Guide to the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival

Brian Sloan

This year the Tribeca Film Festival kicks off in Harlem, far from its usual stomping grounds. The occasion: the April 24 premiere of Roger Ross Williams’ The Apollo, at the Apollo Theater itself. The festival’s other two big gala screenings are The Good, The Bad, The Hungry, a documentary about Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, on April 26; and, on the final night of the festival on May 4, the debut of Danny Boyle’s Yesterdaywhich follows a young musician who wakes up in a world without the Beatles and becomes a superstar by playing their songs.

This year’s fest also features three screenings of classic films celebrating big anniversaries. Apocalypse Nowmarks the big 4-0 with a version restored in 4K digital and a talk with director Francis Ford Coppola. Thirty-five years after mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap debuted, the band is set to turn it up to 11, live on stage. Finally, Gen X touchstone Reality Bites hits the quarter-century mark with a cast reunion featuring Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Ben Stiller, at which you can expect discussions on the definition of irony.

There are also a number of sidebars featuring new episodic shows (Tribeca TV), online work (Tribeca N.O.W.) and even virtual-reality programming (Tribeca Immersive). We’ve collected some highlights below. For a full listing of all programs and special events, visit

All I Can Say. Photo: Shannon Hoon

All I Can Say
Blind Melon rocketed to success in the first half of the 1990s, only for lead singer Shannon Hoon to die from an overdose in 1995. This documentary looks at Hoon’s tumultuous life through the lens of the extensive video diaries that he kept on his own personal Hi8 recorder.

Charlie Says. Courtesy, IFC Films

Charlie Says
Indie filmmaker Mary Harron (American Psycho) delves into a real-life horror story with a dramatic exploration of the Manson murders. Featuring Matt Smith (The Crown) as the infamous cult leader, this film focuses on three women who were devoted to Manson and ended up spending their lives in jail.

Come to Daddy. Courtesy, Jamie Leigh Gianopoulos

Come to Daddy
Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) grows up in this intense look at a protagonist struggling with addiction who reunites with his estranged father—a man with problems of his own. New Zealand producer Ant Timpson, known for strange films like The Greasy Strangler, makes his directorial debut with this curious, entertaining character study.

Dreamland. Photo: Ursula Coyote

Set in Texas during the height of the Depression, this period piece follows Margot Robbie as a bank robber on the lam who finds shelter on a small farm run by Finn Cole (Peaky Blinders). While Cole initially wants to turn her in for a cash reward, he finds himself falling for her in this dramatic thriller filled with shocking surprises.

Flawless. Courtesy, Etiel Zion

In this surreal Israeli film, three high school girls make a pact to sell their kidneys to pay for plastic surgery. Featuring a breakthrough performance by transgender model Stav Strashko, this portrait of friendship and female camaraderie provides a revealing look at the universal struggles of being a teenager.

Georgetown. Photo: Alan Markfield

A trio of big stars—Vanessa Redgrave, Annette Bening and Christoph Waltz—is at the center of this tale of political and personal intrigue set in Washington’s toniest neighborhood. Redgrave is a widow smitten with Waltz, a Iraqi veteran with a questionable past. Bening plays her daughter, who questions this mystery man’s true motives.

Halston. Courtesy, Dustin Pittman

This bio-doc of high-fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick includes a narrative framing device featuring current fashion influencer Tavi Gevinson. Filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng (Dior and I) follows Halston’s rise from the 1960s—when he created his iconic pillbox hat for Jackie Kennedy—to his death in 1990, stopping along the way for Halston’s first Madison Avenue boutique in 1968, his Studio 54–era fame in the ’70s and his revolutionary mass-market JCPenney line in the ’80s.


A Kid from Coney Island. Photo: Andy Chan

A Kid from Coney Island
This doc follows the remarkable journey of Stephon Marbury, an NBA All-Star and former New York Knick who grew up in Brooklyn, specifically on the streets and basketball courts of Coney Island. After leaving the NBA, Marbury found success playing half a world away in China, where he now resides and owns an arena football team.

Mystify: Michael Hutchence
INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence was an ’80s and ’90s superstar and sex symbol whose 1997 suicide at age 37 shocked the music world. In this documentary from Richard Lowenstein (who directed many of the band’s music videos), interviews with Hutchence’s family and friends reveal a darker side of the charismatic frontman, including the fallout from a 1992 head injury that changed his personality.

Recorder. Photo: Eileen Emond

From 1979 to 2012, Philadelphia-based cable access producer and activist Marion Stokes recorded a remarkable 71,000 hours of TV news on her VHS. Filmmaker Matt Wolf tells the story of this unusual archive.

Seahorse. Photo: Mark Bushnell

In this documentary, filmmaker Jeanie Finlay follows Freddy McConnell—a trans man in England who decides to carry his own child. As Freddy gets pregnant and stops taking male hormones, his journey toward fatherhood is complicated by his friends’ and family’s reactions.

See You Yesterday. Courtesy, Netflix

See You Yesterday
Producer Spike Lee presents Stefon Bristol ‘s debut feature, a high-concept film with a social justice theme. The plot follows CJ, an African American STEM prodigy in Brooklyn who works with her best friend to build a time machine. They aim to travel back in time to save her brother from being killed by the police.

Skin. Courtesy, A24

Expanded from a short film that just won an Oscar, Guy Nattiv’s debut feature is based on a true story about a rural neo-Nazi who falls for a single mom, disavows his white-supremacist beliefs and begins a long, painful process to remove the racist tattoos covering his body. This world premiere stars Brit actor Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott) as the lead in an intense story of redemption and love.

White as Snow. Courtesy, Mandarin Production - Gaumont / Emmanuelle Jacobson-Roques

White as Snow
Isabelle Huppert stars as the evil stepmother in this modern interpretation of Snow White, set in a small mountain town in France. This moody, sensual take on the fairy tale is definitely not for kids—but should be very entertaining for Huppert fans and devotees of French cinema.

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation. Courtesy, Elliot Landy / The Image Works

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation
It’s been 50 years since thousands converged on a farm in upstate New York for a wild rock festival. As the cliché goes: if you remember it, you weren’t really there. For those struggling to recall the past (or those who missed it), this new doc reintroduces legendary performances by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Joan Baez. The film also includes audio interviews with attendees at the time and hazy reminiscing from those looking back.


You Don’t Nomi
When the NC-17 rated Showgirls was released nearly 25 years ago, it was a critically drubbed box-office dud. Now the film is a cult favorite, considered one of the “best” bad movies of all time. Featuring interviews with its stars and behind-the-scenes production footage, this documentary follows the film’s path from bomb to camp classic.