Documentary Filmmakers Find Their Tribe at Tribeca Film Festival

The Tribeca Film Festival’s Documentary Filmmaker Party was packed to gills — and it didn’t take long to figure out why.

The event, sponsored by Variety and A&E in celebration of this year’s 10 Documakers to Watch, was one of the few geared specifically to those filmmakers who’ve committed to the arduous, risky and rewarding task of crafting screen stories from real life.

Documentary filmmaking is a difficult, laborious, resource-intensive endeavor,” said Kelly Nyks, one of the directors of Noam Chomsky documentary “Requiem for the American Dream.” “One of the ways you survive is through community.”

“We all sit in front of these computer screens and in these editing rooms for years, and here we all get to come out,” added Jared P. Scott, who co-directed “Requiem” with Nyks and Peter Hutchison. “You get to meet the crazy people who are just as crazy as you are.”

“It’s my favorite part of a festival, getting to know these people,” said Steve Hoover, the director of “Crocodile Gennadiy,” about a Ukrainian priest whose tough tactics in addressing his community’s social ills has earned him a reputation both as a savior and as a vigilante. “You go through these things alone for so much of the time, and now here you are at a festival with a lot of people who’ve just been through the same thing.”

That night Hoover was also celebrating the news that his film had just been picked up for distribution — including theatrical — by distributor the Orchard, underscoring the fact that, in its 15-year lifespan, Tribeca has an acquired a reputation for its documentary programming. “Tribeca has really grown into an exceptional launchpad for documentaries,” said Hutchison.

“We have theatrical interest,” marveled Jonathan Goodman Levitt, the producer-screenwriter of hot-ticket title “Among the Believers,” a rare, balanced look at both the students and the teachers training the next generation of jihadis in Pakistan. “I never thought I’d have that for any film in my career.”

All of the filmmakers whom partygoers ran into that night were energized by documentary filmmaking’s ability to influence thought and spur social change. “I feel like we’re part of a conversation that’s just about to start,” noted producer Carolina Groppa, whose well-received movie “Autism in Love” offers a look at the rarely seen lives of adults with autism.

Director Andrew Jenks said the goal of his film “Dream/Killer,” about a young Missouri man imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit, shifted when real life took a surprising turn. “I had aspired, going into it, to make a kind of ‘Thin Blue Line’ that would help get him out,” he said. “But when he got released, everything changed. Now it’s a larger story about problems in the judicial system at large.”

It was clear that although most of these filmmakers didn’t know each other and had never worked together, they all had a lot in common. Jeanie Finlay, who directed “Orion: The Man Who Would Be King,” the behind-the-mask look at the performer with the voice of Elvis Presley, said, “I’m here looking for my tribe.”

(Pictured: Bryan Glick, guest and Steve Hoover)

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