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15 Must-See Movies at Tribeca Film Festival 2015

From DJ AM and ‘SNL’ docs to a hardboiled Hollywood thriller, these are the NYC fest pics you need to catch

'Orion: The Man Who Would Be King' and 'The Cut'

'Orion: The Man Who Would Be King' and 'The Cut'

Every spring, the downtown New York City neighborhood known as Tribeca turns into a hub of famous faces, adventurous movie lovers, celebrity spotters, red-carpet strollers, documentary enthusiasts and all-around scenesters — each of them ready to see what's new in the world of filmmaking. Now in its 14th year, the Tribeca Film Festival returns with another batch of cinematic goodies from around the world, and we've got the 15 entries you need to see right here. From thought-provoking social-issue docs to some foreign-language and indie-flick gems, these are the movies you'll want to catch while you can.

Live From New York!

‘Live From New York!’

Didn't get enough of Saturday Night Live's history with that bells-and-whistles SNL40 special? Bao Nguyen's documentary (and the fest's Opening Night selection) traces the evolution of the series from a glimmer in producer Lorne Michaels' eye to its current reign as a pop-culture juggernaut. A who's-who of cast members and MVP hosts talk about the sketch show's influence, its ability to both surf the zeitgeist and shape it, how its managed to rise from the dead numerous times and why, after four decades, we still get excited when we hear that titular opening line every week. DF

Mojave

Garrett Hedlund as Thomas and Oscar Isaac as Jack in William Monahan’s MOJAVE Photographer: Dylan Hale Lewis

Dylan Hale Lewis

‘Mojave’

Have you heard the one about the moody-rebel moviemaker (Garrett Hedlund) that goes into the desert, meets a possible serial killer (Oscar Isaac, who's been on a role lately), and then engages in a game of cat and mouse with the unhinged drifter back in Hell-Ay? Directed by The Departed's screenwriter William Monahan, this Tinseltown thriller has the sort of hardboiled-to-death, Hollywood tough-guy dialogue that will either cause giddiness or uncontrollable giggling. But it also has a great extended cameo from Mark Wahlberg in manic alpha-douchebag mode as a movie producer and a wonderful turn from Isaac, who starts off aping Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now and ends by channeling Hopper in every other psychotic part he played. DF

Monty Python

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 20: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Terry Jones perform on the closing night of 'Monty Python Live (Mostly)' at The O2 Arena on July 20, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Dave J Hogan

‘Monty Python: The Meaning of Live’

When the five surviving members of Monty Python reunited for one last string of live shows in the summer of 2014, no one was sure what to expect once the stage lights at the O2 Arena went up — least of all the Pythons themselves. This behind-the-scenes look at the lead-up to those sold-out concerts gives folks a peek at the troupe's preparations and creative process, from finding their old rhythms again and enduring rough dress rehearsals to affectionately ribbing each other over not being able to remember lines (we're looking at you, Terry Jones). It's also a reminder that, in addition to bringing their absurdist comedy to TV viewers and moviegoers, the group had always been a crack live act, with rare footage from some of their earliest North American tours in the 1970s. DF

Orion The Man Who Would Be King

Sun Records

‘Orion: The Man Who Would Be King’

What would you do if you were a talented singer in the mid-Seventies who just happened to sound identical to Elvis Presley? Jimmy "Orion" Ellis was a failed Alabama singer until he linked up with Sun Records head Shelby Singleton a year after Presley's death and began recording as the deceased legend. When fans bought these "new" Presley songs in droves, Ellis dressed up in sequined jumpsuits, put on a mask and set up 3,000-person tours in the South that sold out immediately. "They weren't clapping for Ellis," says one friend in Jeanie Finlay's fascinating, tragicomic documentary. "They were clapping for a ghost." A must-watch. JN

Song of Lahore

Character: Asad Ali Photographer: Mobeen Ansari

Mobeen Ansari

‘Song of Lahore’

When Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq became president of Pakistan in 1978 following a military coup d'état, he eradicated a long-held, thriving tradition of lauded musicians in the country. Three decades later, music lover/financier Izzat Majeed established Sachal Studios in Lahore, the Pakistani city that was once the country's songwriting center; its in-house group became a viral sensation after covering Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" and later performed at Lincoln Center with jazz great Wynton Marsalis. Part Mozart in the Jungle and part examination of the cultural effects of Sharia law, Andy Schocken and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's cinematic cultural corrective hopes to show that, as one musician says, "the entire world will see that Pakistanis are artists, not terrorists." JN

Uncertain

Wayne Smith, photo by Ewan McNicol

Ewan McNicol

‘Uncertain’

Though its name sounds like a horror movie setting waiting to happen, the small town of Uncertain, Texas, is just a little burg on the border of Louisiana, full of lost souls trying to do better and who depend on the town's marshy lake for their survival. Then a mysterious, invasive weed starts to dry up the water and choke out the wildlife, and the region's future is threatened in some fairly unexpected ways. The good ol' boys in the film — a down-on-his luck twentysomething with a drinking problem, an elderly African American river guide, a recovering addict oddly consumed by pig hunting — initially seem straight from the casting agency that brought you Deliverance. But the residents stand for more than just the sum of their parts, and Uncertain turns into an illuminating peek into the forgotten corners of rural America — one that, incidentally, also contains some valuable hog-skinning pointers. CD

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