Spoiler alert: there's a lot to see at the annual Tribeca Film Festival. Sifting through the avalanche of narrative and documentary movies, panels, television premieres, and interactive experiences can be nigh overwhelming, but as a five year veteran of the TFF scene, I've broken it down for us queer geeks.
Last year's festival brought us the transcendent genderqueer musical Saturday Church, which everyone should literally drop everything and go stream right this minute, as well as the superior documentary The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson. No title pops like those two at first glance, but there are plenty of promising entries.
Mapplethorpe is a biopic produced by Buffy icon Eliza Dushku (!) and starring former Whoville resident Matt Smith as the eponymous gay photographer, while Mary Shelley casts Elle Fanning as the trailblazing Frankenstein writer and is, appropriately, directed by Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker, Haifaa Al-Mansour! Call Her Ganda explores the tragic 1994 murder of a transgender Filipina woman at the hands of a US Marine. Duck Butter grants a lesbian duo, including Search Party breakout Alia Shawkat, the sort of rom com high concept usually reserved for straights: an attempt to find intimacy by spending 24 hours together, having sex on the hour. Bisexual director Desiree Akhavan follows her acclaimed Appropriate Behavior with the Chloe Grace Moretz starring The Miseducation of Cameron Post—the "miseducation" refers to conversion therapy, circa 1993. Documentaries Howard, about late Disney composer Howard Ashman, and Studio 54 promise to shine light on queer cultural history and the people who drove it forward.
Other intriguing titles include JAY-Z's Rest in Power (about Trayvon Martin), Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, zombie thriller Cargo, with Tolkien White Guy Martin Freeman battling his own infection, and the buzzy Black roller rink documentary United Skates. I'll mention Zoe, a futuristic romance produced by Ridley Scott and starring Ewan McGregor, Christina Aguilera, and Rashida Jones, if only to put all those names together in one sentence.
Television has occupied an increasingly more prominent place at the festival, and this year's biggest draw for this writer (and surely many other geeks) is the Westworld season 2 premiere with creator Jonathan Nolan and cast members Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Wright in attendance. (Look for our review ahead of Sunday’s airing.) The second edition of Pilot Season boasts extremely promising standouts Fabled, which re-imagines fairy tales from a female perspective, and On the Spectrum, about a trio of Autistic roommates. Last but certainly not least, Dinette, one of the featured titles in Tribeca N.O.W. Showcase: Episodic, centers on a group of female and gender nonconforming friends.
Among the hottest tickets for this year's festival will surely be the Time's Up day of panels boasting such luminaries as Julianne Moore, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, Whoopi Goldberg, Amber Tamblyn, and Marisa Tomei! Mary Shelley director Haifaa Al-Mansour will lend her voice as well. The Virtual Arcade includes Queerskins: A Love Story, about a Catholic mom who only comes to know her estranged gay son after he's died from AIDS complications, and #WarGamesVR, a female take on the Matthew Broderick cult movie. And two years after Sharknado creator Anthony C. Ferrante and star Ian Ziering had me screaming across the arcade with Killer Deal, French auteur Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Maniac) promises to do the same with Campfire Creepers: Midnight March. And I couldn't help wondering: would I be able to snag a ticket for Sarah Jessica Parker's career discussion "The Journey," or was my own journey destined to go in another direction entirely?
The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 18–29 at various locations in lower Manhattan. Visit their website for more information, and check back here for our continuing coverage. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HeyLockwood for live updates.