days of college, I’m still struggling to try and connect even with many of those who I see on the regular. First with TIFF having backed me up last year, and now Tribeca, not only am I finding that my own networking skills are slowly improving but perhaps new opportunities are coming my way one by one, as if there’s anything else that I needed most out of what I know I could take my own love of film to become in the future.

So how can I describe my time at the festival overall? I must say, it has just been an incredibly fun experience overall. I don’t know if it can get any more obvious than that, though – especially given how many films I had been able to see in a short period of time. Regrettably, I was only ever able to stay for four days but I feel like those four days might also have felt so much more freeing than I could ever have asked for. It’s freeing in the sense that I’ve remained so close with something that I’ve loved most and I’m right in the same space together with other people who also share that mutual love. I’ve said so much of this about being in Toronto already but I think it’s easy enough for me to say that with walking around Toronto being something so regular for myself, New York was a nice experience to have, maybe with a festival of a smaller scope as a nice way to start off. But being at Tribeca also reminded me of everything that I loved so much about being over at TIFF too and being able to cover press over there at the same time.

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from left to right, Grace Van Patten, me, Dolly Wells, and Emily Mortimer after recording an interview conducted by me in which we talked about Wells’s film Good Posture

Though I will say that I’m glad to have had a certain opportunity that I was looking forward to from TIFF last year – which was the conducting of a one-on-one interview. Except that my interview didn’t turn out exactly like I thought it would, it ended up treating me to something way more than what I could have ever asked for. I was initially planning on only interviewing Dolly Wells because I was informed that Emily Mortimer was completely booked up, only to find that as soon as I arrived at the hotel where the interviews were to take place, everyone came late. So what happened after that? The moment I was called to conduct an interview, I ended up not only interviewing Dolly Wells, but also Emily Mortimer and Grace Van Patten too. My interview time was rather short but being able to converse with three women whom I’ve admired greatly was beyond what I could ever ask for, given as it wasn’t a brief talk on the red carpet but rather a conversation about the film in person, almost felt like chatting with friends. And adding to that, I ended up going to an after party following the screening – and it wasn’t only a nice way for me to cap off the festival, but it was also a nice place to continue networking. After all, I kept a promise to Dolly and Emily I would be attending after all since I did RSVP. We had a bit of an issue with my entry because I was under 21 (although it was never specified that the party would be a 21 & over party), but eventually I was allowed in – where Emily thanked me once again for the interview.

With all of this having been said, I wonder if there was a whole lot more that I could have done too. Being an autistic member of the press is one thing, but sometimes I wonder if there’s a lot more that I could do in order to get readers of all sorts showing their support. Because I know being an attendee of these numerous film festivals would be helpful in getting support for autistic writers of my own sort, though it’d also depend on how much I’m willing to put myself out there. For being my first film festival outside of Canada, I think it’d be easy enough for me to say that this was a nice way to start up, because at least now I’ve got another film festival that I can include on my resumé. But in those four days that I’ve spent in New York City, they’ve also provided rewarding experience one after another, and I’m only hoping that I can return here in the future. Even if it may not immediately be within next year, I’m still hoping that only the best can come my way. If anything, it also helped me with getting some good practice for TIFF later this year, and of course I look forward to returning there and maybe even meeting up with new peers too.


Capsules (and a Ranking of the Films I Saw)

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House of Hummingbird – My favourite of the seven films that I ended up seeing at the festival. Like watching memories of life in South Korea and how these small moments end up changing one’s own life for better or for worse. What’s most astonishing to me though is the fact this was a directorial debut, and I ended up meeting writer-director Bora Kim after the screening too – and she was incredibly lovely to chat with. Like that I’m already looking forward to what she has in store for the future.

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Luce – A Sundance darling that I was lucky to catch early. This initially wasn’t on my schedule either, but I kept thinking to myself that this is quite a Funny Games reunion if I’ve ever seen one, directed by the man behind The Cloverfield Paradox of all people. Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Octavia Spencer are exceptional as one could expect, but the real star is Kelvin Harrison, Jr. – this film is incredibly unnerving.

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In Fabric – A film that I ended up missing at TIFF last year that I was lucky enough to be able to catch here. Peter Strickland’s In Fabric is every bit as gorgeous as it is incredibly sick, twisted, terrifying, and incredibly funny. Don’t miss out on this one.

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Good Posture – Dolly Wells’s directorial debut finds itself falling under some familiar trappings for indie comedy-dramas of the sort, but I’d be lying if I were also to say that they made the film any less relatable. In capturing the pettiness of its lead character adjusting to a new lifestyle influenced by high art, Dolly Wells still captures a sense of sweetness that made Lilian (and Van Patten’s performance) so endearing. Emily Mortimer is great too, but I’m in awe at the direction and writing here, I can’t wait to see this film again or what Dolly Wells has in store for the future.

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Standing Up, Falling Down – Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal have perfect chemistry in this, and although the film doesn’t quite do much to make itself so much more distinctive from many other low-key comedy-dramas of the sort, its approach to the subject matter at hand still makes for an incredibly sweet viewing. Cliché it may be, but it’s never free of being all-around nice.

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Meeting Gorbachev – Werner Herzog’s documentary about the life of Mikhail Gorbachev is one that feels free of compromise, especially in its outlook upon the many achievements that Gorbachev has accomplished in his career – if still rather straightforward in its approach. But none of that ever really felt as if it were taking away from the emotional impact that comes by as we look through moments that were definitive for Gorbachev’s own life, because Werner Herzog is incapable of making a boring movie.

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Pure as Snow – The only film I’ve seen here I can say I was not a fan without hesitation. For a comedy film that gives Snow White a modernized approach, it’s rarely if ever funny and almost devoid of personality. But supposedly its feminist message seems to be there in the fact its protagonist can go around having sex with seven men (like the seven dwarfs, obviously) as her own distinctive quirk. At least Isabelle Huppert is fun to watch.

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Something Else – Not counting this as part of the films that I saw here because me and Brianna decided to walk out on this one. But I can say without hesitation I was not a fan of what I was seeing here.

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