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Tribeca Film Festival: 9 Movies to Watch

The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday with a slate of movies from up-and-coming filmmakers and established directors that tackle hot-button issues such as gun violence, homophobia, and gender discrimination.

The annual celebration of film was originally founded by Robert De Niro and producer Jane Rosenthal to encourage people to return to a corner of Manhattan that was still reeling from the 9/11 attacks. Well, downtown is largely rebuilt, but the festival is still going strong, with a particular emphasis on inclusion and representation. Of the more than 100 features that will debut at this edition of Tribeca, 40% are directed by women, 29% by people of color and 13% by LGBTQ filmmakers.

Now in its 18th year, Tribeca has grown to encompass television series, shorts, gaming, and virtual reality. But it’s the indie movies that provide the biggest sizzle. Here’s a look at nine acquisition titles that could have buyers circling.

“You Don’t Nomi” 
(Sales Agent: XYZ Films)

Popular on Variety

The tagline for 1995’s “Showgirls” was “leave your inhibitions at the door.” Unfortunately for the NC-17 skin-tacular’s backers, very few people, uninhibited or otherwise, made it through the entryway. The film was a notorious flop. Jeffrey McHale’s documentary peels back the curtain on “Showgirls'” rise, fall, and resurrection on home entertainment platforms. It makes a case for the film on an artistic level, arguing that it isn’t simply a camp classic. It’s a movie that deals with issues of sex and gender in a forward-thinking way.

“Swallow”
(Sales Agent: CAA/UTA)

A pregnant woman (Haley Bennett) develops an unquenchable urge to consume dangerous objects in this off-beat fairy tale. It’s the stylish directorial debut of Carlo Mirabella-Davis, and the gonzo premise and broadside against the patriarchy mean that attention will be paid. Plus, the film has some impressive backing. It was executive produced by Joe Wright of “Darkest Hour” and “Atonement” fame.

“American Woman”
(Sales Agent: Cinetic, UTA)

Decades after she renounced her privileged upbringing and joined the the Symbionese Liberation Army, Patty Hearst remains a controversial figure. Was she a brainwashed victim or a terrorist? Debate still rages. “American Woman” centers on a former radical Jenny Shimada (Hong Chau) who takes care of Hearst and her captors. It’s written and directed by Semi Chellas, a key contributor to “Mad Men” and “The Romanoffs.”

“After Parkland”
(Sales Agent: Cinetic)

A raw and devastating look at the families and friends of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting as they struggle to make sense of the tragedy that left 17 people dead. The murders in Parkland galvanize members of the community to agitate for changes to gun laws as a way to memorialize the victims of the brutal attack. This documentary from directors Emily Taguchi and Jake Lefferman is about tragedy and heroism. It’s a film that couldn’t be more urgent.

“Blow the Man Down”
(Sales Agent: CAA)

A twisty drama about two sisters who must cover up an accidental murder, “Blow the Man Down” is said to contain bravura turns by Morgan Saylor (“Homeland”) and Sophie Lowe (“The Slap”). The film from writers and directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy isn’t just interested in the crime. It uses the premise to look at the buried secrets of the fishing village that serves as the story’s backdrop.

“Gay Chorus Deep South” 
(Sales Agent: Endeavor)

At a time of roiling political divisions, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus embarked on a tour of the Deep South, hoping that their love of music will foster tolerance and understanding. This documentary from David Charles Rodrigues follows the singers as they perform in churches, community centers and concert halls and provides an uplifting message at a time when fear and prejudice seem to be on the rise.

” A Day in the Life of America”
(Sales Agent: Endeavor)

Jared Leto — you know, the guy from “Suicide Squad” and “Dallas Buyers Club” — oversaw this sprawling look at how Independence Day is celebrated around the country. The Oscar-winning actor sent 92 crews to all 50 states to capture July 4th and all that’s red, white, and blue in the world. Spoiler alert: There will be fireworks.

“Buffaloed” 
(Sales Agent: CAA/ICM)

Zoey Deutch gives a funny and fierce star turn as a hustler who gets in the debt collection game. Tanya Wexler, who directed the criminally underrated “Hysteria,” slides behind the camera on this timely look at a woman who’ll do anything to escape her dead-end life. With a cast that includes Judy Greer and Jai Courtney, “Buffaloed” feels like it has the potential to break out.

“Watson”
(Sales Agent: Submarine)

A look at Captain Paul Watson, an activist and co-founder of Greenpeace, who is relentless in his crusade to protect the worlds oceans and wildlife. Thanks to a bad-ass central character (Watson was kicked out of Greenpeace for being too extreme!), this call to arms may hit the zeitgeist. Sadly, it arrives at a time when environmentalists are concerned that the fate of the planet hangs in the balance.

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