Tribeca Film Festival: 10 Music Docs We’re Excited to See
While the Tribeca Film Festival usually has strong music entries, this year has such a bounty that narrowing our top picks down to 10 was a challenge. This year’s offerings range from documentaries on the legendary Apollo Theater, the Wu-Tang Clan and Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman to music-adjacent films like Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” (about a world with no Beatles), and anniversary editions of ‘90s classics “Say Anything,” “Reality Bites” and “This Is Spinal Tap” — all three of which have special Q&As with castmembers after the screenings (head here for specifics on those, and click on the links in the title and dates of the blurbs below for further details on each film). Covering Tribeca’s 2019 music offerings alone, it’s possible to spend upwards of 30 hours in movie theaters over the next few days — be sure to check back for Variety’s reviews of many of these films.
ALL I CAN SAY [Shannon Hoon documentary] (Dirs. Taryn Gould, Danny Clinch, Colleen Hennessy). The unofficial chief cinematographer for this documentary about the late Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon is: Shannon Hoon. The rocker shot 200-plus hours of footage during Blind Melon’s brief commercial reign, from its 1993 smash “No Rain” up to his death from a drug overdose in 1995. Much of that diaristic and apparently deeply revealing video is the basis of this doc —although with one of the world’s most respected rock photographers, Danny Clinch, as a co-director, even Hoon’s wealth of unearthed Hi-8 may look like high art. (April 26, 27, 28, May 2, 5)
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TREY ANASTASIO: BETWEEN ME AND MY MIND (Dir. Steven Cantor). The Beacon Theatre is one of many sacred sites in the eyes of Phish fans, and thus, a natural setting for a screening of a Trey Anastasio doc — the premiere of which will be followed by a performance by his solo band. The filmmakers followed Anastasio around for what he told Rolling Stone was “an interesting year in the Phish world” — with that group doing everything from New Year’s gigs at Madison Square Garden to prankishly pretending to be a fake Scandinavian band, plus a glimpse of his new, more serious side project, Ghosts of the Forest. (April 26)
THE APOLLO (Dir: Roger Ross Williams) This documentary on the legendary Harlem theater — for decades a proving ground for artists ranging from Billie Holiday to Stevie Wonder and Jamie Foxx — follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Pulitzer-winning “Between the World and Me” as it comes to the venue’s stage. The doc combines archival footage, music, comedy and dance performances with a close-up look at the team that makes the theater run. Interviewees include soul legends Patti LaBelle and Smokey Robinson along with current stars Pharrell Williams and Jamie Foxx. (April 24, 27, 29)
DEVIL’S PIE: D’ANGELO (Dir. Carine Bijlsma) D’Angelo is one of the most gifted — and most frustratingly perfectionist — R&B artists to emerge in the past 25 years: Nearly 15 years passed between the release of his second and third albums. Centered around the comeback tour for that album, 2014’s “Black Messiah,” this film looks at his life and career, combining interviews with friends and collaborators including Questlove and Dave Chappelle along with live and candid footage. (April 27, 29, May 1, 5)
MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE (Dir. Richard Lowenstein) The title of this documentary about the late singer of Australian pop titans INXS sums up the reaction to his death — officially a suicide under the influence of drugs and alcohol — in 1997. This documentary attempts to examine what happened, delving into Hutchence’s upbringing, his love affairs with Helena Christensen, Kylie Minogue, and Paula Yates, his substance abuse and, according to the press release, “his never-ending struggle to make peace with himself.” (April 25, 26, 27, May 4)
OTHER MUSIC (Dirs. Puloma Basu, Rob Hatch-Miller) A documentary about a now-closed record store may not sound like the most riveting film, but New York’s Other Music was no ordinary record store. The world-renowned East Village institution, which closed in 2016 after 20 years, was an epicenter of several local music scenes, and employed many prominent future musicians, DJs and executives; it was also synonymous with independent music. The film chronicles the store’s history, featuring members of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vampire Weekend, the Strokes, and more. (April 26, 27, 28, May 5)
THE QUIET ONE (Dir. Oliver Murray) For 31 years, bassist Bill Wyman was the least-noticed member of the Rolling Stones, with a stock-still stage presence and low public profile. But he was not only the band’s primary ladykiller, he was also its archivist, shooting hours of film footage and photos, and collecting a vast archive of memorabilia. This film “takes the audience on a first-hand journey through Wyman’s extraordinary experiences,” although how long it will dwell on his brief marriage to 18-year-old Mandy Smith (whom he began courting when she was 13 and he was 47) remains to be seen. (May 2, 3, 4)
LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (Dirs. Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) With a singing career that launched in the mid-1960s with the Stone Poneys (remember “Different Drum”?) and carried on through decades and multiple musical genres until her 2011 retirement due to Parkinson’s Disease, Linda Ronstadt was almost a musical Zelig of her era. Told in her own voice, this documentary recounts every step of her musical career, and also her activist work for same-sex marriage and undocumented immigrants. The premiere of this film will be followed by a special performance of Ronstadt hits by Sheryl Crow. (April 26, 27, 29)
WOODSTOCK: THREE DAYS THAT DEFINED A GENERATION (Dirs. Barak Goodman & Jamilia Ephron). Was Woodstock 1969 really about the worst traffic gridlock of the 20 th century? Or, as laid out at least in the popular imagination, peace and love? Trailers suggest this doc, based on both archival footage and contemporary interviews, is poised to recreate it as a near-dystopia turned actual transformative communal experience. It may be instructive for anyone headed to Woodstock 2019 who needs a reminder there were flower children before Miley Cyrus. (April 28, 30, May 1, 4)
WU-TANG CLAN: OF MICS AND MEN (Dir. Sacha Jenkins). With a title that good, how strong does “Of Mics and Men” even have to be? Still pretty strong, with expectations high for a film that might finally sort out the tangled history of a collective that, with Method Man, RZA, Raekwon and of course the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, has included some of hip-hop’s most original minds. For a four-part Showtime doc that celebrates the quarter-century anniversary of “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” the nine surviving members sat for interviews, and will stand to attention as special guests at a premiere at the Beacon. (April 25)
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