Tribeca Film Festival Part 1: THE DAMNED; LINDA PERRY: LET IT DIE HERE

A woman on a hill with a bunch of crosses
Odessa Young as EVA in THE DAMNED

THE DAMNED, directed by Thordur Palsson, written by Jamie Hannigan

Icelandic director Thordur Palsson (Valhalla Murders) releases an atmospheric, icy 19th-century cautionary tale of fishermen who turn their back on fellow men of the sea and reap the consequences.

A crew of fishermen settle in for the hardest part of winter in the Westfjords of Iceland, when the hours of daylight are few. The leader, Magnus, has died, leaving his widowed wife Eva (Odessa Young) as owner of the boat and de facto foreman. With food running scarce, they rely on good booze, each other's company, and rousing tales of ghosts to warm their bellies and sustain their vigor. The group's cook, Helga (Siobhan Finneran), may be the best storyteller of all, due to her pagan beliefs. She shares a story of one brother killing another from seeds of hidden jealousy.

The next day, the group prepares to set out for a catch but stop short when they spot an incoming boat, shipwrecked on fjords that surround the peninsula like teeth. Due to low food supplies, they ultimately decide to let the stranded crew fend for themselves. The guilt for their actions begins to gnaw at their conscience, driving a wedge between this rugged band of workers with different worldviews.

A woman and man talk in front of a fishing boat
Joe Cole as DANIEL, Odessa Young as EVA in THE DAMNED

THE DAMNED takes inspiration from Norse folktales about draugr, undead reanimated corpses, to craft a period piece morality play about the cost of refusing help to strangers. Director of photography Eli Arenson makes the most of the maritime setting with gorgeously framed shots of the landscape and surrounding waters. The sea shows up in almost every frame of the film, always reminding us of its presence. The bitter Iceland winters serve as a character, keeping the group trapped and dependent on one another.

The talented cast of skilled indie actors, most notably Odessa Young (THE STAIRCASE, SHIRLEY), Joe Cole (GREEN ROOM), Siobah Finneran (DOWNTON ABBEY), take this atmospheric, creepy setup and run with it every step of the way. For fans of horror in enclosed communities like THE WITCH, APOSTLE, and THE RITUAL.

Screening in its World Premiere during the Tribeca Film Festival 2024 in the Spotlight Narrative section. See film detail page for screening options.

Release info: The film is being sold by Protagonist Pictures and will be distributed by Vertical, with a release later this year.

Final score: 3.5 out of 5

A woman with a fur coat and hat

LINDA PERRY: LET IT DIE HERE, directed by Don Hardy

Don Hardy directs an intimate confessional from music trailblazer Linda Perry, best known as the lead singer for the 4 Non Blondes, and songwriter of the 1993 rock battle cry, "What's Up?" A year later, the group disbanded and Perry started her work as a highly sought producer and collaborative partner for such musical artists as Dolly Parton, Pink, Christina Aguilera, and Brandi Carlile.

To create a portrait of an unusual life, Hardy uses a mixture of taped interviews with these and other guests, cinéma vérité footage of Perry working and going about, and stop-motion animation to depict some of Perry's most painful memories. I wasn't sure what expect from this film about a subject I know nothing about. Life portraits can be dull, informative, or overly sentimental towards the principle. They often only reveal the picture they want to show. Not so with this Linda Perry documentary. Somehow among the oversized hats, chunky shoes, and walks down memory lane, I found myself in her story.

The flow begins typically, with people she has collaborated with singing her praises and sharing stories demonstrating her best qualities. When helping others to write a song, Perry encourages them to avoid worrying about lyrics, ad libbing just to find the feel and tone of the song. She helps find the heart of the person and the story they need to release. But as the film continues, a different picture forms – a picture of an abuse survivor who maintains her own cycle of self-abuse that manifests itself in being addicted to creative work.

A woman wearing a mask made of blue paint look at the camera
Creating art of any type can be a great joy and type of therapy in itself. But knowing when to stop can be difficult if you use it to fill a void. During the film, we witness Perry in the studio, doing countless takes of the same section of music. "Again … stop. Again," Perry barks, with a tone that demands nothing but perfection. After we have seen the gentle way she draws out the best in her colleagues, this lack of empathy towards herself rang clear.

Another moment she sits down at a piano to write a song and struggles to find the through line. It's a vulnerable moment and a revealing one. Helping others release their deeply hidden emotions can sometimes be easier than towing that line yourself. Does Perry feel safer producing others' work than being the one in the hot seat. I found myself within the beats of her story, 

This documentary helped me form a picture of Perry she may not even have intended and helped me touch base with a part of my soul that needs healing. In great documentary filmmaking, you don't tell the story. The story finds you. Don Hardy created a life portrait that is a conversation between Perry and the viewers of the film, an impressive feat.

Screening in its World Premiere during Tribe Film Festival 2024 in the Spotlight+ section. See film detail page for screening options.

Release info: Unknown at this time.

Final score: 4 out of 5