Tribeca 2007 Day 3: Fraulein, Coming Out, Attica and Bomb It

Today was simply an extraordinary day at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. There isn’t a film I saw today that I wouldn’t recommend, though some of the films are certainly not for everyone.

First of all, if you have an opportunity to see Attica, see it. It is a masterpiece of activist filmmaking. Centered on an incident that took place at Attica Correctional Facility in New York in 1971, the documentary follows inmates who took over a section of the prison grounds and held guards hostage in an attempt to gain more humane treatment. The film hasn’t been publicly screened for 30 years, and it’s not something you want to miss. Attica will show two more times during the festival. All of the pre-sale tickets for both shows are already gone, leaving only door sales. So, get on line early.

Fraulein is one of the festival’s first distribution success stories of the year, having been picked up by the independent DVD-of-the-month club Film Movement. The film tells the story of three women, displaced from their home countries of Serbia, Croation, and the former Yugoslavia working in a canteen in Zurich. The different women have been in Zurich anywhere between a few days and a couple decades, yet each is still coming to terms with what it means to be an immigrant and whether her identity is tied to her old country or her new one.

“Coming Out” is a program made up of two documentaries, both roughly an hour long, that deal, in some capacity, with sexual politics, sexual identity and the gay identity. The first of the two films, On the Downlow, is the story about a handful of black men in Cleveland, aged 18 to 32, who identify themselves as bisexual. The film follows the men through their daily lives as they negotiate a world that is outwardly unwelcoming to homosexuality and try to maintain both their credibility and their sexual identities.

The second of the two films is The Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman, which is the profile of legendary black sci-fi writer. In addition to sharing excerpts of a lot of Delany’s work and customary personal history with the audience, the film is full of frank discussions of both his sexuality and sexual history as a bisexual man in New York City and his opinions on sexual relationships, in general. The film might be called somewhat “experimental”, because director Fred Barney Taylor chooses not to use what he calls the “show and tell” method: “You know … a phone rings, you show a phone on screen.” Instead, the film is largely stylized images of spaces that are important to Delany’s story accompanied by the writer’s words and voice. It is an interesting and engaging work.

Bomb It, quite simply, is the film that Planet B-boy wanted to be. It traces the origins of and the development of international styles in graffiti, and it’s entertaining the whole way through.

© 2007 Neal Solon. All rights reserved.

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