Beginning Wednesday, the 2023 Tribeca Festival in New York City will present narrative and documentary films, shorts, filmmaker Q&As and virtual reality exhibitions, many of which will also be available via streaming platforms far beyond the city’s five boroughs.
The 22nd edition of the festival includes 109 feature films, as well as programs of short films and TV, the vast majority of which are world premieres. The in-person festival will run through June 18; viewing festival programs on demand via streaming will be available June 19-July 2.
Among the premieres: films starring Jon Hamm and Tina Fey (“Maggie Moore(s)”), Ariana DeBose (“I.S.S.”), Damon Wayans and Pam Grier (“Cinnamon”), Lily Rabe and Ed Harris (“Downtown Owl”), Julie Delpy and Richard E. Grant (“The Lesson”), Laura Linney, Maggie Smith and Kathy Bates (“The Miracle Club”), and Nick Jonas (“The Good Half”).
Documentaries explore such subjects as combatting the war in Ukraine through art (“Rule of Two Walls”) and humor (“Comedy of War: Laughter in Ukraine”); representation of news affecting women and members of the LGBTQ community (“Breaking the News”); a competition of female orchestra conductors (“Maestra”); foodborne pathogens (“Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food”); Black astronauts (“The Space Race”); the evolution of reggae and hip hop (“Bad Like Brooklyn Dancehall”); cryptocurrency (“This Is Not Financial Advice”); auto racing (“The Lionheart”); Siya Kolisi, the first Black captain of the South Africa national rugby union team (“Rise”); funky fashion maven Patricia Field (“Happy Clothes”); and comic book visionary “Stan Lee.”
Reviews of opening highlights can be found below.
The festival opened Wednesday evening with the North American premiere of “Kiss the Future,” a documentary produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck about how artists and musicians formed an underground community of resistance during the siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s (see review below).
The festival centerpiece is the latest Pixar animated feature, “Elemental” (June 10, 12).
The closing night marks the 30th anniversary of Robert De Niro’s directorial debut with a screening of a restored version of “A Bronx Tale,” starring De Niro and Chazz Palminteri, adapted from Palminteri’s one-man play (June 17). The screening is followed by a conversation with De Niro, Palminteri, producer Jane Rosenthal, and The New Yorker’s David Remnick.
The festival sees the world premiere of the documentary “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” (June 9, 10, 17), with a performance by the disco legend at the Indeed Theater at Spring Studios on June 9. Also premiering: “Waitress, the Musical – Live on Broadway!” a filmed presentation of the musical starring Sara Bareilles (June 12, 13, 15, 18); and “Uncharted,” which goes behind the scenes of the songwriting camp She Is the Music, founded by Alicia Keys (June 10, 11, 13).
The documentary “Let the Canary Sing” traces the life of singer Cyndi Lauper (June 14, 16, 18), with a live performance by Lauper at the Beacon Theatre on June 14; “For Khadija: French Montana” (June 16, 17, 18) examines the life of the Moroccan-born rapper, who performs live June 16; and “Carlos” tells the story of Carlos Santana (June 17, 18), who performs live June 17.
And for lovers of one-hit wonders, “Milli Vanilli” recounts the duo’s rapid rise and fall (June 10, 11, 15).
For four days and nights the Music Lounge, at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, will feature performances and conversations with industry insiders. Among the performers: Tei Shi, Frost Children, David Duchovny (ahead of the world premiere of his film, “Bucky F*cking Dent”), Jitwam, Eddie Chacon, LuNika, Habibi and Sussan Deyhim (June 8-11).
Among the interviews: singer John Mellencamp, who sits down with David Letterman (June 8); Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda (June 10); “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda with Rosie Perez (June 13); and Grammy-winner Chance the Rapper (June 14).
There are also talks on such subjects as activism in art (June 8); female super-heroes and storytelling (June 8); the changing landscape of the news (June 9); artificial intelligence and the creative process (June 10); a chat with Dwight Cleveland, who has traveled the globe collecting movie posters (June 10); diversity behind the camera (June 11); and mental health and identity in the digital landscape (June 11).
Screenings include: the series 7 debut of the historical drama “Outlander” June 9 (followed by a conversation with cast members Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton) before it bows on Starz; “The Golden Boy,” a documentary about boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya (June 9); Steven Soderbergh’s “Full Circle,” about a botched kidnapping, starring Claire Danes (June 11); the youth basketball drama “Swagger,” inspired by the experiences of NBA superstar Kevin Durant (June 17); and on June 13, New York hosts zombies in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan with a screening of “The Walking Dead: Dead City.”
Games & Immersive
Exhibitions of virtual and augmented reality (running June 9-17) include “Colored,” which puts participants in the segregated South; “Fortune,” an exploration of how money dominates our lives; “The Fury,” about the sexual exploitation of female political prisoners; “Maya,” featuring a female superhero; “Monstrorama,” about a hidden museum of monsters, narrated by Andy Serkis.
Performances and panel discussions explore the worlds of podcasts and audio storytelling, including “Pod Save America,” with guests Hillary Clinton, New York Attorney General Letitia James, comedian Roy Wood Jr., and guest host Alex Wagner (June 12); The New York Times’ “Modern Love” podcast, with guest Kim Cattrall (June 14); and “Selected Shorts: Night at the Movies,” hosted by Roxane Gay, with Kyra Sedgwick, Michael Stuhlbarg and Pauletta Washington (June 14).
Selected film highlights
Of the small portion of 109 features that has been previewed at press time, we present seven highlights, some of which will be available for home viewing June 19-July 2 via the Tribeca At Home platform. (Tribeca Online is available through Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV and as a standalone app on IOS and Android.)
More reviews will be published as the festival continues.
“Kiss the Future” (North American Premiere)
The Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s, part of an ethnically charged war against Serbs waged by Slobodan Milošević during the breakup of Yugoslavia, was a punishing, yearslong attack on a city known for its diversity and cultural importance. In this documentary directed by Nenad Cicin-Sain (adapted from the memoir “Fools Rush In” by former aid worker Bill Carter), the community of musicians and music fans in Sarajevo formed a collective resistance against the shelling and sniper fire, stubbornly wielding rock music, art and culture against the inhumanity of destruction. (Holding a beauty pageant in bombed-out ruins was one method of rejecting the horror of war.)
With the rest of the world apparently ignoring the plight of Sarajevans, Carter met and interviewed U2 lead singer Bono during the group’s “Zoo TV” tour, creating a connection that would lead to U2 folding news coverage of the siege into their concerts, with live interviews via satellite hookup of Sarajevans under fire. While questionably effective as a propaganda tool, the video hookups used by U2 (an Irish band known for taking political stances) pushed the Bosnian War into the public consciousness and were undoubtedly a morale booster. Once the documents ending the war were signed in 1995, and the gunfire stopped, U2 came to Sarajevo to perform at an emotional stadium concert that served as a unifying element in a city that had been shattered.
Blending archival footage of the siege with new interviews with Bono, The Edge and Adam Clayton, along with journalist Christiane Amanpour and former President Bill Clinton, “Kiss the Future” shares the important lesson of how art helps affirm the dignity of humanity even in the face of violence – a joyous and rebellious “FU” to those who hate. 103 mins. Screens in-person June 7, 8, 15.
To watch a clip from “Kiss the Future” click on the video player below:
“Against All Enemies” (World Premiere)
Charlie Sadoff’s unsettling documentary examines how violent extremist groups that cling to conspiracy theories about elections and governmental overreach, such as the Three Percenters and Proud Boys, are enlisting military, veterans and police – people trained in starting or quelling insurgencies – to strengthen their forces. The film features interviews with militia members who easily convince themselves that those who terrorized the, in an effort to overturn election results, are patriots; and with experts and ex-militia who discuss the rise within the U.S. of armed extremist groups, fueled by grievance and bigotry, that are attacking institutions of democracy, propagating fascistic ideals, and suppressing opposition, marching toward civil war. Is fretting about the political outcome of the 2024 presidential election warranted? The founder of the Southern Patriot Council, who spews disinformation about the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, warns, “There’s imminent civil war. If we don’t fix our elections and actually make them bonafide again, we don’t have 2024.” He adds, confidently, “If you’re not armed, you’re dog meat.” Narrated by Peter Coyote. 106 mins. Screens in-person June 8, 10, 16. Streaming available June 19-July 2.
“Common Ground” (World Premiere)
In this passionate broadside against industrialized farming and the political influence of “Big Ag,” as well as its runoff consequences (soil erosion, the financial plight of small farmers), regenerative farming – in which topsoil is restored and protected through improved farming and grazing practices – is viewed as both good for farmers (freeing them of costly chemicals and pesticides that accrue debt) and good for the Earth. This slick documentary, narrated by a bevy of A-Listers (including Laura Dern, Jason Momoa, Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson), shows the successes of those who have gone back to the roots of farming, with the benefits of better and more abundant food, a cleaner environment, and an increased sense of social justice within the farming community. 105 mins. Screens in-person June 8, 11, 15, 18.
“Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed” (World Premiere)
He was one of Hollywood’s most iconic sex symbols, whose rugged good looks and smoldering gaze made him a popular star opposite such screen icons as Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day and Lauren Bacall. But while he was celebrated as a virile heterosexual paragon, off-screen Rock Hudson kept his homosexuality under wraps, during an era when even a suggestion that he was gay would have scuttled his career. Stephen Kijak’s intense and moving documentary traces Hudson’s rise as a movie and TV star, while living a private life with a coterie of close-lipped friends who were a bulwark against homophobia in the industry and the media, until he lay stricken with AIDS in a Paris hospital in 1985. Hudson would become one of the first celebrities to die from HIV. The actor’s closeted life and fear of exposure, just a generation or two away from when coming out would be considered no big deal, sadly fueled his efforts to maintain privacy over what would, in death, become perhaps the primary association in the public’s mind about his legacy. 105 mins. Screens in-person June 11, 12, 17. The HBO Original film debuts on Max June 28.
“Richland” (World Premiere)
The people who moved to Richland, Wash., in the 1940s and ’50s may not have been too concerned about safety at their government jobs, or if they were, they still accepted bonuses to spend more than their allotted time inside the same room as radioactive material. But many were smart enough not to eat the fish from the local river. Still, those who grew up or raised families in Eastern Washington, working at the Hanford Nuclear Site (now a tourist attraction), are left to grapple with a debate about their moral responsibility in the production of weapons-grade plutonium (or, conversely, their responsibility in the production of weapons that maintained the peace during the Cold War). And what does one say to a visitor from Hiroshima? Irene Lusztig’s quiet meditation of a film examines a community stoically resistant to change (don’t even think of replacing the local football team’s name, the Bombers), even when residents must also contemplate the section of the cemetery filled with baby graves. 93 mins. Screens in-person June 11, 12, 14.
“The Gullspång Miracle” (World Premiere)
It did indeed seem like a miracle when two sisters from Norway met a woman in Sweden who bore a striking resemblance to their long-dead sibling, who had presumably killed herself about 30 years earlier after being accused of embezzlement. The “reunion” of Kari and May with Olaug was at first a happy coincidence, and maybe even a sign of divine intervention. But there were troubling questions: Why hadn’t they been allowed to view their sister in her coffin? Was she murdered? Did their sister even die? On top of it all, Olaug is less than thrilled to meet her newfound extended family, whose religious devotion irks her. (A military veteran, she drolly notes, “If I hadn’t been able to control my temper, these people wouldn’t be alive today.”) Maria Fredriksson’s engrossing documentary is like a true crime mystery crossed with a Coen Brothers comedy, particularly in its reflection on family dynamics, religion, premonitions and the very human need for resolution of life’s enduring mysteries, particularly its most painful. 108 mins. In Norwegian and Swedish with English subtitles. Screens in-person June 11, 13, 16.
“Maggie Moore(s)” (World Premiere)
With a shrewd hand and a sense of humor both tender and biting, John Slattery deftly directs his “Mad Men” costar Jon Hamm in this winning dark comedy (make that very dark comedy) about murder. “Maggie Moore(s)” is centered around a sandwich shop franchisee (Micah Stock) whose failing business instigates a series of increasingly desperate and ham-fisted attempts to save himself and his marriage. Yes, people die! Hamm plays the police chief investigating the deaths of two women who share the same name, while (in a bow to Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”) Tina Fey, a neighbor of the franchisee, witnesses more than she should. The cast is excellent all around, particularly Nick Mohammed as a too-helpful police officer, and Happy Anderson as a deaf piece of muscle who likes Bugs Bunny cartoons really loud. 99 mins. Screens in-person June 12, 14, 16, with a theatrical release June 16. Streaming available June 19-July 2.
For more information about films, immersive exhibits, special events and ticketing, visit the Tribeca Festival website.