Now hear this: The 2021 Tribeca Festival announced its inaugural official podcast selections and special events, the first time a major fest is welcoming podcasts into its lineup.
The first Tribeca Podcasts lineup features world premieres of 12 fiction and nonfiction podcasts from emerging creators (listed below), as well as panel discussions and other special events.
The festival’s 20th anniversary celebration will take place June 9-20 across New York City — the first major film festival to return to in-person events since the pandemic first hit last year. The 2021 Tribeca Festival also will mark the first time it will feature video games as official selections.
“The past few years have seen an explosion in the popularity of podcasts, making this the perfect time to introduce our inaugural Tribeca Podcast Program,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises and the Tribeca Festival. “We look forward to welcoming the creative forces behind this year’s most anticipated new programs.”
Podcast panels are set to include audio producer Jad Abumard (host and creator of “Radiolab,” “More Perfect” and ”Dolly Parton’s America” in collaboration with OSM Audio’s Shima Oliaee) with filmmaker Jason Reitman; the hosts of “Ear Hustle,” the first podcast created and produced in prison; and Will Malnati and Steven Leckart, producers of a new Apple TV Plus podcast about Siegfried & Roy.
Amazon’s Audible has signed on as the first “exclusive audio entertainment sponsor” of the Tribeca Festival, whose overall sponsor is AT&T. The 2021 festival will feature an exclusive preview of Audible original “Hot White Heist,” a queer action comedy in which a group of LGBTQIA+ contemporaries attempts to steal the U.S. government’s sperm-bank deposits from some of history’s most brilliant minds — in the hopes of selling the genetic material on the black market to buy an island for a new queer paradise. Produced by Broadway Video and Club Cumming Prods, “Hot White Heist” stars Bowen Yang, Cynthia Nixon, Jane Lynch, Margaret Cho and Bianca Del Rio.
The 2021 Tribeca Podcasts track also is set to include a Juneteenth celebration featuring influential Black voices in audio entertainment and a preview of “Red Frontier,” a forthcoming Spotify/Gimlet Media original fiction podcast following a space commander on a mission to Mars whose crew has been killed in a mysterious tragedy, followed by a conversation with the cast and creators. The festival also will feature a live recording of Spotify/Gimlet’s “Resistance,” a narrative nonfiction podcast about the fight for racial justice: At Tribeca, host Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. and guests will record a “Fuck Your Water Fountain” episode, a series of the podcast celebrating little-known stories of historical resistance.
The Tribeca Podcasts program is curated by Leah Sarbib, manager of audio storytelling, along with input from an advisory board of podcast pros including Jad Abumrad; Sarah Koenig, host and co-creator of the “Serial” podcast and executive producer at the New York Times-owned Serial Productions; Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of “The 1619 Project” and staff writer at The New York Times Magazine; Gimlet Media co-founder Alex Blumberg, co-host of Spotify podcast “How to Save a Planet”; Connie Walker, creator of CBC’s “Missing & Murdered” podcast; Conal Byrne, CEO of the iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group; and Tanya Somanader, chief content officer of Crooked Media.
The Tribeca Festival was founded in 2001 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff. In 2019, James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems investment company bought a majority stake in Tribeca Enterprises.
Here’s a rundown of the 2021 Tribeca Podcast Program’s official selections, which will be eligible for the inaugural juried Fiction Podcast Award or the Narrative Nonfiction Podcast Award:
- “Anomaly”: Created by Heather Taylor, Hillary Nussbaum (U.S.) — World Premiere, Fiction — After an earth-changing event causes civil war along the east coast, 17-year-old Kory Hernandez is sent to live with a host family in a small Illinois town battling the impact of climate change. Unsure of her place in this new world, she wonders: what, and who, can one trust in a world turned upside down?
- “Black Santa”: Created by Jordan Crafton (U.S.) — World Premiere, Fiction — Slide and his friends are risking it all for a Christmas miracle, as they look for “Black Santa” of the Brooklyn projects. Slide’s love for sixteen-year-old Gianna has him and his friends willing to risk it all for a Christmas miracle. But first, they must receive a pardon from “Frosty the Snowman” to travel through “Jack Frost’s” Projects. This Christmas tale is like none else. It’s a holiday story with a modern twist.
- “Blind Guy Travels”: Created by Matthew Shifrin (U.S.) — World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction — Host Matthew Shifrin invites you into life without sight. Join him as he experiences a Marx Brothers comedy, crafts a TED Talk and then a Hinge profile, collaborates with Lego to develop instructions for blind builders, and prepares for college graduation. A production of Radiotopia from PRX.
- “Earth Eclipsed”: Created by Nicholas Prufer, AJ Churchill, Victor Lee (U.S.) — World Premiere, Fiction — A neuroscientist on the brink of a galaxy-changing discovery that will save millions of lives has her work interrupted when she’s kidnapped by a renegade miner. Set in the distant future, this immersive audio series explores what it means to live in a utopian society and the great lengths one must go to preserve humanity.
- “Guardians of the River”: Created by House of Pod and Wild Bird Trust (U.S., Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction — The story of the guardians of the Okavango water system, a network of rivers spanning three countries in Africa and home to some of the most endangered animals on the planet. These guardians have a monumental task: trying to protect a remote, near pristine environment facing threats from all sides. The podcast follows what happens when worlds connect, and at times collide, with the common goal of protecting a place.
- “I’ll Never Be Alone Anymore – The Story Of The Skala Eressos Lesbian Community”: Created by Cecile C. Simon, Anais Dupuis, Anais Carayon (France) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction — The story of a lesbian community situated in a remote village in Lesbos, Greece. Created in the ’70s, it welcomed thousands of women before declining in the 2000s. Today, the community is formed by older lesbians. But they are not your typical 60-year-old women. They party, they have sex and they speak their minds. What they say about themselves is a precious testimony of a vanishing community that once changed so many women’s lives.
- “The Imperfection”: Created by Alex Kemp (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction — Charlie and Amber both suffer from a rare condition that causes them to wildly hallucinate. When their psychiatrist suddenly goes missing, they rally together with the doctor’s other patients to search for him. Along the way, they encounter secret societies, half-human half- spider centaurs, and a hidden borough of New York under the East River. But how do you find the truth when you can’t tell what’s real?
- “Monster”: Created by Tommy Bertelsen (U.S.) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction — A sonic memoir about confronting a real demon while making a horror movie in Latvia.
- “Mother of Maricopa”: Created by Leah Henoch, Katie Henoch, Sydney Fleischmann (U.S.) — World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction — In 2011, police raided a Tantric temple in Phoenix and arrested its founder, Tracy Elise, on 100 counts related to prostitution, money laundering and more. What the state saw as a brothel, Elise saw as a house of worship. In this podcast, sisters Leah and Katie Henoch explore the story of the Phoenix Goddess Temple and the compelling questions that lie beyond Elise’s guilt or innocence.
- “Something Strange Is Happening”: Created by Tessa Bartholomew, Christina Kingsleigh Licud (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction — Scripted horror anthology podcast is built around one terrifying premise: When immigrants came to America, we brought our languages and cultures, but there’s one thing we miscalculated — we brought our monsters, too. Set in L.A.’s Historic Filipinotown, season 1 features monsters and evil spirits of Filipino folklore, back for vengeance in modern times. Each season travels to a different immigrant town for an American horror story like you’ve never heard.
- “Un(re)solved”: Created by Frontline PBS (U.S.) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction — What prompted the FBI to reinvestigate over 100 unsolved civil-rights era murders? And what does justice look like for families whose loved ones were killed? Reporter James Edwards seeks answers to these questions, reflecting on his own family’s experiences along the way.
- “Vermont Ave.”: Created by James Kim, Brooke Iskra (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction — In this atmospheric and intimate portrait of a 30-something in L.A. during the end of 2020, John walks down Vermont Ave. to clear his head before a big decision. The piece highlights things that are unsaid and how the silence between two people can be louder than words. Captured in one long take using 3D sound from Sennheiser Ambeo binaural in-ear microphones, it places the listener directly in the main character’s shoes.