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Yesterday, we were finally able to see many of our most anticipated films of Tribeca. Between Cate Blanchett’s brilliant performances in Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto and Matthew Heineman’s City of Ghosts—his first film after the highly acclaimed Cartel Land—we were not only entertained, but also moved.

City of Ghosts
Director: Matthew Heineman
Category: Viewpoints, Documentary

City of Ghosts is Matthew Heineman’s follow-up to his Academy Award nominated documentary, Cartel Land. Cartel Land was particularly notable for having the kind of footage from the Mexican Drug War that made you go, “How in the world did he film this stuff without dying?” City of Ghosts, which focuses on a group of Syrian journalists known as “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” (RBSS), offers similarly shocking footage, though in a bit of a different fashion.

RBSS formed in the city of Raqqa, Syria when ISIS took over and made it their capital. Determined to alert the rest of the world to the atrocities taking place there, the RBSS journalists began discreetly taking pictures and videos to put on the internet; they did so at an enormous risk to their lives and the lives of their families. Throughout the film, we see lots of the early footage they shot. This footage is far different than the high quality stuff Heineman was able to shoot filming on location in Cartel Land–sometimes it’s just grainy cellphone video—but nevertheless it’s shocking stuff.

City of Ghosts follows several of the original RBSS journalists as they flee to Europe to continue their work. From there, they find at least some degree of safety, though their lives still remain in great jeopardy. We see them as they continue to communicate with men on the ground in Syria, receiving video and news to post to their social-media accounts. It’s an intense, rewarding documentary, but, of course, keep in mind that, like Cartel Land, it’s very violent and disturbing.

Manifesto
Director: Julian Rosefeldt
Category: Spotlight Narrative

Cate Blanchett plays 13 different characters in Manifesto, so right off the bat, you know it’s going to be, at the very least, interesting. This is probably the closest thing Tribeca has to an “art film” in their narrative slate, which makes sense considering Manifesto originally played as an art installation at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. Over the course of a series of vignettes, Blanchett, playing characters ranging from homeless men to newswomen to scientists, reads manifestos written by noted thinkers and philosophers.

If it sounds a little pretentious, that’s because, well… it is… but only a little. The most surprising thing about Manifesto is how funny it is. The juxtaposition between the characters Blanchett plays and the speeches she delivers provide some of the most genuine laughs at Tribeca. So, it’s difficult to see something this fun as truly pretentious. If Manifesto took itself way more seriously (and didn’t have a performer as talented as Blanchett leading the way), it could’ve easily been a failure.

You can even imagine certain segments of Manifesto being the perfect thing for an art history professor to show in class. The vignette in which Blanchett plays both a news anchor and a weather forecaster is a near-perfect summation of the ideas behind conceptualism. Likewise, a scene in which she plays a teacher with extremely specific rules is a hilarious encapsulation of the Dogme 95 film movement. Not every vignette lands with quite the same impact as those two, but none are duds. When it comes down to it, this is two hours of one of the world’s best actresses having a lot of fun; there’s not a better endorsement than that.

Take Me
Director: Pat Healy
Category: Spotlight Narrative

Take Me premiers on Netflix next month, and it really feels like a Netflix movie. It’s got that “Netflix style” where it looks a little more like a TV show than a movie. However, like the kind of stuff you might watch on Netflix, it goes down easy. Take Me isn’t a challenging cinematic experience, but it’s never boring. It’ll be the perfect thing for somebody to watch at home on a Friday night when they just want something fun and exciting.

Director Pat Healy stars in Take Me as an entrepreneur named Ray Moody. He specializes in simulated abduction: people pay him to kidnap them, which, in theory, might help cure them of some sort of psychological issue. The first “client” we see wants to be abducted in order to cure his addiction to fast food. Predictably, the business isn’t doing all that well. But when rich businesswoman Anna St. Blair (played by Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling) offers Moody a huge stack of cash for a weekend-long abduction experience, he has the opportunity to turn everything around.

From the moment Ray “abducts” Anna, things go wrong. Soon enough he’s left wondering if she was even the one who requested his services in the first place. It’s all very screwball in the way Healy and Schilling bounce off of one another; imagine something like His Girl Friday, but with kidnapping. It’s fast-paced and fun, and, clocking in at less than 90 minutes, never outstays its welcome.

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