15 Films We Can't Wait to See at Tribeca Film Festival 2016 - Rolling Stone
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15 Films We Can’t Wait to See at Tribeca Film Festival 2016

From a punk comedy starring Green Day’s frontman to a ‘Ghostbusters’ doc, our picks for the downtown NYC film fest

Tribeca; Films to Watch

Debbie Hickey/Getty, Ique Esteves

Big-budget biopics and gut-busting comedies, microindie character studies, TV-show sneak peeks, unclassifiable avant-garde whatsits and docs on everything from drone warfare to fashionista get-togethers and Ghostbusters love — the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival has something for everyone, possibly literally. The 15th annual edition of Robert De Niro and Jane Wagner's downtown New York celebration (running April 13–24) retains its signature catch-as-catch-can programming ideology with different, eclectic movies from all over the literal and figurative map — and per usual, the 102-feature lineup has a decent amount of hits and its fair share of misses.

But there are treasures to be found in and among the festival's mix of mainstream entertainment and off-the-grid selections. Music lovers in particular should check out the shorts sections, which boasts bite-sized portraits of hard-rockin' actress Juliette Lewis (Hard-Lovin' Woman), hip-hop's verbally dexterous Timothy Parker from Blackalicious (Gift of Gab) and David Bowie's influence on Australia's indigenous culture (Let's Dance: Bowie Down Under). And deadheads will want to head straight to the Virtual Reality area, where "Grateful Dead: Truckin'" will allow folks to experience the band's version of that 1970 tune from their recent "Fare Thee Well" tour from a variety of different angles.

As for the features, non-musical and otherwise: We've picked out 15 selections you'll want to keep an eye out for. From nonfiction takes on past and present social issues to a concert film featuring color guards and Ad-Rock (!), our picks for the must-see movies at this year's Tribeca fest.

Tribeca; Bad Rap

Dumbfoundead (Jonathan Park) prepares for his first rap battle in 5 years. Cinematographer: Salima Koroma

Salima Koroma

‘Bad Rap’

Despite being a global cultural force for decades, hip-hop's worldwide inclusiveness still has ceilings. Asian-Americans have long dominated turntablism, but Salima Koroma's documentary focuses on four MCs navigating the thorny intersection between the music business, identity politics and stereotypes. Like other marginally represented rappers, the film's subjects attempt to reconcile the difference between "Dope Asian rapper" and "Dope rapper who's Asian." The difference goes way past semantics. JN

Burden; tribeca

Still frame from the film showing Chris Burden's sculpture Metropolis II, 2011


Few people were as polarizing and controversial in the 1970s as Chris Burden, the Los Angeles performance artist who nailed his body to a Volkswagen, took a bullet to the arm and once lived inside a tiny locker for five days. Then the enfant terrible mellowed, slightly, as his interests shifted to sculpting, and he morphed from social pariah to celebrated populist with the L.A. landmark/tourist attraction Urban Light. Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey's loving doc encapsulates Burden's prolific, provocative career and shows why he was one of modern art's most original, daring voices. JN

By Sidney Lumet; tribeca

Candid photo of Marlon Brando and director Sidney Lumet on the set of The Fugitive Kind (1959) (Credit: Unknown)

‘By Sidney Lumet’

In the canon of great New York filmmakers, Sidney Lumet ranks near the top — few directors could capture the ebb and flow of Gotham during the Horror City era better than the man behind Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. So while Nancy Buirski's documentary has been making the festival rounds since its premiere at Cannes last year, there is no better place to catch it then at its NYC premiere here. Having a filmmaker take about his career in between clips can often be a lazy go-to proposition; this deftly edited mix of scenes from The Wiz, Network, etc. and Lumet shedding light on his past and process proves that, with the right mix of subject and technique, you can still make magic with a warhorse format. DF

Command and Control; Tribeca

The Titan II intercontinental combat missile (ICBM) in silo. Credit: Ryan Loeffler

Ryan Loeffler

‘Command and Control’

On September 18th, 1980, at an Air Force base in Little Rock, Arkansas, a worker accidentally dropped a tool that almost detonated a nine-million–ton nuclear warhead with three times the power of all the weapons used in World War II. "Catastrophic" doesn't begin to describe how and why the United States almost blew itself up, but Robert Kenner's documentary, based on Eric Schlosser's terrifying book of the same time, combines Cold War-era thriller with post-apocalyptic nightmare. And given it's all true, this one will stay with you for days after viewing. JN

Tribeca; Contemporary Color

St.Vincent in CONTEMPORARY COLOR. Photo by: Jarred Alterman and Wyatt Garfield

Jarred Alterman and Wyatt Garfield

‘Contemporary Color’

What do you do if you want people to appreciate the glorious spectacle that a color guard squad can produce? If you're musician/artist/living legend David Byrne, you bring a regional group of these flag-waving, rifle-twirling youngsters to Brooklyn's Barclays Center, invite some of your friends (Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz, St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado) and you out on a show. Also, you let documentarians Bill and Turner Ross (Western) hang out with cameras to capture the whole shebang and then get pleasantly freaky-deaky with it. DF

Dean; Tribeca

Demetri Martin as Dean in the film DEAN. Photographer: Nate Harrison

Nate Harrison


How you feel about Demetri Martin's big-screen move into triple-threat Woody Allen territory will depend on your love for the absurdist, deadpan humor of his stand-up and TV show. Fans, however, should be over the moon with his directorial debut about a New York cartoonist dealing with the death of his mom and a professional/personal depressive funk. Potential salvation comes, as it so often does, in the form of a trip to Southern California and a young blonde woman (Community's Gillian Jacobs) he meets at a house party. The duo have a genuine onscreen chemistry, which goes a long way — as does Kevin Kline's performance as Martin's dry, befuddled dad. DF

Geezer; Tribeca

Scott Miller


Old punks never die — they just become suburban middle-aged dads and pine for the guitar-smashing shenanigans of their youth. Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong stars as a fortysomething dude and former lead singer of a kick-ass pop-punk outfit who remembers that the group's something-unpredictable heyday was really the time of his life (sorry). So he decides to get the band back together, much to the confusion of his wife and kids, and the consternation of his bad knees. The meta aspect of this comedy should be off the charts. DF

Ghostheads; Tribeca

Dan Aykroyd (The Heart of the Ghostbusters) in his Sony Ghost Corps office with pictures of his grandfather and father in the background along and other parapsychologist. Photo credit: Derrick Kunzer (co-producer and cinematographer of Ghostheads)

Derrick Kunzer


When there's a documentary about the fanaticism surrounding the Ghostbusters franchise and you wanna check it out, who you gonna call?! (Sing it with us, Ray Parker Jr.-style: Tri-bec-a!) Filmmaker Brendan Mertens takes a long, hard look at how the Ivan Reitman's 1984 horror/action/comedy captured the imagination of a generation, and why the long-in-the-works reboot is one of the most eagerly anticipated blockbusters in recent memory. Everyone from Sigourney Weaver and Dan Aykroyd to the new, all female 'busters movie's director Paul Feig weighs in; expect plenty of cosplay and fake proton packs at the festival's in-progress screening. DF

I'll Sleep When I am Dead

Steve Aoki travels to Tokyo to explore his family?s roots. Cinematographer: Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer

‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’

EDM heavy-hitter Steve Aoki gets the docu-profile treatment — how they didn't end up calling this Let Them Eat Cake is a mystery to us — as filmmaker Justin Krook follows the DJ around on tour and gets him to open up about his workaholic lifestyle. (Spoiler alert: It involves his father, former wrestler and founder of the Benihana franchise, Rocky Aoki.) Expect personal confessionals, raucous parties, some choice performance clips and yes, frosting-covered baked goods. Which will probably be flung. DF

Tribeca; 2016; Keep Quiet

3. Csanad Szegedi and Rabbi Boruch Oberlander. KEEP QUIET, directed by Joseph Martin & Sam Blair. Photo Credit: G?bor M?t?, Courtesy of AJH Films & Passion Pictures.

Gábor Máté

‘Keep Quiet’

Csanad Szegedi was a rising mover and shaker in Hungary's far-right, anti-Semitic Jobbik party before he made a shocking discovery: His maternal grandparents were Jewish and his grandmother survived the Holocaust. A real-life The Believer, Joseph Martin and Sam Blair's stranger-than-fiction documentary chronicles the hatemonger's journey from neo-Nazi superstar to his sincere conversion to Orthodox Judaism. Under the tutelage of sympathetic Rabbis, Szegedi visits Auschwitz, confronts ardent skeptics and interviews his family to learn why he never knew about his past. JN

Kicks; Tribeca

Film still from KICKS.


Joseph Campbell meets Dope in Justin Tipping's exhilarating debut about a poor 15-year-old looking for that perfect pair of sneakers. It's the rare film that can have it both ways, but Tipping finds the balance between serious discussion of inner-city living and the care-free object obsession of a typical teenager. And Christopher Jordan Wallace, a.k.a. the son of Notorious B.I.G., proves that charisma runs in the family. JN

Pele; Tribeca

Young Pel? (Leonardo Lima Carvalho) in Jeff and Michael Zimbalist?s PEL? BIRTH OF A LEGEND. Courtesy of Ique Esteves. An IFC Films Release.

Ique Esteves

‘Pelé: Birth of a Legend’

How has no one made a biopic about Brazil's soccer wunderkind — and the youngest World Cup winner — before now? Newcomer Kevin de Paula plays Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, as he rises from Brazil's favelas to the national team and worldwide celebrity. Sibling filmmakers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, no strangers to the "beautiful game" (see their ESPN documentary The Two Escobars), handle the directing duties. This should be a real kick. Get it? Because you see, with soccer, you don't use your hands, you merely …. DF

My Scientology Movie

Louis Theroux sitting inside the reconstruction set. From the film MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE. Photo credit: Flat Creek Films Ltd ? BBC/BBCWorldwide

Flat Creek Films Ltd © BBC/BBCWorldwide

‘My Scientology Movie’

Gonzo British documentarian Louis Theroux, best known for immersing himself in niche subcultures such as white supremacists and porn stars, now aims his sardonic glare at Scientologists. Knowing he won’t be granted access to the religion's top brass, Theroux auditions and recruits young actors to play the parts of high-level officials, including the church's leader David Miscavige, to re-enact past members' encounters. You've seen the straightforward, just-the-facts-ma'am verité take on the evils this organization is capable of; now check out the mondo bizarro version. JN

Shot!: The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock; Tribeca

‘Shot!: The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock’

You know the iconic shots of Bowie, Iggy, Blondie, Freddie Mercury, and those classic album covers (Transformer, Rqw Power, Queen II, End of the Century) — now meet the man behind them. Barnaby Clay's take on rock photographer Mick Rock has the artist himself guiding viewers through decades of capturing glam, punk and good ol' fashioned rock and roll legends in action, as well as how helped them craft their images. What, you don't want to hear how the guy who snapped the cover to Aladdin Sane discuss how he did it? What's wrong with you?! DF

San Antonio Four; Tribeca

Anna Vasquez (L) and Cassie Rivera (R) in the film SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR. Photo Credit: San Antonio Four/Deborah S. Esquenazi

San Antonio Four/Deborah S. Esquenazi

‘Southwest of Salem’

When four lesbians in San Antonio are falsely convicted of participating in a black-mass ritual — one involving the brutal gang rape of two children — it sets off a decades-long quest for justice amid a backdrop of homophobia, prejudice and the insane "satanic panic" that swept America in the Eighties and Nineties. Like the Paradise Lost trilogy, Deborah S. Esquenazi's debut film chronicles everyday people imprisoned more for their otherness than actual evidence. JN

In This Article: Tribeca Film Festival

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