Friday, April 24, 2015

Day 10 TFF2015: Who Are You? 'In Transit' Has Some Answers; A Self-Appointed Savior / Vigilante in 'Crocodile Gennadiy'

A mother and daughter aboard the Empire Builder in "In Transit." Photo from "In Transit" Facebook page.

She is fresh off of a visit to her daughter in Chicago. Mother and child have not seen each other in more than 40 years ...

Several days past her due date, a young woman is returning to the bosom of her family and outside the orbit of her disagreeable boyfriend, the father of her unborn child. Her baby will meet at the same time "all the people I love." And hate, "because sometimes my family drives me crazy."

A 21-year-old man with dirty fingernails and a clear vision is going to the oil fields to make his fortune – in seven years.

They are among the changing population of passengers aboard an Empire Builder, a series of Amtrak trains that serves the Midwest and Northwest United States, from Chicago in the East to Seattle in the West. Between points, it makes stops in Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Wisconsin.

Their brief stories are told in "In Transit" from the late Albert Maysles (his last film) and a series of directors on various legs of the trip: Lynn True, David Usui, Nelson Walker and Ben Wu.

The film shows this evening and tomorrow evening in the last two screenings of its world premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.

On any long trip – whether in the sky or on the ground – it is natural to wonder about one's fellow travelers. Where are they going? Are they running from something? Running to something? What's their story? Who are they?

"In Transit" answers these questions to a degree that is satisfactory, haunting, touching. The aforementioned heroine, now sporting red hair and a tattoo, married young to an abusive man who gave her seven children and little else. She grew tired of the beatings, and decided not to take them anymore.

"If you hit me again, I will shoot you," the woman fresh from that Chicago reunion recalls telling her tormenter. His threats from behind prison walls informed her difficult decision to give up the children for adoption.

Not all of the stories are the stuff of blues or country lyrics. A mother and daughter are snuggled against each other, possibly late at night. The daughter is now in college, and they are wishing each other the best in finding good companionship. At the moment, however, it is them against the world.

A bit of patience is required with "In Transit," for it does not go from 0 to 60 in seven seconds. It opens on a young man who has left Mississippi on his way to his brother and a better life in Seattle. He and a young woman are discussing the importance of change ... Children play ... Other passengers board the train. A viewer may not yet be engaged.

But "In Transit," which garnered an honorable mention at last night's Tribeca awards ceremony, finds the right gear and is on cruise control for the rest of the journey. A series of gripping tales emerges – forming a beautiful mosaic, much like this country – as different as the changing landscape framed in the train's windows.

One of the most tender moments unfolds during a conversation between a younger and older man. They are chatting amiably enough, as folks often do on a long trip. With the miles, however, talk becomes more serious.

"To have love" is what the younger man would change about his life, he discloses tearfully. He was raised without a mother or father. The older man takes up his hands and addresses him in soothing, encouraging tones ...

For the first time in her life she is simply herself. "I really don't want to get off the train," says a woman whose marriage and life are in transition. "It's been more than just a means of travel to get from one place to another." Here Tawna is not reduced to "somebody's label" – daughter, wife, mother ...

"I love the plains ... My mother's native; my dad's white," says a man whose relationship is also in critical condition and may have expired by the time he returns home. "But my heart and soul ... It's where I hunt. It's where my people are. It's where my family lives. There is something very therapeutic about getting back to the plains. It's the perfect place to clear a person's head" ...

What is the dream job of this Rugby, North Dakota native? As a youngster, he spied a passing train and wondered where all of those people were going? This is the train conductor's dream job. "Much to the ridicule from my classmates and even some ridicule from my family, this is the only job I ever wanted."

All aboard!

Also showing this evening is Crocodile Gennadiy. The documentary from Steve Hoover, in its world premiere, follows Gennadiy Mokhnenko over a 10-year-period. (See video above).

One of the pastor’s supreme callings is saving Ukrainian youth from streets meaner than ever after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

He has many supporters; he has many detractors.

Films/events on today's TFF2015 schedule: ”Shorts: Interference,” “Some Came Running,” “Live From New York!,” “Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Aloft,” “Slow West,” “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Down in the Valley,” “Tribeca Talks Directors Series: Brad Bird and Janeane Garofalo,” “The Ethics of Accuracy,” “Hyena,” “All Eyes and Ears,” “Far From Men,” “Backtrack,” “Cartel Land,” “Lucifer,” “Shorts: NY - Double Espresso,” “Tenured,” “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of National Lampoon” and “Cronies.”

Visit to learn more about it and the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, including tickets and schedule.

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