Tribeca Film Festival 2021: Movies to watch, and how organizers brought back the in-person event

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NEW YORK — The 2021 Tribeca Film Festival is a celebration of cinema — and a welcome return to normalcy.

The annual New York City extravaganza recognizing movies and other forms of storytelling returns to a live-action setting from June 9-20, more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the festival to cancel in-person events.

Organizers are thrilled to provide a 2021 festival featuring dozens of outdoor screenings and happenings across the city, with health and safety guidelines in place.

“To have the festival in-person, and to be able to have it immersed in the city the way that we are, is just the perfect way to help jump-start film again as a part of people’s lives,” Cara Cusumano, the festival’s director, told the Daily News.

“It’s such a community experience watching something on the big screen together, and we’ve all been so isolated for so long, so film takes on that very special added power.”

This year’s festival features a full slate of programming, including 66 films — along with anticipated TV series debuts, a lineup of shorts, live performances, podcasts and more.

Safety protocols include socially distanced seating at the outdoor screenings, with attendees in pods of two or four people. Masks will be required, with Cusumano saying the event is “completely compliant” with standards from the city and state.

“We have turned the city itself into our multiplex and created these bespoke, outdoor venues across all five boroughs,” Cusumano said. “We’re bringing in these incredible, massive LED screens so that the films will work outdoors on a June day the way that they would work indoors at a movie theater.”

Online screenings of many titles are also being offered.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the festival, which was launched in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff to help the city rebound after 9/11.

Here are Tribeca events to look forward to:

“In the Heights”

The festival begins on a high note with the world premiere of the movie musical “In the Heights,” with screenings in each borough on Wednesday.

The movie, adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway show, centers on life in Manhattan’s Washington Heights, where residents chase big dreams.

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“False Positive”

This thriller about a couple’s fertility struggle is sure to scare up some buzz. “False Positive” debuts with a June 17 screening at Brookfield Place before streaming online the next day.

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“No Sudden Move”

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the drama about small-time criminals is poised for a big payoff with a cast that includes Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro. It screens at The Battery on June 18.

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“Monsters at Work”

Another reason to feel animated is the premiere of “Monsters at Work,” a spinoff series of Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”

Cast newcomers Ben Feldman and Mindy Kaling join franchise staples Billy Crystal and John Goodman in the project, which plays June 20 at Hudson River Park as part of a double feature with another Disney+ project, the Tony Hale-led “The Mysterious Benedict Society.”

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“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain”

This documentary covers the career and lasting impact of chef and travel host Bourdain, who took his life in 2018. “Roadrunner” screens Friday at Brookfield Place before streaming online the following day.

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“12 Mighty Orphans”

Few things inspire like an uplifting sports drama, and “12 Mighty Orphans,” based on the true story of kids at a Fort Worth, Texas, orphanage who formed a winning football team during the Great Depression, could be a real crowd-pleaser.

The movie screens June 14 at Brooklyn Commons at MetroTech before streaming online a day later.

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“Blindspotting”

A follow-up to the 2018 movie by the same name, the new TV series stars Jasmine Cephas Jones as a woman who moves in with her boyfriend’s mother after he gets arrested.

The story comes from Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who wrote and starred in the movie. It screens Friday at Hudson River Park and will be followed by a discussion featuring the creators and stars.

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“How It Ends”

The cast of this comedy is no joke, with Zoe Lister-Jones, Olivia Wilde and Helen Hunt among the stars of a movie set during a fast-approaching end to the world. “How It Ends” screens June 20 at The Battery before streaming online a day later.

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“Mark, Mary & Some Other People”

This romantic comedy-drama centers on a man and woman who decide to explore an open relationship, described as “ethical non-monogamy.” Written and directed by Hannah Marks, the film stars Ben Rosenfield and Hayley Law and debuts Thursday at Brookfield Place.

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“India Sweets and Spices”

The comedy-drama offers a coming-of-age story about an Indian American college student’s experience when she returns to her affluent, suburban New Jersey hometown for summer break. It will play Saturday at Brookfield Place and will stream online the next day.

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“No Man of God”

The drama-thriller delves into the psyche of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy as shown through meetings with an FBI analyst trying to profile the murderer. Luke Kirby of HBO’s ”The Deuce” portrays Bundy and “Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood is analyst Bill Hagmaier. The movie premieres Friday at Hudson River Park before the online stream becomes available the next day.

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Tribeca Talks

There will be major star power during this year’s Tribeca Talks discussion programs, with Bradley Cooper sitting down with director Guillermo Del Toro on Sunday at Hudson River Park. They worked together on the buzzy upcoming drama “Nightmare Alley.”

Comedian Amy Schumer will speak with Emily Ratajkowski on Saturday at AT&T Terrace in Lower Manhattan, and M. Night Shyamalan will take part in a directors’ seminar at the same venue June 18.

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“Raging Bull” conversation

The 1980 boxing drama was a knockout, winning De Niro a Best Actor Oscar. De Niro and director Martin Scorsese discuss the timeless film in a prerecorded conversation that will screen June 20 at The Battery.

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Live performances

KISS is ready to get New York rocking with a Friday performance after a screening of part one of their documentary, “Biography: Kisstory” at The Battery.

Blondie is set to perform after a screening of a short film about the band, “Blondie: Vivir En La Habana,” on June 14 at Hudson River Park.

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Dave Chappelle

The festival’s closing night film is an untitled documentary produced by comedian Dave Chappelle that chronicles his efforts to provide comic and financial relief to his Ohio community during pandemic lockdowns and the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. It debuts June 19 at Radio City Music Hall.

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