Three thousand miles from the wildflowers carpeting Santa Barbara County, New York City is also bursting with colors — a kaleidoscope of cinematic visuals blooming in select theaters thanks to the Tribeca Film Festival. Each April, the folks at the Robert DeNiro-founded festival present a smorgasbord of cinematic delights including, world premieres of U.S. and international films, previews of new and favorite television programs, discussions with actors and filmmakers, virtual storytelling, and anniversary screenings. This year’s slate is, as usual, choc full of treats.
The festival opened Wednesday evening, April 24, with the premier of Roger Ross Williams’s documentary The Apollo. The HBO backed film interweaves the history of the iconic Harlem theater, which opened in 1934, with footage from the theater’s recent staging of Ta-Nehisi Coastes’ Between the World and Me, a dramatic reading of excerpts from the award-winning book.
The next day, projectors began whirring as films lit up movie screens in Chelsea, Tribeca, and East Village theaters. The morning opened with director Frederic Tcheng’s documentary Halston, about the eponymously named designer who began his career in the late 1950s — he first made a name for himself for designing Jackie Kennedy’s pill box hat, which she wore to JFK’s inauguration — and became an international sensation in the 1970s thanks his deconstructed clothing designs. Using sumptuous materials such as silk and chiffon, Halston’s creations were often made out of one contiguous piece of material, had no zippers or buttons, and were cut on the bias, thus achieving a simple, elegantly flowing dress. Halston is ultimately an Icarus-esque tale in which the man flies too close to the sun, falls and drowns in a roiling sea of his own creation.
The docs this year are broad in scope and across media; the aforementioned Halston; the Showtime series Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, which looks at the Staten Island hip-hop group’s rise from the Park Hill projects; and director Michael Barnett’s film Changing the Game, which explores the complexities of being a transgender teen athlete, are three examples from a roster of many.
If Tribeca suffers from anything it is too many choices — not a bad problem to have, per se, but as an attendee it can be overwhelming. The good news is that generally whatever one chooses will be high-level fare.