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25 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at Tribeca 2019

From music docs on D’Angelo, Sublime and Linda Ronstadt to dystopic sci-fi and a Manson biopic — our picks for the downtown NYC fest

Linda Ronstadt, D'Angelo and Alec Baldwin (as John DeLorean) in three of our must-see picks for the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

Henry Diltz; Carina Bijlsma; Sundance Selects

From downtown-rebound project to destination fest — at this point, everyone knows the backstory behind the Tribeca Film Festival. Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro’s plan to help revitalize the neighborhood in the wake of 9/11 eventually turned into the sort of annual gathering that attracted not just curious locals, uptown moviegoers with a subway pass and Famous Friends of Bob, but also a host of international filmmakers, veteran writer-directors, up-and-coming young talent, name-brand stars looking to do something besides superhero movies, V.R. folks, multimedia programmers and all sort of likeminded creatives.

And while its recent addition of a TV/episodic sidebar has sweetened the deal (this year, we highly recommend you check out George Pelecanos and Gbenga Akinnagbe’s anthology D.C. Noir in that section), it’s still all about the movies. To wit, we’re highlighting 25 films from the fest’s various sections — from dystopic sci-fi parables to modest indie character studies, German road movies to a Charlie Manson biopic starring the guy from The Crown. (And lots and lots of music docs — tragic gone-too-soon rock star stories seem to be quite the rage these days.) Some we’ve seen and love, some we’re chomping at the bit to check out. All of ’em you can see if you happen to be heading downtown.

Shannon Hoon & daughter Nico Blue Hoon

‘All I Can Say’

In 1990, a young man named Shannon Hoon started compulsively documenting his life in Lafayette, Indiana, with a video camera. He had aspirations of becoming a singer, so he took a page from a fellow Hoosier — Axl Rose — and headed to Los Angeles. Hoon kept filming as his band, Blind Melon, became ’90s alternative-rock stars. He also chronicled his struggles with fame, substance abuse, becoming a father, rehab and relapsing; his final entry was several hours before he passed away in 1995. This doc not only assembles the video diary’s raw footage into a rise-and-fall timeline; it doubles as a tribute to the late Hoon, reminding you of what a charismatic frontman he was and what we lost when this 28-year-old became another rock cautionary tale. DF

‘The Apollo’

For a festival that prides itself on its regional roots, Roger Ross Williams’ documentary on the beloved Harlem theatre is a fitting choice to open the fest. Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson and Jamie Foxx are among those to lavish praise, as the film uses a production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me to discuss both the venue’s importance in the arts and its representation of the struggles of African Americans. And with 85 years of performances to draw from, expect a lively look at the stage that hosted Aretha, Billie, Diana, Ella, Stevie, Jimi and countless others. JN

‘Between Me and My Mind’

As one fourth of Phish, Trey Anastasio has given the world some of the gnarliest out-there jam-band explorations of the past three decades; as songwriter and solo artist, he’s also experimented with tapping into a more personal inner space. This doc phollows the musician, phly-on-the-wall style, as he works on a new side project and coordinates one of the band’s anything-goes New Year’s Eve shows. Like the man says, “It a takes a few moments of whirling around/ Before your feet finally leave the ground.” DF

CHARLIE SAYS (2019)

‘Charlie Says’

American Psycho director Mary Harron casts her lens on the Manson family murders as seen through the eyes of three female perpetrators — Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten (Marianne Réndon, Sosie Bacon and Hannah Murray, respectively). Through a prison rehabilitation program, the women look back on their time at the ranch, where the notorious cult leader (played with sleazy magnetism by The Crown’s Matt Smith) brainwashed his harem with pathological precision. A twitchy energy infuses this offbeat look at Charlie and the girls, while capturing the heady confusion that could lead a naive young woman down a twisted path. MF

Interior of Circus of Books, West Hollywood,  still from Circus of Books (2019).

‘Circus of Books’

Charm abounds in this story of unassuming couple Karen and Barry Mason, who become the biggest distributors of hardcore gay pornography in the U. S. as proprietors of legendary L.A. sex shop Circus of Books from 1982 until its closing. While the pair emerge as accidental heroes to the LGBTQ community, filmmaker Rachel Mason (Karen and Barry’s daughter) isn’t interested in hagiography; she also retraces their shock when son Josh comes out of the closet. And any hints of melancholy are leavened by moments of delightful absurdity: “Handjobs magazine just stopped publishing,” Karen says at one point, gesturing toward a rack full of unsold copies. “Now he does organic chicken farming.” MF

‘Devil’s Pie — D’Angelo’

You probably remember when Michael Eugene Archer — better known by his stage name D’Angelo — first came on the scene in the mid-1990s and quickly established himself as the hottest new R&B artist on the block. And you almost definitely remembered when, after being relegated to the “where are they now?” file for over a decade, he suddenly came back with a near-masterpiece of an album (Black Messiah) in 2014. This intimate documentary focuses on what happened in between those high points, charting how his success led to self doubt, self-exile and, eventually, a creative second life. How does it feel, indeed. DF

Lucas Jaye & Brian Dennehy in Driveways. Photo credit: Ki Jin Kim.

‘Driveways’

Viva Hong Chau, an actor with a twofer at this year’s fest in the form of a political drama based on the Patty Hearst kidnapping (American Woman) and this delicate, wonderfully understated character study from filmmaker Andrew Ahn (Spa Night). She plays a single mom left to clean out her late sister’s junk-filled house while grieving a sibling she hardly knew as an adult. Meanwhile, her young son (Lucas Jaye) tentatively forms a bond with the cantankerous old war veteran (Brian Dennehy) living next door. It’s the sort of small-film discovery that makes slogging through fests like these worthwhile — and further proof that, given a role that’s worthy of her, Chau is capable of quietly knocking you for a loop. DF

‘Framing John Delorean’

From muscle-car godhead and General Motors division head to the auto industry’s No. 1 noncomformist, glamorous friend-of-Hollywood jet-setter to busted (but not convicted) cocaine trafficker — American rise-and-fall stories don’t get any juicier than John DeLorean. Filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena Joyce lay out the facts regarding how this titan of Detroit eventually hit rock bottom; as a bonus, they’ve enlisted someone who’s no stranger to playing famous men driven by greed and hubris, Alec Baldwin, to put on facial prosthetics and recreate key scenes of John’s life. It’s like a DeLorean doc with benefits. DF

Ulrich Mott (Christoph Waltz) in GEORGETOWN (2019)

‘Georgetown’

Oscar winner Christoph Waltz makes his directorial debut with this film based on the true story of an elderly dowager and her mysterious, much-younger husband. He also stars as ambitious social climber Ulrich Mott, who woos and weds Elsa Brecht (Vanessa Redgrave), a Washington, D.C., socialite 44 years his senior. The couple’s lavish dinner parties draw diplomats, political journalists, heads of state and even Supreme Court justices. But over time, close friends and Brecht’s daughter (Annette Bening) grow skeptical of Mott’s motives. And when the octogenarian turns up dead, guess who becomes the prime suspect? MF

Julia Price (Emily Mortimer), Lilian (Grace Van Patten) Photographer: Savannah Jankaosky.

‘Good Posture’

It’s impossible to look away from Grace Van Patten in this drama from writer-director Dolly Wells (co-creator of HBO’s Doll & Em) — she plays bratty, disaffected Lilian, a recent college graduate whose father arranges for her to board with a reclusive novelist friend (Emily Mortimer). After a prickly start the two develop a deep bond. Van Patten pouts and glares with verve; when she unleashes an impish grin, you get why everyone in Lilian’s orbit puts up with her. MF

‘Inna De Yard: The Soul of Jamaica’

Ostensibly a film about reggae legends uniting to record an acoustic album, director Peter Webber’s doc doubles as a thorough and candid history of the genre and its pioneers. It also captures the smooth soul of Ken Boothe, the religion-minded falsetto of the Congos’ Cedric Myton and the tear-inducing vocals of Rockers star Kiddus I as they reminisce about the fortunes (and misfortunes) of being a reggae musician in the 1970s. “Some countries have diamonds. Some countries have oil,” reggae bassist Worm says in the film. “We have reggae music.” JN

‘Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice’

She could sing literally anything,” Dolly Parton says of Linda Ronstadt at the beginning of this engrossing documentary. And the next 95 minutes prove it, following the Arizona native as she lands a record deal from the first note she sings at L.A.’s famed Troubadour in 1964, then scores major hits in genres from folk to rock, pop to country, American standards to traditional Mexican folk music. There’s testimony from luminaries such as Don Henley and Jackson Browne about the sheer breadth and scope of Ronstadt’s career, as well as the power and versatility of her instrument. MF

‘Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound’

Imagine the “Charlie don’t surf! scene in Apocalypse Now without the booms, screams and whistling ballistics. Try to think of Star Wars without the thruuum of light sabers or the whreeearrr of passing TIE Fighters. Or pretend that the Jurassic Park sequence in which a T. Rex makes its first appearance without that predatory roar or those ground-shaking stomps. Midge Costin’s wonderfully wonky doc looks at the importance of sound design when it comes to making movie moments memorable, combining a quick history lesson of the art form with personal testimonies from legends like Water Murch, Ben Burtt, Gary Rydstrom and more. DF

Martha Cooper.

‘Martha: A Picture Story’

Few people are more crucial to the archival documentation of hip-hop than Martha Cooper, the veteran photographer whose 1984 book Subway Art has long been a bible for both the rap and underground art community. As filmmaker Selina Miles’ loving homage shows, the now-76-year-old still ventures out daily with her camera, shooting smiling kids in her hometown of Baltimore and illegal graffiti bombings in Sao Paulo. Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, she says, “nobody needs me anymore.” This doc — which shows Cooper’s unceasing enthusiasm in her encounters with every strata of society — proves otherwise. JN

‘Mystify: Michael Hutchence’

If you’d forgotten that Michael Hutchence was a goddamn rock star, Mystify is a potent reminder. Interviews with the INXS frontman’s bandmates, siblings, managers and ex-girlfriends are layered over photos from his childhood in Australia and footage from the band’s rise to global fame in the late Eighties and early Nineties. The result is an immersive and deeply affecting portrait of a man who was wildly charismatic and sexy onstage, sweet and sensitive once the spotlight was turned off (in an early interview, he cites “not being loved” as his biggest fear). By the time the film reaches Hutchence’s suicide in 1997 at the age of 37, your heart breaks all over again. MF

‘Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin’

Shortly before his death in 1989, Bruce Chatwin gifted his friend and collaborator Werner Herzog with a backpack that the British journalist and adventurer used in numerous globe-trotting expeditions. Some 30 years later, the German filmmaker decided to emulate Chatwin’s journeys with a camera crew in tow, traveling to South America, Australia and the UK to discover more about his nomadic friend. The resulting doc is an encomium to a lost friend, but Herzog, who based his 1987 film Cobra Verde on Chatwin’s The Viceroy of Ouidah, imbues the film with rich narration, unforgettable characters and National Geographic-worthy landscape shots all his own. JN

‘Only’

A passing comet blankets Earth in a white ash that proves fatally toxic to any female it touches; with the future of humankind at risk, women who haven’t died of the mysterious illness are hunted and sold for babymaking. Practical if controlling, Will (Tony Award-winning Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr.) is determined do whatever it takes to keep Eva (Freida Pinto) alive. But eventually, she’s willing to risk everything for one final journey outside. Part Children of Men, part Handmaid’s Tale, writer-director Takashi Doscher’s sci-fi opus separates itself from those gender dystopias by zeroing in on one young couple’s fight to survive the plague and how it wreaks havoc on their relationship. MF

‘Other Music’

Spotify, Apple Music et al. have nearly every song on the planet and god forbid you interact with another human for music recommendations in 2019. But Other Music, the venerated NYC record store, was a mecca to discover new artists, albums and even genres you barely knew existed. The most complex algorithm has nothing on someone cooler (and possibly snobbier) than you excitedly hyping up their latest discovery — a lost art highlighted in Rob Hatch-Miller and Puloma Basu’s tribute to the shop, which closed its doors in 2016. Everyone from Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore to Jason Schwartzman eulogize both the loss of the retail space and what it represented. JN

The Projectionist (2019)

‘The Projectionist’

Growing up in Cyprus, Nicolas Nicolaou loved the movies. When he emigrated from Greece to New York City in the 1970s, he’d eventually, Nicolaou would buy a Forty Deuce’s skin-flick palace and use the proceeds to help fund several other film theaters around town — using a porn house to literally keep arthouses in business. Director Abel Ferrara takes you on a tour of a long-lost New York, when an enterprising cinephile could see Behind the Green Door in the afternoon then take the A train uptown to catch a Bertolucci drama in the evening. And he shines a light on Nicolaou’s current project: the Cinemart Theater in Forest Hills, Queens, which keeps the flame of public moviegoing burning bright. DF

RS Scandinavia-BW 014

‘The Quiet One’

Maybe Bill Wyman thought his legacy would simply be a footnote in a rock & roll history book, or perhaps the ex-Rolling Stone was simply feeling sentimental. But after years of being extremely close-lipped (despite a rather notorious tabloid-ready scandal), the 82-year-old bassist decided to talk about his life as part of a legendary rhythm section and open up his massive archives to documentarian Oliver Murray. Expect a treasure trove of old photos and home-movie footage, anecdotes about the Stones’ highs and lows and why he decided to call it quits in 1993. And given that this is 2019, you should probably brace yourself for a personally conflicted screening experience as well, no matter how big a Stones fan you are. DF

Misa Hylton. Photographer: Dove Clark

‘The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion’

There’s a reason everyone and their mom wears colorful kicks, low-slung knit caps and splashy bomber jackets now — because hip-hop made it cool. This doc traces the rise of streetwear in popular culture and its elevation to high fashion, centering on big-name stylists from back in the day — Misa Hylton, Dapper Dan — who got their start dressing artists such as Lil’ Kim, Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J and Biggie and now collaborate with brands like MCM and Gucci.There’s a direct line from their work to today’s hypebeast culture and the emergence of superstar young designers like Virgil Abloh. Credit where it’s due. MF

Fionn Whitehead as Gillen & Stéphane Bak as William.

‘Roads’

Gyllen (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch‘s Fionn Whitehead) is a British kid who’s just stolen his stepdad’s RV while vacationing in Morocco. William (Stéphane Bak) is a Congolese teen who needs to get to France to find his long-lost brother, which is also where Gyllen’s father happens to live. The two hit the road, and it’s all crazy German hippies and group hashish smoke-outs and fun and games … until it isn’t. Actor-turned-filmmaker Sebastian Schipper follows up his 2015 kinetic one-shot wonder Victoria with a calmer, more contemplative story about the clashing of cultures, filtered through a buddy dramedy that personalizes the plight of immigrants and the shadow of white privilege. DF

Bradley Nowell, lead singer and guitarist of the reggae-punk band Sublime, performs at the Palace Theater Hollywood (1995). Credit:Image Courtesy of Universal Music Group.

‘Sublime’

All Bradley Nowell wanted was to hang out with his dog and get his band some local gigs in Long Beach, California. His punk/ska/reggae/beach-folk trio Sublime was destined for much bigger things, however, especially when their self-released tape 40 Ozs. to Freedom became an underground sensation and KROQ turned their song “Date Rape” into a hit. Their first album for a major label was finished and set to make them the next big thing — then, well, you know what happened next. Bill Guttentag’s doc interviews Nowell’s band mates, best friends, family members and fellow SoCal musicians (see: three-fourths of No Doubt) to tell the story of Nowell in their own words; the abundant amount of performance footage fills in the gaps. DF

Rights of Publicity and Persona Rights: Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC Photo by

‘What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali’

He was “the Greatest” — and should you somehow have forgotten why Muhammad Ali earned that self-administered nickname, Antoine Fuqua’s two-part, three-hour portrait of the champ will most certainly restore your memory. Starting with his Louisville days as Cassius Clay, this look back at the boxing legend lands every punch: the 1960 Olympics, Sonny Liston, the Nation of Islam, having his title taken away, winning it back, “Fight of the Century,” Rumble in the Jungle, Thrilla in Manilla, those rough last bouts and his struggle with Parkinson’s syndrome. The footage of Ali in the ring (from his best-known bouts to some rare finds) is a K.O. DF

Actress: April Kidwell plays Nomi Malone in the stage production of "Showgirls! The Musical!" as featured in the documentary film "You Don't Nomi." Photographer Credit: Peaches Christ.

‘You Don’t Nomi’

As in Nomi Malone, the hard-livin’, hard-lovin’, very-hard-emoting heroine of Showgirls. (For the last time, people: She’s not a stripper, she’s a dancer!) This doc looks at how director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’s follow-up to Basic Instinct was slated to be the sexiest Hollywood blockbuster ever made — and ended up a $45 million punchline. More importantly, it also charts how this Vegas-sized disaster then became a cult movie, a camp classic, a reclaimed satire of American vulgarity, a theatrical musical and, per writer Adam Nayman’s memorable phrase, a critically reappraised “masterpiece of shit.” DF