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13 Films To Watch at the 2023 Tribeca Festival

Bad Things

The 2023 Tribeca Film Festival kicked off last night with Nenad Cicin-Sain’s Kiss the Future and now continues with its characteristically densely packed program of features, interactive and new media works, television and special events. It’s the third year for Tribeca’s move to June, following Cannes, and the festival runs until June 18th, when the closing night picture is a 30th anniversary screening of Tribeca co-founder Robert DeNiro’s A Bronx Tale.

“I really hope that people are adventurous in what they choose to experience at the festival and come see a lot,” Tribeca Festival Director Cara Cusumano told Filmmaker. “I think sometimes it’s tempting to see one thing or see your friend’s film, but there’s so much to discover. If I could go back in time and see some of these movies for the first time, I’d be really excited.”

Below are 13 films we’ve culled from the lineup, including quite a few debut features, that we especially direct your attention towards.

Bad Things. Nearly a decade after Stewart Thorndike’s Gaby Hoffmann-starring feature debut, dubbed a “lesbian Rosemary’s Baby” upon its release (and which was unorthodoxly distributed online for free), the writer-director returns with another riff on a horror classic. Bad Things follows Ruthie (Gayle Rankin), her girlfriend (Hari Nef), ex-lover (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) and friend (Rad Pereira) as they take a trip to a semi-abandoned hotel in snowy upstate New York that used to the the somewhat-bustling family business of Ruthie’s neglectful mother. Mulling over whether or not to sell the property, Ruthie encounters more than just the ghosts of childhood trauma’s past in the eerily empty halls. While Thorndike’s latest might similarly be marketed as a “queer The Shining,” it boasts plenty of aesthetic and narrative distinction to elevate the project well past pastiche—and a genuinely chilling performance from an unexpected Molly Ringwald to boot. — Natalia Keogan

Afire. After years of teaming Nina Hoss as his star, Christian Petzold began a new director-actor partnership with Paula Beer on 2018’s Transit. With 2020’s Undine, the two took an unexpected turn into the mystical. Now, on their latest collaboration (which premiered at this year’s Berlinale), Petzold makes yet another unexpected detour, this time trying on comedy with the story of a young writer (Thomas Schubert) on a retreat to revise his manuscript. Outside, per the title, forest fires rage, which should harmonize nicely with the wildfire smoke hanging over the city as Tribeca starts. — Vadim Rizov

Q. Award-winning director and DP Jude Chehab’s (a Filmmaker 25 New Face) cinematographic talents are on full display in her Tribeca-premiering feature debut Q, a haunting look at three generations of women whose lives were forever upended by a cult. In this case, the shadowy entity is the Qubaysiat, a matriarchal religious order founded in the Middle East, where the Lebanese-American filmmaker moved to from Florida at the tender age of 10. There, her own mother becomes one of the order’s particularly devout members. — Lauren Wissot

One Night with Adela. Spanish director Hugo Ruiz’s audacious feature debut is a real-time, single-shot horror that follows a deranged street sweeper (Laura Galán, the star of Carlota Martínez-Pereda’s Sundance 2022-premiering Piggy) as she embarks on a spree of sex, drugs and violence in Madrid with the hope of enacting bloody vengeance for a childhood trauma that she still can’t shake. Galán is present in nearly every shot, allowing viewers to get uncomfortably close to an unapologetically nasty character with a non-existent redemption arc. Unlike Galán’s meek, tender outcast role in Piggy, her turn as the titular Adela is commanding and transgressively off-putting. — NK

Rule of Two Walls. David Gutnik’s Rule of Two Walls, its title a reference to the best place to be between during bombing raids, is a unique take on an exhaustively mined (some would say extracted) story—that of the current war in Europe. Combining doc and fiction, the film follows Ukrainian artists who have chosen to stay and fight for their homeland by making art and preserving culture as a means of resistance. And that includes those involved in the crafting of this very film. — LW

The Line. The feature debut of music video and commercials director Ethan Berger stars Hereditary‘s Alex Wolff as a college upperclassman whose dedication to his fraternity becomes increasingly challenged as he’s surrounded with all forms of toxic behavior. The film boasts a big cast — in addition to Wolff, John Malkovitch, Denise Richards, Angus Cloud, Scoot McNair and, as the ground, skeptical maybe-girlfriend, Halle Bailey. — Scott Macaulay

Dead Girls Dancing. The sweet, sticky air of summer—and the promise and potential it eternally seems to hold—is downright palpable in German director Anna Roller’s dreamy feature debut. Promptly after graduating high school, teenage besties Ira (Luna Jordan), Malin (Katharina Stark) and Ka (Noemi Liv Nicolaisen) decide to take a girls’ road trip to Italy before deciding what to do with the rest of their lives. Regular antics ensue—illegal camping, dainty joints and plenty of elder outrage—which eventually connects them with Italian hitchhiker Zoe (Sara Giannelli). However, when their rinky-dink car breaks down on the outskirts of what appears to be a completely abandoned village, the girls decide to add B&E, petty theft and general trespassing to their impromptu summer bucket list. Their fantasy Italian vacation soon devolves into a waking nightmare conjured from language barriers, cultural rifts and natural disasters, leaving some of these young travelers more unscathed than others. — NK

Chasing Chasing Amy. Sav Rodgers’s personal documentary explores the impact of Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy on the LGBTQ community, and perhaps most explicitly, the way that the film allowed Rodgers to embrace his own queer identity. A film with just as many fervent queer detractors as it does supporters, Rodgers conducts interviews with Chasing Amy star Joey Lauren Adams (who played Alyssa, the lesbian that Ben Affleck’s aptly-named Holden successfully courts into temporary heterosexuality), Go Fish screenwriter Guinevere Turner, Fire Island director Andrew Ahn and, of course, Smith himself to unpack why this film continues to strike such a chord within this particular community. Yet in the process of making this doc about a film Rodgers has long held dearly, his own relationship to Chasing Amy (and its less than perfect legacy) begins to take a surprising turn. — NK

Mountains. One of two Tribeca projects that previously appeared in rough cut form at the 2022 US in Progress forum, Mountains is the debut feature from Miami-based, Haitian-American filmmaker and artist Monica Sorelle. A member of the Third Horizon creative collective, Sorelle’s picture explores intergenerational tensions between a construction worker, his aspiring stand-up comedian son and his seamstress wife as they confront the forces of gentrification that are slowly altering the character of their neighborhood. – SM

The Graduates. It’s been five years since writer-director Hannah Peterson appeared on our annual 25 New Faces of Film list on the strength of her CalArts MFA thesis film East of the River. Peterson’s Tribeca-premiering feature debut, The Graduates, similarly follows adolescent ennui, this time in the wake of a tangible real-world tragedy. Mina Sundwall plays Genevieve, a high school senior whose boyfriend was killed during a ghastly school shooting the year prior. While Genevieve and the rest of her community continues to reel from the event, the teen is nonetheless expected to focus on decisions about a future that seems more fraught than it is fruitful. — NK

Somewhere Quiet. There are countless thrillers dealing with abduction and women in jeopardy, but far fewer that explore the horror that lingers in such tragic events’ aftermaths. In producer-turned-director Olivia West Lloyd’s feature debut, Somewhere Quiet, Meg (Jennifer Kim) and Scott (Kentucker Audley) are a married couple groping for a new normal following the trauma of Meg’s abduction. Into the middle of this psychologically charged scenario enters Marin Ireland’s character, Madeleine, Scott’s cousin, whose imperious behavior proves all the more re-triggering. — SM

A Strange Path. Experimental filmmaker David (Lucas Limeira) hasn’t stepped foot in his native Brazil for 10 years at the start of A Strange Path, writer-director Guto Parente’s latest. This immediately changes when his breakthrough feature film is accepted to a local film festival close to where he was raised. Upon returning to the country, he is immediately compelled by thoughts of his long-estranged father (Carlos Francisco). When word of the impending COVID pandemic—and the imminent lockdown it threatens—begins to circulate, David extends his stay in Brazil out of a naive belief that the festival will continue shortly after viral hysteria has subsided. When a full-blown quarantine is declared, David is shocked to find himself knocking on his father’s door. Wishing to make the most out of their unplanned reunion, David tries to endear himself to the aging patriarch, who brusquely brushes off his attempt at fostering a relationship. When increasingly bizarre phenomena begin to occur in their midst, David realizes that this extended stay will entail much more than meager attempts at familial bonding. — NK

LaRoy. The spirit of the Coen Brothers hangs over LaRoy, a twisty darkly comedic caper movie that begins with a clever setup (a suicidal Magaro is mistaken for a hit man and given an envelope of cash and an assignment). The cast is stellar — Steve Zahn, Dylan Baker and John Magaro, among others — and the film reps the feature debut of Columbia University Graduate Film Program grad Shane Atkinson, whose previous credits include feature screenplays (one appearing on the Black List) and shorts. (It’s the second of the US in Progress films to premiere at Tribeca.) — SM




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