What the Press says about The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars. (Edoardo Ponti. 2012. Italy. 23 min.)

Senior film critic Kurt Brokaw offers critic’s choices on the shorts program at Tribeca 2013.

Think of it: More than 2,800 shorts were submitted to the 12th Tribeca Film Festival. Sixty made the cut. This one had more advance anticipation and comment than most TFF feature film selections. To no one’s surprise, it’s won the festival’s best narrative short award and is a surefire contender for best short Oscar. It came in weighted with a proven, big name director; an acclaimed, world class screenwriter; and a cast headed by an internationally known and well liked female star. It’s the kind of once-in-a-blue-moon short that really could be called a red carpet event.

As such it will be the envy of many indie filmmakers who’ve maxed out every credit card they own and worked their Kickstarter campaigns to the bone, trying against all odds to get a short film made that in all probability is infinitely more modest in scope and size, and is likely to end up playing to family and friends. Not every first-time filmmaker would be thrilled to be in competition with this picture. The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars might be called, with some justification, the 800-pound gorilla of TFF shorts.

All that said, this writer will assure you, after viewing all 60 selections in all eight TFF categories, that Ponti’s film is indeed the one that best communicates an ineffable, elusive magic that finds a tiny place in our hearts and souls, and may stay securely there for the rest of our movie going years. More than any of its 59 companions, it demonstrates that one compelling concept—just one, an idea you could describe to someone in a 140-character tweet—can be more impactful and memorable than all its competition.

Would you like a demonstration? Here it is in less than 140 characters: Attractive married woman, 47, and attractive single man, 49, each facing open heart surgery, agree to climb together to the top of Italy’s treacherous Dolomite cliffs after their surgeries.

Sonia (Nastassja Kinski, looking radiantly mature after a ten-year absence from the screen) undergoes heart surgery to receive a new mitral valve. Matteo (Enrico LoVerso) is receiving the donated heart of a young woman in a transplant operation. Mark (Julian Sands), an experienced mountain climber like Sonia and Matteo, is not at all comfortable with his wife scaling cliffs with another guy, let alone another heart patient. Mark sets out on an easier back trail to make his way up to the top and—ahem, meet and greet these two adventurers—if they make it to the top.

That’s the dazzling setup, as conceived by Erri De Luca, one of Italy’s bestselling authors. His slim screenplay is available for 99 cents online, one of the more shrewd marketing ploys of the season. And the director, Edoardo Ponti, has already made a feature (Between Strangers), starring Sophia Loren, the lifelong muse and partner of his late dad, the legendary Carlo Ponti. This is the younger Ponti’s first Italian-language film.

Most of The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars’ 23 minutes are on the climb, and they’re as stirring and breathtaking and scary as you’d imagine, from a variety of perspectives including a circling helicopter. Whether the climbers’ hearts hold out is yours to discover, and the moving literary close spoken by a character more than justifies your 99-cent investment in the screenplay. Is the picture Oscar worthy? This critic puts it on a level playing field with Sarah Shapiro’s Sequin Raze, shown at the recent New Directors/New Films fest, an equally enthralling drama most definitely done on a shoestring Kickstarter budget.

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