Festival opens with film on Clive Davis; more than 60 nonfiction titles to screen
From opening night to closing day the Tribeca Film Festival is providing a major platform for documentary filmmakers.
The 16th edition of the festival kicks off Wednesday with the world premiere of Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, a documentary about the music impresario who helped orchestrate the careers of Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Barry Manilow, Aerosmith, Alicia Keys and many other acclaimed artists.
This amazing film is definitive, fascinating and ceaselessly entertaining...
Chris Perkel directed the documentary, based on Davis' memoir. Ridley Scott is among the executive producers.
Some of Davis' protegés will perform at a concert following the premiere at Radio City Music Hall, including JHud, Aretha and Carly Simon. Nonfictionfilm.com will be there to report.
Clive Davis with two of the artists whose careers he nurtured: Jennifer Hudson (left) and Aretha Franklin. Photos courtesy Tribeca Film Festival
Coincidentally, Tribeca will feature the world premiere of a separate documentary about Davis protegée Whitney Houston. Whitney: Can I Be Me, directed by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal, offers "a never-before-seen backstage look at the height of Houston’s stardom and trace[s] with penetrating detail the forces that contributed to her shortened career and subsequent death in 2012, at age 48," per Tribeca's director of programming Cara Cusumano.
The directors leave nothing unturned. They create a picture of a remarkable woman who needed more help than she received...
Whitney watchers will note that Director Kevin Macdonald and producers Jonathan and Simon Chinn are working on their own documentary about Houston, which as yet is untitled.
On the subject of stars who left us too soon, Tribeca will host the world premiere of I Am Heath Ledger, directed by Derik Murray and Adrian Buitenhuis. The film incorporates footage Ledger shot himself before his untimely death in 2008, along with commentary from family and friends, including Naomi Watts, Ben Harper and Ang Lee, who directed Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.
This stirring documentary paints a rich portrait of one of the great artists of his generation.
Tribeca will unveil several films with a timely political dimension including Get Me Roger Stone about the highly-controversial Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone, who is rumored to have been the conduit between Russian hackers and Wikileaks' Julian Assange. The film is from a trio of directors: Daniel DiMauro, Dylan Bank and Morgan Pehme.
Political firebrand and noted eccentric Roger Stone has been a fixture of Republican politics since the 1970s, yet at the same time, Stone has always been an outsider to the political establishment.
Stone, 64, Trump is among the Trump associates "under scrutiny" as part of the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to the New York Times. For that reason alone, Pres. Trump may regret his decision to be interviewed for Get Me Roger Stone.
An earlier Republican president is the focus of The Reagan Show from directors Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez.
Comprised entirely of archival footage taken during those pre-reality-television years, The Reagan Show is a highly entertaining and informative look at how Ronald Reagan redefined the look and feel of what it means to be the POTUS.
With the 25th anniversary of the LA Riots coming up, Tribeca will host the world premiere ofLA 92.
"Academy Award®-winning directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin (Undefeated) draw on archival news images and unseen footage to craft an in-depth portrait of those riots and the tempestuous relationship between Los Angeles’s African American community and those charged with protecting it," per Tribeca.
On Thursday (April 20) -- the 18th anniversary of the Columbine massacre in Colorado -- Tribeca will feature a special screening of Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine, perhaps the definitive portrait of the devastating impact of America's gun culture. After the screening Moore will take part in a conversation with documentary legend D.A. Pennebaker.
In the age of Donald Trump and the "alt-right," and with mass shootings now a regular occurrence in the U.S., there's no better time to revisit Michael Moore's Academy Award®-Winning documentary, Bowling For Columbine.
The deadliest mass shooting in American history -- which took place less than a year ago at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida -- is the subject of the short documentary Love the Sinner from directors Geeta Gandbhir and Jessica Devaney.
"Love the Sinner explores the Evangelical roots of homophobia in the wake of the Pulse shooting," Tribeca wrote in the festival program online. The world premiere is set for Thursday night (April 20).
Geeta Gandbhir is also co-director of a feature length documentary premiering at Tribeca, I Am Evidence, which looks at the shocking number of rape kits that have gone unexamined across the country, effectively allowing rapists to go free.
"Over 175,000 kits have been uncovered to date, resting in backlogs and storage facilities, each of them an unsolved case," Tribeca programmer Liza Domnitz wrote of the film.
The documentary is co-directed by Trish Adlesic and produced by actress Mariska Hargitay, star of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show that often chronicles rape case investigations.
With so many documentaries slated to premiere at Tribeca, there is no substitute for checking out the full list of films online. Click here for that.
Below are just a few of the highlights from the Competition and Spotlight categories.
>Copwatch, directed by Camilla Hall [Competition]
Tribeca writes, "Copwatch is the true story of We Copwatch, an organization whose mission is to film police activity as a non-violent form of protest and deterrent to police brutality. Around the country, a network of regular people take up cameras to bear witness to police actions and hold law enforcement to accountability."
>The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, directed by David France [Competition]
Tribeca writes, "Academy Award® nominated director David France’s (How to Survive a Plague) new documentary centers on self-described “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson, legendary fixture in New York City’s gay ghetto, who along with fellow trans icon Sylvia Rivera, founded Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), a trans activist group based in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village. Mysteriously, Marsha was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992. At the time, the NYPD pegged her death as a suicide, a claim that Marsha’s comrades have always firmly rejected."
>No Man's Land, directed by David Byars [Competition]
Tribeca writes, "In January 2016, armed protestors in Oregon occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to call attention to what they felt was an intrusion by the federal government into their right to make a living... The film presents an unbiased snapshot of a crisis that ultimately proved a foreshadowing of our current political climate, and what may turn out to be a blueprint of future domestic encounters between our government and civilians."
>True Conviction, directed by Jamie Meltzer [Competition]
Tribeca writes, "There’s a new detective agency in Dallas Texas, started by three exonerated men with decades in prison served between them who look to free innocent people behind bars. True Conviction follows these change-makers as they not only try to rebuild their lives and families, but also attempt to fix the criminal justice system."
>ACORN and the Firestorm, directed by Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard [Spotlight Documentary]
Tribeca writes, "A comprehensive non-fiction political thriller, Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard’s blow-by-blow account of the ACORN scandal encapsulates the conflicts and contradictions of our political present."
>ELIÁN, directed by Tim Golden and Ross McDonnell [Spotlight Documentary]
Tribeca writes, "On Thanksgiving 1999, a young Cuban boy named Elián González was found floating in the Florida Straits by himself after his mother drowned trying to seek refuge in the United States. Before long, the 5-year-old González became the centerpiece of an intense custody battle between his father back in Cuba and his relatives in Miami... Eighteen years later, in the wake of Fidel Castro’s monumental death last November, ELIÁN lets the now 23-year-old tell his story, along with the other key players, of one of the biggest news events in modern times."
>Gilbert, directed by Neil Berkeley [Spotlight Documentary]
Tribeca writes, "Legendary comedian Gilbert Gottfried has had quite the career. Rocketing to fame in the 1980s, he was thrust into the public consciousness almost immediately thanks to his brash personality, unique worldview, and off-kilter comic timing. Now, foul-mouthed and unapologetic after decades of flying solo in both his work and in his personal life, Gilbert has shockingly reinvented himself…as a family man."
>Hondros, directed by Greg Campbell [Spotlight Documentary]
Tribeca writes, "Beginning with the war in Kosovo in 1999, award-winning photographer Chris Hondros served as witness to over a decade of conflict before being killed in Libya in 2011. Director and childhood friend Greg Campbell takes the audience on a stunning journey, retracing the path of Chris’s career as a journalist, while also revealing the little-known backstories that accompany some of his most influential photographs."
>Year of the Scab, directed by John Dorsey [Spotlight Documentary]
Tribeca writes, "During the 1987 NFL strike, pro teams scrambled to assemble temporary replacement players to fill in for their striking stars. The Washington Redskins were notable for their "scabs," a team of cast-offs and has-beens who rode a surprising wave of momentum against all odds... Year of the Scab revisits this ultimate underdog story, and the men whose ordinary lives were interrupted, who broke the strike and brought their team to victory, only to struggle for their place in the sports history books."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.