On Wednesday night, the 15th Tribeca Film Festival kicks off with its opening night premiere of The First Monday in May, a new documentary about the Met Gala. Founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, the Tribeca Film Festival was seen as a way to help revitalize the area most affected by the 2001 terrorist attacks. Now in its 15th year, the festival has become a staple of New York City. Over the next 10 days, we will be on the ground, covering the festival’s films, talks (including one between J.J. Abrams and Chris Rock), and providing you with many interviews from the filmmakers.
Ahead, we preview six films that we are looking forward to seeing at the Tribeca Film Festival.
O.J. Simpson: Made in America
Okay, I’m cheating, because I’ve seen this: All seven and a half hours of it. After The People v. O.J Simpson, do you feel you don’t have quite enough O.J. Simpson in your life? Well, you are in luck. I cannot express enough how amazing this documentary is. It’s about O.J., yes, but we first meet O.J. in the 1960s, when he’s still a star college football player at USC. It delves deep into why white America liked O.J. so much, while also exploring the toxic relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and the African-American community. The first episode will air on ABC in June and I’d recommend setting your DVR already (if that’s possible, which it probably isn’t, but you get the point). — MR
Elvis and Nixon
It almost sounds like a dream you’d have after pigging out on peanut-butter-banana sandwiches: the improbable, but completely true “meeting of the minds” between sitting President, Richard Nixon, and King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, brought to uncanny life by none other than Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon, respectively. That’s some dementedly inspired casting for what sounds like an enjoyable, off-kilter double-biopic about a pair of oft-parodied figures. It’s also something of an unexpected choice for filmmaker Liza Johnson, last seen directing the Alice Munro adaptation Hateship Loveship, and so this new project will demand some versatility in tone. Distributor Bleecker Street scored a historical hit with the Oscar-nominated yet unconscionably bland biopic Trumbo last year; from the looks of the trailer, this chronicle of a weird historical footnote will have much more charisma to go around. — CB
An unconventional metafilm grapevining along the line separating performance from reality, this picture plays like a brain-busting thought experiment sprung to life. One day, Denver computer repairman Arthur Martinez decides he has had it with his humdrum life and hires a pair of indie filmmakers to shoot a movie with him as the star. Of course, the guy’s in way over his head, but the directors soon take over and ditch Martinez’s proposed script, crafting a new movie around the very real, very strange Arthur Martinez they’ve met. The film curls in on itself like a Möbius strip, teasing the audience with notions of what does and does not constitute “the real movie” as opposed to Arthur’s various acts. An essential choice for fans of Charlie Kaufman movies, brow-furrowers, philosophy grad students, struggling actors, or anyone else who likes to spend the rest of the day after seeing a movie buried in deep thought. — CB
Don’t Think Twice
Still cheating, because I’ve seen this already, too. But I want to see it again. After Mike Birbiglia’s fantastic directorial debut, 2012’s Sleepwalk with Me, he follows it up with something pretty different. Okay, yes, it’s still a movie about comedy: But, here, it’s set in the world on improv sketch comedy and what happens to a group when its most popular member is hired by Saturday Night Live. (It’s called Weekend Live in the film, but it’s basically Saturday Night Live.) This is a movie less about comedy and more about the professional jealousies we all feel. Do you ever look at “congrats Twitter” and it makes you feel lousy? Well, Don’t Think Twice is the movie for you. — MR
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
After gaining cult notoriety overnight for his deliriously funny vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows, Taika Waititi is now poised to hyperjump into the uppermost ranks of Hollywood players with a gig directing the next Thor installment. But viewers can catch him at a nice transitional moment with Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a new feature that finds Waititi returning to his native New Zealand for a whimsical tale of a boy and his gruff uncle on the run from Child Protective Services. Our own Vince Mancini praised the film in his review from South by Southwest, specifically commending Waititi’s ability to strike a balance between comedy and drama with ease. Waititi is clearly set to emerge as a major talent within the coming years, and finding him working in such an independent and natural state, with Kiwi actors in New Zealand, could become a rarity. — CB
I keep cheating again. I’m sorry. But, yes, the closing night film is Taxi Driver and I desperately want to see this on a big screen. Then, after, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, and Cybill Shepherd will reunite to talk about the film. Okay, yes, last year something similar happened after a Tribeca screening of Goodfellas and the Q&A was a little disappointing. But, Scorsese wasn’t there because he was out of the country filming a movie. Scorsese makes or breaks these types of panels. The fact he’s there makes this a must see. — MR