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Film Review: Tribeca 2020 Shorts Program – We Are One Film Festival

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Egg (written and directed by Michael J. Goldberg)

The Light Side (written and directed by Ryan Ebner)

TOTO (written by Marco Baldonado and Walter Woodman, directed by Marco Baldonado)

When I Write It (written by Nico Opper, Shannon St. Aubin, Leila Mottley and Ajai Kasim, directed           by Nico Opper and Shannon St. Aubin)

Motorcycle Drive By (written and directed by David Wexler)

No More Wings (written and directed by Abraham Adayemi)

Cru (written and directed by David Oesch)

Instead of the Tribeca Film Festival this year, we have We Are One where many festivals, including Tribeca, have curated a series of films to be shown online over YouTube. One of the most exciting events of any festival is its screenings of short films by up-and-coming creatives eager to bring their own stamp of originality to a wider audience. Running through Tribeca’s series of shorts, some of which are receiving their world premieres, is a quirkiness that’s hard not to be impressed by, especially in the films that top and tail this showcase.

Egg is a scramble of all kinds of genre – rom com, Western, road movie, and spoof documentary – as it tells the tale of a single egg, the lone survivor of a massacre on a lonely highway. In spite of its absurdity, Michael J. Goldberg’s film, looking like a commercial in places, is full of gentle humour, and its zaniness is reminiscent of Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin, the comedy hit of last year’s festival circuit.

This eccentricity continues in the next two films, The Light Side and TOTO, both of which feature older people dealing with loneliness. In the first, directed by Ryan Ebner an ageing superhero seeks fulfilling employment in New York, while in Marco Baldonado’s TOTO an old Italian woman buys a robot companion to help in the kitchen. Both shorts are sweet natured, although the former film seems to have its tongue firmly in its cheek as it riffs off old Star Wars films. TOTO is played more realistically, despite the lumbering automaton, and its conclusion is quite affecting.

When I Write It is a short documentary about two young musicians of colour stranded in a gentrifying Oakland in California. They sense that they will be part of the last generation of black families to live in the area, and it’s a subject that was covered in one of the best films of last year, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Here Leila Mottley and Ajai Kasim jam with other musicians and then talk about their future as they bike around the city. The film looks beautiful, but the teenagers are earnest in a way that only teenagers can be. Perhaps we’re meant to be pleased that these kids have got their heads screwed on the right way, but their sincerity is distancing.

Taking himself so seriously, that you wonder whether you might be watching a mockumentary like This Is Spinal Tap is Stephan Jenkins, the subject of Motorcycle Drive By. Jenkins is the lead singer of American band Third Eye Blind, and Motorcycle Drive By, while never released as a single, is a fan favourite, garnering the same kind of loyalty as Mr Brightside. Filmed in black and white, as all rock films must be, this 20-minute short explores the origins of the song and guides us backstage to meet the rest of the band. Eventually, and when we get to hear most of the song, shot as rain pours down, the film’s solemnity is appropriate, and the last few minutes are surprisingly moving.

No More Wings is a British film from Abraham Adeyemi about two old school friends meeting in Morley’s, South London’s most famous chain of chicken shops. Isaac (Ivanno Jeremiah) wears a suit and a fancy watch is on his wrist; Jude (Parys Jordon) is wearing a tracksuit and has weed in his pocket. The pair talk about old times and, in a nice touch, see themselves as teenagers come into the shop when Isaac was worried about his exams and Jude dreamed of being a Grime MC. It’s elegantly shot, but the morals are too heavy handed here. There should be more room for uncertainty.

Blood, sweat and tears, literally, are on the menu in the Swiss Cru (Raw) about a swanky restaurant kitchen. The chef shouts, the plates clatter, and the steam fizzes in a frenetic rush to get the food out to tables and David Oesch captures the drama perfectly in this ten minute film which lurches into a believable horror. Of all the films, this seems the most polished, and actor Jeanne Werner simmers as the young chef while everyone else boils.

Despite the differences in this programme, the films flow nicely and work well together. It’s unlikely that these films will ever be presented in the same showcase again, so it’s a good time to catch them now, and doubtlessly we will be hearing from some of these directors again.

 Runs here until 4 June 2020

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The Reviews Hub London is under the editorship of John Roberts.The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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