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13 Films to Anticipate at the 2024 Tribeca Festival

I'm Your Venus

The Tribeca Festival gets underway today through June 16 with its customary mixture of high-profile panel discussions, starry celebrity docs (tonight’s opening night is Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Trish Dalton’s Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge), new media work and American and international acquisition titles hoping to attract the eye of buyers. About the new media work, Tribeca Immersive has shied away entirely from the sort of VR/AR pieces that dominated recent Tribeca festivals, opting instead to present eight immersive art pieces at Mercer Labs. Additionally, there’s a (somewhat) controversial partnership with Open AI that will screen shorts made using the company’s Sora text-to-video AI model; filmmakers include two 25 New Faces from this magazine, Nikyatu Jusu and Ellie Foumbi, and the screening has been called by tech critics “a big mainstream moment for AI.” Among the talks this year are Gus Van Sant in dialogue with Vito Schnabel; Judd Apatow with Matthew Broderick; and Laverne Cox with Jet Toomer. But of course, we want to point you to those independent features, with the below list of 13 we think are worthy of your attention containing quite a few acquisition titles.

Vulcanizadora. The last time independent stalwart Joel Potrykus entered the Michigan cinematic woodlands was for his 2016 picture, The Alchemist’s Cookbook. It was such a stressful experience, he wrote for us, that he threw up every morning before going on set. The director, a kind of Midwestern poet laureate of American anxieties, self-loathing and internalized rejection, stayed indoors for his next film, the Y2K drama Relaxer, but has now ventured out again. “Two friends trudge through a Michigan forest with the intention of following through on a disturbing pact,” reads the synopsis. “After they fail, one of them must return home to deal with the legal and emotional repercussions.” Potrykus is a true independent following a singular vision, so this is one of the Festival’s must-sees. — Scott Macaulay

Slave Play. Not a Movie. A Play. We’ll have to see it before weighing in on whether Jeremy O. Harris’s debut picture is any kind of substitute for those who missed his catalytic Slave Play in its Off-Broadway and then Broadway run. Billed as both a “self-portrait” and a deconstruction, however, it’s fair to assume that Harris has directed his considerable critical acumen and sense of formal experimentation back on himself and his process making one of recent theater’s most celebrated accomplishments. — SM

Between the Temples. It’s rare to see a comedy immediately get going in its first shot as Between the Temples does—no credits, throat-clearing establishing shots or slow unveiling of protagonists, instead a slow zoom out introducing cantor Ben (Jason Schwartzman) being cornered at the dinner table by his moms Meira (Caroline Aaron) and Judith (Dolly De Leon). The two mothers lovingly hector him (this movie operates at dizzying levels of Jewishness), saying it’s time to seek out a doctor for his problem: following the death of his alcoholic novelist wife, Ben is a cantor who can’t sing. This gives Temples a surprisingly normal throughline to structure itself around—Ben must re-find his voice, a metaphor requiring zero time to explicate, with help from an Unlikely Friendship of the kind axiomatic to a certain stamp of indie film. In this case, Ben’s unexpectedly reunited at a bar with his elementary school music teacher Carla (Carol Kane), who never got to have a bat mitzvah. Now she wants one; Ben will prepare her for it, in the process learning as much from his student as she does from him, etc. Simple enough, but director Nathan Silver and co-writer C. Mason Wells quickly start scribbling disparate thematic and comic elements over this familiar arc. — Vadim Rizov

S/He Is Still Her/e – The Official Genesis P-Orridge Documentary. Whether it’s used as explanation or as a sort of challenge, the “official” contained in the title of David Charles Rodrigues’s documentary about the late artist, musician and provocateur Genesis P-Orridge signposts much of what you’ll find here: first-person interview footage, a wealth of archival material going back to her early days with art group COUM Transmissions, and intimate, quite touching talks with daughters Genesse P-Orridge and Caresse P-Orridge, who, along with Against Me! Founder Laura Jane Grace and others, are executive producers. A previous doc on P-Orridge, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, was completed in the sad aftermath of the passing of Lady Jaye Breyer-P-Orridge, the artist’s life partner and collaborator in their Pandrogyny Project. This one is also infused with an awareness of mortality as it was shot entirely following the artist’s terminal leukemia diagnosis. The film speaks to legacy, memory and the ways in which an artistic life, particularly one with as many stages and dimensions as P-Orridge’s, is remembered. — Scott Macaulay

Sabbath Queen. Filmmaker and activist Sandi Dubowski has been working for 21 years on Sabbath Queen, his follow-up to his arresting 2001 doc, Trembling Before G-d. The subject is Rabbi Amichai Lau-Levie, described as a “queer, ex-orthodox, Israeli-born former radical faerie and 39th generation conservative rabbi,” and the doc follows him through his founding of the “experimental, pop-up synagogue Lab/Shul,” through his practicing of interfaith weddings until, finally, his support for Palestinian cause in Gaza creates a breach with conservative members of his rabbinical community. — SM

McVeigh. The more sinister side of ‘90s nostalgia has manifested in moving image content with looks back at the Unabomber (2021’s Ted K) and the Waco siege (two miniseries starring Michael Shannon). Now, for his first feature since 2017’s California Dreams, Mike Ott returns with a look at Timothy McVeigh, played here by Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen, with noted Zionist belligerent Brett Gelman as his co-conspirator Terry Nichols. It’s an unsavory premise and package, but Ott is a talented filmmaker whose previous track record of maintaining a steely gaze in the face of discomfort (as in his 2016 Actor Martinez, co-directed with fellow Tribeca ’24 director Nathan Silver) bodes promisingly for this slice of reconstructed Americana.—VR

All That We Love. Various forms of grief — over the loss of a pet, and all that pet symbolizes; partner loss; and of intimate relationships — are explored in Austin-based filmmaker Yen Tan’s latest film. In addition to his filmmaking, Tan is known for his independent film graphic and poster work, and for this film, a follow-up to his 2018 coming-out drama 1985, he’s cast the multi-hyphenate Margaret Cho in a film that leavens its heavy subject matter with humor and a feeling of informed wisdom. — SM

The French Italian. Rachel Wolther made our 25 New Faces list alongside directing partner Alex H. Fischer in 2017 following the 40-minute musical Snowy Bing Bongs Across the North American Combat Zone. This self-professed “theater nerd” is solo for her feature debut, The French Italian, which contains a theatrical subplot within a tale that revolves around the very specific trials of New York apartment living. Comedian Ruby McCollister and Euphoria actress Chloe Cherry are among the ensemble cast and in the producing team is Miranda Kahn, who essayed the work involved in setting up an independent production company for us several issues back. — SM

Bitterroot. Vera Brunner-Sung, whose work traverses experimental film, documentary and criticism, world premieres her sophomore narrative feature, Bitterroot in Tribeca’s U.S. Narrative Competition. A story of midlife change within Montana’s Hmong community occurs against a backdrop of environment destruction caused by wildfire. — SM

Witches. British documentary director Elizabeth Sankey’s previous film was Romantic Comedy, that both celebrated and cast a critical eye on the genre, asking, “Why does the woman always have to be saved by a man?” Witches, her Tribeca-premiering follow-up, also distributed by MUBI, is quite change-up, intertwining the author’s own experiences with postpartum depression with an essayistic look at how witches have been portrayed throughout Western history as well as in film. Said Sankey, ““I started making Witches soon after being released from the psychiatric ward [for postpartum illness] as a way of trying to process what had happened to me,” said Sankey. “I researched the history of women in medicine and found they were once the main healers in their communities, but that ended with the 16th century witch trials. I also read about the women of this period who “confessed” to being witches without torture. Their symptoms were the same as mine — depression, suicidal ideation, and the pressure to be a good mother. I realized how little has changed — women still struggle to ask for help because they’re ashamed, or don’t understand what they are feeling.” — SM

It Was All a Dream. Filmmaker and critic dream hampton, whose previous feature was the Netflix doc Surviving R. Kelley, goes deep within her hard drives, remastering footage shot when she was at The Source in the early ’90s. Notorious B.I.G., Method Man and Dr. Dre are among the subjects of this look at a hip hop golden age that is also a chronicle of hampton’s own early days as a filmmaker. — SM

I’m Your Venus. Kimberly, Reed, a Filmmaker 25 New Face from 2007, extends the story of a foundational American independent documentary, Paris is Burning, with her new true crime film. I’m Your Venus returns to the early ’90s setting of that picture and then travels forward to the present day as it narrates the unsolved murder of Venus Xtravaganza, one of the earlier film’s central subjects. “35 years later, the spotlight is back on Venus as her two families — biological and ballroom — stand united to discover the truth, challenge the system and honor the legacy of their sister,” writes Matt Dy in the Tribeca program book. Among the executive producers is Jennie Livingston, Paris is Burning‘s director. — SM

Some Rain Must Fall. Following its world premiere in the Encounters section of this year’s Berlinale, Qiu Yang’s feature directorial debut makes its North American premiere. Shot in academy ratio by Constanze Schmitt, the DP of the writer-director’s acclaimed and fest-traveled shorts, the Chinese co-production’s trailer promises a moodily atmospheric, slow cinema-style visual strategy while following a mother and housewife having a breakdown after she accidentally injures an older woman at her daughter’s basketball game.—VR

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