Tribeca Film Festival is branching out

BY RANIA RICHARDSON | Springtime in New York marks the season for the annual Tribeca Film Festival. This year’s 18th edition, which runs from April 24 to May 5, will include a wide variety of programs and events beyond the usual slate of narrative and documentary film. Celebrity interviews, music performances, virtual-reality experiences and television fare will join the movie lineup that includes world premieres of films by Christoph Waltz, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie.

The festival was founded in 2002 with the mission to reinvigorate Lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. This year’s event is more expansive beyond Tribeca than ever. There will be screenings in the East Village, Chelsea, the Upper West Side and, this year, in Harlem, for the gala opening night film, “The Apollo,” which chronicles the 85-year history of the legendary venue.

“Every festival is shaped by and reflective of its community, and we are fortunate that our hometown just happens to be the most diverse city on Earth,” said festival director Cara Cusumano. “So our curatorial mandate is to bring to the screens a cinematic celebration — in only 100 features — whose breadth of stories and storytellers is as prismatic and adventurous, local and global, diverse and inclusive as our incredible city.”

“Mystify: Michael Hutchence,” on the late INXS singer, is one of the music-focused films on this year’s Tribeca Film Festival bill.

Highlights from the red-carpet crowd include Christoph Waltz’s directorial debut, “Georgetown,” a crime drama starring him alongside Annette Bening and Vanessa Redgrave. “Mad Men” producer Semi Chellas will also present her first outing as director in “American Woman,” a fictionalized story about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. Jared Leto’s “A Day in the Life of America” features crowd-sourced footage shot on July 4, 2017, from across the U.S., in an homage to all 50 states. “Dreamland,” a thriller set in the Oklahoma dustbowl, introduces star Margot Robbie as a producer. “Framing John DeLorean” features Alec Baldwin in a documentary-narrative hybrid, on the life and career of the controversial 1980s auto executive.

Closing night film will see the world premiere of Danny Boyle’s rock-n-roll comedy, “Yesterday,” which follows an English singer-songwriter who wakes up to discover that the Beatles never existed.

Perhaps in response to criticism that the films in the TFF pale in quality next to the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival, the festival is introducing a new sidebar this year: It will showcase five to seven films selected by esteemed New York-based movie reviewers, such as IndieWire’s Eric Kohn and New York magazine’s Emily Yoshida, in a “Critics’ Week.”

The documentary “Maiden” profiles the all-female crew in a 1989 sailing competition (Photo copyright Tracy Edwards)

Film fans do credit the TFF with reliably good documentary programming. This year’s lineup takes on issues such integrative veterinary medicine (“The Dog Doc”), the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year (“After Parkland”), and the strength and perseverance of the first all-female crew in a 1989 sailing competition (“Maiden”).

A number of other nonfiction titles focus on music and musicians: Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (“The Quiet One”), the lead singer of the band INXS (“Mystify: Michael Hutchence”), and musician Linda Ronstadt (“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice”). Ronstadt, now 72, is retired from singing. Sheryl Crow will perform after the film’s premiere.

“Other Music” follows the trajectory of the cherished indie record store of the same name housed for 20 years on E. Fourth St. in Greenwich Village, in a new TFF special section called, “This Used to Be New York.” It joins documentaries on 1970s graffiti photographer Martha Cooper (“Martha: A Picture Story”), and Abel Ferrara’s chronicle of a Cyprus-born cinema owner experiencing the city’s fading movie industry (“The Projectionist”).

“Other Music” follows the story of the Village store of the same name, with Josh Madell, left, and Chris Vanderloo, two of its founders. (Photograph by Rob Hatch-Miller)

Filmmakers and casts will reunite for conversations following celebratory anniversary screenings of cult classics, including Ben Stiller’s 1994 Gen X drama “Reality Bites,” Cameron Crowe’s 1989 rom-com “Say Anything,” and Rob Reiner’s heavy metal mockumentry “Spinal Tap” from 1984.

Director Francis Ford Coppola will present his Vietnam War drama “Apocalypse Now” — considered one of the greatest films ever made — in a 4K high-definition resolution “final cut” restoration of the 1979 film.

Also celebrating anniversaries, episodes of two influential TV series will come to the big screen with cast members in tow: two episodes of “The Simpsons” and the first episode of “In Living Color,” the variety show that launched the careers of Keenen Ivory Wayans, Jim Carrey, Jennifer Lopez and many others.

Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro will sit down with Martin Scorsese to discuss their longtime creative partnership, from “Taxi Driver” through the upcoming “Irishman.” Other conversations will feature comic Sarah Silverman, musician Questlove and actress Jennifer Lawrence with her frequent collaborator, director David O. Russell.

Those looking for immersive adventures in storytelling can participate in virtual-reality, augmented-reality and mixed-reality experiences: “Drop in the Ocean” highlights pollution in the deep sea through a ride on the back of a jellyfish, while “Dr. Who: The Runaway” is an extension of the beloved television series, voiced by the current female “Dr.”

For the free family screening of the original 1977 “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” on May 4, costumes are encouraged for all attendees.

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