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Best in Show

The Top 40 Picks of the Tribeca Film Festival

The Treatment

Based on Daniel Menaker's novel, this New York rom-com is full of backbeats and unpredictable bounce, limning the existence of a neurotic prep school English teacher (Chris Eigeman) as he meets and tries to court a sweet and wealthy widow (Famke Janssen) and, more importantly, does psychological battle with his analyst (Ian Holm), an Argentine Freudian whose therapy methods quietly range from the surreal to the sadistic. In documentarian Oren Rudavsky's first fiction film, the idiosyncratic characters are so resistant to formula it's as if they were each scripted by a different writer, sitting in a different room. M.A.

Two Players From the Bench

What would the TFF be without a mordant comedy from the Balkans? This Croatian farce, played out in post-Kusturica spittle and bombast, sticks a war-embittered Serb and Croat together in a locked room; at first black-market kidney traffic is in the offing, but then both are coerced into masquerading as look-alikes to defend a Serbian war criminal at the Hague. Director Dejan Sorak's movie makes dry comedy about things we have not been conditioned by history to find amusing (white slavery, torture, unmarked graves). More's the better. M.A.

Viva Zapatero!

If government complicity in media consoli- dation makes you want to flee the U.S., don't move to Italy. As this fast and furious doc bewails, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi controls a good nine-tenths of the nation's media, which in 2003 helped enable him to force the cancellation of Sabina Guzzanti's raucous state-TV comedy RAIot. Thus separated from her audience, the comedian retaliated by taking her act on the road and filming the proceedings to even more scathing effect. Guzzanti is both a genius curtain-peeler and an utterly fearless activist; she makes Al Franken look like Buddy Hackett. R.N.

Voices of Bam

Iran's 2003 earthquake all but flattened the ancient city of Bam, where a population of 140,000 suddenly experienced the loss of 30,000 neighbors and loved ones. This filmed document of a city attempting to continue with life after mass death eschews formal story- telling in favor of humble witnessing. The results combine three elements: post-disaster footage of denizens getting on with the mundanities of everyday existence amid heaps of rubble, mute images of tattered family snapshots depicting pre-quake life, and the titular voice-overs by survivors, mostly addressing lost family members, but occasionally pressing God for answers. E.H.

Wordplay

In Patrick Creadon's diverting doc, New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz emerges as the benignly sadistic lord of a realm of word-crazy puzzleheads—the kind of folks who can't help but notice the flip of a consonant turns Dunkin' Donuts into "Unkind Donuts." Creadon follows Shortz to the national championship in Stamford, Connecticut, pausing for profiles of the contenders as well as puzzlemaster Merl Reagle, whose nimble tutorial on the history, form, and construction of crossword puzzles is riveting. Enjoy Creadon's film as a peek inside an obsessive subculture—or simply your chance to watch puzzle fan Jon Stewart wrack his brain alongside Ken Burns, Mike Mussina, Bill Clinton, and the Indigo Girls. J.R.

The Yacoubian Building

This three-hour Egyptian epic-—the most expensive ever made—has been crafted (in the old school, by youngish pro Marwan Hamed) as a massive Arabic soap opera, a Cairo-based Gone With the Wind swoony with mourning for a privileged colonialist past and with fascination for the bloody ideological conflicts of the present. Notably in a nation with notoriously strict censorship laws, Hamed's film revolves around the need for, and degeneration of, sex and money, and it's groundbreakingly frank about homosexuality and female exploitation. Hammy, lavish, and often thunderfooted, the movie is an immersion in rare ethnographic pulp. M.A.

Soy Boricua, Pa' Que Tú Lo Sepas! (I'm Boricua, Just So You Know!)

Until Puerto Ricans get the 20-hour Ken Burns–style documentary we deserve, there's Rosie Perez's remarkable directorial debut. Packing more than five centuries of culture in under 90 minutes, it delves into chapters even history books would rather forget: the Taino genocide, state-sponsored mass migration, forced sterilizations, the islander-Nuyorican divide. Not bad for a down-to-earth labor of love framed as a home movie of Perez's search for her family and her roots. Funny, heartbreaking, and essential—a generation ago, you could get arrested just for watching this. Bravo. Jorge Morales

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