Kate Erbland / Indiewire
The Tribeca Film Festival has today announced the first half of its stacked (and 101 films strong) feature slate, unveiling 55 titles from its newly created U.S. Narrative and International Narrative competition sections, along with the Documentary competition selections and the out-of-competition Viewpoints titles.
As part of this year’s festival (its 15th in existence), Tribeca “introduced separate narrative sections for U.S. and international narratives to strengthen the Festival’s support for American narrative filmmaking and allow the breadth of international filmmaking to be reflected in the program.” The new sections have already paid off, and this slate includes fresh offerings from filmmakers like Sophia Takal, Demetri Martin, Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeff Grace. The festival also boasts screenings of festival favorites like Drake Doremus’ Kristen Stewart-starring “Equals” and Ben Wheatley’s “High-Rise.”
Also of note is the world premiere of Bill and Turner Ross’ documentary “Contemporary Color,” “which captures the unprecedented event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to celebrate the art of color guard with performers including St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado and Ad-Rock” and will serve as the opening film for the section. The U.S. Narrative section will open with Justin Tipping’s “Kicks,” while the world premiere of “Madly” (a short film anthology with sections directed by Gael García Bernal, Mia Wasikowska, Sebastian Silva, Anurag Kashyap, Sion Sono and Natasha Khan) will open the International Narrative Competition and the Viewpoints section will open with the world premiere of “Nerdland,” directed by Chris Prynoski and starring Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt.
This year’s festival is also playing home to a record number of films made by female filmmakers, a full one-third of the festival’s offerings. Of the feature slate, there will be 77 world premieres, with 42 filmmakers making their feature directorial debuts.
The films selected for Tribeca’s U.S. Narrative Competition, International Narrative Competition, World Documentary Competition and Viewpoints sections are listed below (all synopses provided by Tribeca).
U.S. Narrative Competition
“Kicks,” directed by Justin Tipping, written by Justin Tipping and Josh Beirne-Golden. (USA) – World Premiere. When his hard-earned kicks get snatched by a local hood, fifteen-year old Brandon and his two best friends go on an ill-advised mission across the Bay Area to retrieve the stolen sneakers. Featuring a soundtrack packed with hip-hop classics, Justin Tipping’s debut feature is an urban coming-of-age tale told with grit, humor, and surprising lyricism. With Jahking Guillory, Mahershala Ali, Kofi Siriboe, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Christopher Meyer. A Focus World release.
“Always Shine,” directed by Sophia Takal, written by Lawrence Michael Levine. (USA) – World Premiere. This twisty psychological drama about obsession, fame, and femininity follows two friends, both actresses (Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald), on a trip to Big Sur, to reconnect with one another. Once alone, the women’s suppressed jealousies and deep-seated resentments begin to rise, causing them to lose their grasp on not only the true nature of their relationship, but also their identities. With Lawrence Michael Levine, Alex Koch, Jane Adams
“AWOL,” directed by Deb Shoval, written by Deb Shoval and Karolina Waclawiak. (USA) – World Premiere. Joey (Lola Kirke) is a young woman in search of direction in her small town. A visit to an army recruiting office appears to provide a path, but when she meets and falls in love with Rayna (Breeda Wool) that path diverges in ways that neither woman anticipates. Building on the award-winning short of the same name, director Deb Shoval crafts a clear-eyed love story, and an impressive feature film debut.
“Dean,” directed and written by Demetri Martin. (USA) – World Premiere. In comedian Demetri Martin’s funny and heartfelt directorial debut, Martin plays an illustrator who falls hard for an LA woman (Gillian Jacobs) while trying to prevent his father (Kevin Kline) from selling the family home in the wake of his mother’s death. With Rory Scovel, Ginger Gonzaga, Reid Scott, Mary Steenburgen, Christine Woods, Beck Bennett, Briga Heelan
“Dreamland,” directed by Robert Schwartzman, written by Benjamin Font and Robert Schwartzman. (USA) – World Premiere. Robert Schwartzman makes his directorial debut with this comedy about the cost of reaching your dreams. Part-time pianist Monty Fagan (Johnny Simmons) begins a May-December romance that upends his home life. A set of perfectly cast co-stars push or manipulate Monty along the way: Amy Landecker, Frankie Shaw, Alan Ruck, Beverly D’Angelo, along with Robert’s older brother Jason Schwartzman, and their mother Talia Shire.
“The Fixer,” directed by Ian Olds, written by Paul Felten and Ian Olds. (USA) – World Premiere. After an exiled Afghan journalist (Dominic Rains) arrives in a small town in Northern California, he lands a menial job as a crime reporter for the local newspaper. Restless in his new position, he teams up with an eccentric local (James Franco) to investigate the town’s peculiar subculture only to find things quickly taking a dangerous turn. With Melissa Leo, Rachel Brosnahan, Tim Kniffin, Thomas Jay Ryan
“Folk Hero & Funny Guy,” directed and written by Jeff Grace. (USA) – World Premiere. Alex Karpovsky and Wyatt Russell co-headline as two artistically inclined childhood friends, a comedian and a folk-rocker respectively, who set out on a tour together in hopes of regaining their “mojo” and finding love in the process. Jeff Grace’s debut film offers a fresh perspective on male friendship and a music infused spin on the classic road-trip buddy comedy. With Meredith Hagner, Michael Ian Black, Hannah Simone, Heather Morris, Melanie Lynskey, David Cross
“Live Cargo,” directed by Logan Sandler, written by Logan Sandler and Thymaya Payne. (USA, Bahamas) – World Premiere. Nadine (Dree Hemingway) and Lewis (Keith Stanfield) move to a small Bahamian island hoping to restore their relationship in the wake of a tragedy, only to find the picturesque island torn in two: on one side a dangerous human trafficker and on the other an aging patriarch, struggling to maintain order. With Leonard Earl Howze, Sam Dillon, Robert Wisdom
“The Ticket,” directed by Ido Fluk, written by Ido Fluk and Sharon Mashishi. (USA) – World Premiere. When a blind man inexplicably regains his vision, he becomes possessed by a drive for a better life—a nicer home, a higher paying job—leaving little room for the people who were part of his old life. Dan Stevens, Malin Åkerman, Oliver Platt, and Kerry Bishé star in this haunting parable of desire, perception, and ambition.
“Women Who Kill,” directed and written by Ingrid Jungermann. (USA) – World Premiere. Morgan and Jean work well together as true crime podcasters because they didn’t work well, at all, as a couple. When Morgan strikes up a new relationship with the mysterious Simone, their shared interest turns into suspicion, paranoia, and fear. Ingrid Jungermann’s whip smart feature debut is an adept and wry comedy on modern romance’s hollow results, set in an LGBTQ Brooklyn. With Ingrid Jungermann, Ann Carr, Sheila Vand, Shannon O’Neill, Annette O’Toole, Grace Rex
International Narrative Competition
“Madly,” directed and written by Gael García Bernal, Mia Wasikowska, Sebastian Silva, Anurag Kashyap, Sion Sono, and Natasha Khan. (Argentina, Australia, USA, India, Japan, UK) – World Premiere. Madly is an international anthology of short films exploring love in all its permutations. Directed by some of the most vibrant filmmakers working today, the six stories in Madly portray contemporary love in all its glorious, sad, ecstatic, empowering, and erotic manifestations. With Radhika Apte, Satyadeep Misra, Adarsh Gourav, Kathryn Beck, Lex Santos, Mariko Tsutsui, Yuki Sakurai, Ami Tomite, Justina Bustos, Pablo Seijo, Tamsin Topolski. In English, Hindi, Japanese, Spanish with subtitles.
“El Clásico,” directed by Halkawt Mustafa, written by Anders Fagerholt and Halkawt Mustafa. (Norway, Iraqi Kurdistan Region) – North American Premiere. Alan and Gona are in love, but Gona’s father won’t approve their union because Alan is a little person. So, Alan hits the road with his brother, traveling from their small Iraqi village to the Bernabéu Stadium, home of Real Madrid. The plan: meet Cristiano Ronaldo, and earn the blessing of Gona’s father. El Clásico is a distinctly cinematic road movie, brimming with warmth and humor. With Wrya Ahmed, Dana Ahmed, Rozhin Sharifi, Kamaran Raoof, Nyan Aziz. In Arabic, Kurdish with subtitles.
“Icaros: A Vision,” directed by Leonor Caraballo and Matteo Norzi, written by Leonor Caraballo, Matteo Norzi, and Abou Farman. (Peru, USA) – World Premiere. An American woman in search of a miracle embarks on an adventure in the Peruvian Amazon. At a healing center, she finds hope in the form of an ancient psychedelic plant known as ayahuasca. With her perception forever altered, she bonds with a young indigenous shaman who is treating a group of psychonauts seeking transcendence, companionship, and the secrets of life and death. With Ana Cecilia Stieglitz, Arturo Izquierdo, Filippo Timi. In English, Spanish with subtitles.
“Junction 48,” directed by Udi Aloni, written by Oren Moverman and Tamer Nafar. (Israel, Germany, USA) – International Premiere. Set against a backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Junction 48 charts the musical ambitions of Kareem, an aspiring rapper from the town of Lod. A heartbreaking portrayal of the intersection of personal and political tragedies, Junction 48 questions to what extent music can be dissociated from politics. With Tamer Nafar, Samar Qupty, Salwa Nakkara, Ayed Fadel, Sameh “SAZ” Zakout, Saeed Dassuki. In Arabic, Hebrew with subtitles.
“Mother (Ema),” directed by Kadri Kousaar, written by Leana Jalukse and Al Wallcat. (Estonia) – International Premiere. This darkly comic, crime mystery set in small-town Estonia centers on Elsa, the full time caretaker of her comatose son, Lauri, and the locals, who are abuzz with rumors about who shot Lauri and why. But in this tight-knit town, where everyone seems to know everyone and everything except for what’s right under their nose, the world’s clumsiest crime may go unsolved. With Tiina Mälberg, Jaan Pehk, Andres Tabun, Andres Noormets, Rea Lest, Jaak Prints, Siim Maaten In Estonian with subtitles.
“Parents (Forældre),” directed and written by Christian Tafdrup. (Denmark) – World Premiere. Told with deadpan Nordic humor and a touch of surrealism, Parents follows Kjelde and Vibeke, two empty-nesters who find themselves unable to let go of the past. Stripped of their identity without their son, who recently moved away to college, they attempt to reclaim their youthful vigor by moving back into the old apartment where they first fell in love. They soon realize that everything that once defined them might no longer exist. With Søren Malling, Bodil Jørgensen, Elliott Crosset Hove, Miri-Ann Beuschel, Anton Honik In Danish with subtitles.
“Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti),” directed by Paolo Genovese, written by Filippo Bologna, Paolo Costella, Paolo Genovese, Paola Mammini, and Rolando Ravello. (Italy) – International Premiere. Paolo Genovese’s new film brings us a bitter ensemble with an all-star cast that poses the question: How well do we really know those close to us? During a dinner party, three couples and a bachelor decide to play a dangerous game with their cell phones. Brilliantly executed and scripted, Perfect Strangers reveals the true nature of how we connect to each other. With Marco Giallini, Kasia Smutniak, Valerio Mastandrea, Anna Foglietta, Edoardo Leo, Alba Rohrwacher, Giuseppe Battiston In Italian with subtitles.
“The Tenth Man (El Rey Del Once),” directed and written by Daniel Burman. (Argentina) – North American Premiere. Ariel is summoned to Buenos Aires by his distant father, who runs a Jewish aid foundation in El Once, the bustling Jewish neighborhood where he spent his youth. Writer-director Daniel Burman (All In) returns to Tribeca with this tender exploration of community, and the intricacies of the father-son relationship. With Alan Sabbagh, Julieta Zylberberg, Usher, Elvira Onetto, Adrian Stoppelman, Elisa Carricajo. In Spanish with subtitles.
World Documentary Competition
“Contemporary Color,” directed by Bill Ross and Turner Ross. (USA) – World Premiere. In the summer of 2015, legendary musician David Byrne staged an unprecedented event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to celebrate the art of color guard—synchronized dance involving flags, rifles, and sabers—by pairing regional color guard teams with performers, including St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado, and Ad-Rock. More than a concert film, Contemporary Color is a cinematic interpretation of a one-of-a-kind live event, courtesy of visionary filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross.
“All This Panic,” directed by Jenny Gage. (USA) – World Premiere. What is it like to come of age in New York City? First-time director Jenny Gage follows vivacious sisters, Ginger and Dusty, and their high school friends over the course of their crucial teen years. In this sensitive and cinematic documentary, Gage captures all the urgency, drama, and bittersweetness of girlhood as her subjects grapple with love, friendship, and what their futures hold.
“Betting on Zero,” directed and written by Ted Braun. (USA) – World Premiere. Allegations of corporate criminality and high-stakes Wall Street vendettas swirl throughout this riveting financial docu-thriller. Controversial hedge fund titan Bill Ackman is on a crusade to expose global nutritional giant Herbalife as the largest pyramid scheme in history while Herbalife execs claim Ackman is a market manipulator out to bankrupt them and make a killing off his billion dollar short.
“BUGS,” directed and written by Andreas Johnsen. (Denmark) – World Premiere. Head Chef Ben Reade and Lead Researcher Josh Evans from Nordic Food Lab are on a mission to investigate the next big trend in food: edible insects. Filmmaker Andreas Johnsen follows the duo on a globe-trotting tour as they put their own haute-cuisine spin on local insect delicacies (bee larva ceviche, anyone?) in the pursuit of food diversity and deliciousness.
“Do Not Resist,” directed by Craig Atkinson. (USA) – World Premiere. In Do Not Resist, director Craig Atkinson, through keen and thoughtful observances, presents a startling and powerful exploration into the rapid militarization of police forces in the United States. Filmed over two years, in 11 states, Do Not Resist reveals a rare and surprising look into the increasingly disturbing realities of American police culture.
“The Happy Film: a GRAPHIC Design Experiment,” directed by Stefan Sagmeister, Ben Nabors, and Hillman Curtis. (USA) – World Premiere. Designer Stefan Sagmeister takes us on a personal journey to find out what causes happiness. Experimenting with three different approaches—meditation, therapy, and drugs—Sagmeister embarks on an entertaining and introspective quest, accented with a whimsical panoply of graphics, charts, and proverbs. The Happy Film may not make you happier, but it will surely move you to reexamine your own pursuit of happiness.
“Keep Quiet,” directed by Joseph Martin and Sam Blair. (U.K., Hungary) – World Premiere. Passionate in his anti-Semitic beliefs, Csanád Szegedi was the rising star of Hungary’s far-right party until he discovers his family’s secret—his maternal grandparents were Jewish. The revelation prompts an improbable but seemingly heartfelt conversion from anti-Semite to Orthodox Jew. This captivating and confrontational film explores the complex and contradictory character of Szegedi, prompting deep questions about Szegedi’s supposed epiphany. In English, Hungarian with subtitles.
“LoveTrue,” directed by Alma Har’el. (USA) – World Premiere. Alma Har’el, director and cinematographer of the 2011 TFF Best Documentary Feature Bombay Beach, returns with LoveTrue, a genre-bending documentary, demystifying the fantasy of true love. From an Alaskan strip club, a Hawaiian island, and the streets of NYC—revelatory stories emerge about a deeper definition of love. Set to a hypnotizing score by Flying Lotus and executive produced by Shia LaBeouf.
“Memories of a Penitent Heart,” directed by Cecilia Aldarondo. (USA, Puerto Rico) – World Premiere. Like many gay men in the 1980s, Miguel moved from Puerto Rico to New York City; he found a career in theater and a rewarding relationship. Yet, on his deathbed he grappled to reconcile his homosexuality with his Catholic upbringing. Now, decades after his death, his niece Cecilia locates Miguel’s estranged lover to understand the truth, and in the process opens up long-dormant family secrets. In English, Spanish with subtitles.
“The Return,” directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway, written by Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway, and Greg O’Toole. (USA) – World Premiere. How does one reintegrate into society after making peace with a life sentence? California’s controversial and notoriously harsh three-strikes law was repealed in 2012, consequently releasing large numbers of convicts back into society. The Return presents an unbiased observation of the many issues with re-entry through the varied experiences of recently freed lifers.
“Tickling Giants,” directed and written by Sara Taksler. (USA) – World Premiere. Charting Bassem Youssef’s rise as Egypt’s foremost on-screen satirist, Tickling Giants offers a rousing celebration of free speech and a showcase for the power of satire to speak for the people against a repressive government. Where this story differs from the familiar success of Youssef’s idol, Jon Stewart: Bassem’s jokes come with serious, dangerous, and at times revolutionary consequences. In Arabic, English with subtitles.
“Untouchable,” directed by David Feige. (USA) – World Premiere. When a powerful Florida lobbyist discovered his daughter was sexually abused, he launched a crusade to pass some of the strictest sex offender laws in the country. Today, 800,000 people are listed in the sex offender registry, yet the cycles of abuse continue. David Feige’s enlightening documentary argues for a new understanding of how we think about and legislate sexual abuse.