The Tribeca Film Festival's Westward Expansion

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

The latest experiment in saving indie film comes courtesy of Tribeca Film, a branch of the DeNiro-founded brand that — in collaboration with American Express — is releasing former Tribeca Film Festival selections on multiple platforms, including video-on-demand and art-house theatrical runs, like this two-week series at the Sunset 5. This first week’s lineup includes a trio of movies that paint grim pictures of both the present and the future. Writer-director Tarik Saleh’s animated Metropia borrows heavily from Orwell (among others) in its depiction of a world that’s depleted of natural resources, and a shadowy power structure spies on people in their homes, controls their thoughts and manipulates their brains through consumer goods. The Metro, a massive rail line that links all of Europe under one central transit system, is at the core of the dark doings. The dystopian setup is overly familiar and Saleh doesn’t push it anywhere new, but through use of grittily detailed animation and with voices ably provided by Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis, Udo Kier and Stellan and Alexander Skarsgård, he manages to stoke dramatic tension that carries the tale. The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, written and directed by David Russo, is also more derivative than inspired as it tracks a burnt-out young Seattle data processor on his downward career spiral. He winds up working as a janitor alongside a work crew composed of standard-issue slacker-hipster types (with a cross-dressing war vet to boot) in a building that houses a product-testing firm. As characters philosophize undergrad-style on art, war and the mysteries of what’s in our food, male characters find themselves sporting debilitating side effects of one of the test products. The film is saved by the full-throttle acting of the cast (including Natasha Lyonne), who turn types into characters, with varying degrees of success. The highlight of this lineup is the documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, a true-life romp in which the White family (who boast of being white trash) booze, drug and brawl hard without fear, shame or the ability to connect dots between cause, effect and consequences. The clan is outraged when one of its druggie members gives birth to a drug-addicted baby and the state takes the child away; they’re similarly stunned when a violent gun attack results in one of them being handed a stiff prison term. Directed by Julien Nitzberg, and co-executive-produced by Johnny Knoxville, this real-life extended Jackass episode begins as a celebration of these proud misfits, but it’s shot through with a slight condescension that gives way to sobered sadness — the kind you feel when you realize that the uproarious party drunk is a deeply fucked-up individual. (Sunset 5)


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