Art and Experience: The 2016 Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), 15th edition and presented by AT&T, boasts a statistic that’s sure to delight: One-third of this year’s features are directed by women. Furthermore, 12 women directors and screenwriters are eligible for the Nora Ephron Prize, Tribeca’s award designated for women who embody the great filmmaker’s trailblazing spirit.
And that’s just the beginning of what’s shaping up to be Tribeca’s biggest year yet. Today brings the announcement of the Festival’s first wave of feature film—55 of the 101 total films that will bless New York City on April 13-24. These films all fall into the US Narrative,International Narrative, and Documentary Competition programs, as well as Viewpoints, where the most daring and exciting new talents from all around the world are showcased. And here some more noteworthy stats: This year’s overall program, selected from a pool of 6,626 submissions, includes features from 32 countries, with 77 World Premieres, eight International Premieres, six North American Premieres, four US Premieres, and five New York Premieres. A total of 130 directors will screen their films, 42 of which will do so with their feature directorial debuts; 18 of them are Tribeca alums returning to the Festival.
“In our 15th year we wanted to deepen our support of American narrative filmmakers and have opened our competition to separately showcase the US and International films,” said Genna Terranova, Festival Director. “We are very impressed by the films this year and inspired to see new voices transcending traditions and taking risks by telling their stories their own way. We are excited to share with audiences how the world of independent documentary and narrative filmmaking is thriving.”
The US Narrative Competition will open with Kicks, director Justin Tipping‘s debut set in California’s Bay Area, fueled by a vintage hip-hop soundtrack, and co-starring Christopher Jordan Wallace, a.k.a. the son of the Notorious B.I.G. On April 14, the World Documentary Competition will get underway with Contemporary Color, a vibrant and visually ornate doc chronicling Talking Heads’ front-man David Byrne‘s 2015 color guard event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, directed by siblings Bill Ross and Turner Ross and enhanced by musical performances from Nelly Furtado and St. Vincent. The 25-film-deep Viewpoints section will launch with the hilarious R-rated animated comedy Nerdland, featuring voice work from Paul Rudd,Patton Oswalt, Hannibal Buress, Mike Judge, and Molly Shannon. And lastly, the first-ever International Narrative Competition will kick off with Madly, an anthology of love stories helmed by Aussie-Polish actress turned director Mia Wasikowska, award-winning Mexican actor/director Gael García Bernal, Chilean indie darling Sebastián Silva, prolific Japanese genre master Sion Sono, Indian filmmakerAnurag Kashyap, and British singer Natasha Khan, who’s better known by her stage name, Bat for Lashes.
“With our new International Narrative Competition we are reinforcing our faith in cinema from around the world and belief that Tribeca is a fantastic platform for filmmakers to share their vision. Over the ten days of the Festival these films will take our audiences on a cinematic adventure, and offer a wide range of perspective in both the stories they tell and the methods through which they’re told,” said Frederic Boyer, Artistic Director.
Such creativity is on full display throughout the Festival. There are audacious new films from acclaimed and always-provocative filmmakers like Ben Wheatley (High-Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston) and Drake Doremus (Equals, starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult); head-turning performances from some of the industry’s most promising up-and-comers, like Bel Powley, Tye Sheridan, and Emory Cohen (Detour), Dan Stevens (The Ticket), Lola Kirke (AWOL), andKeith Stanfield (Live Cargo); intrepid new films from countries as varied as Peru (Icaros: A Vision), Estonia (Mother), Argentina (The Tenth Man), and Ghana (Children of the Mountain); and hard-hitting documentaries that carry on Tribeca’s longstanding tradition as the home of the world’s best non-fiction storytelling, including all-access looks at the universal search for that ever-elusive L-word (LoveTrue, executive-produced by Shia LaBeouf), Wall Street’s financial thievery (Betting on Zero), the alarming militarization of America’s police departments (Do Not Resist), homosexuality in the Catholic religion (Memories of a Penitent Heart), sex offenders (Untouchable), and the “Satanic Panic” scare of the 1990s (Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four).
“The Festival has grown into a platform for discovery of new and distinct voices for both audiences and industry. Over 80% of the world premieres eligible for acquisition at last year’s Festival were sold. We are energized by this year’s filmmakers and films and look forward to introducing them to our Festival-going community, and premiering new work from several returning artists,” said Paula Weinstein, Executive Vice President of Tribeca Enterprises.
To sweeten the pot for Tribeca 2016’s immensely gifted, do-it-themselves artists, ten US narratives, eight international narratives, and 12 documentary features making their North American, international, or world premieres will compete for cash prizes totaling $155,000, as well as artwork from the Artists Awards program, offering donated work from contemporary artists.
Below, dig into the full list that comprises Tribeca’s initial 55-film announcement, leading into next Tuesday’s (March 8) unveiling of the Festival’s remaining features split up into the Midnight, Spotlight, and Special Sections programs.
US Narrative Competition
Sponsored by AKA Hotel Residences
Launching in 2016, Tribeca introduces a new competitive section dedicated to American films and filmmakers. Largely made up of first-time directors, the inaugural US competition recognizes the extraordinary work emerging from independent communities. This freshman class of US competitors come from backgrounds as diverse as music (Robert Schwartzman, Dreamland), documentary (Ian Olds, The Fixer), web series (Ingrid Jungermann, Women Who Kill), and stand-up comedy (Demetri Martin, Dean), but all possess the distinctive directorial vision that makes them a talent to watch. This new competition affirms Tribeca’s commitment to discovering and bolstering US voices. The ten films will compete for the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Actress.
Kicks, directed by Justin Tipping, written by Justin Tipping and Josh Beirne-Golden. (USA) – World Premiere. When his hard-earned kicks get snatched by a local hood, 15-year-old Brandon and his two best friends go on an ill-advised mission across the Bay Area to retrieve the stolen sneakers. Featuring a soundtrack packed with hip-hop classics, Justin Tipping’s debut feature is an urban coming-of-age tale told with grit, humor, and surprising lyricism. With Jahking Guillory, Mahershala Ali, Kofi Siriboe, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Christopher Meyer. A Focus World release.
Always Shine, directed by Sophia Takal, written by Lawrence Michael Levine. (USA) – World Premiere. This twisty psychological drama about obsession, fame, and femininity follows two friends, both actresses (Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald), on a trip to Big Sur, to reconnect with one another. Once alone, the women’s suppressed jealousies and deep-seated resentments begin to rise, causing them to lose their grasp on not only the true nature of their relationship, but also their identities. With Lawrence Michael Levine, Alex Koch, Jane Adams.
AWOL, directed by Deb Shoval, written by Deb Shoval and Karolina Waclawiak. (USA) – World Premiere. Joey (Lola Kirke) is a young woman in search of direction in her small town. A visit to an army recruiting office appears to provide a path, but when she meets and falls in love with Rayna (Breeda Wool) that path diverges in ways that neither woman anticipates. Building on the award-winning short of the same name, director Deb Shoval crafts a clear-eyed love story, and an impressive feature film debut. A 2015 IWC Filmmaker Awardrecipient.
Dean, directed and written by Demetri Martin. (USA) – World Premiere. In comedian Demetri Martin’s funny and heartfelt directorial debut, Martin plays an illustrator who falls hard for an LA woman (Gillian Jacobs) while trying to prevent his father (Kevin Kline) from selling the family home in the wake of his mother’s death. With Rory Scovel, Ginger Gonzaga, Reid Scott, Mary Steenburgen, Christine Woods, Beck Bennett, Briga Heelan.
Dreamland, directed by Robert Schwartzman, written by Benjamin Font and Robert Schwartzman. (USA) – World Premiere. Robert Schwartzman makes his directorial debut with this comedy about the cost of reaching your dreams. Part-time pianist Monty Fagan (Johnny Simmons) begins a May-December romance that upends his home life. A set of perfectly cast co-stars push or manipulate Monty along the way: Amy Landecker, Frankie Shaw, Alan Ruck, Beverly D’Angelo, along with Robert’s older brother Jason Schwartzman, and their mother Talia Shire.
The Fixer, directed by Ian Olds, written by Paul Felten and Ian Olds. (USA) – World Premiere. After an exiled Afghan journalist (Dominic Rains) arrives in a small town in Northern California, he lands a menial job as a crime reporter for the local newspaper. Restless in his new position, he teams up with an eccentric local (James Franco) to investigate the town’s peculiar subculture only to find things quickly taking a dangerous turn. With Melissa Leo, Rachel Brosnahan, Tim Kniffin, Thomas Jay Ryan.
Folk Hero & Funny Guy, directed and written by Jeff Grace. (USA) – World Premiere. Alex Karpovsky and Wyatt Russell co-headline as two artistically inclined childhood friends, a comedian and a folk-rocker respectively, who set out on a tour together in hopes of regaining their “mojo” and finding love in the process. Jeff Grace’s debut film offers a fresh perspective on male friendship and a music-infused spin on the classic road-trip buddy comedy. With Meredith Hagner, Michael Ian Black, Hannah Simone, Heather Morris, Melanie Lynskey, David Cross.
Live Cargo, directed by Logan Sandler, written by Logan Sandler and Thymaya Payne. (USA, Bahamas) – World Premiere. Nadine (Dree Hemingway) and Lewis (Keith Stanfield) visit a small Bahamian island hoping to restore their relationship in the wake of a tragedy, only to find the picturesque island torn in two: on one side a dangerous human trafficker and on the other an aging patriarch, struggling to maintain order. With Leonard Earl Howze, Sam Dillon, Robert Wisdom.
The Ticket, directed by Ido Fluk, written by Ido Fluk and Sharon Mashihi. (USA) – World Premiere. When a blind man inexplicably regains his vision, he becomes possessed by a drive for a better life—a nicer home, a higher paying job—leaving little room for the people who were part of his old life. Dan Stevens, Malin Åkerman, Oliver Platt, and Kerry Bishé star in this haunting parable of desire, perception, and ambition.
Women Who Kill, directed and written by Ingrid Jungermann. (USA) – World Premiere. Morgan and Jean work well together as true crime podcasters because they didn’t work well, at all, as a couple. When Morgan strikes up a new relationship with the mysterious Simone, their shared interest turns into suspicion, paranoia, and fear. Ingrid Jungermann’s whip smart feature debut is an adept and wry comedy on modern romance’s hollow results, set in an LGBTQ Brooklyn. With Ingrid Jungermann, Ann Carr, Sheila Vand, Shannon O’Neill, Annette O’Toole, Grace Rex. A 2015 Tribeca All Access grantee.
International Narrative Competition
With work spanning five continents, the themes and perspectives of Tribeca’s first International Competition are literally all over the map. Not surprisingly then, travel features strongly in the films. Whether it’s two brothers heading out on a road trip to meet their idol Cristiano Ronaldo in El Clásico, or an American woman on a pilgrimage to Peru to experience an ayahuasca ceremony (Icaros: A Vision), or even an Argentinian expat returning to his roots in the Jewish district of Buenos Aires in The Tenth Man, the characters, like their audience, are crossing borders for new and enlightening experiences. The international competition is a cinematic world tour sure to surprise and satisfy any viewer. The eight films will compete for Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Actress.
Madly, directed and written by Gael García Bernal, Mia Wasikowska, Sebastian Silva, Anurag Kashyap, Sion Sono, and Natasha Khan. (Argentina, Australia, USA, India, Japan, UK) – World Premiere. Madlyis an international anthology of short films exploring love in all its permutations. Directed by some of the most vibrant filmmakers working today, the six stories in Madly portray contemporary love in all its glorious, sad, ecstatic, empowering, and erotic manifestations. With Radhika Apte, Satyadeep Misra, Adarsh Gourav, Kathryn Beck, Lex Santos, Mariko Tsutsui, Yuki Sakurai, Ami Tomite, Justina Bustos, Pablo Seijo, Tamsin Topolski. In English, Hindi, Japanese, Spanish with subtitles.
El Clásico, directed by Halkawt Mustafa, written by Anders Fagerholt and Halkawt Mustafa. (Norway, Iraqi Kurdistan Region) – North American Premiere. Alan and Gona are in love, but Gona’s father won’t approve their union because Alan is a little person. So, Alan hits the road with his brother, traveling from their small Iraqi village to the Bernabéu Stadium, home of Real Madrid. The plan: meet Cristiano Ronaldo, and earn the blessing of Gona’s father. El Clásicois a distinctly cinematic road movie, brimming with warmth and humor. With Wrya Ahmed, Dana Ahmed, Rozhin Sharifi, Kamaran Raoof, Nyan Aziz. In Arabic, Kurdish with subtitles.
Icaros: A Vision, directed by Leonor Caraballo and Matteo Norzi, written by Leonor Caraballo, Matteo Norzi, and Abou Farman. (Peru, USA) – World Premiere. An American woman in search of a miracle embarks on an adventure in the Peruvian Amazon. At a healing center, she finds hope in the form of an ancient psychedelic plant known as ayahuasca. With her perception forever altered, she bonds with a young indigenous shaman who is treating a group of psychonauts seeking transcendence, companionship, and the secrets of life and death. With Ana Cecilia Stieglitz, Arturo Izquierdo, Filippo Timi. In English, Spanish with subtitles.
Junction 48, directed by Udi Aloni, written by Oren Moverman and Tamer Nafar. (Israel, Germany, USA) – International Premiere. Set against a backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Junction 48 charts the musical ambitions of Kareem, an aspiring rapper from the town of Lod. A heartbreaking portrayal of the intersection of personal and political tragedies, Junction 48 questions to what extent music can be dissociated from politics. With Tamer Nafar, Samar Qupty, Salwa Nakkara, Ayed Fadel, Sameh “SAZ” Zakout, Saeed Dassuki. In Arabic, Hebrew with subtitles.
Mother (Ema), directed by Kadri Kousaar, written by Leana Jalukse and Al Wallcat. (Estonia) – International Premiere. This darkly comic, crime mystery set in small-town Estonia centers on Elsa, the full time caretaker of her comatose son, Lauri, and the locals, who are abuzz with rumors about who shot Lauri and why. But in this tight-knit town, where everyone seems to know everyone and everything except for what’s right under their nose, the world’s clumsiest crime may go unsolved. With Tiina Mälberg, Jaan Pehk, Andres Tabun, Andres Noormets, Rea Lest, Jaak Prints, Siim Maaten. In Estonian with subtitles.
Parents (Forældre), directed and written by Christian Tafdrup. (Denmark) – World Premiere. Told with deadpan Nordic humor and a touch of surrealism, Parents follows Kjelde and Vibeke, two empty-nesters who find themselves unable to let go of the past. Stripped of their identity without their son, who recently moved away to college, they attempt to reclaim their youthful vigor by moving back into the old apartment where they first fell in love. They soon realize that everything that once defined them might no longer exist. With Søren Malling, Bodil Jørgensen, Elliott Crosset Hove, Miri-Ann Beuschel, Anton Honik. In Danish with subtitles.
Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti), directed by Paolo Genovese, written by Filippo Bologna, Paolo Costella, Paolo Genovese, Paola Mammini, and Rolando Ravello. (Italy) – International Premiere. Paolo Genovese’s new film brings us a bitter ensemble with an all-star cast that poses the question: How well do we really know those close to us? During a dinner party, three couples and a bachelor decide to play a dangerous game with their cell phones. Brilliantly executed and scripted, Perfect Strangers reveals the true nature of how we connect to each other. With Marco Giallini, Kasia Smutniak, Valerio Mastandrea, Anna Foglietta, Edoardo Leo, Alba Rohrwacher, Giuseppe Battiston. In Italian with subtitles.
The Tenth Man (El Rey Del Once), directed and written by Daniel Burman. (Argentina) – North American Premiere. Ariel is summoned to Buenos Aires by his distant father, who runs a Jewish aid foundation in El Once, the bustling Jewish neighborhood where he spent his youth. Writer-director Daniel Burman (All In) returns to Tribeca with this tender exploration of community, and the intricacies of the father-son relationship. With Alan Sabbagh, Julieta Zylberberg, Usher, Elvira Onetto, Adrian Stoppelman, Elisa Carricajo. In Spanish with subtitles.
World Documentary Competition
Sponsored by Bira 91
In its 15 year history, Tribeca’s esteemed documentary competition has showcased discovery directors, future Oscar nominees, and legendary filmmakers including the likes of Albert Maysles. This year’s selection continues the tradition of recognizing vital current voices in nonfiction film. They include lyrical cinematic works likeLoveTrue directed by returning TFF winner Alma Har’el andContemporary Color by Bill and Turner Ross that expand our notion of what a documentary can be, to journalistically infused work tackling urgent current issues including financial crime (Betting on Zero), the militarization of the police (Do Not Resist), and America’s broken criminal justice system (The Return, Untouchable). Tribeca’s 2016 documentary competition represents the cutting edge of nonfiction filmmaking, and points to where the form is headed. The twelve films will compete for Best Documentary Feature, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.
Contemporary Color, directed by Bill Ross and Turner Ross. (USA) – World Premiere. In the summer of 2015, legendary musician David Byrne staged an unprecedented event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to celebrate the art of color guard—synchronized dance involving flags, rifles, and sabers—by pairing regional color guard teams with performers, including St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado, and Ad-Rock. More than a concert film, the TFI-supported Contemporary Color is a cinematic interpretation of a one-of-a-kind live event, courtesy of visionary filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross.
All This Panic, directed by Jenny Gage. (USA) – World Premiere. What is it like to come of age in New York City? First-time director Jenny Gage follows vivacious sisters, Ginger and Dusty, and their high school friends over the course of their crucial teen years. In this sensitive and cinematic documentary, Gage captures all the urgency, drama, and bittersweetness of girlhood as her subjects grapple with love, friendship, and what their futures hold.
Betting on Zero, directed and written by Ted Braun. (USA) – World Premiere. Allegations of corporate criminality and high-stakes Wall Street vendettas swirl throughout this riveting financial docu-thriller. Controversial hedge fund titan Bill Ackman is on a crusade to expose global nutritional giant Herbalife as the largest pyramid scheme in history while Herbalife execs claim Ackman is a market manipulator out to bankrupt them and make a killing off his billion dollar short.
BUGS, directed and written by Andreas Johnsen. (Denmark) – World Premiere. Head Chef Ben Reade and Lead Researcher Josh Evans from Nordic Food Lab are on a mission to investigate the next big trend in food: edible insects. Filmmaker Andreas Johnsen follows the duo on a globe-trotting tour as they put their own haute-cuisine spin on local insect delicacies (bee larva ceviche, anyone?) in the pursuit of food diversity and deliciousness.
Do Not Resist, directed by Craig Atkinson. (USA) – World Premiere. InDo Not Resist, director Craig Atkinson, through keen and thoughtful observances, presents a startling and powerful exploration into the rapid militarization of police forces in the United States. Filmed over two years, in 11 states, Do Not Resist reveals a rare and surprising look into the increasingly disturbing realities of American police culture.
The Happy Film, directed by Stefan Sagmeister, Ben Nabors, and Hillman Curtis. (USA) – World Premiere. Designer Stefan Sagmeister takes us on a personal journey to find out what causes happiness. Experimenting with three different approaches—meditation, therapy, and drugs—Sagmeister embarks on an entertaining and introspective quest, accented with a whimsical panoply of graphics, charts, and proverbs. The Happy Film may not make you happier, but it will surely move you to reexamine your own pursuit of happiness.
Keep Quiet, directed by Joseph Martin and Sam Blair. (U.K., Hungary) – World Premiere. Passionate in his anti-Semitic beliefs, Csanád Szegedi was the rising star of Hungary’s far-right party until he discovers his family’s secret—his maternal grandparents were Jewish. The revelation prompts an improbable but seemingly heartfelt conversion from anti-Semite to Orthodox Jew. This captivating and confrontational film explores the complex and contradictory character of Szegedi, prompting deep questions about Szegedi’s supposed epiphany. In English, Hungarian with subtitles.
LoveTrue, directed by Alma Har’el. (USA) – World Premiere. Alma Har’el, director and cinematographer of the 2011 TFF Best Documentary Feature Bombay Beach, returns with LoveTrue, a genre-bending documentary, demystifying the fantasy of true love. From an Alaskan strip club, a Hawaiian island, and the streets of NYC—revelatory stories emerge about a deeper definition of love. Set to a hypnotizing score by Flying Lotus and executive produced by Shia LaBeouf. A TFI Documentary Fund grantee.
Memories of a Penitent Heart, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo. (USA, Puerto Rico) – World Premiere. Like many gay men in the 1980s, Miguel moved from Puerto Rico to New York City; he found a career in theater and a rewarding relationship. Yet, on his deathbed he grappled to reconcile his homosexuality with his Catholic upbringing. Now, decades after his death, his niece Cecilia locates Miguel’s estranged lover to understand the truth, and in the process opens up long-dormant family secrets. In English, Spanish with subtitles.
The Return, directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway, written by Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway, and Greg O’Toole. (USA) – World Premiere. How does one reintegrate into society after making peace with a life sentence? California’s controversial and notoriously harsh three-strikes law was repealed in 2012, consequently releasing large numbers of convicts back into society.The Return presents an unbiased observation of the many issues with re-entry through the varied experiences of recently freed lifers.
Tickling Giants, directed and written by Sara Taksler. (USA) – World Premiere. Charting Bassem Youssef’s rise as Egypt’s foremost on-screen satirist, Tickling Giants offers a rousing celebration of free speech and a showcase for the power of satire to speak for the people against a repressive government. Where this story differs from the familiar success of Youssef’s idol, Jon Stewart: Bassem’s jokes come with serious, dangerous, and at times revolutionary consequences. In Arabic, English with subtitles.
Untouchable, directed by David Feige. (USA) – World Premiere. When a powerful Florida lobbyist discovered his daughter was sexually abused, he launched a crusade to pass some of the strictest sex offender laws in the country. Today, 800,000 people are listed in the sex offender registry, yet the cycles of abuse continue. David Feige’s enlightening documentary argues for a new understanding of how we think about and legislate sexual abuse.