Short Docs at Tribeca Film Festival 2022 | HEART VALLEY, JOHN LEGUIZAMO: LIVE AT RIKERS and THE HOUSE OF LABEIJA Reviews

Heart Valley
dir. by Christian Cargill 

There's something instantly charming about Christian Cargill's Heart Valley. His short-doc debut follows the routine of Wilf Davies, a shepherd from Cellan in Wales whose lifelong dream was to become a farmer. "I work every day. Mostly to keep me happy" is a sentence that rarely falls from anyone's mouth, but the irrefutable joy in Wilf's face, captured so beautifully by Cargill, shows just how deeply true this is for Wilf. 

Inspired by an article Cargill read in The Guardian, titled "I've had the same supper for 10-years", the film aims to go to the heart of what keeps Wilf so content. "I have a routine, just like nature." Wilf wrote in his article, and Cargill captures that routine meticulously. From daybreak to the nightly walk he takes when the sun is just right, Wilf is enamoured with the world around him. He relishes the little things, waxing lyrical about how Lidl provides everything he needs and the fact there's "No responsibility while you're on a bus". What feel like asides to him are valuable life lessons, and even with the danger of the city coming to take away the countryside and health issues that threatened to take his joy away, Wilf preserves an element of peace which so many of us spend a lifetime chasing. 

It is impossible to look away from Heart Valley. It is so beautifully tactile. The way Cargill captures the idyllic landscape makes us fall in love with Wilf's world and crave the serenity of solitude. 
For all its charm, it carries a message and analyses the things we value as humans. The value of this film is found in the things that are not said but implied. 

To say too much about this film is to spoil it. It deserves to be stumbled upon with an open heart when you're least expecting it. 

Heart Valley will have its World Premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival on June 9th. It will also screen digitally on June 11th and again in-person on June 14th. 

John Leguizamo: Live at Rikers
dir. by Elena Engel 

Invited to perform his play, Ghetto Klown, at Rikers Island, John Leguizamo heads on out to the "medium security" Rikers Island, where, for many, dreams go to die.  

"Sometimes you just need to see someone like yourself who has accomplished something" Leguizamo is hopeful for these men, opening up about his past and creating a space of vulnerability to connect with people whose paths look like his own. Clayvee, Benjamin, Dante, Tyreik, Lawrence, Steven, Christopher, all these young men become faces we repeatedly see over the 26 minute run time, who slowly open up about their dreams for the future. Director, Elena Engel, captures a brotherhood. These young men support one another like they've known each other their whole lives, and Engel captures some powerful moments of vulnerability. 

Whilst the film depicts the power of proximity, it also becomes to personify the catharsis of art. You can see the healing in Leguizamo as he navigates his performance and the way it releases him. "Freak was the first Latin one-man show on Broadway". Leguizamo shares his successes and failures, and his openheartedness makes the story so compelling. 

The boys in the film are part of the "Get Out and Staying Out" program, dedicated to reducing recidivism. It states that 86% of the participants do not return to incarceration, which makes the film a call to action showcasing the benefits of the so desperately underfunded prison programs that help incarcerated people leave prison with further prospects.

John Leguizamo: Live at Rikers will have its World Premiere at this year's Tribeca Film Festival on June 12th. It will also screen digitally on June 14th and again in-person on June 16th. 

The House of LaBeija
dir. by Fredgy Noël

The fifth short from Fredgy Noël is The House of LaBeija, the ethereal love letter to the beauty of community and celebration of self-expression. 

Captured in all their glorious vitality, the members paint a portrait of beautiful phoenixes rising from the ashes of their past, blooming into their new chapters. There's a vulnerability captured among the beauty. Noël gives her contributors agency over their narrative, inviting them to speak on their terms and reclaim their identities through stories from their past. 

Their individual stories only become more impactful as Noël slowly widens the portrait to show this beautiful community born from struggle. 

Noël directed, produced, edited and shot the whole thing and must be commended for how she realised this film. It's a gem among this year's Tribeca line-up.

The House of LaBeija will have its World Premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival on June 12th. It will also screen digitally on June 14th and again in-person on June 16th. 

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