Tribeca Film Festival: 15Years And Better Than Ever

By Lauren Clarke-Bennett

The Tribeca Film Festival 2016 celebrated yet another year of stellar star studded events, movies, TV, experiential mediums, awards and their new cutting edge addition; Virtual Arcade. The Festival, originally created by Robert DeNiro and Jane Rosenthal to breath life back into downtown Manhattan after 9/11 has more than accomplished that goal and become one of the world’s premier Film Festivals, giving life to the ever expanding fantasies of innovative storytelling.

The Premier of The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea directed by Bill Purple ushered in the Festival as it’s stars Maisie Williams, Jason Sudeikis and Jessica Biel with musical composer Justin Timberlake sailed down the Red Carpet. The heart-felt film depicts an introverted architect played by Sudeikis coming to terms with his charismatic wife’s (Biel) accidental death. Trying to make sense of it all, he befriends a misplaced teen named Millie played by Maisie Williams and sets out to help her build a raft of junk that will sail her across the Atlantic. As their relationship evolves they try to resolve their abandonment issues by finding emotional comfort in each other and wind up discovering themselves.

The festival continued its winning roster with Little Boxes directed by Rob Meyer which tells the story of a bi-racial boy named Clark who moves out west to an all white neighborhood from the urban streets of NYC and discovers that to be accepted, he is expected to act ‘more black’. A touching comedy that deals with racial identity, asks many questions and gives possible answers to this societal quandary. The solid cast including Melanie Lynskey, Nelsan Ellis, Armani Jackson, Oona Laurence, Janeane Garofalo, and Christine Taylor (Marsha Brady & wife of Ben Stiller) brings to life this story of a family struggling to understand themselves in a non-familiar suburban community.

Music producer, record label founder and major DJ, Steve Aoki premiered his documentary I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead at Tribeca 2016 to a standing ovation. He then took to the stage with his infectious energy and performed a masterful DJ set whipping the Beacon Theater audience into a frenzy. This bio-doc directed by Justin Krook, takes an intimate look inside the life of Aoki who is super driven like his charismatic father Rocky of Benihana fame and their strained relationship. The artist’s journey to define his own personal legacy is a powerful force behind his passion and success as one of the world’s most prolific celebrity DJs of all time. A must see for electronic music fans and those who love a good documentary about overcoming adversity to find success — and who doesn’t love one of those?

James Franco and Dominic Rains stars of The Fixer directed by Ian Olds, worked the Tribeca2016 Red Carpet expressing their passion for this project and each other. Rains who superbly plays a starry-eyed ‘Fixer’ that aided journalists in the Afghan war, ventures to Northern California for political-Asylum and the promise of a job. Rain’s character then meets and solicits the help of an eccentric character skillfully played by Franco as he quickly discovers the neighborhood’s own set of dangers. Melissa Leo who plays one of the town’s sheriffs and host to Rain’s character does a splendid job as a mysteriously broken woman disconnected from her family. Together they try to unravel the mysteries at hand and reconcile their own relationships. A must see especially for those who love a good mystery!

Folk Hero & Funny Guy an auto-biographical film by director Jeff Grace, stars Wyatt Russel, Alex Karpovsky and Meredith Hagner as a rag-tag team of quirky performers on tour who become romantically involved only to create a jealous three-way riff. Karpovsky plays a not so hot stand-up comedian who was dumped by his fiance for his inability to live in the real world and persue a stable paying profession. Russell astonishes with his musical performances that seam custom made, as well Hagner is very believable as a talented on the road singer-songwriter. To their credit some of the songs the duo wrote and performed, under the direction of the movie’s music composer Adam Ezra, a long time friend of Grace, were wonderful! For those who enjoy on the road movies and music, this is a sure one to see!

The Family Fang directed by and starring the talented Jason Bateman (Baxter) and Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (Annie), children of artists Caleb and Camille Fang played by Christopher Walken and Maryann Plunket deftly depicts an overly dysfunctional family. As young children Annie and Baxter were incorporated into their parent’s controversial performance art that included bystanders and elaborate hoaxes, evoking negative memories played out in an ugly family dynamic. However when the parents go missing under mysterious circumstance their inspection turns to introspection. A must see for students of the flawed human condition and who love a little mystery.

A festival favorite, Custody by filmmaker James Lapine follows a family court judge played by Oscar winner Viola Davis who has her own marital and child rearing challenges and has to decide on a parental custody case where the facts of domestic violence are not clear. The wrong verdict could destroy a mother played by Catalina Sandino and her too adorable children played by Jaden Michael and Bryce Lorenzo. The talented Hayden Panettiere who is dealing with her grandmother played by Ellen Burstyn’s denial about their family’s domestic abuse issues plays Sandino’s defender up against a love-struck prosecutor portrayed by the ever comedic Dan Fogler. A should see, well executed and complicated issue that needs to be brought to light.

Hologram For The King directed by Tom Tykwer starring Academy Award winner Tom Hanks as a financially strapped salesman finds himself divorced and grasping for a chance to close a ‘big deal’ selling a 3D teleconferencing system to the elusive Saudi King. Hank’s character meets up with a helpful comedic cab driver played by the adorable Alexander Black and a sultry doctor played by the wonderful Sarita Choudhury when he is in need of a lancing and some loving. A should see if you are interested in the Middle Eastern Muslim cultural landscape, coming to terms with life and of course the spectacular Mr. Hanks.

The Festival Hub 2016 pulled out all the stops and featured some of the most ground-breaking experiential storytelling.From virtual reality, interactive installations, films,TV, and talks, these innovative minds have captured a glimpse into the future of the rapidly changing landscape of storytelling. The Virtual Arcade debut at this year’s Festival, expanded its immersive entertainment roster with thirteen additional experiences from leading creative voices in this new genre. Tribeca Storyscapes projects, presented by AT&T hosted the Games and Media Summit which featured both cutting edge installations and Virtual Reality experiences along with Games For Change. A not to be missed experience!

One of Millennium Magazine’s favorite’s, Mr. Robot on USA Network returned to the Tribeca Film Festival after its first season and several awards including a Golden Globe! Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin and Rami Malek toured the Red Carpet and then sat down for a Q & A to discuss the show’s dizzying rise to iconic status at the Hacked by DEF CON; the world’s premier hacker conference held in the Festival’s Hub. A must experience for all who enjoy brilliant psychological and technological drama, not to mention the stellar acting!

Whoopi’s Shorts, premiering at the HUB and curated by Whoopi Goldberg, who spoke on the Tribeca2016 Red Carpet of her love for animation since childhood was excited to premiere her hand picked favorites. The eight mini films described by the festival below and selected from 3500 submissions from around the world, showcased imaginative storytelling at its best raising the craft to a truly legitimate and captivating art-form.

The Orchestra, directed and co-written by Mikey Hill & Jennifer Smith, illustrates the tale of Vernon who always seems to strike the wrong note in a world filled with beautiful harmonious music.

The Loneliest Stoplight, directed and written by Bill Plympton about the life and times of a neglected stoplight that finally gets its day.

Lucens, directed and written by Marcel Barelli is the story of the first 100%, made-in-Switzerland nuclear power plant… and also the last.

Fear, directed by Dawn Dreyer, Andrea Love tells the tale of Dr. Zenglo Chen whose parents disappeared when he was four, victims of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Through Zenglo’s own words the exquisitely hand-drawn in stop motion animation brings to light the tension between fear and safety; faith and psychology; Chinese and American; and acceptance and healing.

Violet, directed by Maurice Joyce, written by Mark Hodkinson is a cautionary tale of a young girl who despises her reflection and her journey of self acceptance.

The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse, directed and written by Camille Chaix, Hugo Jean, Juliette Jourdan, Marie Pillier, Kevin Roger. (France) – US Premiere. A lonesome fox hunts a mouse, when two owls interfere with the hunt, their relationship evolves.

I am a Pencil (Je suis un Crayon), directed and written by Joe D’Arcy was inspired by the three million people who marched in support of unity, peace, and freedom of expression after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

Shiny, directed and written by Daniel Cloud Campos and Spencer Susser concerns a damsel in distress who gets undressed when a man from the Mid-West puts to rest a world that’s obsessed with the priceless, also known as the shiny.

Tribeca Talks ‘Daring Women’ Summit, Powered By The List also took place at the Tribeca 2016 HUB celebrating women of major influence in the arts and technology who have achieved extensive success in their respective fields by following a non-traditional path. Not only have these women broken through the ceiling on their own terms but have constructed major opportunities for other women through support, mentoring, job opportunities and creating a world where women can envision themselves flourishing. For these women risks are a natural option and taking no for an answer is not in their realm of possibilities.

As per the Tribeca website the events began with Full Frontal’s Host Samantha Bee and Producer Allana Harkin with The List’s Rachel Sklar, speakers include Fashion Designer Donna Karan with ABC News Correspondent, Rebecca Jarvis; actress & activist Rosie Perez with Kate Ward, Editor-In-Chief of; Marie Claire’s Executive Editor Lea Goldman with Kathleen Grace, Chief Creative Officer of New Form Digital, HelloGiggles co-founder Sophia Rossi, PYPO Founder Stephanie Laing, Buzzfeed’s Heben Nigatu, and Chief Content Officer for Refinery 29 Amy Emmerich; actress La La Anthony; Google Entertainment Industry Educator in Chief Julie Ann Crommett; ‘Fresh off the Boat’ Showrunner Nahnatchka Khan and New Girl’s Executive Producer Liz Meriwether with Entertainment Weekly’s Danielle Nussbaum; actress Mya Taylor with writer and host Catie Lazarus; costume and production designer Kristi Zea; New York Public Radio’s President & CEO Laura Walker with WNYC’s Death, Sex & Money’s Anna Sale and stand-up comedian, actress, and host Phoebe Robinson;Cindy Gallop, Founder & CEO, MakeLoveNotPorn; Kathryn Minshew, Founder & CEO, The Muse, etc. And in the, not to be missed, online digital segment Party Girl; A scripted comedy co-created by Lisa Schwartz and Lacey Friedman, follows a crazy twenty-ish actress while working with a group of off the chain fully costumed LA party players specializing in kids birthdays. A favorite!

A relatively new category at the Tribeca , brought some outstanding TV shows with their filmmakers and cast to the Festival the least was the surely to be missed The Good Wife on CBS. Creators Michelle and Robert King (Brain Dead) along with its stars Julianna Marguilies, Matt Czuchry and Cush Jumbo graced the Tribeca 2016 Red Carpet talking of their epic run on the beloved series. After screening one of their final episodes, a Q & A ensued that reflected an up beat spin to the shows demise — they all agreed it was time to move on and tackle the next big thing. Well done!

Oprah Winfrey walked the Tribeca Red Carpet with producers and cast for the world premiere of Greenleaf, an original series from OWN. In the new drama slated for June, Winfrey returns to acting in the TV series that takes viewers into the ruthless world of the compelling Greenleaf family’s Memphis mega-church where the sinful is as prevalent as the righteous. After the premiere episode Winfrey and her colleagues participated in a Q&A about her coveted project.

Leading women’s healthcare company Allergan, premiered its female empowerment film series Actually She Can to zealous applauds followed by a panel discussion led by Sarah Jessica Parker with the film’s directors and subjects; Leaders of the Pack, by director Erin Sanger, La Cocinera, by director Emily Harrold and Chromat: Body Electric, by directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg created with Tribeca Digital Studios who graced the screen. After a reception was held at the Hotel Americano, where guests joined to celebrate the films and the movement they represent. Go ladies!

Since 2010 the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards have recognized leading innovators to help solve problems in the technology industrial and intractable sectors that include the arts, education, storytelling, healthcare, de-polarization, economics, civic engagement, religion and spirituality. A few of the well deserved honorees are Nate Parker (Birth Of A Nation) recipient of the Theodore Parker Prize, Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) Composer, Lyricist, Actor and The Suskind Family Ron, Cornelia, Walter and Owen Suskind who advocate and develop autism therapies. The honorees all apply a broad disciplinary approach to creating new business models and disrupting what is acceptable today to find solutions.

Michael Douglas along with the filmmaker’s and music composers walked the closing night’s Red Carpet at Tribeca 2016 in support of perhaps the festival’s most important and ambitious screening yet; The Bomb. Starting with a compelling panel that discussed nuclear proliferation and its consequences, the audience was asked to contemplate the what ifs. A cutting-edge multimedia installation then took place at Gotham Hall with the film projected on 360 degrees of massive screens surrounding the audience, as The Acid performed the score live in the center; immersing the viewers in a cataclysmic world of nuclear weaponry and its unsettling reality of what could actually happen if… A must see for all humanity!

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