“17 Blocks,” a documentary by Davy Rothbart, was included in my initial Tribeca Film Festival 2019 pick-list because of the compelling and devastating use of a home-video archive. The film was created due to a chance meeting, in 1999, of two kids at a Washington D.C. public basketball court and director-producer Davy Rothbart. Fifteen-year-old Smurf Sanford and his nine-year-old brother Emmanuel lived in the neighborhood, which is only 17 blocks from the White House but is a dangerous and decrepit part of the city that outsiders typically go to great lengths to avoid. When Emmanuel expressed interest in becoming a filmmaker, Rothbart lent him a video camera.
It’s Spring in New York and that means one thing to cinephiles: Tribeca Film Festival. I will offer a select list of films that fall into a category defined by my own tangled and perhaps questionable perspective: Archival Movies. This seems to be an unofficial theme this year – films that begin and end with images of VCR tapes or microfilm, drawers full of old photographs or scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, etc. Archival materials are typical components of well-researched documentaries (and TFF is always wonderfully rich with documentaries), but this year the focus seems to be as much about the archival material itself as it is the subject of that material.