Tribeca Festival, is the new name for the Tribeca Film Festival a event showcasing digital storytellers and it now wants to offer something for everyone. The festival actually was founded and launched after the September 11 terrorist attacks to help a physically and emotionally devastated neighborhood in NYC be reborn. It returned in 2022 after the pandemic shutdown to highlight this area again with its massive collection of features and shorts, live music, TV, podcasts, games, and AR/VR. The annual New York City festival moved indoors this year, and it featured free outdoor screenings and an online edition, Tribeca At Home. It’s noteworthy that the 2022 Tribeca Festival continues to unspool in your home, with selected films, events and VR available for viewing via the Tribeca At Home platform.
Music took center stage this year’s edition, beginning with the opening-night film Halftime, the Amanda Micheli-directed Netflix doc about Jennifer Lopez that will have its world premiere to open the festival. Reps confirmed there will be a “special performance.” A stream of music docs over the course of the 12-day fest are paired with live events, a particular focus of organizers.
The long awaited film God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines takes you on a journey, Detroit to Chicago to London and Berlin, tracing techno’s origins in the African American, and not the German, community. The film focuses on the talent of a group of young Black artists, and the dance music centric scene of entrepreneurial party music obsessed teens who created the proto techno scene and established it long before the rave culture scene we know know as techno. God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines is a compelling activist story ment to set the record straight on the Afro American origins of Techno. It is a rarely showcased history of mismanaged success, damaged friendships, ascendant beats, and raw inspiration.
Producers Jennifer Washington and David Grandison Jr, and director Kristian Hill, shine a light on a group of young visionaries: Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Sauderson, Blake Baxter, Eddie Fowlkes, and Santonio Echols, whose early innovation and artistry lead to one of the most celebrated and profitable genres in the world.
This film premiere was preceded by a panel discussion featuring Kevin Saunderson, Blake Baxter and the film’s creators who offer insights on the long and challenging path to the creation of the film. Interviews for the film we’re initially shot over 20 years at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival ago by one of the films producers David Grandison Jr. This film was almost 20 years in production making it one of the most anticipated EDM film in decades.
This films offering are unique since it also features educational components like Detroit Techno 101 lessons that can be used as a teaching aids and discussion starters by schools who want to learn more about the historical roots of Detroit Techno culture. Detroit Techno 101 also teaches young people Digital Storytelling and methods to document their own cultural creations much like the filmmakers in other festival doc films have done. Every showing of the film was sold out and the premiere was followed by the first performance of Kevin Saunderson’s seminal EDM band Inner City in over 10 years.
Taylor Swift presented her 2021 All Too Well: The Short Film to the Beacon Theatre was followed by a discussion with Mike Mills. The world premiere of Machine Gun Kelly’s semi-biopic Taurus, about a conflicted musician on the rise, was followed by an appearance by star and exec producer Colson Baker. De Niro presents Common with the festival’s second Harry Belafonte Voices for Social Justice Award (Stacey Abrams received the first one last year) along with a never-seen extended version of Letter to the Free by Bradford Young, a conversation with Nelson George and a live performance by Common.
It’s about “reminding people how vibrant the theatrical experience is — and bringing that experience off the screen into the theater,” said Cusumano.
The fest premiered Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby, and the rapper took the stage after; TÍU, about Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men, with have a live set by the band; and Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song, was followed by a tribute from Judy Collins, Amanda Shires and Sharon Robinson. Other music docs include HBO Max’s Menudo: Forever Young, about the Puerto Rican boy band that made Ricky Martin famous; Nothing Compares about Sinéad O’Connor; Hargrove, about jazz trumpet legend Roy Hargrove; and The DOC. showcased the life of the rapper later it was followed by a performance by DJ Quik, Das and Kurupt.
Cusumano also noted, “I think there was a feeling of wanting to lean into music, because of the community and the kind of celebration element. When we thought of the kinds of events that people would want to come back to…live music was essential to that,”
Other documentaries featured in the festival include Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s Butterfly In The Sky, the origin story of the LeVar Burton-hosted children’s show Reading Rainbow, which ran for 21 seasons starting in 1983. Burton joins a conversation after. Closing night film, Josh Alexander’s Loudmouth, explores Al Sharpton, Jr.’s life as an activist and spiritual leader, followed by a conversation with Sharpton, Spike Lee and John Legend.
Many narrative filmmakers have had a tough time with the limitations of Covid, which continued to put its stamp on productions and storylines. Cusumano cited Robert Machoian’s The Integrity of Joseph Chambers, where a husband, father and insurance salesman played by Clayne Crawford heads into the woods to hunt. Parker Seaman’s comedy Wes Schlagenhauf Is Dying centers on two aspiring filmmakers who chronicle a cross-country trip to visit a friend and former co-worker who’s contracted Covid. Alone Together, from Katie Holmes, is a rom-com about two strangers stuck together in lockdown.
Del Kathryn Barton’s Blaze stars Simon Baker as the attentive single father of 12-year-old Blaze (Julia Savage), who goes off the rails after experiencing trauma. Frank Berry’s Aisha with Letitia Wright and Josh O’Connor charts the experiences of a young Nigerian woman seeking asylum in Ireland.
The festival’s roots in activism can also be seen among this year’s offerings. This year, docs like Cynthia Lowen’s Batleground, which follows three women active in the anti-abortion movement; Endangered, intertwining stories of journalists in Brazil, Mexico City and the U.S. fighting to report against lies, misinformation and intimidation; and Alex Winter’s The YouTube Effect, on the ascension of the world’s most popular video-sharing website, show “filmmakers responding to the world we’re in,” festival director Cara Cusumano said. Ditto for Jed Rothstein’s Rudy!: A Documusical, an unusual take on the psyche and circumstances of a man in free-fall.
Jane Rosenthal, co-founder with Robert De Niro and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises till the New Your Times “We’re an activist festival….When you think back to how we founded the festival, we’ve always been political…”