It’s spring, and for movie buffs in Manhattan, that can only mean one thing: the Tribeca Film Festival is upon us (from April 18th through April 29th). Now in its 17th year, the festival has established itself as the premier film event in the city, bringing together emerging filmmakers, critics, and movie lovers alike to celebrate the latest and most innovative work in the industry. If you live on the Lower East Side in one of the condos at One Manhattan Square, it’s likely you’ll feel the magnetic energy of the festival spilling over into the neighborhood. Whether or not you had a chance to snag a ticket, you should check out our picks for the most promising films of the year.
The festival opened with a star-studded tribute to a beloved comedian: Gilda Radner. Not only was Radner an original cast member of Saturday Night Live, she was also one of the first female comedians to become a late-night superstar. Sadly, her career was cut short when she lost a long battle with ovarian cancer at 42. Love, Gilda is both a documentary and celebration, and despite Radner’s tragic death, the film is not the sad story you might be expecting. The sheer comedic force bursting from each frame captures Radner’s radiant joy; as Variety put it, the movie is “a salute to the complex power of her happiness.”
There’s another female-focused biopic we’re looking forward to, although this one is fraught with admittedly more personal demons: Nico, 1988. The film unflinchingly depicts the frayed final years of the life of Nico, former singer of the Velvet Underground and 1960s icon. Though there are familiar themes, the film avoids many of the trappings of a conventional musician’s biopic. Rather than offering a broad overview of her life, lingering on her most successful years, and charting her decline, the film is firmly situated in the last two years of Nico’s life. Though there are scenes where we see Nico confronting addiction, the film is about much more than an icon’s fall from fame; it is about a true rebel. One Pitchfork review noted that the story “isn’t the tragedy of a beautiful young woman losing her looks, youth, and fame so much as an effort to understand why she became so desperate to rid herself of those apparent blessings.” Trine Dyrholm plays Nico with astonishing authenticity—you may be left wondering if she isn’t, in fact, Nico reincarnate.
And finally, we’ll pivot to a love story. Duck Butter sounds familiar enough at first: two women, fed up with duplicitous, unsatisfying relationships, fall hard for each other. What follows, though, is where it gets interesting. The two decide to spend the next twenty-four hours together, come what may. As you may expect, drama ensues. Spanish actress Laia Costa delivers a superb performance with co-star Alia Shawkat. Shawkat is having a moment right now, coming off the second season of the TBS show Search Party, where she starred as a narcissist Millennial who finds herself in a mess. But Duck Butter represents her first foray into writing, and Indiewire claims that she’s “setting a new standard for what authentic representation looks like behind the camera.” Indeed, Duck Butter is intimate, funny, and, at times, claustrophobic; a thoroughly modern love story.