2023 Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca 2023 | ‘Perpetrator’ and ‘Richelieu’

The 2023 Tribeca Film Festival began its programming on Thursday, June 7th and will run until the 18th both in person and virtually. And thus far, it has been a decent festival! With 109 feature films featured in this year’s slate, there are plenty of categories and exciting projects to watch.

The Spotlight Narrative category has some wonderful films to showcase in addition to my favorite, Midnight, which contains the features that could keep you up at night. Either way, something tells me there are plenty of films for me to enjoy and recommend that you add to your watchlist. Without further ado, here are some films I saw from the first couple of days of the festival:

Perpetrator | Director: Jennifer Reeder

Synopsis: Teenager Jonny gains supernatural abilities through a mystical transformation, just as girls from her new school go missing. Jonny takes the investigation into her own hands in this coming-of-age, feminist horror-noir.

Perpetrator for the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival
Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Review: Jennifer Reeder directs and writes the ambitious and creative Perpetrator. The story follows Jonny as she gains odd superpowers all while having to deal with a community kidnapper. Traumatized yet outraged by the abductions happening to female students her own age, Jonny takes it upon herself to investigate what’s really going on.

Based on the synopsis alone, you might guess that this coming-of-age story is hyper feministic with a hint of campy horror-noir. And you’d certainly be on the right track. But it isn’t all the way appealing. While there are some creative elements to the script, there are more problems than achievements holding Perpetrator back from being the kind of film that could take this industry by storm.

For one, a great deal of what transpires throughout Reeder’s feature relies on contrived and convenient elements within her script. It’s easy for us as viewers to sniff these parts out, and it cheapens the entertainment value when everything feels so unrealistic. Additionally, the explanations about Jonny’s powers are often half-explained to the point that it doesn’t really make sense. In reality, they don’t need to, but it would’ve been better if the screenwriting didn’t attempt to explain at all.

Completely ignoring the aforementioned faults may have been easy to do had it not been for the additional wonky acting. At times, it doesn’t feel like members of the cast are even trying, while during other moments, they often try too hard. It’s a shame, really, because there’s a fun film in here somewhere. However, the execution simply was not there. But check it out for curiosity’s sake, if you dare.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Richelieu | Director: Pier-Phillippe Chevigny

Official synopsis: Trying to get her life back on track after a breakup, Ariane moves back to her hometown and in with her mother. To save her sinking finances, she takes a job at the local corn plant as a French-to-Spanish interpreter for the seasonal migrant workers employed there. She befriends Manuel, an illiterate, naive young man who has left his small children behind in Guatemala to earn as much as he can in Canada. As Ariane begins to witness how the workers are being taken advantage of, and as the only one who seems to see them as real people, she finds it increasingly difficult to keep quiet. What unites all of them, from boss to migrant worker, is a deep desperation to keep their job, but the individual choices they make in the face of mounting pressure reveal everyone’s true character.

Richelieu for Tribeca Film Festival
Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Review: Chevigny’s Richelieu is a discomforting view at moral ambiguity and humanity. The way he captures the immigrant experience under an empathetic lens is beautiful filmmaking. This is not the easiest film to watch, especially if you have any experience with the subject matter. But it’s an important one that should be watched by the masses.

Through Ariane, Chevigny showcases the thin line between doing work to get by and investing in your workers’ well-being. While one offers her a work life free of complications and personal problems, it’s clear that there’s an unethical element that comes with it. Chevigny’s directing and writing manages to implement empathy within every scene, which results in an emotionally compelling watching experience for viewers.

The work submitted by the director/screenwriter is certainly worth taking notice of, but it is also made possible by the extraordinary performances from beginning to end. Ariana Castellanos, who somewhat takes on the hero role, is sensational every step of the way. Marc-Andre Grondin is on the opposite end of the ethical spectrum but gives a subtle menacing performance that will leave a lasting impression among viewers. Finally, the group of actors who play the Guatemalan workers stand out and demand your attention.

A beautiful yet discomforting showcase of the immigrant experience when it comes to working conditions and unfair treatment, director Pier-Philippe Chevigny’s feature is a captivating and strong debut. It demonstrates the beauty in doing the right thing for other people, even if that means sacrificing a portion of your livelihood. Bravo to the cast and crew for beautifully showcasing humanity amidst adversity.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.