The 2021 Tribeca Festival, ostensibly held in New York City, is this year also an online affair, with many features available to home viewers across the U.S. Narrative films, documentaries, shorts programs, TV features and filmmaker Q&As will be available to stream from their premiere dates through June 23.
Of the films previewed at press time, here are some highlights premiering June 13-14. More reviews will follow in the coming days. [You can, which are also available to watch at home through June 23.]
“Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres” (World Premiere) – Despite having stopped working for Rolling Stone 40 years ago, Ben Fong-Torres’ imprint on the rock music scene, and on music journalism, was so great that it could not but be the centerpiece of Suzanne Joe Kai’s affectionate tribute, which spends much of its running time on the years when Fong-Torres’ work as an editor and writer helped the fledgling magazine define itself as the premier music periodical. A perceptive look at this keen critic and lover of rock, flavored by audio from his archived interview tapes and by his reunions with such artists as Elton John and Carlos Santana, the film also explores Fong-Torres’ coming of age, his Asian American identity, his attraction to writing, and how the murder of his brother, Barry, a community activist, colored his life and his work. Screens June 13 at the Battery; available At Home June 14-23.
“The Lost Leonardo” (World Premiere) – Less a “whodunnit” than a “whattheheckhappened,” Andreas Koefoed’s art world mystery follows the latter-day provenance of “Salvator Mundi,” a 500-year-old painting of Christ that turned up in New Orleans in 2005 and was purported to have been the work of the master, Leonardo da Vinci. Was it? Opinions certainly differ, even after it was sold for $450 million to a mystery buyer. The film, which uses interviews and reenactments to portray the journey of the now-missing painting, not only burrows into the pride and passion of art connoisseurs, academics, museum curators and auction house movers-and-shakers, but also into human greed, tax havens, Saudi royalty, and the vengeance of Russian oligarchs. Pass the popcorn. Screens June 13 at the Battery; available At Home June 14-23.
Watch a clip from “The Lost Leonardo”:
“North by Current” (North American Premiere) – Building on decades of home videos, experimental filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax began his documentary as an investigation into a child’s death, family abuse, and faults in the criminal justice system back home in small town Michigan, before morphing into a rumination on time, gender identity and faith. As the transgender Minax comes to grips with his mother’s grieving for the little girl who “died” once Angelo came out as a male, he also questions his new role in the family as a son, sibling and uncle. With shots that linger in the memory for both their ephemeral beauty and intractable opacity, “North by Current” is a personal testament that evokes sorrow, as the passage of time in a family beset by tragedy marks not just the prying open of doors, but the slamming shut of others. Screens June 13 at Hudson Yards; available At Home June 14-23.
Watch a trailer for “North by Current”:
“Brighton 4th” (World Premiere) – Kakhi (Levan Tediashvili), an aging former champion wrestler, travels from the Republic of Georgia to New York’s Brighton Beach, an enclave of Eastern Bloc immigrants and refugees, to rescue his hot-headed son, Soso (Giorgi Tabidze), a medical student whose weakness for gambling has put him on the wrong side of loan sharks. Director Levan Koguashvili’s comic-drama is a warm and winning morality tale about personal responsibility, parental love, and the camaraderie of countrymen far from home, as the unperturbed Kakhi not only comes to the aid of his son by doing what he does best, but also lends a chokehold to help a woman in distress and right a wrong. The film also finds room for the levity and sorrow of characters whose dreams are dashed and bungled, to be succored by a stiff drink and a song from the old country. Screens June 14 at Brooklyn Commons at MetroTech; available At Home June 15-23.
“The Conductor” (World Premiere) – When music student Marin Alsop expressed her interest in becoming an orchestra conductor, she was told, “Girls can’t do that.” As we learn in this inspiring documentary, that was like waving a red flag before a bull. A mentee of Leonard Bernstein’s, Alsop ardently pursued conducting, breaking glass ceilings along the way in the chauvinistic world of the concert hall while leading symphony orchestras in Baltimore, São Paulo and Vienna. But a female conductor is still a bit of a rarity, and throughout the film Alsop thoughtfully describes her maturation as a musician, a conductor, an instructor, and an example to others fighting presumptions about just whom can ascend the podium. Directed by Bernadette Wegenstein. Screens June 14 at Hudson Yards, and June 18 at Marine Park (including discussion with Alsop and live musical performance by the New York Youth Symphony); available At Home June 15-23.
Watch a trailer for “The Conductor”:
“Bernstein’s Wall” (World Premiere) – This deep-dive into the life and work of conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein benefits not just from rare archival interviews and invigorating performance footage, but also from family recordings and correspondence that explore Bernstein’s marriage and family life and his struggles with his sexuality. No stones are unturned, but the breadth of the film’s portrait of this charismatic and complex icon of the classical music world, who proselytized his ideas about using the performing arts as a tool of civil rights activism and international relations, is told exclusively through his words. “I love last lines, last bars, last statements,” he says, and this enthralling documentary by Douglas Tirola (“Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead”) gives Bernstein that – plus the ravishing music of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Liszt and, yes, Satchmo. Screens June 14 at the Battery; available At Home June 15-23.
For more info:
- 2021 Tribeca Festival (through June 20)