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Tribeca Film Festival 2017: 20 Movies We Can’t Wait to See

From docs on Puff Daddy and Public Image Ltd. to British comedies and Aussie horror – your complete guide to the downtown NYC film fest

tribeca film festival 2017, public image limited documentary

Courtesy of 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, Scott Gries/Getty, Ray Stevenson/Rex

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.

'When God Sleeps'

Amin Khelghat

‘When God Sleeps’

While your average pop star complains about the “trappings of fame,” Iranian singer-songwriter Shahin Najafi is reading Websites showing the assassination of his avatar as thousands of Muslims, led by religious clerics, wish for his death. Banned in his native country for his iconoclastic lyrics, the musician moves to Berlin while he, his band and manager navigate death threats and apostasy accusations. Director Till Schauder and his crew aren’t afraid to immerse themselves into Najafi’s precarious world. JN

'Whitney. "can I be me,"'

David Corio

‘Whitney: ‘Can I Be Me?’

Nick Broomfield’s previous forays into music documentaries include outlandish, gonzo-ish conspiracy theory-filled films on rock stars (Kurt & Courtney) and rap feuds (Biggie & Tupac). This time, the filmmaker plays it straight, staying behind the camera and letting the late singer’s friends, family members and record label associates trace how a shy New Jersey girl became the most awarded female vocalist ever. Broomfield examines the myriad and complicated factors leading to her death in 2012, but unlike past portraits, this celebrates her life even as it unpacks her death. It’s also a nice dissection on race and the marketing of an image in the music industry, as one fan’s golden voice is another’s selling out. JN

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