Friday, April 24, 2009

Tribeca Film Fest 2009: "Here and There"

Last night, I went to my first Tribeca Film of the year, "Here and There,", a romantic comedy set in Belgrade and New York. It was the first time I had ever stood on the "rush ticket" line and I got in quite easily, though I did get to the theater more than hour before the film began.
The film was very good - a simple story told economically about a broke American musician who makes a deal with a Serbian immigrant to go to Belgrade, marry the man's girlfriend and then bring her back to the U.S. It was unusually graceful, I thought - music was part of the story and worked beautifully; the juxtaposition of events in New York and Belgrade was seamless; and the love-story was very touching. The minor characters were great - the nationalist Serbian cab-driver who hates America, the woman in the convenience store who wants to go to America, the guy who stood on the corner, the Puerto Rican mechanic. It was interesting to see a film that shows economic struggles that real people go through without being maudlin or didactic. Indeed, it was quite funny, and it made sense when the film-maker revealed that the idea for the movie came from his own experience as a "man with a van" (pronounced "wan" in the movie) running his own "moving company" to get by in NYC while he was studying at CUNY. (Yes, CUNY students and profs should all go see "Here and There" )
The film reminded me of Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger than Paradise" because of its story of relatively ordinary events, its low-key humor, and its generally hip affect, so I wasn't surprised when I read this interview in which the director, Darko Lungulov cited Jarmusch as an influence.

There was a also a funny little comedy of errors at the screening last night, which showed the real-life amiability of the people who had made such an amiable film. I was sitting in the seats right behind those reserved for the film-maker and cast and because these are, of course, prime seats, people all came up and tried to sit in them. Most see the tape and the "reserved" labels and walk away. Eventually, an older Serbian woman ignored the "reserved" mark and sat in one of the aisle seats. She continued to sit their blithely as one theater manager after another tried to figure out where to put the very large crew (one from New York one from Belgrade) along with cast members (including Cyndi Lauper), given the small number of seats as more and more people came into the theater from the "rush" line. They evicted one group of people who had unwittingly taken the seats designated for the film's star and his friends, but left the older woman, who seemed not to understand what was going on. "Are you with the film-makers?" one usher asked her. I couldn't hear her response. Shortly before the film was scheduled to begin, it was discovered that the star's friends were stuck outside ("this is not cool!" he said to the usher) and the ushers started strategizing about what to do with the woman, who continued to ignore everything that was going on around her. The artistic director, sound editor and others all vacated the prime seats and went to sit by themselves in various parts of the theater, but still, the woman stayed. At this point I heard Cyndi Lauper ask the person sitting next to her, "Who's Mom is she?"
So, finally the woman, who was not a cast-member's mother after all, did move and the star's friends got their seats. I think they all enjoyed the film, as did I.

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