Tribeca Film Festival Diary: Day nine and beyond

Festival wrap-up, the audience award and a Mexican gem.

by Amber Wilkinson

And so another film festival is drawing to a close. Tribeca's character is a reflection of the city it calls home - diverse. From laidback indie fare, reminiscent of Sundance to mainstream American offerings with big name stars and a smattering of festival favourites from elsewhere in the world, the emphasis has been on the eclectic, which is all to the good. Equally, there is a strong theme of humanitarianism running at the heart of Tribeca, evidenced in both the documentaries on show, plus the opening night SOS series of short films.

While this year's media focus may have been on Al Gore and Spidey 3 elsewhere there has been a buzz about foreign film or more unusual domestic offerings such as Gardener Of Eden and The Cake Eaters. Even the audience award shows a city typically embracing the world and humanitarian issues - with We Are Together (Thina Simunya) by UK director Paul Taylor. This factual film documents the story of children in South Africa's Agape Orphanage, almost all of whom have lost loved ones to Aids. Far from being downbeat, this film is a celebration of the children's spirit.

Accepting the Cadillac Award, Paul Taylor said he was "a fantastic honour". He added: Audince reaction has been incredible and we've had a great festival. Having some of the children from Agape with us during hte festival has been very special. Everywhere they go, people fall in love with them. This is there award."

Paul Taylor and co-producer Teddy Leifer will dedicate the $25,000 prize from the award to school fees from the Agape children through their RISE Foundation.

Away from the award winners and back at the last few days of the festival, I crammed in a few more films - mostly sitting a darkened basement in Tribeca.

Black Butterfly (Mariposa Negra) is a hard-hitting tale set against the all-too-real backdrop of Alberto Fuimori's civil dictatorship in Peru at the turn of the Noughties. A nice-as-pie schoolteacher embarks on a mission of revenge

when her "honest" judge fiance is murdered by the head of Peru's intelligence service, Vladimiro Montesinos - known for his corruption. Enraged after her dead lover is slandered by the local rag, she embarks on an unlikely friendship with the young journalist who wrte the story and they set about trying to turn her aspirations for vengeance into a reality. This is as much a character study as it is a political thriller, with outstanding performances by Melania Urbina (think Penelope Cruz with more acting chops) and first-time actress Magdyel Ugaz.

Even more hard-hitting is documentary The Devil Came On Horseback, revealing the mass genocide of Sudanese in Darfur - being killed with the complicity of their own Government. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of this one on the festival circuit and, since it has been co-produced by Auntie Beeb, it will also be making its way on to TV screens in due course.

I wrapped up my festival watching with a Spanish-speaking double-bill. First up was Born and Bred (Nacido y Criado), a slow-burning Argentinian indie flick about a man struck by tragedy, trying to rediscover his spirit in the wastes of Patagonia. The story is a little on the slow side, but the direction is such that it draws you in. Sparse scripting means that the landscape is as much a part of the story as the central character and his buddies - all lost in their own ways. While the subject matter struggles slightly to sustain the 100 runtime, the direction is so lyrical in its sweep, that you want to forgive it.

Last but by no means least was Two Embraces (Dos Abrazos) - an excellently handled first feature from Enrique Begne. The embraces refer to connections between characters, desperately seeking various types of solace in modern day Mexico. Told in two halves, the first concerns a friendship between a pent up schoolboy, forced into self-reliance by a family split and a cashier, herself dealing with forms of rejection, which bubbles up as anger. The second segment involves a taxi driver, with an equally fractured homelife, who finds a common bond with a girl estranged from her father. Beautifully symmetrical, this has mirrored themes of hopes, dreams and desires, well-captured in the framework of the young teaching the old and vice versa. One of my favourite films of the festival.

Talking of favourites, the winners are now in. More of which later.

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