The curtain went up last night on the 2021 Tribeca Festival, and it is both an indoor and outdoor affair.
The opening night feature of the festival, "In the Heights," screened throughout the city on Wednesday, for the most part on portable 40-foot state-of-the-art LED screens in public spaces, prior to its . In fact, virtually all of the festival's screenings will be held outdoors as a COVID-19 precaution, even as more restrictions on public gatherings are falling in New York.
In another pandemic-related adjustment, organizers decided to make much of this year's festival available to home viewers across the U.S. Many of the 66 features and documentaries making their debut through June 20, as well as shorts programs, TV features and filmmaker Q&As, will be available to stream from their premiere dates through June 23. (The festival is also giving another shot to films whose 2020 festival showcases were disrupted by the pandemic last year, when Tribeca was cancelled, replaced with the cooperative .)
Tribeca's closing night gala, a screening of "Untitled: Dave Chappelle Documentary" on June 19 at Radio City Music Hall, will be open to vaccinated audience members only.
Of the films previewed at press time, here are some highlights premiering June 10-12. More reviews will follow in the coming days.
"7 Days" (World Premiere) — Two Indian American Millennials, Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan) and Ravi (Karan Soni), go through the motions of their arranged meeting to please their matchmaking parents, but their awkward first date doesn't quite end, when the arrival of COVID lockdown precludes a smooth departure. Director and co-writer Roshan Sethi gives us a touching and timely rom-com about a couple opening up to one another in spite of themselves, with affecting performances by the two leads, who have to handle the weight of quarantine (and their parents' even more oppressive expectations) together. Screens June 10 at Brooklyn Commons at MetroTech; available At Home June 11-23.
"Tigre Gente" (Online World Premiere) — Filmmaker Elizabeth Unger explores two fronts in the war against the illegal jaguar trade – embedded with a team of rangers on the trail of poachers in Bolivia's Madidi Park, as they go undercover to root out a smuggling racket; and following Hong Kong-based journalist Laurel Chor, who investigates a market for jaguar teeth in China and Myanmar (where they are sold in lieu of harder-to-get tiger teeth). Chor's passion for investigating environmental crimes proves to be generational, as her own parents question whether species are actually being decimated for the Chinese market – prompting discussions about guilt, personal responsibility, and cultural prerogatives. Screens exclusively At Home June 11-23.
"Roaring 20's" (World Premiere) — Say goodbye to the pandemic sub-genre "Zoom movies," in which actors perform in front of webcams, mimicking the look of our lives during COVID. Filmmaker Elisabeth Vogler saw in the end of lockdown in Paris an opportunity to break free from static shots and isolation. Her film, titled "Roaring 20's" in the U.S., is composed of a single, 1½-hour shot, tracking characters through four miles of Parisian streets on foot, bicycle, subway and moped, and dipping into conversations of passing strangers as if we were eavesdropping on the lives of shoplifting teens, a runaway bride, an entertainer seeking to reboot his career, a couple finding passion, and a game player who just can't let go of his screen. The film is a feat of cinematic performance art, a technically marvelous tour through Paris, from its wide boulevards and river views to its back alleys and parks, incorporating a camera that often ignores social distancing with its subjects. "Roaring 20's" expresses the freedom, fear and uncertainly of coming out of our solitary existence into a crowded, sunny metropolis and questioning the loss of time the pandemic represented. It even includes a finale that offers a touch of Bollywood because, after 2020, we're due. Screens June 12 at Hudson Yards; available At Home June 13-23.
Watch a trailer for "Roaring 20's":
"No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics" (World Premiere) — In the 1970s underground comics and 'zines couldn't get much more underground than those written and drawn by gay artists who sought to see their own stories in the comics pages. Eventually, through the efforts of such artists as Mary Wings, Howard Cruse, Rupert Kinnard and Alison Bechdel, these self-published or small press publications began gaining a wider audience and even mainstream acceptance for comic books, newspaper strips and graphic novels with LGBTQ characters, coming-out stories, and even a Black gay teen superhero. Vivian Kleiman's entertaining and enlightening documentary features interviews with illustrators and editors who trace the evolution of comics as a social movement, and artistic expression as a vital channel of sexuality. Screens June 12 at Pier 76; available At Home June 13-23.
Watch a trailer for "No Straight Lines":
"Wolfgang" (World Premiere) — With childhood memories of the kitchen, and of an abusive stepfather who scorned his desire to be a cook, Wolfgang Puck tells the story of his inauspicious beginnings in Austria; his apprenticeship with French chef Raymond Thuilier; and his journey to becoming a celebrity chef at Ma Maison in Los Angeles, a restaurateur (Spago, which helped define California cuisine), a Food Network regular, and a global brand. It's an engrossing, heart-on-his-sleeve life story that examines the psychology of ambition and the desire to innovate, with humor and heartache. Directed by David Gelb ("Jiro Dreams of Sushi"). Screens June 12 at Waterfront Plaza, Battery Park; available At Home June 13-23. Debuts June 25 on Disney+.
Watch a trailer for "Wolfgang":
"Sisters on Track" (North American Premiere) — Most documentaries about athletes might end with the triumph of being named Sports Illustrated SportsKids of the Year. Instead, filmmakers Corinne van der Borch and Tone Grøttjord-Glenne begin their intimate documentary "Sisters on Track" with the fame that falls upon Tai, Rainn and Brooke Sheppard, who have become junior high school track stars in 2016 in spite of living with their single mom in a New York City homeless shelter. But while fame may bring rewards, it doesn't ensure that three strong-willed young girls will maintain the physical and educational stamina to win athletic scholarships to high school and college, or follow the advice of the strict-but-loving coach. A warm and optimistic tale of youngsters pursuing a goal, and the struggles of adults trying to steer them in the right direction. Screens June 12 at Brooklyn Commons; available At Home June 13-23. Debuts on Netflix June 24.
Watch a trailer for "Sisters on Track":
"Ascension" (World Premiere) — This snapshot of the rise of China as a consumerist society, and as a producer of manufactured goods for the global market, is visually mesmerizing and, in its scope, soul deadening. We witness the lower classes of Chinese workers filling the roles of automatons on assembly lines, producing everything from plastic water bottles to sex dolls, while strivers attend business workshops on how to achieve success by marketing yourself and your brand, or attend lessons in how to serve the uber-wealthy as a butler (because China needs more butlers). Directed by Jessica Kingdon ("Commodity City"). Screens June 12 at Hudson Yards; available At Home June 13-23.
For more info:
2021 Tribeca Festival (through June 20)
Editor's note: To emphasize its offerings of podcasts, TV, gaming and immersive VR events aside from films, the Tribeca Film Festival (to which it was originally referred) has been rebranded this year as the Tribeca Festival.