by Gill Pringle

Eddie Martin’s The Kids and Warwick Ross and Rob Coe’s Blind Ambition face off against just six other films in this category – both films demonstrating extraordinary skill as well as offering a glimpse into untold stories and lives.

In The Kids, Australian director Eddie Martin (All This Mayhem, Have You Seen the Listers?) looks back at Larry Clark’s notorious indie cult classic Kids, first released to an unsuspecting public in 1995. Shot on the streets of Greenwich Village and starring a cast of real NYC teenagers, the film became a lightning rod for controversy. Labeled as a sex and drug-fueled tale of excess and moral depravity, it still went on to become a bonafide hit the world over.

Over the decades, the film has continued to gather a devoted following, and is responsible for birthing the careers of Harmony Korine and actresses Rosario Dawson and Chloe Sevigny.

But what happened to the rest of the kids? Martin answers the question in the documentary, revisiting the lives and circumstances of the original cast, some of whose stars burned dangerously bright while others were cast into darkness. Martin examines the excitement, confusion, and promise of early stardom, and digs into the questions of cultural appropriation and the predatory accusations that still surround the film to this day. With a pre-gentrification Manhattan as its backdrop, The Kids offers an unforgettable and unflinching look back at one of the most iconic films of the ‘90s.

Meanwhile, its competitor, Blind Ambition is the long-awaited follow up to Red Obsession.

Blind Ambition tells the inspiring story of four Zimbabwean refugees who conquer the odds to become South Africa’s top sommeliers. Forming Zimbabwe’s first ever wine tasting team, they travel to France and set their sights on the coveted title of ‘World Wine Tasting Champions’.

Just ten years ago these four Zimbabwean men – Tinashe, Pardon, Joseph and Marlvin – faced destitution as inflation crippled their homeland. With no job prospects under Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime, and unable to feed their young families, they each made a harrowing decision: to leave their home and everything they’d ever known, and use their last pennies to be smuggled across the border into South Africa.

But South Africa was just another battleground as millions of other Zimbabwean refugees fled into Johannesburg seeking work. The local residents resented this influx of illegal immigrants, and soon Zimbabweans were the targets of anti-foreigner riots. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, and maligned by their new community, our protagonists slept on the floor of a local church as they searched for work: grave digging, worm farming or general labour.

But determination and faith saw the four men quickly excel, and soon our heroes found better jobs in hospitality, first scrubbing dishes, then waiting tables. But to progress past clearing plates, they would need a basic knowledge of wine. This presented multiple challenges. Because Zimbabwe had no wine industry at the time, the four men had neither heard of nor tasted wine. Also, as Pentecostal Christians, alcohol was forbidden, making them the wine world’s most unlikely sommeliers.

An uplifting story of hope, courage and determination, Warwick Ross and Rob Coe’s Blind Ambition has been described as the Cool Runnings of the wine world.

Representing New Zealand at Tribeca is Gaysorn Thavat’s The Justice of Bunny King, marking its World Premiere in the “Viewpoints” platform.

Starring The Babadook’s Essie Davis as the eponymous heroine, Bunny spends her days washing car windshields on a busy street, pocketing the change she earns in tips.

For now, she’s sleeping on her sister’s couch, but she’s saving up for a place of her own. What Bunny wants more than anything is to be reunited with her two children who have been placed in foster care, and until she finds her own house, family services won’t let her act as their parent. When a plan that would finally allow Bunny to bring her kids home falls apart, Bunny is forced to become a champion, not only for herself and her children, but also for her teenage niece Tonya (Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit), who is desperate for her help.

Based in New Zealand, Gaysorn Thavat has worked extensively as a TV and commercial director, initially learning her craft among the crew of several films, including Whale Rider.

Melbourne International Film Festival selected her short film Brave Donkey several years earlier and The Justice of Bunny King serves as her debut feature film.

A deeply affecting film about a woman refusing to back down from a system that is stacked against her, each step of Bunny’s journey is grounded in her pain and passion, and thanks to Essie Davis’ fearless work, Bunny becomes an indomitable hero. A testament to resilience in the face of adversity, where sometimes you just have to take justice into your own hands.

If New York became an early casualty of the pandemic, then Tribeca’s organisers hope to give New Yorkers something to celebrate with this year’s festival, utilising park and large open spaces for screenings while also offering a virtual selection.

“After the past year and recent events, access to diverse narratives is more urgent than ever,” says Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Festival. “This program is truly life changing – not only highlighting the emerging talent in underrepresented communities, but also spotlighting their unique stories that offer different perspectives that we hope will help educate and affect change in the industry. We are proud of this collaboration with AT&T and cannot wait to celebrate this year’s finalists.”

Tribeca was originally founded by Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff in 2002 to spur the economic and cultural revitalisation of lower Manhattan following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

Held every springtime, each year the festival hosts over 600 screenings with approximately 150,000 attendees, and awards independent artists in 23 juried competitive categories.

Tribeca Film Festival is on June 9 – 20, 2021

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