Tribeca Film Festival 2022 review: ‘Of Medicine and Miracles’ provides a balanced look at the potential and problems of modern medicine.

OF MEDICINE AND MIRACLES

You cannot help but be moved by Of Medicine and Miracles. This is an in-depth documentary of a thrilling achievement: an attempt to cure cancer by using cutting-edge medical science.  This story is told through the prism of one patient, young Emily Whitehead, who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was only 6 years old. When the standard course of treatment fails Emily, her health quickly worsens. Out of options, she is given the chance to enroll in a promising, but risky clinical trial.

The documentary benefits from direct interviews with Emily’s parents. Their emotional re-telling of events is incredibly moving. Their urgency and desperation are palpable. The audience also peers behind the curtain at the vast medical infrastructure supporting Emily’s treatment – the researchers, physicians, nurses, regulators, and the extended care team. The expression “it takes a village” will truly resonate differently for you after viewing this documentary.

You will be inspired, yes, but also frustrated. Of Medicine and Miracles also provides a clear-eyed perspective on the dysfunction plaguing the medical system. While the documentary takes great pains to showcase the innovation at the core of Emily’s treatment, it is equally clear that her life was often in the balance due to incredibly frustrating circumstances. Emily’s local care center does not recommend she seek out a clinical trial – it is only because her family shows the courage to solicit a second opinion from a leading pediatric facility (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) that Emily is even offered a chance at a new treatment. Not everyone has the luxury of such a facility within driving distance. A critical last-minute care decision is shown to be possible only because members of Emily’s care team have read the right medical journal articles. This documentary shows us a miracle, yes, but also demonstrates that this miracle finds the light thanks to a foundation of privilege and luck.

Ross Kauffman’s documentary is an impressively balanced effort. It provides an incredibly intimate look at a family undergoing an incredible challenge, and the way this family is at times equally supported and challenged by our country’s medical structure.  I left it both inspired and enraged.


Available Starting

Tue June 14 – 6:00 PM

At Home

DIRECTOR
Ross Kauffman
PRODUCER
Robin Honan, Nicole Galovski
CINEMATOGRAPHERS
Ross Kauffman, Henry Roosevelt, Naiti Gamez
COMPOSER
Amie Doherty
EDITOR
Hypatia Porter
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS
Sean Parker, Lessing Stern, Babbie Lester, Pam Williams, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Randall Gebhardt, Christopher Gebhardt, Eric Esrailian, Regina Scully, Jamie Wolf, Rusty Robertson
ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS
Gabriela Figueredo, Minoo Allen, Zada Clarke

Tribeca Film Festival 2022 review: ‘VENGEANCE’ is an impressive directorial debut.

VENGEANCE

If you haven’t checked in on B.J. Novak since The Office, you’ll be surprised by the pitch-black tone of his directorial film debut, Vengeance. There are great laughs aplenty here, but the film presents an overall bleak view of humanity as it relates to our ability to connect and communicate. This is a stellar premier film.

Novak pulls triple duty as the film’s writer, director, and star. He brings the perfect mix of smug arrogance and bewildered empathy to Ben Manalowitz, a New York writer (and aspiring podcaster) who is coasting through every moment. Ben’s catchphrase is “100 percent”, but the audience quickly comes to see that Ben isn’t really giving 100 percent to anything. His life is all surface, no depth. He believes he’s having deep conversations about his work and the meaning of society, but he’s looking at his phone the whole time. His relationships are nothing but informal hookups.

Then Ben gets a fateful call from West Texas – his former girlfriend (well, they had hooked up a few times), Abilene Shaw, has died of a drug overdose. Abilene’s family are under the impression that she and Ben were a real couple, and invite him to the funeral. Ben shows up in West Texas out of pity, but quickly decides to stay for more selfish reasons: Abilene’s family suspects foul play, and Ben can’t turn down a chance to tackle the “holy grail” of podcasting: a dead white girl. Ben’s editor mails him some fancy podcasting equipment faster than you can say “true crime”, and he’s off to discover the truth about Abilene (and hopefully make himself famous in the process.)

I’m still in awe of this supporting cast. Boyd Holbrook somehow manages to balance sincerity and absurdity as Ty, Abilene’s revenge-crazed brother. Could this be Ashton Kutcher’s best work since Dude, Where’s My Car? (don’t get it twisted, I mean that as a sincere compliment!) Kutcher’s Quintin Sellers is complex and layered. As a small-town record producer, Quintin is equally opportunistic and charismatic. Quintin provides a twisted country-fried contrast to Novak’s Ben, and their few scenes together are some of the strongest of the film. The female characters are unfortunately more thinly written, and mostly function to help us better understand the men.

A film like this doesn’t work without a rock-solid script, and this one delivers. Good comedy writing ensures that the pace of the film is maintained; great comedy writing is concerned with showing us deeper truths about character that may produce a smile, but also a sting. The soundtrack is also self-aware – I’ve never laughed so hard at a Lana Del Rey song.

Vengeance is a dual threat – a legitimately funny comedy that also lands sincere dramatic moments. It left me excited for whatever Novak has coming next (hopefully a podcast.)


DIRECTOR
B.J. Novak
PRODUCER
Jason Blum, Adam Hendricks, Greg Gilreath
SCREENWRITER
B.J. Novak
CINEMATOGRAPHER
Lyn Moncrief
EDITOR
Andy Canny, Hilda Rasula, Plummy Tucker
CAST
B.J. Novak, Issa Rae, Ashton Kutcher, Boyd Holbrook, J. Smith-Cameron, Dove Cameron, Isabella Amara


Tribeca Film Festival 2022 review: ‘The Integrity of Joseph Chambers’ sparks conversation about machismo and firearms.

The Integrity of Joseph Chambers

I’ve only shot a gun once in my life. I’ll remember it forever. It was 2008, a hot summer day in Idaho. We were on one of those aimless teenage road trips, far from San Francisco and still without any real responsibilities, so when one of our group had a local friend who was willing to take us shooting – well, then hey, why not?! I remember the giddy feeling as we drove out to a dusty side road, and that the pistol I picked up had the Punisher logo carved onto the grip. I couldn’t quite make out the targets we were to aim for, so I gestured with the pistol, seeking confirmation. Suddenly, the fingers of this local friend were clamped vice-like on my wrist, his voice like fire in my ear. “Don’t point. Not a toy.” That giddy feeling? Gone.

This teenage memory caused me to sympathize deeply with The Integrity of Joseph Chambers, which also centers on a goofy man who is both overwhelmed and armed with a deadly weapon. Joe (Clayne Crawford) is an insurance salesman who envisions himself as a survivalist. He leaves his wife and children at dawn to hunt deer. Time to bring home the bacon (or, well, venison.)

The problem is, the emperor has no clothes. Joe is a total fraud. He is basically performing the character of a hunter – shaving his beard into a macho mustache, dressing up in an outfit straight out of a hunting catalog, and trading his shiny BMW in for a mud-flecked truck. The fact that Joe is also hunting on a friend’s private land only adds to the charade. He uses his rifle as a makeshift machete to clear a path through the underbrush. We are not surprised when things go wrong.

Despite what might seem like low stakes, I’m happy to report that The Integrity of Joseph Chambers is one creepy movie! Cinematographer Oscar Ignacio Jiménez and sound designer Peter Albrechtsen deserve tremendous credit for creating this uncomfortable atmosphere, and for sustaining it during the long middle stretch of the film where Crawford is the only human onscreen.

This is the second collaboration between Clayne Crawford and director Robert Machoian (following 2020’s The Killing of Two Lovers.) That collaborative familiarity provides the foundation for a wonderful Clayne Crawford performance. Joe is alone most of the film; the supporting characters are mostly thin after-thoughts. Crawford shines conveying his inner desires and struggles. I loved how deliberate he was with his movements, and the way he ensures Joe often serves as a visual gag against the background of the woods. We manage to learn a lot about Joe despite not knowing him very well by the end of the film.

It is impossible to consider The Integrity of Joseph Chambers without acknowledging the national tragedies and anxieties surrounding the topic of gun control. Here we are presented with a family man whose life is twisted in knots over the course of a single day. Surely, it is not the fault of his rifle? This is not an anti-gun film, but it speaks loudly regarding the power these weapons hold over the male psyche.


DIRECTOR
Robert Machoian
PRODUCER
Clayne Crawford, Kiki Crawford, Robert Machoian
SCREENWRITER
Robert Machoian
CINEMATOGRAPHER
Oscar Ignacio Jiménez
EDITOR
Yvette M. Amirian, ACE
COMPOSER
William Ryan Fritch
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Bo Clancey, Zareh Amirian, John Foss, Kris Towns, Sara Towns, Nancie Plaia, Sammy Plaia
CO-PRODUCER
Laura Heberton
CAST
Clayne Crawford, Jordana Brewster, Jeffrey Dean Morgan


Available Starting

Sat June 11 – 6:00 PM

At Home

Tribeca Film Festival 2022 review: Lighthearted comedy ‘Four Samosas’ mashes up Wes Anderson and heist films.

FOUR SAMOSAS

The first hour of Ravi Kapoor’s Four Samosas is a cheerful, gorgeous delight. The film follows 4 wayward teens across a few days in Artesia, California. Vinny (Venk Potula), an unmotivated amateur rapper going nowhere fast, is the de-facto leader and protagonist. When his ex-girlfriend, Rina,  becomes engaged to his greatest rival (a game, but over the top Karan Soni), Vinny decides to spring into action. Unfortunately, his brilliant plan is to steal Rina’s wedding diamonds from her father’s grocery store, reasoning that the loss of dowry would dissolve the engagement (great plan, no notes!) To execute the heist, Vinny enlists his Bollywood-hopeful best friend, Zak (Nirvan Patnaik). Local reporter Anjali (Sharmita Bhattacharya) and snack-crazed safe cracker Paru (Sonal Shah), round out the squad.

Intentionally or not, there is quite a bit of inspiration from Wes Anderson on display here. Certainly in the absurdity of the plot. Think Rushmore meets Ocean’s Eleven vibes. This inspiration is even more present in the strength of the cinematography: color, camerawork, and framing are central to driving the film’s plot. This strength means that relatively few filming locations (a shop, a garage, a street on Pioneer Boulevard, a grassy park) can be leveraged into a true sense of place. These visuals bring Artesia, California, and the lives of the few residents who make up this story, to lush life. This is a film that nails so many of the little details.

The heist scenes particularly benefit from this and are worth the price of admission. Rather than take the Michael Bay approach, Four Samosas relies on characters’ expressions (vs explosions) to convey suspense and comedy. Kudos to the costume designer for some of the biggest laughs.

The script is where the Four Samosas comes up a little short. Every interaction feels like a mix of absurdity and broad exposition. In the early going, this balance holds up (the approach is particularly effective during the heist planning scenes.) After the first hour of the film, the rinse-and-repeat nature of these interactions begins to show through. The scenes between the heist and the film’s conclusion totally lack urgency. This is the rare 80-minute feature that drags.

Kapoor nevertheless manages to land the plane effectively with a sincere conclusion. Overall, Four Samosas is a charming ride. This is a warm, love letter to a community that will leave you smiling.


CAST & CREDITS

Directed by Ravi Kapoor

Ravi Kapoor is a director-writer-actor originally from the UK and now based in LA. His first feature, Miss India America, a coming-of-age comedy, played at various festivals and won a number of awards before landing on Netflix and other streamers.

DIRECTOR
Ravi Kapoor
PRODUCER
Ravi Kapoor, Venk Potula, Rajiv Maikhuri, Craig Stovel
SCREENWRITER
Ravi Kapoor
CINEMATOGRAPHER
Aakash Raj
COMPOSER
Sagar Desai
EDITOR
Anisha Acharya
PRODUCTION DESIGNER
Caia Diepenrock
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Utkarsh Ambudkar, Karan Soni, Sanjay Sharma, Milan Chakraborty, Kathrin Hamilton, Matthew Young
CO-PRODUCER
Zeena Dhalla, TiE SoCal Angels
CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Moses Israel Guerrero, Smita Bagla
CAST

Venk Potula, Sonal Shah, Sharmita Bhattacharya, Nirvan Patnaik, Karan Soni, Summer Bishil, Meera Simhan


To find out more about Tribeca Fest 2022 click here!