Live… from New York… it’s the Tribeca Film Festival!
The 14th annual festival, which began in 2002 as a cathartic way for the New York film community to rebound from the 9/11 attacks, begins tonight with the world premiere of Live From New York!, a documentary about the cultural impact of four decades of Saturday Night Live. It’s the perfect pairing of two New York City institutions and sets the tone for 12 days and nights of world premieres, stimulating cinematic conversations—Jon Stewart interviews the Goodfellas gang on closing night! Christopher Nolan and Bennett Miller talk shop!—and cultural and artistic attractions.
Tribeca is just a teenager, but in its short history, it’s already developed a reputation as a showcase for world-class documentaries. Live From New York! continues that trend and is just one of the festival’s must-sees. Here are 12 premieres that are worth your attention.
A dystopian thriller based on a Black List script, The Survivalist stars Irish actor Martin McCann (The Pacific) as a half-crazed loner living on a farm after the world went kaput. When two starving women—including Nymphomaniac‘s Mia Goth—stumble upon his cabin, the result is a drastically less funny version of Last Man on Earth. (World premiere)
The directorial debut of Skeleton Twins cinematographer Reed Moreno, Meadowland is a psychological thriller about a married couple—Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson—whose life unravels after their young son goes missing. It’s a raw performance from Wilde, who also produced the film, while its eclectic supporting cast—which includes Elisabeth Moss, Juno Temple, and Giovanni Ribisi—will challenge audiences who think they know what to expect from them. (World premiere)
During a recent five year span in Bridgend County, Wales, almost 80 teenagers committed suicide without leaving a note or explanation. Was there a cult? Had they made a pact? Documentary filmmaker Jeppe Ronde went to Bridgend and researched the story for years. What he emerged with was a dark and poetic narrative mystery based on the tragic facts. Game of Thrones‘ Hannah Murray plays the new girl in town, the daughter of the new police officer tasked with solving the suicides. (North American premiere)
In My Father’s House
Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, who made the Joan Rivers documentary, capture the unlikely father and son reunion between Grammy-winning rapper and music producer Che Smith, a.k.a. Rhymefest, and the homeless alcoholic who abandoned him and his family more than 20 years ago. Smith had moved back to Chicago and purchased his childhood home with the intention of raising his children in the same neighborhood when he discovered that his father, a man he suspected was dead, was living on the streets just blocks away. (World premiere)
Co-director Albert Maysles’ final film, In Transit climbs aboard The Empire Builder, the busy Amtrak train that travels from Chicago to Seattle. It’s a long journey that attracts all types of people, some who are running away from something and others who just want to see the country the way their grandparents did. Their lives intersect on a moving train, and Maysles’ unobtrusive camera lets the story breathe and become something profound. (World premiere)
Very Semi Serious
The cartoons of the New Yorker are a litmus test—about what exactly, I have no idea. But for 90 years, those not-so-simple simple drawings have made millions of people nod, laugh—or pretend to laugh for fear of not getting the joke. “The New Yorker isn’t the bedrock; it’s the Everest,” says New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, in the film. Leah Wolchok’s documentary features interviews with Roz Chast and Mort Gerberg and sheds light on the process of cartoonists who aim to draw the perfect picture that’s worth a million words—but might not have any. (World premiere)
Among the Believers
Though it’s a documentary, Among the Believers might also qualify as Tribeca’s scariest film this year. Boasting incredible access, directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi are invited into Red Mosque, the Pakistani religious organization run by a grandfatherly-looking fundamentalist named Maulana Aziz who is training children for total jihad against the West.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Director Michael Winterbottom paired up with Russell Brand to make this documentary about the global financial meltdown, which has only accelerated the flow of money to the wealthiest of the wealthy. Brand has been an outspoken activist about financial disparity, notable in his book, Revolution, and partnering with the freewheeling Winterbottom is a creative match made in heaven. (International premiere)
Live from New York!
There have been numerous Saturday Night Live documentaries and specials over the years, but Live From New York! is less interested in the backstage drama and more intrigued by the role SNL has played in 40 years of American culture. Scores of old cast members, famous guests, and New York icons sat down for interviews, including Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, and Chevy Chase, and this is sure to be a Tribeca highlight. (World premiere)
Maybe it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s True Grit. Or maybe it’s just another zombie movie, with Arnold playing the loving father who insists on caring for his infected daughter (Abigail Breslin) no matter the consequences. The action icon has called this “the most human role you’ve ever seen me take on,” so take that Commando!
Rebecca Hall plays the still-grieving widow of Hunter Miles, a folk-music cult hero who tragically died too young in a hiking accident. Jason Sudeikis is the cocksure New York City professor who travels to Maine to persuade her to let him be Miles’ biographer. She’s not yet ready to move on with her life, living with the ghost of a man and his music, but when they agree to collaborate on a book, she learns that she’s not the only person in her cabin who might be a tortured soul. (World premiere)
British actors seem to be taking all the plum Hollywood roles, so kudos to Lake Bell, who resurrected the British accent she learned from her college years in England to join Simon Pegg in a romantic-comedy from the director of The Inbetweeners. She plays a cynical closed-off London woman who gets mistaken for a bloke’s blind date and decides to pretend to be someone she’s not and go along with it. It’s not exactly the most original premise, but Pegg and Bell were made for this type of screwball romantic-comedy. (World premiere)