2009 TIFF Roster

2009 Teaneck International Film Festival Film Roster



Directed by Tatia Rosenthal

Description: Have you ever wondered “What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist? The answer to this vexing question is now within your reach! You'll find it in a small yet amazing booklet, which will explain, in easy to follow, simple terms your reason for being! The booklet, printed on the finest paper, contains illuminating, exquisite colour pictures, and could be yours for a mere $9.99.” This is the ad that alters the life of the unemployed 28-year-old who still lives at home, Dave Peck. In his struggle to share his find with the world, Dave’s surreal path crosses with those of his unusual neighbors: an old man and his disgruntled guardian angel; a magician in debt; a bewitching woman who likes her men extra smooth; a broken-hearted man who befriends a group of hard partying two-inch tall students; and a little boy who sets his piggy bank free. Their stories are woven together, examining the post-modern meaning of hope. This remarkable film has received critical praise for its “gorgeous moments of animated surrealism and smart moments of emotional truth.” Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter said, “There’s something undeniably hypnotic and bewitching about $9.99, which may be the most unusual movie of 2008.” The film features the voices of Geoffrey Rush and Anthony LaPaglia.

Links: IMDb

Afghan Star 


Directed by Havana Marking

Description: In Afghanistan you risk your life to sing. After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, pop culture has returned to the country - and since 2005, millions are tuning in to Tolo TV’s wildly popular American Idol-style series Afghan Star. Like its Western predecessors, the show features ordinary people competing for a cash prize and record deal. More surprisingly, the contest is open to everyone across the country despite gender, ethnicity or age. Two thousand people audition, including three extremely brave women. And when viewers vote for their favorites via cell phone, it is, for many, their first encounter with the democratic process. Winner of the Directing and Audience Awards in Sundance’s 2009 World Documentary competition, Havana Marking’s timely and moving film follows the dramatic stories of four young finalists - two men and two women - as they hazard everything to become the nation’s favorite performer. By observing the Afghani people's relationship to its pop culture, Afghan Star is the perfect window into a country’s tenuous, ongoing struggle for modernity. What Americans consider frivolous entertainment is downright revolutionary - and more human - in this troubled part of the world.

Links: Official Site - IMDb - Trailer

Sponsored by: WOW (Wise Older Women)

Against the Current


Directed by Peter Callahan

Description: Paul Thompson (Joseph Fiennes) is a successful, married 30-something financial writer and a happy, expectant father. But when tragedy strikes, Paul’s world is turned upside down. Five years later, he decides to fulfill his dream by swimming the entire length of the lower Hudson River – all 150 miles of it. He enlists the aid of his best friend Jeff (Justin Kirk) and Liz (Elizabeth Reaser), a woman he meets at a bar, to come along. All three are doing some soul-searching and looking for meaning in their lives. At once tragic and humorous, the film is a compelling and uncompromising exploration of grief, loss and the right to determine one’s own fate, as well as the limits and responsibilities of friendship. The film was shot in sequence along the Hudson River, which serves almost as much as a fourth character, as well as stunning backdrop. Joseph Fiennes did his own swimming for the film. Also notable: a brief cameo by Mary Tyler Moore.

Links: IMDb



Directed by Diane Crespo & Stefan C. Schaefer

Description: Two young women - one an Orthodox Jew, the other Muslim - meet and become friends as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn. Over the course of the year they learn they share much in common, not least of which is that they are both going through arranged marriages. The story is based loosely on the experiences of Yuta Silverman, an Orthodox Jewish woman from Borough Park, Brooklyn. The film was shot in 17 days on location in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights and at the Jewish Education Center in Elizabeth, NJ, where Yuta's father is an administrator. Sweet, touching and often funny, the film was praised in New York magazine as a “surprisingly winning indie drama ... the understated, natural performances by leads Zoe Lister-Jones and Francis Benhamou lend the film a sense of intimacy that serves it well."

Links: IMDb - Trailer

Sponsored by Jewish Center of Teaneck

Azur & Asmar


Directed by Michel Ocelot

Description: Azur and Asmar is the story of two boys raised as brothers. Blonde, blue-eyed, white skinned Azur and black-haired, brown-eyed, dark-skinned Asmar are lovingly cared for by Asmar's gentle mother, who tells them magical stories of her faraway homeland and of beautiful, imprisoned Fairy Djinn waiting to be set free. Time passes, and one day Azur's father, the master of the house, provokes a brutal separation. Azur is sent away to study, while Asmar and his mother are driven out, homeless and penniless. Years later, as a young adult, Azur remains haunted by memories of the sunny land of his nanny, and sets sail south across the high seas to find the country of his dreams. Azur's nanny has become a wealthy merchant and Asmar has grown into a dashing horseman. Reunited but now as adversaries, the two brothers set off on a dangerous quest to find and free the Fairy of the Djinns. Empire Magazine said of this beautiful animated film: “Quite simply, it’s a visual masterpiece that combines cut-outs with CGI and the mesmeric beauty of Islamic art to create a magical world, in which scarlet lions with blue claws and birds with rainbow wings stand between Azur and Asmar, as they try to rescue the Djinn Fairy from her crystal cell.”

Links: IMDb - Trailer

Gotta Dance


Directed by Dori Berinstein

Description: Who says you can’t hip-hop if you’re 80-years-old? Who says your days as an athlete are long gone? Who says you can’t shake things up and light up a jam-packed sports arena with your hot moves and cool attitude? Just because you’re a card-carrying member of AARP, do you have to give up on your dreams? No. You don’t. Absolutely not. GOTTA DANCE chronicles the debut of the New Jersey Nets, first-ever, senior hip-hop dance team, 12 women and 1 man, all dance team newbies, from auditions through to center court stardom. As smooth dance moves are perfected and performed in front of thousands, aging myths and misperceptions are pulverized. Despite swollen ankles, exhausting rehearsals, personality clashes and seemingly impossible dance steps, the NETSational Senior’s go for it, spreading joy, inspiration and cool dance moves as they hip-hop their way into the hearts of Nets fans and beyond.

Links: Official Site - IMDb - Trailer

Karma Calling


Directed by Sarba Das

Description: The Audience Award Winner at the recent Los Angeles Asian American Film Festival, posits that when karma calls, you can’t hang up. What happens when a bunch of hapless Hindus from Hoboken get mixed up with an underworld don with connections to an Indian call center? And what happens when a good Jersey girl falls for a smooth operator thousands of miles away? For one thing, the phone keeps ringing. The Raj family is deep in denial about its creeping credit card debt, dodging collection notices and phone calls. When eldest daughter Sonal finally picks up the phone, she meets a call center operator like no other, Rob Roy. Little does she know that he’s oceans away. Her brother Shyam, a college drop out, is too busy dreaming of becoming the next Dr. Dre (peddling his hip-hop album Hapa Means Weed in Japanese) to notice the bills piling up. But romance is in the air for him too, in the form of Radha, a village girl from India, arriving in America to marry a Dollar Store mogul. As for the youngest daughter Jamuna, well, she just wants a Bat Mitzvah. Narrated by award-winning actor Tony Sirico (aka “Paulie Walnuts” of The Sopranos), the film is a snapshot of our hyper-globalized world through the eyes of a Garden state family just trying to get by. It’s a quintessential American tale about unlikely alliances, outsourcing, and outwitting. And at its heart, it is the story of a family learning to live together.

Links: Official Site - IMDb - Trailer

Sponsored by: New Jersey South Asian Independent CineFest

Kid Flix Mix 2009 (Short Films)



Directed by Various

Description: The world renowned New York International Children’s Film Festival presents this kaleidoscopic collection of the best animated short films from around the world, for ages 3 to 8.  The program features musical and narrative works from Sweden, France, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US, and offers a spectacular array of traditional, CGI, collage, and stop motion animation styles.  Program is in English.
7 Days of the Week Animation, McBride/Cowles, USA, 3 min
Knuffle Bunny Animation, Mo Willems, USA, 8 min
Breaking the Mould Animation, Manley/Paulli, UK, 1 min
The Bridge on the River Zzzeee Animation, Thomas Szabo, France, 5 min
Dinosaur Song Animation, Christian Robinson, USA, 3 min
Hedgehug Animation, Dan Pinto, USA, 5 min
Horsie Animation, Sarah Wahl, Finland, 2 min
The New Species Animation, Evalds Lacis, Latvia, 10 min
No Monkey Animation, Harry Flosser, Germany, 4 min
Sooner or Later Animation, Jadwiga Krystyna Kowalska, 5 min
Spot and Splodge in Snowstorm Animation, Geffenblad, Sweden, 8 min
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs Animation, Konstantin Bronzit, USA, 10 min
… and more!

Pressure Cooker


Directed by Jennifer Grausman & Mark Becker

Description: Wilma Stephenson, the inspirational teacher featured in the outstanding documentary "Pressure Cooker," will participate in a Q&A following this screening, at 11 a.m. on Nov. 22 at Cedar Lane Cinemas.In this compelling documentary, three seniors at Philadelphia's Frankford High School find an unlikely champion in the kitchen of Wilma Stephenson. A legend in the school system, Mrs. Stephenson's hilariously blunt boot-camp method of teaching Culinary Arts is validated by years of scholarship success. Against the backdrop of the row homes of working-class Philadelphia, she has helped countless students reach the top culinary schools in the country. And under her fierce direction, the usual distractions of high school are swept aside as Erica, Dudley and Fatoumata prepare to achieve beyond what anyone else expects of them.

Links: Official Site - IMDb - Trailer

Sponsored by: Whole Foods Market

Prince of Broadway

DRAMA - 100 minutes

Director: Sean Baker

Description: This film tells the story of Lucky and Levon, two men whose lives converge in the underbelly of New York's wholesale fashion district. Lucky, an illegal immigrant from Ghana, makes ends meet by soliciting shoppers on the street with knock-off brand merchandise. Levon, an Armenian-Lebanese immigrant, operates an illegal storefront with a concealed back room where counterfeit goods are showcased to interested shoppers. Lucky's world is suddenly turned upside down when a child is thrust into his life by a woman who insists the toddler is his son. While Lucky copes with his new domestic dilemma, Levon struggles to save a marriage that is falling apart. The seedy side of the wholesale district is revealed through a journey that continually confronts the interplay between what is fake and what is real. The film – written after extensive discussions and improvisations with members of the subculture it depicts – is as much a brutal drama as it is a tender comedy. It is fast-paced and gritty, peppered liberally with street language. Definitely not for children.

Links: Official Site

Treeless Mountain


Directed by So Yong Kim

Description: When their mother needs to leave in order to find their estranged father, six-year-old Jin and her younger sister, Bin, are left to live with their Big Aunt for the summer. With only a small piggy bank and their mother’s promise to return when it is full, the two young girls are forced to acclimate to changes in their family life. Counting the days, and the coins, the two bright-eyed young girls eagerly anticipate their mother’s homecoming. But when the bank fills up, and with their mother still not back, Big Aunt decides that she can no longer tend to the children. Taken to live on their grandparent’s farm, it is here that Jin comes to learn the importance of family bonds in this beautiful, meditative, and thought-provoking film. Variety’s Robert Koehler said of Kim’s film: “drawing out beautifully natural performances from her child actors, Kim has a distinct way of letting her camera observe her characters with kind thoughtfulness, allowing for a quiet mood to wash over the scenes.”

Links: IMDb - Trailer 

When the Evening Comes



Directed by Craig Geraghty

Description: Charlie Corrado is pushing forty and still lives with his grandparents, Martin and Marion Corrado. Charlie is a “successful” Manhattan attorney, who also works in his grandfather's florist in College Point, where he will always be known as Martin's “delivery boy.” Marion envisions her grandson as a second chance to right the wrongs she made with Charlie's mother. Marion also recognizes a parallel between Charlie’s relationship with his girlfriend, Katharine, and her own marriage to Martin, and Marion does not like what she sees. When Charlie is forced to deal with the inevitable realities of the adult world, his life takes unexpected turns, and Charlie takes his turn at life. Philip Bosco and Anne Meara are outstanding as the long-married grandparents.

Links: IMDb

Youssou N’dour: I Bring What I Love


Directed by Chai Vasarhelyi

Description: This is an uplifting, music-driven journey into the power of one man’s voice to inspire millions. The film unfolds an extraordinary moment in the life of Youssou N’dour - the best selling and influential African pop artist. The Grammy Award winning cultural ambassador has long been renowned for bringing people of diverse nations and backgrounds together through his collaborations with such musical superstars as Bono, Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel –and for rousing global audiences with his honey-like voice, electrifying rhythms and impossibly catchy melodies. But when he releases his most daringly personal and spiritual album yet, N’dour instead rocks his Muslim fans in Africa. Now, even as he garners accolades in the West, N’dour must brave controversy and rejection at home as he sets out to win his audience back Director Chai Vasarhelyi tracks N’dour’s emotional journey over two years – filming his ever-shifting life in Africa, Europe, and America. The portrait is not just of an incomparable musician turning his spiritual quest into art, but also that of a brave new world in which pop culture now has equal power to incite fury and invite new connections.

Links: Official Site - IMDb - Trailer

Sponsored by: Bergen County Links