After a COVID-induced hiatus, Tribeca Festival returns with in-person premieres and an exciting mix of studio productions and low-fi indies. The festival has ditched the word “film” from its title in order to emphasize the fact that Tribeca now encompasses podcasting, gaming, TV and so much more. But who are they kidding? For most New Yorkers, it’s all about the movies. With that in mind, here are 11 films that should be on every festival-goer’s must-see list.
12 Mighty Orphans
Director: Ty Roberts
Cast: Luke Wilson, Vinessa Shaw, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Wayne Knight, Jake Austin Walker
Meet your next uplifting sports drama. In the tradition of “Rudy” or “Hoosiers” comes “12 Mighty Orphans,” the story of the Mighty Mites, the football team of a Fort Worth orphanage who became unlikely Texas state championship contenders. In the process, their plucky come-from-nowhere run inspired a country reeling from the Great Depression. Eyes will not remain dry through the final touchdown.
All My Friends Hate Me
Director: Andrew Gaynord
Cast: Tom Stourton, Charly Clive, Georgina Campbell, Joshua Mcguire, Antonia Clarke
Think of it as “The Big Chill” without the uplift or “St. Elmo’s Fire” with a heaping helping of awkward humor. Gaynord’s comedy follows a college crew reuniting for a birthday celebration at a country estate. As the title suggests, their weekend of bonding quickly goes off the rails. Both the director and the cast are largely unknown to American audiences, but that could change when the film opens at Tribeca.
Director: Douglas Tirola
Few people loomed larger in American cultural life than Leonard Bernstein, the musical powerhouse behind “West Side Story” and “On the Town,” as well as the music director of the New York Philharmonic. Tirola’s film examines Bernstein’s political activism, along with his artistic genius, tracing his opposition to the Vietnam War and support for the Black Panthers, as well as struggles with his sexuality. Finally, one of the most complex and important figures of the 20th Century gets the kind of in-depth portrait he deserves.
Director: Eddie Martin
Larry Clark’s “Kids” was a cinematic stick of dynamite when it premiered in theaters in 1995. Its look at hard-partying, sexed up teenagers caused controversy, inspired scores of op-eds and think pieces, and helped the low-budget indie become an unlikely box office hit. “The Kids” dissects the legacy of Clark’s film by examining the lives of the real-life street kids who comprised the cast. Their story is one of sudden, blazing fame, which left them badly burned and still processing the experience more than two decades later.
India Sweets and Spices
Director: Geeta Malik
Cast: Sophia Ali, Manisha Koirala, Adil Hussain, Deepti Gupta, Rish Shah
After her first year of college wraps up, Alia returns home to New Jersey to spend the summer with her wealthy Indian American family. But her picture-perfect life isn’t what it seems and the revelation of some family secrets soon leaves Alia questioning her upbringing and class privilege. Her journey of discovery is aided by a romance with the hunky son of local shopkeepers. “India Sweets and Spices” is one of the hottest sales titles at this year’s Tribeca and should land one of the festival’s biggest deals.
No Sudden Move
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin
Okay, Soderbergh’s turn producing the Oscars was a swing and a miss, but he should recover nicely with this flashy new thriller set in Detroit circa 1955. That’s the same Midwestern city that featured so prominently in Soderbergh’s greatest film, 1998’s “Out of Sight,” another stylish slice of noir that hit all the right notes. “No Sudden Move” launches in Tribeca ahead of its HBO Max debut. And just look at that cast! At a minimum, it won’t be dull.
Director: Lauren Hadaway
Cast: Isabelle Fuhrman, Amy Forsyth, Dilone Kate Drummond, Jonathan Cherry, Charlotte Ubben
Picture “Black Swan” set in the world of competitive collegiate rowing. The psychological thriller, loosely inspired by director Lauren Hadaway’s own experiences, takes a chilling look at a college freshman who becomes obsessed with making it to the top varsity boat on her college’s rowing team — no matter the cost. No coxswain will be spared in her quest for glory.
The One and Only Dick Gregory
Director: Andre Gaines
“The One and Only Dick Gregory” takes a compelling look at a comedian who used his public platform for activism during the civil rights movement. Backed by executive producers Kevin Hart and Lena Waithe, and including interviews with Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, among others, the documentary sheds light on an under-appreciated icon for Black America.
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
Director: Morgan Neville
Almost three years after the tragic death of Anthony Bourdain, audiences are getting a rare behind-the-scenes look at the globe-trotting celebrity chef’s impact on the food world and beyond. If director Morgan Neville’s acclaimed documentary about Mister Rogers is any indication, you may want to have a handkerchief at the ready.
Queen of Glory
Director: Nana Mensah
Cast: Nana Mensah, Meeko Gattuso, Oberon KA Adjepong, Adam Leon
Mensah wrote, directed and appears in nearly every scene of this beautifully wrought drama about a doctoral student who is forced to reassess her life after her mother dies unexpectedly, leaving her the family’s Christian book shop. The movie announces Mensah, who previously appeared in “New Amsterdam” and “Farewell Amor,” as a star to watch, both in front of and behind the camera.
Untitled: Dave Chappelle Documentary
Director: Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar
During the pandemic, Dave Chappelle made waves with his standup special titled “8:46,” a reference to the murder of George Floyd. A new documentary takes a glimpse at the challenges facing a small town in Ohio in the early days of COVID-19 and grapples with the emotions erupting following the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite the tough subject matter, Chappelle can be counted on to deftly offer comic relief to a community in need.