The Top 40 Picks From the Tribeca Film Festival

The Hit List

Rize A South Central Paris Is Burning, this hot doc from Sundance is the work of a rich, white fashion photographer turning his gaze on a poor, black subculture: "ghetto ballet" dancers so crazy-quick that the movie begins by vowing that its footage hasn't been manipulated. It's also the most infectiously energetic and poignant documentary I've seen in years. Director David LaChapelle opens with images of L.A. ablaze in '65 and '92, and ends with a Maya Angelou poem. In between, the brilliant dancers prove more than capable of directing themselves, which makes the movie less tricky to applaud. A Lions Gate release, opens June. NELSON

Runaway A young man flees his unhappy home, kid brother in tow, but the pressure of keeping his little sib a secret takes its toll. Directed by low-budget indie stalwart Tim McCann from a script by first-timer Bill True, this is a lean and crisply efficient psychological thriller—essentially taking place, as do McCann's other films (Revolution #9, Nowhere Man), on the boundary between sanity and madness. The twist ending gives itself away too early, but the nuanced lead performances (by Robin Tunney and Aaron Stanford) sustain interest through the home stretch. LIM

The Sky TurnsA year in the life of a dying community, and a tranquil record of the alarming passage of time. Director Mercedes Álvarez returns to the northern Spanish village of La Aldea, where she was born—in fact, where she was the last child born, over 30 years ago, and where the remaining 14 residents will soon die off. Hanging out with the dwindling tribe, Álvarez documents the most visible emblems of change (wind turbines, an upscale hotel) and, reaching for a sense of the cosmic, zooms out in both time and space—she locates nearby dinosaur footprints and examines how world events like the war in Iraq ripple through to this remote neck of the woods. LIM

Sound BarrierIranian master Amir Naderi's latest dispatch from the streets of his adopted New York represents a return to the themes of his seminal The Runner. Fending for himself in an indifferent city, a deaf boy searches for the remaining traces of his dead mother, a radio talk show host who left behind a collection of audio cassettes in a Greenpoint warehouse. As is customary in Naderi's oeuvre, sound design is crucial, and the movie gradually builds to an aural tour de force set on a congested bridge. Exhilarating and exhausting—with a finale that is quite literally an epiphany. DAVID NG

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2 Veteran documentary filmmaker William Greaves returns to the scene of the crime—namely the 1968 shoot that would furnish the basis for his ultra-self-reflexive, split-screen, and now classic acting exercise Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1992)—and extracts another feature. The premise is the same, although the performers are different, and Greaves adds another layer to the craziness by having the cast and crew comment on the crazy Central Park scene they staged lo these 36 summers ago. Even if you haven't seen Take One, you'll get the idea. HOBERMAN

Towards Mathilde Claire Denis's absorbing documentary on modern dance maven Ma\thilde Monnier is in many ways the apotheosis of the director's career-long obsession with the human body. Chronicling the rehearsal process with an intimate (but never intrusive) eye, Denis revels in the elasticity of human skin and sinew while the grainy cinematography (by Agnès Godard and Hélène Louvard) imparts a pointillist abstraction to the bodies on display. The scenes in which Mathilde breaks loose to the music of PJ Harvey are boldly unselfconscious and inevitably recall the pop freak-out climax of Beau Travail.NG

Vento di TerraA lean, muted, and highly sympathetic slice of Italian neo-neorealism, Vincenzo Marra's assured feature elliptically tracks the life changes of a working-class Naples family, mainly the son, Vincenzo, who's impelled through a series of setbacks to enlist in the Italian army and serve as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. Reminiscent of Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers, Marra's film is an example of how less can be more. It subtly makes a devastating political statement about class division in Italy and allows viewers to universalize its conclusions. PERANSON

World Mirror Cinema Gustav Deutsch is one of Austria's avant-garde masters of found-footage manipulation, sussing out bits of enigma from archival relics. In this globe-trotting triptych, he re-edits silent-era footage shot around the sites of three different moviehouses, in Vienna, Indonesia, and Portugal. Zooming in on the faces of long-dead passersby, he attempts to imagine their inner lives through other bits of cinematic detritus; the structure becomes post-cinematic, mimicking the actions of a website or nonlinear database. The second episode, set in Dutch East Indies, is the most florid and surreal, drawing on a plethora of colonial actualities blended with bizarre fantasies. HALTER

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