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Our 10 most anticipated films from the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca 2021

America’s first furtive step into returning to in-person film festivals, Tribeca is coming soon — and here’s what we’re looking forward to.

As more and more people get vaccinated, COVID cases drop, and the world starts to take its first furtive steps back out into theaters, it was only a matter of time before film festivals would follow suit. And here we are with this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9-20 in in-person screenings across all five boroughs in New York City, with a virtual component running simultaneously.

It’s an exciting and daunting endeavor, a sign that The Movies May Be Back, Baby; and with the fifty-plus features playing at the fest, alongside a host of shorts, TV presentations, and the like, there’s plenty to look forward to. Here’s a sample of the things we want to see most. (And yes, we know In the Heights is opening the fest — we’ll have our own review on that soon.) [Clint Worthington, founder and editor-in-chief]

All These Sons

Bing Liu’s debut, the mesmerizing, personal Minding the Gap, is one of the best documentary debuts of the 21st century, so you’d better believe I’m in the bag for his next one. Not just as a fan, mind you, but as a Chicagoan, as All These Sons tracks the efforts two young men who work to uplift young, at-risk Black youth on the city’s impoverished West and South Sides. Liu’s filmmaking is intimate and achingly humanistic, and I can’t wait to see how he treats one of the most pervasive, systemic issues in my city. [Clint Worthington]

False Positive

Broad City’s Ilana Glazer breaks out of her comedy mold to play an expectant mother who struggles with both fear of impending parenthood and paranoia about her doctor (Pierce Brosnan) in John Lee’s thriller, co-starring Justin Theroux and Gretchen Mol. Considering Lee’s background in such surreal comedy as Wonder Showzen and The Heart, She Holler, False Positive offers the promise of a touch of absurdness that will put it above its Lifetime Movie of the Week premise. [Gena Radcliffe]

How It Ends

It’s the end of the world, and loner Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones), in a quest to make amends with friends and family before it’s all over, has a series of bizarre encounters with strangers she meets on her journey. This dark comedy was shot during the pandemic, and features such familiar faces as Fred Armisen, Nick Kroll and Olivia Wilde. A movie with an end of the world theme may seem ill-timed right now, but one hopes that laughing in the face of it is the first step towards healing. [Gena Radcliffe]

Italian Studies

Fresh off her Academy Award nomination for Pieces of a Woman (a campaign no doubt complicated by the revelation of co-star Shia LaBeouf’s abusive behavior), Vanessa Kirby is right back on her beat of playing mercurial, strangely beautiful characters in Adam Leon’s Italian Studies. Here, she plays a nameless woman who wanders through the streets of Manhattan with a charismatic teenager (Simon Brickner). We don’t know much apart from that, but Kirby’s sure to anchor the proceedings with her typical post-human allure. [Clint Worthington]

Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story

For women who came of age in the 80s and 90s, Jackie Collins’ lavish novels were a raunchy introduction to female sexuality. Collins never wrote her women characters as meek and passive: they knew what they wanted, and how to get it, often with the same kind of ambition and duplicitousness that men have been allowed to get away with for years. Laura Fairrie’s affectionate documentary takes a look at Collins’ life from struggling actress to bestselling author, her dedication to glamour and high style often masking a difficult private life. [Gena Radcliffe]

No Sudden Move

After his millionth claim that he’s retiring from filmmaking, Steven Soderbergh is back in the saddle again with his latest, a period crime thriller about a group of small-time criminals in ’50s Detroit hired to steal a document, and the trouble they get into when it turns out to be more than what it seems. The cast is a veritable who’s-who, from Don Cheadle to Benicio del Toro to Ray Liotta to Brendan Fraser and Julia Fox. Come on! Count me in for more Ocean’s 11-style intrigue. [Clint Worthington]

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Morgan Neville’s latest documentary is a portrait of culinary rebel Anthony Bourdain, a man whose zest and curiosity towards food leaves gourmands like me in mourning on a regular basis. Neville works best with these kinds of loving portraits of people who touched the lives of the public in ways they don’t even understand (20 Feet from Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?), so seeing him tackle such an earnestly prickly titan of pop culture has us thrilled. [Clint Worthington]

Roaring ’20s

We’re not likely to look back on the summer of 2020 with any particular affection, since most of us were stuck in our homes trying to maintain some shred of normalcy. Elisabeth Vogler did what seemed to be unthinkable: she made a movie during that time period, filming individual people both in their everyday lives and interacting with the strangers they encounter. A slice of life story at a time when we’re slowly returning to some semblance of it, Roaring 20s seems as though it will remind the viewer of both what they still have, and what’s tragically been lost. [Gena Radcliffe]

Shapeless

Ivy (Kelly Murtagh, who wrote the script) is a New Orleans singer who struggles with an eating disorder that slowly takes over her life, turning her into something altogether new, different and horrifying. Samantha Aldana’s debut horror feature addresses female body image in a way never seen before, as a monster that destroys everything in its path, leaving only bones behind. [Gena Radcliffe]

Ultrasound

We’re suckers for weird, high-concept horror at The Spool, so it’ll be a treat to get a look at Rob Schroeder’s feature film debut, a sure-to-be-twisty sci-fi headscratcher based on a graphic novel by screenwriter Conor Stechschulte and starring Mad Men‘s Vincent Kartheiser. Following the stories of three disparate characters — a young man seeking refuge at a strange couple’s house following a car crash, a woman reeling from an abusive relationship, and a medical professional participating in a strange experiment — Ultrasound seems like it’ll be in the Twilight Zone/Black Mirror mold, but this time with Pete Campbell. Not great, Bob! [Clint Worthington]

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CategoriesTribeca 2021