Guide to the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

Brian Sloan

The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off on April 19 with one of its biggest premieres ever at Radio City Music Hall: a two-hour documentary about legendary music producer Clive Davis, who discovered Whitney Houston and founded Arista Records, followed by performances from artists including Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind & Fire. After that, the sprawling festival unspools over 11 days at venues in Chelsea, on the Upper West Side and, of course, down in Tribeca.

In addition to the latest documentary and narrative films screening in competition, the festival features a wide range of international films, midnight movies, retrospectives and experimental work. This year also marks the second time around for the festival's sidebar Tribeca TV. There, you can catch the world premiere of the new Hulu show The Handmaid’s Tale, the season-three opener of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and new indie pilots for series-to-be. There will also be some star-studded conversations as part of the festival’s Tribeca Talks lineup, including talks with Lena Dunham and Barbra Streisand (appearing separately), and an odd-couple chat with Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen.

Finally, the festival wraps up with a very special gala event: an epic six-hour screening of The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II on the supersize screen at Radio City, along with a reunion of the cast and director Francis Ford Coppola. Before that, however, there will be more than a hundred other films on view. Here’s what we can’t wait to see.

Photo: Walter Thomson

Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto play a pair of brothers in this intense family drama about mental illness and its ramifications. The film also features Jenny Slate as a therapist who falls in love with Quinto’s troubled character while trying to help him.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Film fans know Hedy Lamarr as a movie goddess from the ’30s and ’40s. But she was also an inventor of radio devices that formed the basis for today’s WiFi and Bluetooth technology. This fascinating documentary explores her surprising secret career, for which she never fully received credit.

Courtesy, IFC Films

Did you know that Rocky was based on a true story? This film tells the tale of Chuck Wepner, a New Jersey liquor salesman who was the inspiration for the Stallone film, and once went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali. Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) stars in the title role.

Photo: STX Entertainment

The Circle
Emma Watson and Tom Hanks star in this provocative thriller about a Silicon Valley supercorporation with some eerie similarities to tech giants Apple and Facebook. The film, adapted from the best-selling book by Dave Eggers, also features John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and the late Bill Paxton.

Photo: Marsha P. Johnson

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Academy Award–nominated director David France (How to Survive a Plague) turns his lens on the story of trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, who was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992. This documentary uses never-before-seen footage and recently resurfaced interviews to help investigate the death—and shed new light on the life—of an important figure from NYC’s LGBTQ+ community.


Photo: Bob Franklin

Dog Years
In another story inspired by real life, Burt Reynolds sort of plays himself in a movie about an aging Hollywood star from the ’70s invited to receive a lifetime achievement award at the International Nashville Film Festival. This dramedy, mixing in actual footage from Reynolds’ career-making films, takes a wry look at a legend’s slow fade as he hits the road with a foul-mouthed driver played by Modern Family’s Ariel Winter.

Holy Air
An Arab Christian living in Nazareth conceives an unusual get-rich-quick scheme: bottling the local holy air and selling it to pilgrims visiting his hometown to welcome the Pope. In this Israeli comedy, writer-director Shady Srour also plays the lead role of the entrepreneur—whose misadventures provide a glimpse at odd characters struggling to survive in the modern-day holy land.

Photo: Giacomo Belletti

Keep the Change
Stories of the struggles of disability are often seen in the indie world. But first-time director Rachel Israel, a 2013 graduate of Columbia University’s film program, takes a new approach with this narrative about autism—she cast amateur actors who are on the autism spectrum themselves.

Courtesy, Permission Movie, LLC

This provocative comedy explores an extremely modern relationship. Dan Stevens and Rebecca Hall star as a Brooklyn couple who are happy together and doing well career-wise. But Hall’s character, who is less sexually experienced than her husband, decides it’s time to do some catching up.

Photo: Jean Claude Lother

Rock’n Roll
This French film features real-life power couple Marion Cottillard and Guillaume Canet playing slightly twisted versions of themselves. Canet, who directs the film as well, is not feeling so young anymore after being called uncool by a co-star—and so attempts to make over his life.

Saturday Church
Set in New York City, this indie takes a look at a Bronx teen who discovers he’s different from the other boys in his neighborhood. This striking debut feature from director Damon Cardasis explores the main character’s journey toward a new life with friends in the West Village through musical fantasy and dance sequences.

Photo: Josef Persson

Tom of Finland
After suffering trauma from serving in World War II and then being forced to hide his sexuality from his family, Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen began making secret homoerotic drawings and signing them with his now-famous moniker. This biopic from director Dome Karukoski follows his journey from Finland all the way to California, where he dives into the sexual revolution of the ’60s and his work gains worldwide fame.