Reviews by Robert Viagas

The annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York City always make a special place in its lineup for film shorts, and this year’s selection included a night of four internationally-sourced movies, from France, Canada, Niger, and the U.S.

The outstanding entry was the Canadian, film, The Suitcase,about the power of imagination. The film tells the story of the life-threatening odyssey of a young girl (Lori Phun) who travels from China to Canada crammed into a suitcase by her mother (Tabitha Tao), a poor prostitute, who is desperate to smuggle her child to a better life in the New World. Using only a cell phone, the mother soothes the terrified and suffocating child by explaining that the barking of airport guard dogs, the snarling of customs officials, and the whining of the jet engine are actually the sounds of benevolent supernatural creatures who are shepherding her on her journey across the sky. These fantasy sequences, set entirely inside the young girl’s imagination, are animated by director Philip Leung and his team. A whole intercontinental journey is crammed into the film’s turbulent, heartbreaking 12 minutes.


Playing like a punchy Twilight Zoneepisode, Fremont shows us what could havehappened during a white policeman’s armed pursuit of a black suspect (Phillip Johnson), and then, just as we’re caught up in their confrontation, abruptly shifts to what actually happened. The seven-minute film, directed by Ryo Jepson, is not pat in its depiction of either the cops or their quarry. There is plenty of room for shading and interpretation. But it also dramatizes how an itchy trigger finger can shut out all shading, nuance, and possibilities for redemption. The film is inspired by an actual February 2017 police shooting in Fremont, California.


Léa Frédeval’sFrench-language film The Rehearsal (La répétition) works its brief magic with only two characters in an unusual setting—a bathroom. Soulemane Sylla plays an aspiring actor who pays his bills as a toilet cleaner in a public rest room. He gets his big chance to help direct a performance when he comes across a woman (Delphine Montaigne) who is using a bathroom mirror to practice her speech asking her boss for a desperately needed raise. Though their lives couldn’t be more different, they both seem to benefit from their momentary meeting of the minds. Their story ends just as it seems to be getting going.

The longest of the shorts, clocking in at 16 minutes, Vagabonds is another film about people who find their wildly different worlds suddenly intersecting. Magaajyia Silberfeld serves as both director and co-star of this movie about an African student in Los Angeles who finds herself forced to live out of her car. Sharing her predicament (and the same beach parking lot) is a down-and-out former movie star (Robert Richard) who retains his good looks, but is now strung out on drink and drugs. The movie plays like the pilot for a Netflix series with lots of loose ends begging to be tied up. Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover has a cameo as the girl’s vacillating uncle who is shown to be firmly under the thumb of his domineering wife.



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