Tiya Sircar’s career has featured her in some imaginative and fantasy tales, from two “Star Wars” animated series to CBS’s “The Good Place.” So she’s a natural to explore “Imaginative Performances” as her Shortlist theme.
“Without imagination and without love, life can be pretty bleak,” Sircar says. “I think having both will get you through the most dire of situations.”
Her “Imaginative Performances” list includes three European films, “Amélie,” “Life is Beautiful,” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” In all three, she says, “the protagonists are in situations where they’re forced to use their imaginations. Through their imaginations we see these beautiful performances.”
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 romantic comedy “Amélie” tells the story of an isolated Parisian waitress and her difficult interactions with the world around her. “I think it’s a star making turn for Audrey Tautou,” Sircar says with a laugh. “I can’t imagine anyone else playing that role. Um, to me is she Amélie, for better or for worse.”
“You go on this delightful journey with her and her colorful imagination that she’s had to develop because of unfortunate circumstances when she’s a child. Her imagination was her best friend. She could go anywhere and she could do anything and she was friends with all kinds of characters. They just existed in her mind.” Imagination, says Sircar, is what let’s Amélie survive.
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” directed by artist Julian Schnabel, also features a protagonist who survives through his imagination. It’s told from the point of view of a magazine editor who wakes up in the hospital to discover he’s completely paralyzed, except for his left eyelids. His glamorous life is over, and he’s only able to even communicate by blinking on cue for letters. But he’s able to dictate a book that way.
“The book is really a letter to the people that he loves the most and that he feels he’s wronged: his ex-partner, his children. It’s just a really beautiful story and it’s even more incredible because it’s all true.”
Her third choice, “Life is Beautiful,” is a Holocaust story, but an odd one. “Generally Holocaust movies aren’t comedies. This one, throughout most of the movie, is hilarious.”
Roberto Benigni’s tale of a man who uses his humor and imagination to protect his son from the horrors around him has been one of Sircar’s favorites since she was young. “Here’s a movie where the protagonist is larger than life. He’s effusive. And just watching him brings you joy. So imagine a movie that’s about the Holocaust, but you don’t leave feeling dejected. You leave feeling hopeful about life and about love.”
“At the heart of each of these storylines is love and joy,” she says, “despite extreme circumstances. Finding the light in the darkness, and that’s something that we all strive for. It’s a universal desire to love and to be loved, and despite trying circumstances, to still fight for the good.”
To watch Tiya Sircar’s “Imaginative Performance” films — “Amélie,” “Life is Beautiful” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”* — as well as other movies like these, start your Tribeca Shortlist free, seven-day trial here.
*Titles subject to availability