New York: Films examining extreme interpretations of religion and a documentary about US torture in Afghanistan walked away with major awards at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival on 3 May.
The festival, which was founded by Robert De Niro after the Sept. 11 attacks as a way to revitalize lower Manhattan, is generally heavy on international affairs and hard-hitting subject matter.
This year’s prize for best narrative feature film went to “My Father My Lord” (“Hofshat Kaits”), an Israeli film directed David Volach about an ultra-Orthodox rabbi that examines the challenges posed by strict observance of religious rules.
The prize for best documentary went to “Taxi to the Dark Side,” directed by Alex Gibney whose 2005 film “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” was nominated for an Oscar.
Gibney’s new film examines the case of an Afghan taxi driver who was mistakenly detained and died after sustained beating by US guards in December 2002.
From there, the film shows a pattern of abuse it says spread with a “nod and a wink” from the US military base in Cuba to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then to Iraq, notably to the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
Accepting the award at a ceremony in New York on Thursday, Gibney recalled an outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from around the world after Sept 11.
“I fear that along the way that sense of purpose and hope for a better world was hijacked by some people who played on our fears and in a way took us on a journey to the dark side,” he said.
Two major awards, for best screenplay and best actor, went to another film with a political edge, “Making Of” about a young Tunisian break-dancer who falls in with a militant group that tries to brainwash him into becoming a suicide bomber.
Washington Post writer Ann Hornaday praised the film for “reflecting many of the questions, anxieties and dead ends that fuel fundamentalist conversions -- but also subverting the stereotype of the terrorist as a heartless automaton incapable of ambivalence.”
The award for best actress went to Marina Hands in “Lady Chatterley,” a French version of DH Lawrence’s novel of sexual passion, which was already named best film at the Cesars, France’s answer to the Academy Awards.
Mexican film “Two Embraces” (“Dos Abrazos”) and Armenian documentary “A Story of People in War & Peace” won awards for new filmmakers in the narrative and documentary categories.