New York’s cinematic rite of spring, the Tribeca Film Festival, kicks off on April 18 with a tribute to a true city original, Gilda Radner. The documentary, Love, Gilda (playing at the opening night gala screening), looks back at the life of the legendary Saturday Night Live cast member, comedian and actress, featuring appearances by Chevy Chase, Amy Poehler and Melissa McCarthy. The festival’s premiere heads uptown this year to the grand Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side, which will also serve as a hub for special anniversary screenings of classics like Scarface and Schindler’s List (with cast members and creators in attendance). It will also host the premiere of Michael Jordan’s documentary about his famous Nike footwear brand, Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1.
In addition to films, Tribeca’s 12-day schedule is packed with sidebars showing new TV and online shows, interactive media and even video game premieres. On April 28, the closing night gala screens another New York story, The Fourth Estate (directed by Liz Garbus), which follows a year in the life of The New York Times while covering the first year of the Trump presidency.
Below are some of our picks for the fest’s top feature films to check out this year. To explore the full breadth of offerings at the City’s largest film festival, visit tribecafilm.com.
Steve Young was a writer for the Late Show with David Letterman when he was assigned to find some vintage vinyl for Letterman’s record segments and discovered old LPs of “industrial musicals” presented by the likes of Xerox and Ford at their trade shows in the 1950s and ’60s. It spawned a personal obsession for these bizarre musical shows and their elaborate NYC productions. This doc features interviews with his former boss and industrial show alums like Broadway stars Chita Rivera and Martin Short.
This young surfing superstar survived a terrifying shark attack when she was just 13. Despite losing her left arm, Hamilton returned to the sport and became an award-winning athlete who inspired others with her story. This doc follows her journey today as she balances her surfing career with motherhood.
This world premiere stars Sarah Jessica Parker as a local singer who receives a diagnosis that sends her on an all-night journey through the streets of the City. Directed by French filmmaker Fabien Constant, this movie as a look inspired by the New Wave films of the 1950s, with performances from an all-star lineup including Simon Baker, Jacqueline Bisset, Renée Zellweger and Common.
Howard Ashman was the rare songwriter known worldwide for his lyrics, namely written for Disney classics Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. This documentary looks back at his career and collaboration with composer Alan Menken, telling the story of his remarkable journey from Off-Broadway cult hit Little Shop of Horrors to theaters (not to mention karaoke bars) around the world.
Ansel Elgort, the Baby Driver from last summer’s heist hit, grows up a bit in this moody sci-fi mystery about a young man living in New York with an unusual medical condition. But that’s just the start of some of the stranger things going down in this debut feature from local filmmaker Bill Oliver, who shot this flick on Roosevelt Island and in Brooklyn. Indie fave Patricia Clarkson is Elgort’s doctor and famed fashion model/actress Suki Waterhouse plays his girlfriend.
This documentary about the popular, anonymous artist known as Banksy focuses on an outdoor mural he made in Palestine in 2007 that was cut out of a wall and sold by a taxi driver for thousands of dollars. Iggy Pop narrates the film, which uses this incident as a springboard for an exploration of the commodification of street art. Check out the trailer here.
Matt Smith (Prince Philip from The Crown) gets grungy in this biopic about the controversial photographer who dropped out of art school, moved into the Chelsea Hotel and began his career as an artist amid the downtown demimonde of 1970s New York. Produced by Eliza Dushku, this NYC-set story also features performances from Marianne Rendón as Patti Smith and John Benjamin Hickey as Mapplethorpe’s benefactor and lover, Sam Wagstaff.
A Sundance favorite, this edgy 1990s coming-of-age story is set deep in the conservative South’s Bible Belt. Chloë Grace Moretz, who plays the title character, hooks up with another girl on prom night and is sent to a gay conversion camp, where she creates an unlikely community with her fellow outcasts. This indie, directed by Iranian-American Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior), also features Jennifer Ehle as a stern camp counselor.
What would a French zombie movie look like? This film answers that burning cinematic question as the streets of Paris fill with les morts ambulants—that’s “the walking dead” en français. French actor Denis Lavant plays the sole survivor (or is he?!) in this shocking and thrilling addition to French cinema. Check out the trailer here.
Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright takes the lead in this intense indie feature that follows a prisoner near the end of his 20-year sentence. The film was shot on location at a prison in Indiana and utilized real inmates for the some of its cast, along with other well-known actors like William Fichtner and Mare Winningham.
Broadway director Michael Mayer (Hedwig, Spring Awakening) gives us his take on the classic Chekhov play about a love triangle that goes awry. Set at a lush lakeside estate, this tragicomedy has quite a lineup of stars in the cast, including Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy and Mare Winningham. Check out the trailer here.
Paul Lieberstein, who played Toby on the hit TV show The Office, makes his debut as a writer and director in this oddball comedy about back pain. Inspired by his own medical issues, Lieberstein’s first feature has another famous writer-director, Paul Feig (who directed Bridesmaids), along for the ride, with supporting roles for Rosemarie DeWitt and Brian d’Arcy James, Hamilton’s original King George.
Stockholm syndrome is a well-documented psychological condition in which hostages bond with their captors. This dark thriller looks at the source of this phenomenon: a bank robbery in Sweden in 1973 where the hostages helped with the heist. Ethan Hawke stars as the somewhat hapless criminal behind this fascinating true story.
When it first opened back in 1977, this legendary New York nightclub on Midtown’s 54th Street drew the rich and famous (and countless wannabes) before closing abruptly in 1979. Despite only a two-year run, the famous club spawned a veritable cottage industry of books, films and nightlife nostalgia. The latest is a doc from Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) that considers the classic club’s rocket-like rise and ultimate implosion.