Three Great Films by Women in the Tribeca Film Festival

Full disclosure: the Tribeca Film Festival closed yesterday! So you’ll have to seek these movies out in your nabe or when they stream. Somehow I managed to see three films in the festival this past week, and review two of them, in the midst of preparing and  presenting two entirely different hour long lectures. The two reviews I wrote were posted on and I never got a chance to share them here, so I will now. Fairly miraculously, these films touch on some of my narrow areas of interest and speciality. One, Charlie Says, Mary Harron’s film about the Manson Family and the Tate-Labianca murders, is reviewed by me here. T’other, The Good The Bad and the Hungry, Nicole Lucas Haimes’ film about Nathan’s Coney Island hot dog eating contest, is reviewed here. (As to the first, I wrote a play about the Manson family; some of the press links about the play are here; and my encomium for the late Vincent Bugliosi is here; I’ve taken most of my other essays on the topic down. As for Coney Island, it has an entire section on Travalanche with over 100 posts. I even already have a post on Nathan’s Hot Dogs. It is here.)

Having some time to kill, I also ended up seeing a third film in the festival, chosen almost at random. It wasn’t one of the ones on my shortlist to see, but it took me by surprise and I loved it anyway. That’s the whole beauty of festivals. Discoveries. As it happens, all three of the films I saw in this year’s festival were by women. I don’t know if that means women’s voices are particularly speaking to me these days, or if women are undertaking topics that just happen to be my cup of tea, or (pretty likely) it was a total accident. But then again maybe not. Do the math. I’m not interested in action movies or bro comedies: that’s about 95% of male output right there, from what I can tell, so who’s left? If you had FORCED me to see three films by women, I’d have resented it. And I’d never CONTRIVE to see only films by women. It just worked out that way and and I just happened to love all three pictures.

So, anyway, just a very few words about the third film I caught, Blow the Man Down by Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy. Check it out: this film-making duo actually met while working on a shoot at Coney Island.  They’re already with it. The movie they’ve cooked up sort of defies genre. It’s kind of noir, kind of a murder mystery, kind of kitchen sink realism (in a New England fishing village, in the manner of Israel Horowitz), kind of Hitchcock, and kind of fantasy (there’s a Twilight Zone like theatrical isolation to the setting, and there is a repeated “Greek Chorus” of a sailor singing excellent sea chanteys…for real).

The plot: two sisters (Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor) are just reaching adulthood when their mother suddenly dies. An accidental murder sets them to peeling back the secrets of their little Maine hamlet, whose true economy seems to be a brothel and a local drug dealer. (As someone who grew up in a similar fishing village, I can testify to the truth of the portrait — it’s one of the reasons I bonded so strongly with the film, like a barnacle to a hull!) Margo Martindale (The Americans, The Good Wife/ The Good Fight) is the villain of the piece. Annette O’Toole, June Squibb and Marceline Hugot are a sort of trro of Fates. who try to steer the girls clear of trouble. Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Girls) is a low-life drug dealer. Somehow the film strikes a note that is menacing not just in a suspenseful way, but in an existential one. It is a coming of age story. I look forward to watching it again. Sean Egan has written an excellent review for Chelsea Community News with which I concur. Read it here.