Tribeca Festival, f.k.a. Tribeca Film Festival, is kicking off at a very interesting and unstable time. The Writers Guild of America is about a month into their strike, the Screen Actors Guild just voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike of their own, and the ink is barely dry on negotiations between the Directors Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. A festival known for its resilience after launching in post-9/11 downtown New York and being one of the first to close in April 2020 due to COVID-19, it’s being tested once again as wildfire smoke from Canada continues to fill the air. It feels fitting, then, that some of our most anticipated films out of the festival are about a drought-riddled getaway trip; the fiery music of Carlos Santana, Tierra Whack, and Debbie Harry; and the trailblazing actor Rock Hudson. Here are 12 films (and one live performance) we can’t wait to see at Tribeca Festival.
Christian Petzold’s latest follows a young writer who gets out of Dodge to work on the manuscript for his new novel, only to find his circumstances far more fiery than anything he could write on his own. Ditching Berlin for a summer home on the drought-riddled Baltic coast, the green writer Leon (Thomas Schubert) and his best friend, the ambitious artist Felix (Langston Uibel), who is applying for school, must hike eight miles to their accommodations after their car breaks down. Worse: The villa is already occupied by happy-go-lucky Nadja (Paula Beer). She’s generous and doesn’t find a problem in the accidental double-booking, though Leon would childishly rather have the place to himself. Her time isn’t spent in pursuit of some idealized artistic getaway. She would rather enjoy her summer in the arms of the town’s lifeguard Devid (Enno Trebs) or maybe Felix, much to the ire of the tortured writer. The comedy of manners turns dangerous when their surroundings begin to burn.
A Strange Path
When an experimental filmmaker returns to Brazil for the first time in ten years to premiere his feature at the local film festival, he doesn’t think he’ll be there long. Enter COVID-19, which leaves a phoneless David forced to knock on the door of his estranged father, who he hasn’t seen since he left the country. Could the pandemic be a means for him to work out his daddy issues even as odd things start to happen around them? “Director Guto Parente makes use of experimental footage throughout the film to convey David’s mood and accentuate the twists and turns of his journey,” reads the official Tribeca synopsis. “A Strange Path is a deeply personal story about family and belonging.” The film also asks the age-old question, Can we ever really know our father? Can we ever truly make peace with him?
The Perfect Find
Gabrielle Union stars in this rom-com as Jenna Jones, a former fashion editor who takes a job working for her arch nemesis, the media mogul Darcy Vale (Gina Torres). As Jenna finds success at the digital magazine running its social media, she gets flirty with a younger videographer (Keith Powers). What could be a fun, sexy trist turns into Drama. Apparently, he’s her boss’s son. Women can’t have it all. Numa Perrier (Jezebel) directs the film adaptation based on Tia Williams’s acclaimed book of the same name. Janet Hubert, D.B. Woodside, Aisha Hinds, and La La Anthony also star.
He Went That Way
What could be more chaotic than a Jacob Elordi–Zachary Quinto road-trip movie? How about a Jacob Elordi–Zachary Quinto road-trip movie with a monkey named Spanky. In Jeffrey Darling’s He Went That Way, Elordi plays a teenage serial killer (because he’s doomed to be a forever-teen) who hitches a ride with a “celebrity-animal handler” chauffeuring a famous TV-star chimpanzee, Spanky. What really tips this fever dream over the edge, besides the fact that Ryan Murphy somehow doesn’t have his mitts on it, is this programming note: “This film is as much about a found family as it is a volatile crime drama centered on a serial killer and his captives on the road.”
The Miracle Club
If you’re wondering what this year’s Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris will be, consider Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s The Miracle Club, a “heartwarming, hilarious film” that is listed on the Tribeca site under the category “Women.” This period piece follows friends Lily (Maggie Smith), Eileen (Kathy Bates), and Dolly (Agnes O’Casey) from a hard-knock part of Dublin who win a trip to Lourdes, France, and “embark on a journey that will change their lives.” Embarking with them is Laura Linney, back from the United States after leaving her community. It’s like if Mrs. Harris was multiplied by three and replaced haute couture and union organizing with … Catholicism. Bring your aunt or your mom!
First Time Female Director
Chelsea Peretti makes her directorial debut with the aptly named First Time Female Director, about a community-theater playwright trying to stage her dream production after the old director gets fired for inappropriate behavior. Fans of Peretti’s goofy, exuberant humor will be relieved to know she also writes and stars, and she’s gathered an ensemble of kindred spirits including Megan Stalter, Kate Berlant, Megan Mullally, and Blake Anderson. Could this be the next Waiting for Guffman? Peretti is the Corky we deserve.
Rapper Tierra Whack has been one of the most purely original voices in hip-hop, an oddball wordsmith with a knack for the interesting and the attention-pulling. Her debut album, Whack World, was composed of 15 one-minute songs, cycling through hooks, voices, and flows with reckless abandon. It should be no surprise, then, that the documentary about her rise intends to pull apart the idea of the music documentary, rather than follow the format’s sometimes rote beats. The documentary’s description promises a weaving together of “different aesthetics,” and if form follows subject, then we’re in for the oddest music doc around.
Waitress, the Musical: Live on Broadway!
This one won’t come with many surprises, but if there’s anything we would put our money on truly delighting at this year’s festival, it’s the pro-shot of the Broadway musical Waitress. Starring the musical’s writer, Sara Bareilles, the musical is an adaptation of the 2007 indie film Waitress and features catchy songs, all while packing a surprisingly adept emotional wallop. The pro-shot was filmed in 2021 during a live Broadway performance, and the premiere at Tribeca will feature a live performance by Bareilles herself, in case you needed any more convincing.
Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed
One of the most classic names in cinema is getting his due in a new documentary that explores his legacy as an onscreen sex symbol who, behind the scenes, was a gay man. Movie star Rock Hudson died of complications with AIDS in 1985, one of the earliest major celebrities to die of the disease. The new doc purports to take on not only Hudson’s legacy but also the system that kept him in the closet — and persists to this day. The film is directed by Stephen Kijak, who is primarily known for music-based films like 2016’s We Are X, a documentary about Japanese rock band X Japan. He also directed 2020’s Equal, an HBO Max miniseries about the gay-rights movement. Equal was, perhaps, a bit too glossy to get into the nitty gritty of liberation, but that means Rock Hudson, a god of the silver screen, might be Kijak’s perfect fit.
After decades of letting his guitar do the talking, rock icon Carlos Santana is taking the mic in Carlos to narrate his story. It’s a winding one, from coming up in the ’60s and making his mark at Woodstock, to changing band lineups and styles many times in the following years, to topping charts decades later with “Smooth” and Supernatural. Emmy-winning director Rudy Valdez (The Sentence) promises to tell Santana’s story with empathy as a fellow Mexican American immigrant — and with lots of unseen footage.
Let the Canary Sing
Director Alison Ellwood has carved a space for herself by challenging expectations of women in rock: first with the documentary The Go-Go’s, then with her two-part series Laurel Canyon, and now with Let the Canary Sing, a feature on Cyndi Lauper. Expect lots of bright neon and punky joy from the New Wave innovator, but also the story of her becoming a genre-defying star in the 1970s. It’s all the more timely after Lauper’s first nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, and ahead of her 70th birthday just days after the premiere.
Ron Delsener Presents
If you’ve seen live music in New York, you probably know Ron Delsener’s work — whether through the free Central Park concert series he began in 1967, the Jones Beach Amphitheater he revitalized in the 1980s, or the shows he booked at venues like Madison Square Garden through his retirement last year. Ron Delsener Presents goes backstage with the legendary booker with help from Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel, Cher, Bruce Springsteen, and Patti Smith, to name a few. It’s directed by Jake Sumner, whose father, Sting, knows Delsener’s work well.
The Tribeca Festival runs through Sunday, June 18.