When Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal first started the Tribeca Film Festival back in 2002, the idea was to revitalize a downtown neighborhood still suffering from a post-9/11 slump. It was a modest, and somewhat local affair. Fast-forward nearly 15 years later, and this little NYC shindig has become a beast: a vast, sprawling event filled with competitions, big-name gala premieres, a bleeding-edge V.R. and multimedia presence, a TV-centric sidebar, some truly inspired celebrity-interviews-celebrity events and more sponsorship than you can shake an across-the-board branding initiative at. The programming remains thrillingly eclectic, frustratingly erratic and left-field exhilarating. Its aims have become more and more ambitious, yet it still remains, first and foremost, about the movies.
The question is really, out of the dozens upon dozens of choices, what do you need to see when this year’s fest starts up on April 19th – which is where we come in. We’ve singled out 20 films you’ll want to check out, or keep an eye out for: music docs on everyone from Puff Daddy to Public Image Ltd.; portraits of going-too-far stand-ups and gone-too-soon movie stars, ex-punk Buddhists and transgender activists; another road-movie Britcom from Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon; an Aussie horror flick for the ages and one genuinely unclassifiable Estonian movie involving witches, twig demons and flying cows. Consider this your complete guide to the 2017 edition. Please view responsibly.