How to Navigate the Tribeca Film Festival

Kevin Zegers in Transamerica
New York Metro's Tribeca Guide includes a plug for Transamerica and its "handsome" co-star Kevin Zegers

(From the April 25, 2005 issue of New York Magazine)

There are more than 200 films at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, and nearly an equal amount of parties. What to do?

By Logan Hill

1. Drink Up!
Judging by last year, the parties may overwhelm the films: Wrangle an invite to The Interpreter premiere to get a glimpse of Nicole Kidman or, more likely, your fill of Billy Bush - but the savvy will weasel into the after-party at MoMA. Meanwhile, rock royalty (Steven Tyler, Joni Mitchell) may show up at the Union Square W Hotel for Rosanna Arquette's doc, All We Are Saying, on April 22; while Broadway's babies head to Tribeca Grille on the 25th to celebrate Show Business. Lefties will toast the Lewis Lapham-scripted doc, The American Ruling Class, in the belly of the beast: on the NYMEX trading floor.

2. Play it Safe.
At some festivals, it's a thrill to pick a film at random. At Tribeca, this can be as dangerous as betting on a horse because it has a cute name. Be smart - and place your money on these ringers: local premieres of films that have already passed out-of-town tests.

Our picks: From Cannes: 2046, Wong Kar Wai's sumptuous science-fiction fable. From Sundance: Rize, David LaChapelle's wild, butt-shaking tribute to "krump" break dancing. From Russia with gore: Night Watch, a horror film with Hollywood-style effects that became a record-breaking hit back home.

3. Keep it Real.
So far, the docs look stronger than the dramas. Many are solid - though not terribly memorable - tributes to extraordinary characters (James Toback, Robert Drew, Melvin Van Peebles, Roy London, Taylor Mead, and the Dog Day Afternoon bank robber John Wojtowicz). But there are some early standouts.

Our picks: Favela Rising explores the Afro-reggae movement in Rio; Punk: Attitude rounds up all the right punk legends. And the lo-fi TV Party is a fascinating slice of downtown arcana about a New Wave cable-access TV show that played host to regulars like Debbie Harry and Jean Michel Basquiat.

4. Root for the Home Team.
If you're going to take a chance on a non-doc, gamble on the "NY, NY" series newcomers. Most entrants are rough, but there is at least one terrific film (The Great New Wonderful) and a few raw-but-promising debuts.

Our picks: Georgia Lee, the director of the family drama Red Doors, was Scorsese's assistant, and like her ex-boss, she's artfully mining her New York roots (in her case, Chinese-American). On the other hand, a certain neurotic New York filmmaker clearly inspired actor-writer-director Lewis Helfer, whose Life on the Ledge is occasionally quite funny, despite all its ersatz Allenisms.

5. Ride the Desperate Housewives Wave.
In Transamerica, Felicity Huffman plays Bree. No, not her rival on Housewives: This Bree is a transsexual parent at the center of writer-director Duncan Tucker's contrived but lively debut feature. Bree discovers she has a son - a male prostitute - just days before gender-reassignment surgery. Too embarrassed to admit her paternity, Bree poses as an Evangelical, then takes her son on a cross-country road trip. Improbably, the handsome Kevin Zegers gives a strong, Michael Pitt-ish performance as her son. And Huffman is magnetic in a role that's sure to draw mixed reviews but cement her resurgent fame.