Running from the 8th to 19th of June, all eyes are cast as perhaps to be expected on the Tribeca Film Festival’s rich offerings of premiere screenings. But scratch the surface of the program and just as exciting is the superbly curated series of retrospective screenings. Alongside the big names, of which there are many (The Godfather with Al Pacino in attendance, who will also be Pacino joining Robert De Niro, and director Michael Mann for a screening of Heat), just as notable are the diverse array of retrospective screenings that are either directed by women, or have women in central, significant production roles.
Of these, Kasi Lemmons’ timeless Eve’s Bayou is a standout, the director herself joined in a panel including amongst others cast members Jurnee Smollett, Meagan Good and Lynn Whitfield. Released originally in 1997, the film follows the 10-year-old title character (played by Jurnee Smollett) as she navigates the very adult world of her parents, particularly her father’s (Samuel L. Jackson) role in it and the challenges the family faces after secrets are revealed. A classic of the southern gothic and a moving coming-of-age drama, Eve’s Bayou only gets better over time, and the chance to see it on the big screen with so many of its key creatives is a rare, precious one indeed.
Far at the other end of the spectrum, the Tribecxploitation program has exhumed Roberta Findlay’s 1985 grindhouse classic Tenement to shock, scandalize and – most importantly, perhaps – destroy any assumptions naive viewers might have regarding what kinds of films women filmmakers “should” make. Breathing new breath into nasty cinema, Tenement follows a gang of feral junkies who rampage through a tenement building in the Bronx after being evicted, seeking revenge on both the owners who threw them out and the residents who remain there. Tenement is not for the squeamish, and is to be celebrated precisely because of it.
Remaining in this year’s impressive Tribecxploitation program, a must-see highlight is of course Abel Ferrara’s iconic Ms. 45 from 1981, returning to the screen in the very same city where Ferrara and his gonzo filmmaking team ran riot just over forty years ago, filming the legendary rape-revenge film with neither permits nor fears. While certainly very much a “Ferrara film”, as he himself has said over the years, this essential cult movie would never have been what it was without the involvement of its central actor, Zoë Lund, who while only 17 years old when cast in the role and speaking only one word of dialogue brought to Ms. 45 an enormous energy, presence and sheer force of will that concretely amplify her role surely to that as one of a key collaborator.
Similarly, the role of producer extraordinaire Christine Vachon in bringing Todd Haynes’s still eye wateringly glorious Velvet Goldmine to the screen remains the stuff of legend. Appearing in a panel at the screening with, amongst others, actor Ewan McGregor and Haynes himself, Vachon’s presence alone renders this screening unmissable. Co-produced by Olivia Stewart and shot by powerhouse DOP Maryse Alberti, a wader back through this Bowie-Without-Bowie glam rock queer musical extravaganza with such formidable talent present should be at the top of any Tribeca attendees dance card.