Tribeca 2021: 14 Must-See Festival Films and Events You Can Attend or Stream at Home

This year, the festival will host both in-person and virtual events, thanks to a robust lineup of new projects. Here are some of the best bets.
Tribeca 2021: 14 Most Anticipated Festival Films and Events
Tribeca Film Festival

Consider it a celebration with something of an asterisk: in-person film festivals are back! But so are virtual components, making some of the year’s biggest cinematic events both safe and accessible for an even wider audience to enjoy them. After a cancelled 2020 edition and a delayed 2021 event, the Tribeca Festival is bellying up for a hybrid event with a major in-person edge, with lots to watch, no matter in which manner you choose to consume it.

In March, the festival announced that it would “transform prominent locations into an expansive 12-day multi-screen outdoor celebration” held this month, and is believed to be first major North American film festival to mount such an in-person event.

Director Jon M. Chu’s long-awaited “In the Heights,” adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, will open the 20th anniversary edition of Tribeca on June 9. The festival will also celebrate the world premiere of Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” as its Centerpiece selection on June 18, with the world premiere of an untitled Dave Chappelle-produced documentary, produced and directed by Oscar- and Emmy-winning “American Factory” filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, set to close it out on June 19. The festival has also announced its full features, short films, and television lineups.

Curious about how to re-create all the fun of Tribeca at home? Public tickets and passes for both in-person and virtual events are on sale now, and our handy guide as to how to enjoy the festival from home is available right here. The festival kicks off later this week and runs June 9 through June 20.

Want to join in on the excitement? Ahead, we’ve picked out 14 films and events, both in-person and virtual, that highlight the best of what Tribeca has to offer.

Eric Kohn, Anne Thompson, David Ehrlich, Ryan Lattanzio, and Zack Sharf contributed to this article.

“12 Mighty Orphans”

Texas filmmaker Ty Roberts directs this Depression-era true story adapted from the 2007 Jim Dent bestseller. Luke Wilson stars as World War I vet Rusty Russell, an innovative high school football coach hired by the Texas Freemasons to transform a dozen scrawny Fort Worth orphan losers into the winning Mighty Mites. Robert Duvall, who scored an Oscar nomination for a similar role in basketball drama “Hoosiers,” costars with Martin Sheen and Wayne Knight. This formula has worked before, and may work again. —AT

“A-Ha the Movie”

Synth pop was never the same, in Scandinavia or elsewhere, after the arrival of the trio A-Ha, the threesome of vocalist Morten Harket, keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, and guitarist Pål Waktaar-Savoy. Though formed in Oslo in 1982, the band exploded in 1985 with a catchy little tune by the name of “Take on Me,” a seismic moment for pop music that turned the three Norwegians into heartthrobs and icons.

But that meteoric rise to success never comes without complication, which Thomas Robsahm’s documentary “A-ha: The Movie” wants to explore using new interviews with the band and never-seen-until-now archival footage. The infighting among the members makes for juicy fodder, but the documentary is really about their creative process, and all that went in to creating an arsenal of insatiably catchy synth pop hooks. —RL

“All These Sons”

“All These Sons”

Bing Liu’s autobiographical skateboarding doc “Minding the Gap” was such a revelation because of the empathy it offered to its subjects and the access they offered to the film in return. Now an established name with a modern classic under his belt, Liu has teamed up with “Minding the Gap” editor Joshua Altman for a film that pledges to approach inner-city Chicago with the same patience and compassion — and a similar three-pronged focus.

Following three young men as they make their way through a self-help program run by survivors (and perpetrators) of gun violence, “All These Sons” unpacks the generational cycles of bloodshed and trauma with a presumably similar approach to the one that Liu used to examine the hurt he inherited in his own life. —DE

“Bernstein’s Wall”

More than 30 years after his death, Leonard Bernstein’s legacy continues to resonate, with his compositions performed around the world and Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” due in theaters at the end of the year. Before we get there, however, director Douglas Tirola’s “Bernstein’s Wall” helps set the stage.

An absorbing account of the Bernstein’s historic rise, as the child of Russian Jewish immigrants who got his big break as an assistant conductor at the age of 25, Tirola’s pure archival immersion into Bernstein’s saga exclusively relies on the composer’s own words to tell his story. The movie veers from intriguing insights into his creative process to the profound humanism that propelled him through public life (and put him squarely in the crosshairs of Richard Nixon). Through it all, Tirola resurrects Bernstein’s talent by letting the man speak for himself, and make a compelling case for the timeless nature of his talent. —EK

“Brighton 4th”

Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” set a high bar for stories of aging, broken wrestlers with personal lives as messy as their antics in the ring, but “Brighton 4th” seems poised to hit the same notes with its own angle. Georgian director Levan Koguashvili (whose “Street Days” was the country’s 2010 Oscar entry) stars as real-life Olympic wrestling veteran Levan Tediashvili as a wrestling champion who visits his son in Brooklyn, only to discover that the young man has fallen into a dangerous debt with the local mob.

Forced to reconcile his tough-guy past with the fragile responsibilities he feels as a father, Tediashvili character is swept up in a perilous attempt to save his family — and his own way of life. Tribeca often has a few international gems hiding in its International Narrative Competition, and this immigrant drama stands a good chance of being the one this time. —EK

“Catch the Fair One”

U.S. Narrative Competition world premiere “Catch the Fair One” hails from some serious talent. First off, it’s directed by Josef Wladyka, who’s helmed episodes of AMC’s intensely atmospheric horror series “The Terror,” as well as entries for “Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico,” and “Fear the Walking Dead.” (His film “Manos Sucias” also won Tribeca in 2014.) It’s also not only produced by newly-minted Oscar winner Mollye Asher, behind the camera on “Nomadland,” “The Rider,” and “Swallow” — the film even has the imprimatur of one Darren Aronofsky, here serving as an executive producer.

The film follows a Native American woman and former boxer gone in search of her missing sister, but her quest tangles her in a human trafficking demimonde that provides rippling suspense and an emotional backdrop. Bringing verisimilitude to the table, the protagonist is played by a real life U.S. boxing world champion, Kali Reis. —RL

False Positive
“False Positive”Hulu/screenshot

“False Positive”

Leave it to “Broad City” stars and creators Abbi Jacobsen and Ilana Glazer to keep impressing audiences with some wholly unexpected and totally delightful post-show choices. Jacobsen recently gave charming voice to the teenage star of Netflix hit “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” and her partner in crime and comedy seems poised to be just as revelatory in a very different project indeed. What can’t they do?

“False Positive” offers its own “Broad City” team-up, hinting at the sly comedy underneath a very dark premise: it’s co-written by Glazer alongside John Lee (who directs the film after helming a few episodes of the Comedy Central series), and Glazer stars in the feature with big names like Justin Theroux and Pierce Brosnan. Already drawing comparisons to “Rosemary’s Baby,” “False Positive” sets Glazer and Theroux as a pair of would-be parents who employ the techniques of a world-famous fertility doc (Brosnan), only for Glazer’s Lucy to realize that something is very, very wrong indeed with both their kiddo and the man who helped bring her into the world. The film will debut at the festival and then start streaming on Hulu. —KE

“Mark, Mary & Some Other People”

Prolific young filmmaker Hannah Marks is no stranger to the festival world, appearing in indie hits like “Southbound,” “I Used to Go Here,” and “Banana Split,” and that’s just on the acting side of her already-robust resume. In 2018, Marks bowed her feature directorial debut (alongside co-directer Joey Power) “After Everything” at the SXSW Film Festival, and her latest, “Mark, Mary & Some Other People” is now set for a debut at Tribeca. Marks is a student of relationships on the brink of, well, something; while “After Everything” focused on a young couple dealing with a terrible illness, her latest follows a young couple handling something with a touch more fun: what happens after they “open” up their romance (you know, to other people).

Starring Ben Rosenfeld (as Mark!) and Hayley Law (as Mary!), alongside Lea Thompson, Gillian Jacobs, Kelli Berglund, Esther Povitsky, Odessa A’zion, Nik Dodani, and many more (some other people!), the film follows its young lovers as they attempt to navigate tough emotional waters once they decide to open up their relationship, err, after they’ve gotten married. Marks’ latest promises to be funny, thorny, sexy, weird, and very real in equal measure, continuing to establish her as one of our best and brightest rising stars. —KE

“No Man of God”

Serial killer stories have been all the rage over the last few years, and Ted Bundy — whose reputation as being “pretty hot for someone who murdered at least 30 women” continues to serve him well in the public consciousness — has already been the subject of so many films that the one where he was played by Zac Efron hardly stands out from the pack. And yet Amber Sealey’s “No Man of God” promises to offer something new, or to at least retread familiar ground with a focused intensity that brings this particular case study of American evil back to life.

The prospect of watching two actors as skilled and enigmatic as Elijah Wood and Luke Kirby square off in a jail cell for 100 minutes is so enticing that it hardly matters what they’re doing there, but for the interest of context: Wood plays FBI analyst Bill Hagmaier, a career profiler who returns to Florida State Prison time and again between 1984-1989 to interview Bundy (Kirby) and discover what makes him tick. Over time, the two develop a deeply uncomfortable friendship that’s rooted in the cold truth of the transcripts from their conversations. Whatever is left to tell of Bundy’s story, Sealey’s film seems poised to find it. —DE

“No Sudden Move”Claudette Barius

“No Sudden Move”

Director-cinematographer-editor Soderbergh could use a thumbs up from critics and audiences after his Oscar show fell flat. He originally called this original fifties crime thriller by “Men in Black” scribe Ed Solomon “Kill Switch.” Various actors moved in and out of the ensemble when filming was delayed by the pandemic. Star Don Cheadle stuck with the movie about a group of criminals who assemble in turbulent Detroit for a job and then try to extricate themselves from a dangerous set-up.

Jon Hamm, Benicio del Toro, Ray Liotta, Amy Seimetz, David Harbour, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Noah Jupe, Bill Duke, and Matt Damon joined the cast when filming got under way on September 28 in Detroit. After its Triebca premiere, the film will bow on HBO Max on July 1. —AT

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain”

Much of the world appreciated Anthony Bourdain during the final years of his career, though few could classify his talent. Culinary journalist? Travel writer? Food critic? No-nonsense rabble-rouser with a cinematic eye for detail? Bourdain was all of that and more, right down to his tragic suicide in 2018. From his early fame as the author of the best-selling “Kitchen Confidential” memoir through the crossover TV hits he found as host of “Parts and Unknown” and “No Reservations,” Bourdain used the endless rabbit hole of food — and the people who make it — as a Trojan horse for exploring the world inside out, asking profound questions about community and cultural relationships through the intimidate filter of his inimitable personality.

Three years after his death, the mythology of that achievement is daunting in its scope, and difficult to parse. Enter Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville, who has some experience in this area (his recent subjects include Orson Welles and Fred Rogers). For “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” Neville chronicles Bourdain’s meteoric rise while digging into the complex relationship between his private and professional lives — as well as their fundamental incompatibility. Driven by ample footage and revealing accounts by Bourdain’s close collaborators, “Roadrunner” doesn’t provide the last word on Bourdain’s talent (only he could do that), but it explains the nature of his drive with a nuance and candor worthy of the man himself. —EK

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain”Focus Features

Reunion Screenings and Events

One reliable source of buzz for the Tribeca Film Festival each year is its robust assortment of reunion screenings and events, from the cast of “The Godfather” coming together on stage at Radio City Music Hall to Quentin Tarantino joining his “Reservoir Dogs” ensemble cast at the Beacon Theater. The reunions in 2021 will surely not disappoint.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Best Picture Oscar winner “Fargo,” Joel Coen will participate in a conversation with Frances McDormand (who won the Oscar for Best Actress with her performance in the film) and Steve Buscemi. Come for the look back at one of the defining films of American independent cinema and possibly get some teases at Coen and McDormand’s next project, the upcoming “Tragedy of Macbeth.”

Wes Anderson will also be heading to Tribeca ahead of a new release (“The French Dispatch,” premiering at Cannes in July before an October theatrical release) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of “The Royal Tenenbaums” by reuniting with stars Alec Baldwin, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Anjelica Huston, and Danny Glover. Throw in a conversation between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro before a screening of “Raging Bull” and you have three cast-miss reunions coming to Tribeca 2021. —ZS

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