Thursday, May 2, 2019

Day 9 Tribeca 2019: 'Lil' Buck': Real Swan: A Dancer's Graceful Rise Onto World Stages From the Concrete Surfaces of Memphis

"Lil' Buck: Real Swan" tracks the journey of Charles “Lil Buck” Riley from jookin in the skating rink to the streets of Memphis to world stages.

BY VW

WATCHING
"Lil' Buck: Real Swan," I am inexorably assailed by the sad, sad truth that so many talented people in underserved communities live regretful lives of dreams deferred simply because they don't have opportunities.

Many of them have the drive, talent, discipline, grit, sticktoittiveness. What they lack are opportunities. They don't know anyone, hence their lives lived far below their potential.

Luckily for the world of dance - and one suspects a number of other youths in the Memphis, Tennessee area and beyond - this did not happen to Charles “Lil Buck” Riley. The young dancer is the subject of Louis Wallecan's documentary, which is having its world premiere run at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. The last screening is tomorrow evening.

"Lil' Buck: Real Swan" is intensely engaging from the start. LW lets the camera roll and allows his subjects to speak their truth about jookin, the danceform that contributed to Lil' Swan's ascendancy. There is much context here. Basile Belkhiri's razor-sharp editing is responsible for the film's strong, cohesive narrative.

Jookin started among street kids and kids from very troubled families in a Memphis skating rink. When the rink shuttered, the dancers took it to the streets and parking lots. Just about any space with a pavement - usually concrete - that allowed the dancers to hone and perfect their moves.

Jookin is a series of complex dance moves that put most of the focus on the feet. They are moving as if on air. The fluidity of movement is all the more impressive because the surface is not sleek; pebbles might even be involved. For many of the practitioners, jookin evolved as a way to stay out of trouble. To stay out of gangs. To stay alive.

Lil' Buck was introduced to this culture and soon his extraordinary talents were evident. He brought something different - namely a flexibility. For instance, the ability to invert his ankles (ouch!). Lil Buck's mother moved the family from Chicago and was not only determined to keep him out of trouble, she wanted him to succeed, per his dreams. Placing him in a performing arts school was a savvy move. There, he would come to the attention of people from the Memphis' ballet company.

Margo Robbie and Finn Cole in "Dreamland. The film will have its final world premiere screening at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, 4 May.

They saw the talent, drive, discipline. A talent that needed harnessing to combine the various dance style into a cohesive whole. His performance of "The Swan," would bring him to the notice of Yo-Yo Ma, former child prodigy himself. The dynamic duo performed it together in Beijing; the video went viral. And so did Lil' Buck's dancing career.

LW could have ended "Lil' Buck: Real Swan" with the thunderous standing ovation following that performance of "The Swan" with YYM. It would have been a good way to end the film, for the performance is achingly beautiful, graceful, powerful, effortless, transportive. Ethereal. Breathtaking.

It will bring tears to the eyes of some viewers. Incidentally, the most touching moment comes during that performance. BB does a cutaway, then there is applause. Then, he returns to the performance for the ovation to come and Lil' Buck's final bow. Extraordinary stuff.

Instead of having a good ending, though, "Lil' Buck: Real Swan" has a great ending. Leading up to it is a scene with Lil' Buck teaching the next generation. The actual ending - a long, panoramic frame that provides the stage for a final dance - is the coup de coeur.

Be prepared to vigorously applaud.

Other screenings and events on today's schedule: "Dreamland" VIRTUAL ARCADE Tribeca CINEMA360 "I AM HUMAN" "Seahorse" "Clementine" "Shorts: Life Preserver" "Rewind" "Plus 1" "House of Hummingbird" "Gully" "XY Chelsea" "Maiden" "Only" "Vida" "For They Know Not What They Do" "Making Waves" "Gay Chorus Deep South" "Luce"

IMAGES FROM DAY 8

Tribeca Talks: Storytellers - Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones discusses her career and her famous father, Quincy, with Hasan Minhaj during a "Tribeca Talks: Storytellers" series. Photo by Nicholas Hunt for the Tribeca Film Festival.

Tuca & Bertie

Tiffany Haddish discusses her new Netflix series, Tuca & Bertie. Video courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.

Visit http://www.tribecafilm.com/festival to learn more about the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Day 7 Tribeca 2019: 'Burning Cane' Leaves in Its Wake Burning Questions, 'The Short History of the Long Road' Captures the Heart Quite Without Trying

Wendell Pierce as a man of God wrestling with some demons in "Burning Cane."

BY VW

TWO
questions will confront viewers of Phillip Youmans’ feature premiere, "Burning Cane."

The film is having its world debut run at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Its final screening is on Saturday (4 May). But to the questions Who was killed and Who was shot?

The director leaves the answers firmly in the hands of the viewer. Because some things, he seems to be conveying, do not need to be spelled out. If you really think about it, you will know. If you are really watching; if you can really see; if you will look beyond the surface. PY appears to be challenging the viewer to go deeper; to think and feel it out.

"Burning Cane" is one of the festival's most talked about films mainly because 19-year-old New York University film student PY is the youngest director to have a work accepted. He actually finished the film when he was in high school in South Louisiana.

There is not much dialogue in the film, nor does there need to be. Indeed, the dim light and darkness in which it is shot says a great deal. It lends it a depth that would be lacking if it were shot in brighter light. It's as if the dimness speaks to the pervasive anguish. The dimness adds layers of complexity to the lives of simple people.

For those who are not unfamiliar with these characters - I am such a one - there is beauty in their laconic natures. The light or lack of light also becomes lyrical and musical. It provides insights that words cannot.


Another film on its world premiere run at 2019 Tribeca is Ani Simon-Kennedy's "The Short History of the Long Road." It's a road film and follows the adventures of Nola (portrayed tenderly by Sabrina Carpenter) as she makes her way across country all on her own. Her road dog was her free-spirited father (Steven Ogg), until he was not. Plucky Nola, sensing that she must step up or be swept up, does what she has to do. She sets out.

Along the way, she meets a variety of characters, none of whom are out to do her harm (lucky her!). The closest call she has is with house-breaking, pool-draining skateboarders. It turns out, though, that they really are interested in boards, not broads.

Fortuitously, she encounters a foster mother who give her some sage advice: "get your act together(meaning her lying-through-your-teeth spiel). The most poignant meeting is with her estranged mother who discloses some information that will probably keep Nola out of trouble and out of counseling.

"The Short History of the Long Road" is a guileless film that touches the heartstrings quite without endeavoring to do so.

Other screenings and events on today's schedule: "Maiden" VIRTUAL ARCADE, Tribeca CINEMA360 "Shorts: Funhouse" "Sublime" "Dreamland" "Skin" "Stray Dolls" "Charlie Says" "Blow the Man Down" "Other Music" "Buffaloed" "Swallow" "Georgetown" "Good Posture" "In Fabric" "Wild Rose."

IMAGES FROM DAY 6

Gay Chorus Deep South

Members of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus perform during the world premiere of "Gay Chorus Deep South. Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival.

Inna De Yard: The Soul of Jamaica

Ken Boothe performs some of his greatest hits following the world premiere of "Inna De Yard: The Soul of Jamaica. Photo by Astrid Stawiartz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival.

Visit http://www.tribecafilm.com/festival to learn more about the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Day 5 Tribeca 2019: In 'Flawless,' Going All the Way and Way Too Far to Achieve Perfection

Stav Strashko as Eden in "Flawless."

BY VW

ONCE
upon a time as a teen, I would have sold my soul to the devil to have a certain body type.

Who am I kidding? As a young adult, I would have sold my soul to the devil to have a certain body type. I won't disclose precisely what the body type is/was. Suffice it to say that I was willing to pay that high price.

I kept this in mind as I was watching "Flawless." The film, from Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit, has its international premiere this evening at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. It was necessary to remember these follies of my youth and young adulthood to prevent me from passing judgment on three high school girls prepared to part with far less than their soul - but way too much - to achieve what they perceive as perfection.

The three are portrayed engagingly by Netsanet Zenaneh Mekonnen, Noam Lugasy and Israeli trans model Stav Strashko. "Flawless" is not an atypical teen, coming-of-age film, including all of the snobbery, bullying, clicks and insecurity that are seemingly part of teen life around the world. This Israeli high school can be plopped down in New Jersey or Texas, losing virtually nothing in translation.

More than anything, "Flawless" is a cautionary tale about the quest for beauty and perfection at any cost. It will remind viewers that some people really are willing to do anything. Of course, the boon that is the plastic surgery industry is proof positive.

Many will reflect on their younger selves - as I did - to comprehend the addled minds of these three young people. Their chosen course will send parents in to paroxysms of worry and anxiety about what their offspring are up to in the perfection quest.

"Flawless" is a film that rightly asks us all what we are willing to sacrifice for something so fleeting as beauty. It also reminds us that the price may be too great.

Other screenings and events on today's schedule: "What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali" "Low Tide" VIRTUAL ARCADE, Tribeca CINEMA360 "A Kid From Coney Island" "Halston" "Dreamland" "Clementine" "Good Posture" "Only" "Knives and Skin" "Other Music" "Buffaloed" "Shorts: On Tour" "Georgetown" "David O. Russell with Jennifer Lawrence" "A Day in the Life of America."

IMAGES FROM DAY 4

In Living Color

Tommy Davidson, Shawn Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Kim Wayans and David Alan Grier before a screening of the pilot episode of "In Living Color." The sketch comedy premiered 25 years ago on Fox.Photo by Gary Gershoff/Wire Image.

A Day in the Life of America

Director Jared Leto kicks up his heel on the red carpet before the world premiere of "A Day in the Life of America." Photo by Nicholas Hunt for Getty Images for the Tribeca Film Festival.

Visit http://www.tribecafilm.com/festival to learn more about the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Day 4 Tribeca 2019: China's Social Engineering Under Indictment in 'Leftover Women' and 'One Child Nation'

Stefanie Qiu Hua Mei is not happy about the notion of marriage in "Leftover Women."

BY VW

IN
the United States, an old maid is a woman who has not married by a certain age.

Once upon a time it was 30 but may be older now, since over the last 50 years or so, more women have gotten college degrees and entered the workforce. Plus, the Women's Liberation Movement removed some of the stigma, but not all of it.

Currently in China, an old maid is a woman who has not married by the time she is 27. They are also called sheng nu or leftover ladies. It is this group of women that is the focus of Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia's documentary, "Leftover Women." It has its world premiere this evening at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

Watching this unsettling film, Western audiences must be careful not to look at the state and fate of these women through the prism of their more liberal-minded cultures. Those in the United States must be particularly careful. These audiences must remember that China has not had a women's civil rights movement. Further, that China is not a democracy.

The state has decreed that these women must be married and married they will be, lest they suffer ostracism or worse. At this juncture, it should be noted that there is a strong correlation between the singleness of these women and China's 36-year One Child Policy.

Another documentary in the festival, Nanfu Wang's "One Child Nation," addresses the repercussions of this controversial edict and is a strong companion piece to "Leftover Women." It has its New York premiere at the festival on Tuesday (30 April).

In "Leftover Women," the three ladies featured are Kelly Xu Min, a 28-year-old journalist; 34-year-old attorney Stefanie Qiu Hua Mei, and Iris Gai Qi, a 36-year-old college professor. The viewer's heart will go out to all three because they will commit social suicide if they refuse to tow the line. This is particularly true of Stefanie, the defiant one.

Her situation is complicated by the fact that she simply does not wish to marry. At least, not now. Yet, she gives it the old college try, if for no other reason than to get her family off of her back. Some members essentially throw temper tantrums, tossing around the S word (shame) and other inducements they think might break Stefanie's iron will.

The camera follows her going out on a date, visiting a nightclub, surfing dating sites and attending a parents' marriage mart. At the latter, parents shop for potential spouses for their children. Intimidated, one parent beseeches Stefanie to go away. Stefanie's case is the most hopeful because she has another plan.

Kelly is totally prepared to conform. Her efforts, however, are hampered by her mother. No young man Kelly has presented to her parents can stand up under the weight of her mother's rather exacting standards. In one of the documentary's most explosive scenes, Kelly confronts her mother. It is cathartic, if also a bit histrionic.

And then there is Iris. She does not really wish to marry, yet she acquiesces. It is so much easier to take the road of least resistance. To be a lamb for the slaughter. No ridicule. No shunning. No shaming. She is involved with a younger man whose family she is certain will not approve of her. Yet, they do marry and in due time she gives birth.

Of course, there is no happily-ever-after for Iris. She went along to get along; she did what she had to do. There is both nobility and utter sadness in her choice.

In watching "Leftover Women," I was often reflecting on how fortunate I am to be a U.S. American. To live in a culture where one is generally left alone to do what she pleases. There may be a little familial and societal grousing at nonconformity, but nothing close to the outcast status that awaits recalcitrant leftover ladies in China.

"One Child Nation" director Nanfu Wang and her son.

Until there is a change in state policy or successful pushback, the only option for a measure of peace for other reluctant women is to follow Stefanie's example. However, it involves a sacrifice many won't be willing or able to make.

"Leftover Women" is a reminder of the dangers and damage of state-forced and coerced social engineering, as well as the necessity of female empowerment in most corners of the world.

Other screenings and events on today's schedule: "Flesh Out" VIRTUAL ARCADE, Tribeca CINEMA360 "17 Blocks" "The Short History of the Long Road" "Stray Dolls" "Shorts: WTF" "Clementine" "A Regular Woman" "Scheme Birds" "The Apollo" "White As Snow" "Buffaloed" "A Day in the Life of America" "Shorts: Down to Earth" "In Living Color" and "Ask Dr Ruth."

Visit http://www.tribecafilm.com/festival to learn more about the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Day 3 Tribeca 2019: 'Goldie' and 'Standing Up, Falling Down': Goldie and Scott are Having a Youth and Young Adult Life Crisis, Respectively

Goldie (Slick Woods) rocking the outfit that is her way out in "Goldie."

BY VW

TWO
young people at two different points of adulthood trying to make their way in a complicated and difficult world.

These are the protagonists of two films making their North American and world premieres at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, including screenings today.

In Sam de Jong's "Goldie," future supermodel Slick Woods in a breakout film debut, is the title character. An 18-year-old forced to take some frightening steps into adulthood.

On Goldie's young shoulders is far too much of the weight of the world, the very least of which is a minor role in a massively minor video as a vixen wearing a canary yellow fur that she believes is her ticket out. No teenager should have this kind of massive struggle for survival. No teenager should be responsible for the welfare of younger siblings. No teenager should have to hustle the way Goldie does. Yet circumstances and a fierce love force many to do so.

To the extend that Woods' portrayal seems natural, she had some similar struggles to those of the character she portrays. As the saying goes, the struggle is real.

And so it is, too, for Scott (Ben Schwartz) in "Standing Up, Falling Down" from Matt Ratner. He left his sleepy Long Island town to make it as a comic in Los Angeles. Except that he didn't. At least not in any economically sustainable fashion. So ... at thirty-something, he's back home living in his parents house trying to figure out next steps.

The films feature strong leads and a supporting cast. In the case of "Goldie," some real-life people. Meanwhile, Billy Crystal offers outstanding support in "Standing Up, Falling Down," one of his strongest roles since he last hosted the Academy Awards. He is a dermatologist whom Scott befriends. His Marty is also having his own existential crisis and offers Scott some advice that may moor the younger man.

Though Goldie and Scott are experiencing coming-of-age crises, they come to them from vastly different places. The former is the product of a loving, unstable, homeless, shelter-based underclass urban family, while the latter springs from loving, stable, working-class suburban stock with a mortgage. Further, Goldie's parents are absent and Scott's are present. Indeed, they are supportive. And ever ready with doses of reality, particularly Scott's father. It's tempting to wonder how they would fare if their circumstances were reversed.

Troubled souls Scott (Ben Schwartz) and Marty (Billy Crystal) in are fast friends in "Standing Up, Falling Down."

SW in "Goldie" and BS in "Standing Up, Falling Down" are utterly engaging and authentic. Their respective performances have the power to inspire viewers to stop, critically think and examine their lives.

Neither film offers a happy ending with a cherry on top. However, they end on a palpably hopeful note.

Some other titles screening today: "Aamis" VIRTUAL ARCADE, Tribeca CINEMA360 "American Factory" "Blow the Man Down" "Burning Cane" "Children Do Not Play at War" "Cinema 360" "Come to Daddy" "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice" "Mystify: Michael Hutchence" "Queen Latifah With Dee Rees With the Premiere of the Queen Collective Shorts" "Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project" "Roads" "Scheme Birds" "Shorts: WTF" and "Traitor"

Visit http://www.tribecafilm.com/festival to learn more about the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule.

Friday, February 8, 2019

In 'Cold Pursuit,' Going Down the Beaten Path With Liam Neeson Until the Trail Leads to Welcome, Untrodden Territory

White Bull (Tom Jackson), right, is the leader of a Native American drug cartel in "Cold Pursuit." Photo courtesy of StudioCanal

BY VW

Watching
the early minutes of "Cold Pursuit," I am immediately disappointed. 

Here is Liam Neeson, an utterly accomplished actor in a film in which he has no business. Unless his business is money.

In "Cold Pursuit," opening today in U.S. theaters, LN is Nelson Coxman, the  operator of a greater Denver snowplow business. His son is killed. He goes after the bad guys.

I'm thinking we've been down this road before. It is called "Taken" and its sequels. Then, when the story turns in the direction outright vigilantism - evoking the ghost of Charles Bronson's "Death Wish" franchise - I fasten my seatbelt tightly, because I am resigned to a bumpy afternoon in a darkened theater.

(I will later learn that Hans Petter Moland's film is a remake of a Norwegian film that is based on a true story in which vigilantism figures prominently).

Back in real time, though, the film veers down another avenue, revealing unexpected signposts. I breathe a sigh of relief. 

Along with the dreaded familiar are some surprises, plus mounds and mounds of cheekiness ... More shortly.

"Cold Pursuit" is rated R. Visit http:// www.coldpursuit.movie/ to learn more about the film.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Open Call to Fashionistas: Slow Your Roll on Fast Fashion. Shop Here, Not There.

The asymmetrical tank dress from Dorsu was designed to minimize fabric use and maximize versatility. It is made from lightweight, blended cotton jersey.

BY VW

FASHIONISTAS,
your attention, please. Smartphones down. Eyes Up. Ears Open.

Please kick the fast fashion habit. It's deadly and there is another way, albeit a tad more costly. But it's worth it.

One can only hope you've been giving this serious consideration these last couple of weeks or so during fashion week season (As you are no doubt aware, New York Fashion Week men's and women's commences next week.).

If you need another call to action to do the right thing, then cast your eyes on The Global Environmental Injustice of Fast Fashion article. It was written by Washington University professor Christine Ekenga and two colleagues and recently published in the journal, Environmental Health. (https://www.bit.ly/2RmuYWx)

In it they posit in no uncertain terms that the inexorable appetite, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom, for clothes that are cheap, readily available and in the first stare of fashion is causing an environmental crisis in what they term low and middle-income countries, or (LMICs). Places like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Vietnam.

The Everlane sweater is made from 100 percent recycled polyester and a mainly cotton trim. The jeans, a Japanese denim, are made from cotton and elastane.

"From the growth of water-intensive cotton, to the release of untreated dyes into local water sources, to worker's low wages and poor working conditions, the environmental and social costs involved in textile manufacturing are widespread," says CE, an assistant professor at WU’s Brown School.

For most of us along the fashion spectrum with a pulse, this should merely be a reminder. Elizabeth Cline was one of the first to raise the alarm about fast fashion in her 2012 book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. The indictment continued in 2015 with Andrew Morgan's damning documentary, "The True Cost," not to mention the scores of articles and reports on this subject.

Don’t we all remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 in Bangladesh that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 workers? The poor working conditions that lead to the Renza Plaza catastrophe, pollution and other ills to which CE alludes happen at the major steps of the supply chain.

At production where synthetic fibers such as polyester are made and dyed. Where cotton is also dyed, that is after harmful pesticides are used to make it grow. Then on to assembly. Here, working conditions are poor. Next, these clothes – tattered and possibly out of fashion or out of favor – are discarded. Bundled, they find their way to LMICs where they are sorted by workers laboring in unsafe conditions for resale in LMICs. What is not sold is deemed solid waste. That would be harmful solid waste that takes a devil of a time to breakdown. That is if it can break down. If not, it just devolves into pollution.

Some of these clothes are burned. Imagine what that does to the air, regardless of where it happens when tons upon tons up of anything is burned. Imagine what it does to those forced to breathe in this toxicity.

The Stella McCartney Jame Coat for men is a single-breasted trench made from 100 percent wool with a 100 percent sustainable viscose lining. It also comes in black.

A pause to elucidate on burning as a waste disposal method: It is not just solely fast fashion brands like H&M that are guilty. Do we not expect better corporate responsibility from the likes of Michael Kors, the maker of Cartier watches and Burberry? To be fair, some of these luxury brands, Burberry included, have seen the error of their ways and are repenting. But that was a digression. Back to fast fashion.

So, if fast fashion is not the way forward, then what is? Of course, fashion that is well-sourced, well-produced and recycled if possible. Naturally (to use a word), this includes eco-friendly, sustainable and ethical fashion. Like others who has visited this subject, CE&Co. propose antidotes like the purchase of responsible fashion such as in the aforesaid categories, as well a government and corporate intervention.

Because fashionistas and others so inclined are being called out, a consumer call to action is the focus of this article. It is as simple as buying a Dorsu instead of Topshop. People Tree instead of Zara. Patronizing Everlane instead of Misguided.. And yes, one will be parting with more of his or her currency. In the name of massively good causes, lest we forget

Those with significant blunt to spend won't lack places to patronize. Stella McCartney, Eileen Fisher, Rag & Bone, Mara Hoffman and other luxury brands doing eco-friendly and sustainable fashion are willing to separate you from it. Another label to keep an eye on that is between very affordable and luxury it Studio 189. One of its founders is Rosario Dawson.

Incidentally, just because a brand says it is doing fashion responsibly doesn't mean that it is. In the words of the Russian proverb,trust, but verify. Good on You can help with that. Visit the website or download the app. Type in the name of a brand to get information about how responsibly it sources and produces its product at every level of the process, including employee treatment and working conditions (https://www.goodonyou.eco/).

The Eileen Fisher silk satin jacket is fully lined. It has a notch collar and can be worn belted or not.

It is important to state here that this is no witch hunt targeting H&M, Forever 21 and their ilk. The hope is that these companies will tweak their business model responsibly. You, dear fashionistas, can write them yourself, and request that they do so. If you don't have their contact, Good On You does.

The bottomline: fast fashion would not exist if there were not a market for it. Take away the demand, and H&M and company will start making better quality clothes, eliminating the need for consumers to replace them every few months. That's the least you, you, you and you can do to ensure that people around the world – including yourselves – have a better quality of life; to save lives, no?

That would make a huge fashion statement.
 
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