The Tribeca Film Festival is taking over lower Manhattan for another year of quality filmmaking, groundbreaking new digital storytelling, and some of Hollywood’s biggest names. This year, the entire roster reads like a Must-Watch list that includes critically-acclaimed television projects, innovative virtual reality gambles, and even two talks that we can’t wait to catch. Take its opening night film, for example. Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives is a music documentary following the storied career of Davis, a titan in the music industry and the producer behind Carlos Santana’s best-selling album, Supernatural.
As far as talks, following last year’s amazing Alfonso Cuarón/Emmanuel Lubezki conversation, the programmers at Tribeca have called up Cuarón’s friend and fellow Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu. He’ll be sitting down to talk with performance artist Marina Abramović in Tribeca’s famed Directors Series. In an equally intriguing pairing, the Storytellers Series has matched legend Barbra Streisand with cowboy hat-loving filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Both events promise to be the kinds of compelling, one-off festival experiences the New York City institution is becoming known for.
But it all begins and ends with the projects screening in a theater near you. With over 200 films playing throughout the festival, you’ll need some help figuring out what to prioritize. That’s why we’re here. Find below our Top Picks for what screens at Tribeca. It includes a 9/11 short led by Salma Hayek, a boxing flick set in the DR, a doc on the fight to save the pink dolphin in Colombia, and even Melonie Diaz’s latest venture as actress and executive producer. Check them out below.
Tribeca Film Festival runs April 19 – 30, 2017.
After a 15-year stint in a United States prison, Francisco “Cisco” Castillo returns home to the Dominican Republic to find that life isn’t any easier in his old surroundings. Due to his criminal record, he can’t hold down a job, and his alcoholic mother favors her youngest son, a budding teenage criminal who is one stick-up away from jail, or worse. Reluctantly taking up back-alley street fighting to earn cash, Cisco forms an alliance with Nichi, a washed-up boxer from Italy who’s struggling with a gambling addiction. To better both of their financial situations, Nichi offers to train the naturally gifted Cisco in the boxing ring. Co-directors Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas put a delicate touch to this hard-hitting boxing drama, rooting a double-sided story of redemption in the mean streets of the Dominican Republic—where the hint of paradise offered by the island always seems just out of reach.
As the new millennium began, one news story captured the attention and hearts of nearly every American. On Thanksgiving 1999, a young Cuban boy named Elián González was found floating in the Florida Straits by himself after his mother drowned trying to seek refuge in the United States. Before long, the 5-year-old González became the centerpiece of an intense custody battle between his father back in Cuba and his relatives in Miami, which, in turn, brought attention to the long-brewing tensions between Fidel Castro’s Cuba and the U.S. Throughout the news coverage, though, one voice was too young to join the heated international conversation: that of Elián himself. Eighteen years later, in the wake of Fidel Castro’s monumental death last November, ELIÁN lets the now 23-year-old tell his story, along with the other key players, of one of the biggest news events in modern times. Executive produced by Alex Gibney, Tim Golden and Ross McDonnell use Elián’s intimate details as the jumping-off point for a powerfully relevant historical account.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Academy Award-nominated director David France’s (How to Survive a Plague) new documentary centers on self-described “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson, legendary fixture in New York City’s gay ghetto, who along with fellow trans icon Sylvia Rivera, founded Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), a trans activist group based in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village. Mysteriously, Marsha was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992. At the time, the NYPD pegged her death as a suicide, a claim that Marsha’s comrades have always firmly rejected. Structured as a whodunit, with activist Victoria Cruz cast as detective and audience surrogate, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson celebrates the lasting political legacy of Marsha P. Johnson, while seeking to finally solve the mystery of her unexplained death.
A River Below
Deep in the Amazon, the population of the indigenous pink river dolphin is dwindling. Docile and easy to catch, this near-mythical animal is being hunted to extinction and used as bait for scavenger fish. But two activists are each working tirelessly to raise awareness and protect the species. On the one hand a marine biologist and on the other a famous TV star, each has their own very different approach to their one common goal. As the battle to save the pink river dolphin intensifies, the effort to direct the public’s attention to the issue becomes increasingly difficult. When a scandal erupts, ethical questions are raised as murky as the waters of the Amazon River itself. What sacrifices are acceptable in the battle for this endangered animal and what are the grander social, economical and environmental issues involved? Mark Grieco’s (Marmato) surprising documentary digs into the ethics of activism in the modern media age.
Nico is a famous actor in Argentina, but in New York, nobody takes notice. After giving up a successful career in his home country for a chance to make it in the Big Apple, he needs to juggle bartending, babysitting and odd jobs to keep himself afloat. Starting from square one is hard in the city of dreams. With each role Nico takes on, he puts on a new persona in order to fit in. He performs the ideal bartender, the up-and-coming actor, the friend, the father figure. But when old friends from Buenos Aires come to visit, he needs to juggle the image of his old life with the reality of the struggling actor in New York City. In a moving depiction of this vibrant city, director Julia Solomonoff’s touching feature presents a portrait of immigrant solitude. Nico faces the difficulty of finding not only a home, but himself amidst the indifferent metropolis. Nobody’s Watching questions how we adjust when we lose our audience.
Lost & Found
In this 30-minute independent TV pilot, Stella (Melonie Diaz) and Ian are separating. But for this modern LA couple, that’s nothing to be sad or ashamed about. They decide to host an “un-wedding” party to celebrate. As friends and family descend on their home for the occasion, secrets are revealed and loyalties tested in this comedy-drama pilot about family, friendship, and marriage.
This short film is charged with urgency and a strong personal element. The Western hemisphere’s oldest civil war is still going strong in the jungles of Colombia. The National Liberation Army (ELN) — a Marxist military organization — has been fighting for revolution since 1964, and with the FARC having declared a ceasefire, the ELN is today the last active guerrilla army in the Americas. The director has been covering the Colombian civil war for over a decade, and was compelled to make this documentary after finding his grandfather’s kidnap diary from 30 years ago.
Based on a true story, the short film 11th Hour recounts how, on the evening of 9/11, Maria José’s bar is heaving with locals united in grief and a building rage. A cop pulls his gun and when a surprise visitor enters, Maria (Salma Hayek) has to seize the moment to take back control.