Curtain goes up on 2024 Tribeca Festival, with tribute to Robert De Niro

Curtain goes up on 2024 Tribeca Festival, with tribute to Robert De Niro

The Tribeca Festival returns to screens and event venues across New York City on Wednesday, showcasing 114 feature-length narrative and documentary films — many of them world or New York premieres — along with shorts, revivals and restorations, filmmaker Q&As, audio storytelling, and music performances.

This year marks the 23rd edition of the festival, which was launched in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff to help revitalize a city wounded by 9/11. Since then it has grown into a major event for film lovers and media figures that also encompasses non-cinematic art forms: podcasts, demos of role-playing games, immersive art, and virtual reality/augmented reality exhibitions. This year's film slate was selected from more than 13,000 submissions, more than ever before.

Tribeca was conceptualized as a storytelling festival, said festival director and VP of programming Cara Cusumano, "and that's been kind of our guiding light and the root of where all these other programs evolved from. Where is the most interesting storytelling happening? How are audiences today consuming stories? Increasingly it's not always a 90-minute feature film experience."

Cusumano said that each of the festival's verticals has cinematic storytelling in their DNA: "They feel like logical evolutions, but the scale is smaller. There's probably 10 to 12 TV events, a similar number of immersive presentations, podcasts, games. So, we think of it kind of like the spokes on a wheel where we want to be sure that we're representing these communities of creators, and communities of audiences, within the festival, while preserving the real core DNA of the film festival.

"We want to create a creative ecosystem where all these folks are not siloed in their own industry," Cusumano said. "The walls are permeable and they can meet each other, they can meet the industry at large, and cross-pollinate in a way that we hope is creatively productive for everybody. The hope is to introduce people from games, podcasts, immersive, etc., to a more traditional film industry, and see where those points of connection might lie or be found, unexpectedly or not.

"And for audiences, too. Maybe what any single ticket buyer is drawn to is usually something that they're familiar with or in their wheelhouse, but maybe because there's all this other stuff going on, they get drawn into a different world and can discover something that they didn't set out to find. That's really hopefully the experience of discovery that Tribeca can offer that is unique."

A viewer of the immersive virtual reality experience
A viewer of the immersive virtual reality experience

But just as the festival has grown in scope over the years, it's also contracting. After expanding its offerings throughout the city and, later, with virtual screenings once COVID postponed the 2020 festival (allowing film fans from across the country to attend), it's now ended the Tribeca at Home program, to focus on communal, in-person screenings. And while film venues are primarily in Manhattan, special events are still being held in the outer boroughs, including a late-night dance party honoring the 70th anniversary of Godzilla at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn (June 7).

One of the major components of Tribeca 2024 is De Niro Con, marking the actor's 80th birthday. "De Niro Is an Icon" weaves together an exhibit and an immersive film installation projected on six screens, celebrating more than 40 iconic De Niro film characters (June 6-16 at Spring Studios). Classic De Niro performances will also be screened on June 14, including "The Godfather Part II," Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" (in 35mm), "Analyze This," and "Silver Linings Playbook," with Q&As following most films.

There will also be the world premiere of Chazz Palminteri's new film based on his one-man stage show, "A Bronx Tale," a play that De Niro adapted as his directorial film debut back in 1993.

Documentary films

On Wednesday, the festival's opening night feature is the Hulu documentary "Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge," a profile of the iconic designer, who was both a princess and a queen of fashion (June 5, 6, 15).  [To watch a trailer click on the video player below.]

Nonfiction films at the festival will explore current events, including the Russia-Ukraine war, through particularly novel or unfamiliar ways. "Checkpoint Zoo" tells the story of zoo workers in eastern Ukraine trying to rescue animals at an ecological park coming under fire from advancing Russian forces (June 6, 9, 13), while "Soldiers of Song" examines the resilience of Ukrainian musicians trying to cope with the invasion (June 13).

"Antidote" follows journalists and whistleblowers who find themselves targeted as they speak out against the silencing of anti-Putin voices inside and outside of Russia (June 7, 8, 9). In "State of Silence," journalists in Mexico are endangered by their reporting on corruption and narco-terrorism (June 10, 11, 12).

James Jones' documentary
James Jones' documentary

In "Following Harry," singer and social justice advocate Harry Belafonte (who died last year at age 96) mentors a new generation of activist and protest organizers (June 14, 15, 16). "Rebel Nun" profiles Sister Helen Prejean, whose efforts to combat capital punishment, as recounted in her book "Dead Man Walking," have also led to the exoneration of innocent men housed on Death Row (June 6, 7, 9).

In "Witches," Elizabeth Sankey weaves a personal essay about post-partum depression and the mental health of new mothers, and how it factors into the cultural depiction of witches and witchcraft through the ages, particularly in films (June 9, 10, 15). "Driver" examines the lives of female long-haul truck drivers (June 7, 8, 15). A gathering of comedians (including Tig Notero, Mike Birbiglia, Atsuko Okatsuka and Gary Gulman) sits down with Neil Patrick Harris to talk mental health in "Group Therapy" (June 6, 7, 13).

Elizabeth Sankey in her film essay about mental health,
Elizabeth Sankey in her film essay about mental health,

"Made in Ethiopia" looks at 21st century colonialism as Chinese investors try to sell an industrial park in Africa, affecting not only the lives of displaced farmers and young factory employees but also the Chinese expats who see themselves at Africa's future (June 6, 9, 14).  The rise of artificial intelligence is explored in "The Thinking Game" (June 7, 8, 14).

Martin Scorsese offers a personal account of the impact on his life and art made by Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell, from "The Red Shoes" and "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" to "Peeping Tom" ("Made in England: The Films of Powell & Pressburger," June 11, 12, 14).

There are also profiles of notable celebrities, past and present, in the worlds of music, art and sports, from tennis legend Roger Federer ("Federer: Twelve Final Days," June 10, 14, 16) to Bruce Springsteen sideman Stevie Van Zandt ("Stevie Van Zandt: Disciple," June 8, 10, 15), to Liza Minnelli ("Liza: A Truly Terrific Absolutely True Story," June 12, 13, 15), Elizabeth Taylor ("Elizabeth Taylor: The Lost Tapes," June 11, 12, 16), "Hamilton" actress Renée Elise Goldsberry ("Satisfied," June 15, 16), Luther Vandross ("Luther: Never Too Much," June 13, 14, 15); Claude Nobs, founder of one of the world's leading jazz festivals ("They All Came Out to Montreaux," June 7, 8, 12), and Swedish EDM artist Avicii ("Avicii – I'm Tim," June 9, 11, 14). Singer-songwriters Linda Perry ("Linda Perry: Let It Die Here," June 6, 8, 9), and Ani DiFranco ("1-800-ON-HER-OWN," June 10, 11, 13) will each perform following the premiere screenings of films about their careers.

And if you're hungry after all that, "Shelf Life" takes a deep dive into the world of cheese (June 7, 8, 9).

Narrative films

Among the notable premieres of fiction films are the comedy "Adult Best Friends," starring director and co-writer Delaney Buffett (daughter of singer Jimmy Buffett), in which a young woman (Katie Corwin) has to break the news to her codependent best friend (Buffett) that she is engaged to a man her friend majorly dislikes (June 8, 10, 12, 16); and "Treasure," starring Stephen Fry and Lena Dunham as a Jewish émigré-father and his daughter revisiting Poland and the landmarks of his youth during World War II (June 8, 9, 11).

Stephen Fry and Lena Dunham are a father and daughter on an emotional trip back to Poland in the dramedy
Stephen Fry and Lena Dunham are a father and daughter on an emotional trip back to Poland in the dramedy

"Bad Shabbos" stars Jon Bass, Meghan Leathers, Kyra Sedgwick, David Paymer and Milana Vayntrub in a comedy about an observant Jewish Upper West Side family whose dinner is spoiled by the presence of a dead body (June 10, 11, 13, 15); and "The Shallow Tale of a Writer Who Decided to Write about a Serial Killer" pits John Magaro ("Past Lives") against Steve Buscemi ("Fargo") in a very dark comedy about a retired serial killer who offers to teach a struggling novelist the art of murder, and winds up serving as the writer's marriage counselor (June 8, 9, 12, 14).

Steve Buscemi is a
Steve Buscemi is a

Other notable entries include "The Damned," a period drama from Iceland, in which the fate of shipwrecked sailors places an entire community in peril (June 6, 7, 12).  In "The Freshly Cut Grass," Marina de Tavira (an Oscar-nominee for "Roma") and Joaquín Furriel play college professors whose moribund marriages lead each into affairs with students (June 8, 13, 14).

Jude Law stars as King Henry VIII at odds with his sixth wife, Katherine Parr (Alicia Vikander), in "Firebrand" (June 11, 12). Elizabeth Banks is a surgeon shielding a colleague from the fallout over a medical procedural error in "A Mistake" (June 7, 8, 10). "The Wasp" is a psychological thriller starring Naomie Harris and Natalie Dormer (June 8, 9, 12). Lily Gladstone ("Killers of the Flower Moon") is featured in "Jazzy," a tale of growing up on the Oglala Lakota reservation in South Dakota (June 9, 10, 12). "Daddio" stars Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn sharing a late-night cab ride through New York City (June 10, 12, 16).

Jenna Ortega and Percy Hynes White star in a youthful romance, "Winter Spring Summer or Fall" (June 6, 7, 15), while Tim Blake Nelson plays a former boxer who trains his grandson in the ring in "Bang Bang" (June 11, 14, 15). Rooney Mara and Raúl Briones star in a tale of immigrant restaurant workers in NYC in "La Cocina" (June 9, 12, 13). Chinese writer-director Qiu Yang's "Some Rain Must Fall," winner of the special Jury Prize at this year's Berlin International Film Festival, evokes the cracks that form in a family following an accident, and of a housewife whose life spirals out of control (June  6, 9, 15).

Britt Lower, very good as the suspecting wife in "The Shallow Tale…," stars in "Darkest Miriam" as a Toronto librarian who begins a romantic relationship with a younger, foreign-born taxi driver (June 9, 11, 14). "McVeigh" examines the evolution of Timothy McVeigh into a domestic terrorist (June 7, 8, 11). In "Come Closer," a woman grieving over her brother's death meets his secret girlfriend (June 6, 8).

What can go wrong at a cannabis-fueled 40th birthday party? How about word of an impeding nuclear attack? "Nuked" is a comedy (June 13, 16), as are "Griffin in Summer," which follows a budding 14-year-old playwright (Everett Blunck) who finds a kindred spirit in a failed performance artist (June 6, 7, 13); "Rent Free," in which Jacob Roberts and David Treviño are best buds who try to wrangle a year of rent-free living by couch-surfing at friends' homes (June 7, 8, 13, 16); and "Between the Temples," starring Jason Schwartzman, Carol Kane, Robert Smigel and Dolly De Leon, about a young cantor, recently widowed, dipping his toes back into the dating world (June 13, 14, 15). Michael Cera, Maya Erskine and Kristen Stewart also star in the road trip "Sacramento" (June 8, 10, 12).

Tribeca hosts the New York premiere of this year's Sundance audience award-winner "Kneecap," the cheeky, too-good-to-be-true-but-it-(kinda-sorta)-is origin story of the Irish rap group Kneecap, who will perform following the film's first screening (June 9).

For Father's Day, Tribeca will screen the animated "Despicable Me 4" (June 16), while a coda to the festival will be the June 26 world premiere of "A Quiet Place: Day One."

Midnight / Escape from Tribeca

Genre films, from horror and thrillers to violent splatterfests, get their own sidebars. Among the offerings: The slasher flick "#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead," which tells the story of what happens when a party at an Airbnb turns crimson red (June 8, 10, 11); "The Weekend," a horror film from Nigeria about disquieting in-laws (June 9, 11, 15); and "Kill," an Indian thriller in which a passenger train becomes a battlefield between a pair of commandoes and an army of bandits (June  13, 14, 15).

But the most anticipated entry, for fans of the sketch comedy series "The Whitest Kids U' Know," may be "Mars," an animated lark set on the Red Planet. It's especially gratifying, three years after the death of "WKUK" co-founder Trevor Moore, that he and Zach Cregger, Sam Brown, Darren Trumeter and Timmy Williams get one more go together (June 6, 7, 15, 16).

Retrospectives and reunions

There are retrospective screenings of "Mean Streets," starring Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro, followed by a discussion with De Niro and director Martin Scorsese (June 15); Steven Spielberg's "The Sugarland Express," starring Goldie Hawn, followed by a conversation with the director (June 15); the 1984 musical "Footloose," followed by a conversation with star Kevin Bacon (June 14); "Beat Street," about Bronx teenagers in the early years of hip hop (June 14); and Tod Browning's 1927 silent "The Unknown."

Alfred Hitchcock's masterful thriller "North by Northwest," starring Cary Grant as a Madison Avenue ad exec mistaken for a spy, has been restored by way of a 13K scan of the original VistaVision camera negative, and will be screened in 70mm 5.1 stereo (June 12).

A 70mm restoration of Alfred Hitchcock's
A 70mm restoration of Alfred Hitchcock's

In "Brats," Andrew McCarthy examines how he and other young actors in the 1980s who were collectively labeled the "Brat Park" survived (June 7, 8, 10; the premiere screening features a panel of reunited Brat Packers).

In 2003 Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto produced an hour-long film, "Interstella 555: The Story of the Secret Star System," about alien musicians. At the time the film was cut into short music videos; the full-length feature, remastered in 4K, is getting its North American premiere (June 14).

On June 13 a screening of Alex Gibney's "Sopranos 25th Anniversary Reunion: Wise Guy David Chase and the Sopranos," about the man behind television's greatest mob series, will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Chase and "Sopranos" cast members.

TV

Episodic and limited series, as well as TV documentaries and docudramas, will also be highlighted. Among the offerings: the ESPN film "In the Arena: Serena Williams," about her life on and off the court (June 13); the HBO docuseries "Breath of Fire," about Guru Jagat, a millennial who became the face of a spiritual empire (June 12); the Hulu series "Mastermind: To Think Like a Killer" (June 7); "Presumed Innocent," an Apple TV limited series adapted from Scott Turow's legal thriller, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ruth Negga, Renate Reinsve and Peter Sarsgaard (June 9); and "The Stanford Prison Experiment: Unlocking the Truth," National Geographic's look back at the infamous psychological experiment (June 14, 16).

Conversations

Talks featuring notable creatives include Judd Apatow (June 15), Bravo's Andy Cohen (June 12), R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe (June 12), "Succession" star Kieran Culkin (June 13), Jon Batiste, celebrating the music of Nat King Cole (June 11), Kerry Washington & Nicole Avant (June 8), Laverne Cox (June 12), cookbook author and YouTuber Alison Roman (June 14), and director Gus Van Sant.

Tribeca X mixes panels with networking to present industry and business leaders, entrepreneurs and celebrities, while the Creators Market allows storytellers to pitch their feature, episodic and audio projects.

Festival Guide

The festival runs from June 5-16,  For more information about films, immersive exhibits, special events and ticketing, visit the Tribeca Festival website.

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