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Watch a Decade of Tribeca from Your Couch: Ten Years of Festival Gems

Watch a Decade of Tribeca from Your Couch: Ten Years of Festival Gems

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival is officially under way and if you don’t live in the immediate New York area (or don’t feel like taking your chosen form of transportation to get there), there’s still a way to be part of the festivities. Fortunately, many of the titles from past years are now available to stream through a variety of platforms. 

For each of the past ten years, we picked a title that you can currently watch from the comfort of your living room. So, if your weekend plans don’t involve an impulsive flight to LaGuardia, here are ten choices to add to your various viewing queues.

2006: Cocaine Cowboys


Director: Billy Corben
Where to Watch: Netflix
Few documentaries capture the feel of a bygone decade better than the way Corben evokes the synth-bass, sun-drenched, neon and hairspray explosion at the height of Miami’s 1980s drug boom. More than just a series of lurid tales from inside the cocaine trafficking and distribution network of South Florida, “Cocaine Cowboys” widens its scope to look at how the runaway business helped to prop up an entire city’s economy. Doctors, bankers, pilots, car dealers and supermodels all populate the intricate network that helped give rise to what eventually became an epidemic. When the film eventually fixates on the army of hitmen controlled by Colombian drug lord queenpin Griselda Blanco, it’s able to show the brutal aftermath without feeling like violent exploitation. Throughout the film, as interview subjects debunk certain drug movie tropes, residents detail the “Miami Vice”-ification of their city and news reporters recall the public’s desensitization to frequent mass murders, it also serves as a reminder of the media’s hand in shaping our perceptions of events happening outside our immediate environments. – Steve Greene 

2007: Shotgun Stories


Director: Jeff Nichols
Where to Watch: Hulu
Between the warring family members and the life-altering actions that happen largely off-screen, there’s something awfully Shakespearean about Nichols’ moving debut. What begins as more of a series of sketches about working-class Arkansas life slowly focuses on the simmering tensions left in the wake of a fractured family’s dead patriarch. As two sets of brothers become factions in a fight for the memory of the man who helped foster their lingering resentment, the escalating battle leaves no man unchanged. In the middle of a career-defining year for Nichols (with “Midnight Special” in theaters and “Loving” set to bow at Cannes), this film establishes a strong foundation for the visual and storytelling style that ripples through the rest of his filmography and some of his contemporaries (see: Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin”). Nichols patiently examines each brother’s circumstances, with his longtime front-of-camera collaborator Michael Shannon at the forefront, making the upheaval of their family dynamic all the more gutting. Add in the beautiful, cello-tinged strains of Lucero’s “Hold Me Close” and a rare Corliss Williamson reference and you have one of the better first features in recent memory. – SG

2008: Let the Right One In


Director: Tomas Alfredson
Where to Watch: iTunes and VOD
Few films are as chilling, in both meanings of the word, as Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In.” The Swedish vampire romance is not just frighteningly unsettling, but makes you cold to the very bone, creating a setting that is just as important to the film’s effect as the characters. It is not just the snow-trodden countryside that allows the warmth of the relationship between a 12-year-old boy and a hundreds-years-old vampire in a young girls body to glow. The romance between leads Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson is built on misdirection, but palpable chemistry soon gives way to understanding. And where forbidden love blooms, heartbreak is soon to follow. Rarely can a film straddle genre lines so well while still appealing to diehard horror fans. Yet, despite its genre-film trappings, “Let The Right One In” is a touching love story. In taking home the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature at 2008’s festival, “Let the Right One In” won audiences over with its cold but tender heart. – Bryn Gelbart

2009: In the Loop


Director: Armando Iannucci
Where to Watch: Netflix
There’s obviously nothing funny about war, but “In the Loop” certainly makes for one of the most electrifying and gut-busting satire about politics that we’ve ever seen. After casually remarking that “war is unforeseeable” in an interview, British cabinet minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) finds himself in a publicity crisis as his words are spun out of control in the media. Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), professional crisis handler and communications director, attempts to save the day before it’s too late. However, Foster’s silly, off-the-cuff comment finds its way to government officials in the United States. Tucker and his team are then sent across the pond to meet with American politicians, only to find themselves in increasingly more trouble and chaos as the film spins into both a war of words and a small-scale war of action. Ridiculously funny, clever and exciting, “In the Loop” remains a true blue Tribeca classic. – Nix Santos

2010: The Arbor


Director: Clio Barnard
Where to Watch: Amazon
Subject and craft line up beautifully in this semi-documentary examination of the childhood and early work of the late, noted British playwright Andrea Dunbar. Audio interviews with Dunbar, her family and other inhabitants of Bradford, West Yorkshire who knew her come to life through lip-synced performances and minimalist recreations. Amidst tales of discrimination, abandonment and perseverance, Bradford becomes a living ghost, playing host to the memories of Dunbar’s fractured upbringing. The actors’ direct address of the camera gradually shift from confessional stares to furtive pleas to be rescued or, at the very least, acknowledged. As Dunbar, Marjinder Virk communicates years of abuse, neglect and latent hope through simple movements and broken glances. It’s a mesmerizing evocation of Dunbar’s work, rooted in such careful consideration of her life that the reenactment choices don’t feel like gimmickry. (Barnard’s narrative directorial follow-up, “The Selfish Giant,” is also available on Netflix.) – SG

2011: Jiro Dreams of Sushi


Director: David Gelb
Where to Watch: Netflix
This is sushi like you’ve never seen or (most likely) had before. In the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” we are introduced to Jiro Ono, a sushi master, legend and obsessive. Ever since his youth, Jiro has been enamored by the delicate art of the dish. Now at 85, the man has spent his entire life striving for perfection. His restaurant, Sukibyabashi Jiro, is a three-star Michelin restaurant, with meals averaging almost $300 and a waitlist as long as the one for “Hamilton.” Beyond his success as a sushi pro, the film also explores Jiro’s complicated relationship with his two sons, both of whom are fighting to leave their own name and legacy in the world of sushi. The film is not only engrossing and thoughtful, but it is also beautifully captured. You’ll be salivating with every breathtaking shot of Jiro’s gorgeous creations, whether or not you even liked sushi to begin with. – NS

2012: Take This Waltz


Director: Sarah Polley
Where to Watch: Netflix
Sarah Polley’s second feature film, “Take This Waltz” tells the story of Margot (Michelle Williams), a freelance writer married to cookbook author Lou (Seth Rogen). After five blissful years with her husband, Margot encounters an artist named Daniel (Luke Kirby) one fateful day on a plane, only for him to turn out to be the couple’s new neighbor. As the prospect of this exciting new relationship with Daniel enters her life, Margot is left to explore the depths of her desires, ultimately having to choose between what she already has and what she could have. “Take This Waltz” is more than just about a marriage at risk; it’s about the consequences of the choices we make, what we make of those results and how we test the boundaries of the lingering sensation of fleeting connections. – NS

2013: Cutie and the Boxer


Director: Zachary Heinzerling
Where to Watch: iTunes and VOD
“Cutie and the Boxer” is a candid portrait of a decades-long marriage between two artists with slightly different degrees of success. After Noriko became pregnant just a few months after meeting Ushio at 19, the relationship between the two had become as permanent as oil on canvas. 40 years of marriage later, there still remains a lot to be explored between the couple. We witness the dominance Ushio has placed over Noriko throughout the course of their relationship, as she as set aside her own aspirations aside to raise their son and serve her husband’s every need. Noriko’s very own talents as an artist are eventually highlighted, proving that she is worth far more than the shadows she’d been living in. Heinzerling makes “Cutie and the Boxer” a captivating documentary about female empowerment, while navigating that delicate balance between two very different personalities. – NS

2014: 1971


Director: Johanna Hamilton
Where to Watch: Netflix
Corporate espionage used to be so much more hands-on. What used to involve people slinking around in darkness holding flashlights in their mouths as they flicked through files has slowly evolved to something that can be done while sitting in bed in pajamas thousands of miles away. Johanna Hamilton’s directorial debut, “1971” explores the Watergate before Watergate, tapping into a certain romanticism attached to the old ways of handling intel gathering. There’s a danger—a rush—that’s associated with the illegal world of backdoor reconnaissance, particularly when it’s associated with the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, and organized crime. In the years leading up to Nixon’s shameful scandal, a little-known group calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI (CCIF) broke into a bureau office and ransacked it for information, some of which remains controversial to this day. From FBI surveillance cover-ups to government draft-dodgers, the CCIF discovered facts about the US government that few could believe at the time. In the age of privacy debate, from Snowden’s whistleblowing to the recent Panama Papers, Hamilton’s documentary “1971” could easily be called “2016.” – Riyad Mammadyarov

2015: Slow West


Director: John Maclean
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
At first glance, a classic Western directed by a Scotsman doesn’t seem like a likely combination. However, director John Maclean inserts just enough of classic Western iconography into his slightly strange tale about love and camaraderie. Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as a young Scottish aristocrat searching for his long, lost love in middle America. Joined by an always-charismatic Michael Fassbender, the two partner up for the journey. The eclectic coming-of-age story may lag at certain moments, but a slow-drawling, Eastwood-channeling, effortlessly cool Fassbender certainly makes it worth the watch. – Kristen Santer

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