The twelfth annual Tribeca Film Festival begins in one week, running Wednesday, April 17 through Sunday, April 28. This is the second year of programming overseen by Tribeca’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Gilmore, VP of Programming Genna Terranova, and Artistic Director Frederic Boyer, and they’ve pulled together a promising slate. Out of more than 6000 submissions, 89 features will screen, including 45 documentaries which appear in the festival’s various sections. As has been typical for Tribeca for several years, the nonfiction programming is strong. Going section-by-section below, I’ll highlight several selections that I can recommend from advance viewing and others that I’m looking forward to seeing during the course of the event:
The twelve titles in the World Documentary Feature Competition are up for three jury awards, recognizing editing, directing, and overall best doc. I’ve previously written about Alex Meillier’s East Timor independence chronicle/spy thriller ALIAS RUBY BLADE and can strongly recommend Matt Wolf’s evocative exploration of the historical development of youth identity, TEENAGE, and Jason Osder’s daring, archival-only chronicle of the clash between a radical organization and the city of Philadelphia, LET THE FIRE BURN (pictured). Profiling a litany of addiction, Sean Dunne conveys the dead end of drug dependency in a struggling West Virginia community nicknamed OXYANA. A pitch I saw about a year ago decidedly marks Banker White and Anna Fitch’s intimate portrait of the impact of Alzheimer’s, THE GENIUS OF MARIAN, as one to watch, while industry colleagues have noted the strength of Dan Krauss’ look at US Army soldiers accused of killing Afghan civilians for sport, THE KILL TEAM.
Among the remaining Competition titles, I’m most intrigued by Jessica Oreck’s reindeer herding portrait, AATSINKI: THE STORY OF ARCTIC COWBOYS (pictured); Leonard Retel Helmrich and Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich’s look at a peculiarly Dutch fishing tradition, RAW HERRING; and David Roach and Warwick Ross’ exploration of the changes Chinese demand has wrought on the wine industry RED OBSESSION.
Two of this year’s three Gala slots are taken by docs. The fest’s closing night film is Tom Berninger’s MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS (pictured), in which the director follows his more successful brother, frontman of the popular band The National, on tour as a hapless roadie. Actor Kevin Connolly makes his non-fiction directorial debut with BIG SHOT, opening the ESPN sports fest with the story of John Spano, a man who swindled his way to becoming the owner of the New York Islanders.
Other ESPN sports fest films appear in Tribeca’s Special Screenings section. Four of these are sneak peeks at ESPN’s NINE FOR IX series, a women-director, women subject-focused outgrowth of the network’s popular 30 FOR 30 sports documentaries, including Senain Kheshgi and Jennifer Arnold’s Katarina Witt profile, THE DIPLOMAT, and Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s look at the struggle for locker room access by female journalists, LET THEM WEAR TOWELS. Also in the Special Screenings are Bill Siegel’s phenomenal new doc, THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI (pictured), centered on the boxing legend’s religiously-motivated conscientious objection to serving in the Vietnam War and the legal battles that followed; Michael Stevens’ HERBLOCK – THE BLACK & THE WHITE, a look at the profilic and influential editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post; and Vivienne Roumani’s look at the copyright debate in the digital age, OUT OF PRINT.
According to the festival, its Spotlight section occupies a middle ground between independent and mainstream filmmaking. Of the more than thirty films here, twelve are documentaries, including Chiemi Karasawa’s ELAINE STRITCH: SHOOT ME, an often funny and at times poignant portrait of the indomitable actress; Marina Zenovich’s RICHARD PRYOR: OMIT THE LOGIC, a comprehensive exploration of the late comic legend’s life and career; Whoopi Goldberg’s directorial debut, I GOT SOMETHIN’ TO TELL YOU, a celebration of the pioneering comedienne Moms Mabley; Christina Voros’ THE DIRECTOR, following Gucci’s creative director Frida Giannini as she reimagines the legendary brand; Shawn Efran and Adam Ciralsky’s THE PROJECT, on the efforts of underprepared mercenaries to curb the threat of Somali pirates; and Josh Fox’s GASLAND PART II, the follow up to his Oscar-nominated anti-fracking exposé. But even with all of these intriguing projects, I’m most excited about Juliette Eisner and Andy Capper’s LIL BUB & FRIENDZ (pictured), on the Internet’s obsession with felines.
More than twenty films appear in Tribeca’s Viewpoints section, dedicated to edgier fare with distinctly gendered perspectives. Of these, eight are documentaries, including Eric Steel’s unexpectedly charming and artful story of a female Scottish fishing fly-maker, KISS THE WATER (pictured); Hilla Medalia’s engaging and sure-to-please DANCING IN JAFFA, in which Israeli and Palestinian children are made to look past stereotypes through a ballroom dance program that unites them; Linda Bloodworth Thomason’s BRIDEGROOM, an intimate portrait of a gay relationship tragically impacted by inequities in our laws; and Deidre Schoo and Michael Nichols’ FLEX IS KINGS, a portrait of a unique, energetic form of competitive street dance in Brooklyn.
Tribeca’s documentary programming is rounded out by Tribeca Talks, screenings of some of the above titles, plus others, accompanied by extended discussions around the issues or their protagonists; shorts programming, which includes seventeen documentaries in competition; and Storyscapes, a new programming section this year focused on interactive storytelling.
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