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Tribeca Film Festival 2018: Twenty Films We Can’t Wait to See

Mar 28, 2018
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The annual Tribeca Film Festival is, hands-down, the greatest two weeks of movie-going that the Big Apple has to offer. Just as the festival has grown beyond the Tribeca area it’s named for and spills over into adjoining neighborhoods, the downtown festival celebrates more than just film, now encompassing TV, immersive works of art, and even video games. In addition to the 100+ feature-length and short films being screened there are more panels, talks, and special events than even the most dedicated cineaste could painlessly wrap their brain around. It’s impossible to take all of it in, but trust us: you’re going to want to try.

This year’s once-in-a-lifetime screenings include special reunion screenings of Schindler’s List (with Steven Spielberg, Liam Neeson, and Ben Kingsley in attendance), Scarface (with Brian De Palma, Al Pacino, and Michelle Pfeiffer), and In the Soup (with director Alexandre Rockwell, Steve Buscemi, and Jennifer Beals.) Highlights from the TV portion of the festival include Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, produced by Jay-Z, the red carpet premiere of HBO’s Westworld, season two, and a documentary about the cult TV series Freaks and Geeks. Tribeca 2018’s gaming programming includes sneak peeks at the latest God of War and Tomb Raider games.

We’ll be covering the festival from its start on April 18th, so stay tuned for our reviews and interview coverage out of Tribeca.

If you’re heading to Tribeca but have limited time and/or budget, we’re going to attempt to help you out. Below are 20 of the movies we’re most looking forward to seeing this year, as chosen by UTR Cinema Editor Austin Trunick.


Dir. by Ondi Timoner

From where we’re standing, Mapplethorpe appears to be the most quintessential Tribeca film. Given that so much of the festival takes place at the Cinepolis, mere feet away from the now (quite sadly) closed Chelsea Hotel, playing host to a biopic of one of its many celebrated tenants seems absolutely appropriate. Former Doctor Who and current The Crown star Matt Smith plays Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversial photographer and Warhol cohort, whose first images were snapped inside room 1017 of the famous hotel.

United Skates

Dir. by Dyana Winkler & Tina Brown

This documentary looks into the shocking phenomenon of segregated roller rinks across America. Where “Black Nights” – now called “Adult Nights” – hosted at rinks in major cities were incubators of East and West Coast hip hop culture through the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, many white owners in other areas still refuse to hold them, even when their attendance numbers are rapidly fading. This doc looks into the issue by following three skating enthusiasts living in different parts of the country. To outsiders, it’s a little-known facet of American culture that we’re excited to learn more about.

Duck Butter

Dir. by Miguel Arteta

Duck Butter’s premise is just so crazy-sounding that we can’t miss it: two young women, fed up with their romantic lives, attempt an experiment in which they spend 24 uninterrupted hours together have sex on the hour. How they stretch that premise across an entire film, we’re not sure, but we’ll need to see and find out. Plus, we’ll tune in for Alia Shawkat in just about anything, and Spanish actress Laia Costa’s star continues to rise. (She headlines a second film, Maine, premiering at Tribeca.) The stacked supporting cast includes Downsizing standout Hong Chau, Kumail Nanjiani, Kate Berlant, and both Duplass brothers.

The Party’s Just Beginning

Dir. by Karen Gillan

Karen Gillan makes her feature filmmaking debut with The Party’s Just Beginning. When her best friend kills herself, a young woman’s own life spirals out of control, leading to several misguided connections with men in the midst of their own personal crises. We’ve been fans of Gillan’s since her tenure on Doctor Who, and it’s been great seeing her become a genuine Hollywood star in things like Jumanji and the Marvel movies. We’re just as eager to find out what she’s capable of behind the camera. (Plus, her character is described as “sharp-witted, foul-mouthed, [and] heavy-drinking” – sign us up already!) Gillan also wrote the film, which is said to be a loving tribute to her hometown in Scotland.

Blue Night

Dir. by Fabien Constant

A renowned jazz singer receives an unexpected health prognosis, sending her life into a spiral just as she prepares to leave New York and embark on an extended tour. This looks like it could be a very different sort of role for star Sarah Jessica Parker, playing an artist forced to weigh her life’s achievements and failings when suddenly staring down her own mortality. Set across one 24-hour period, it could also potentially be a nice snapshot of downtown NYC.

Little Woods

Dir. by Nia DaCosta

The one-sentence synopsis for the movie gives us little to go on, but Tessa Thompson and Lily James play sisters driven to extremes to pay back their recently-deceased mother’s mortgage. We’re big fans of both actresses, which is enough to pique our interest in this North Dakota-set thriller.


Dir. by Drake Doremus

Set in a world where technology can closely simulate the feelings of being in love, Zoe sounds like it could be a spiritual follow-up to director Drake Doremus’ 2016 sci-fi love story, Equals. The cast – including Lea Seydoux, Ewan McGregor, Christina Aguilera, and Rashida Jones – is intriguingly eclectic.


Dir. by Marianna Palka

Karen (Christina Hendricks of Mad Men, Good Girls) and Tina (Alysia Reiner, Orange is the New Black) play former art school classmates who come together over dinner with their partners; the latter is now a renowned concept artist, the former gave up her art to raise a family. The visit turns into a heated argument about the pressures of parenthood when Tina announces her next concept piece: to have a child via a surrogate, played by Pitch Perfect’s Anna Camp. Filmmaker Marianna Palka’s follow-up to last year’s Bitch is described as an Edward Albee-esque satire, and we’re eager to give it a closer look.

The Dark

Dir. by Justin P. Lange

We called Nadia Alexander’s performance in Blame our favorite of last year’s Tribeca Film Festival; she’d go on to win the fest’s coveted Best Actress award. Her appearance alone would be enough for us to seek out The Dark, but its hook is easily our favorite in this year’s Midnight category. Alexander plays undead teen, cursed to haunt the woods around her childhood home. She meets a young blind man, and after killing his companion, allows him to live – stirring up old feelings in her that she hadn’t felt since she was alive.

All These Small Moments

Dir. by Melissa Miller Costanzo

A coming-of-age tale set in New York City, All These Small Moments centers on a teenager whose life seems to be falling apart as his parents tumble towards a messy divorce, and he becomes obsessed with a mysterious woman he passes each day on his way to school. The cast of first-time writer-director Melissa Miller Costanzo’s drama includes Brendan Meyer, Jemima Kirke, Molly Ringwald, and Harley Quinn Smith.


Dir. by Don Hahn

This documentary chronicles the tragically short life of lyricist Howard Ashman, the songwriter responsible for such immortal movie musicals as Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, who passed away from complications arising from AIDS at the age of 40.

Surviving Theater #9

Dir. by Tim McGrath

On July 20th, 2012, James Holmes opened fire on audience members during a midnight screening of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed, another 70 injured; for a frighteningly short number of years, it stood as the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. This short film dramatizes the tragedy; interestingly, it was written, directed by, and stars one of the shooting’s actual survivors.


Dir. by Bill Oliver

Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort stars in this compact science fiction film about a pair of brothers whose lives are interconnected in an unusual way; when one breaks an important rule set by their suspicious doctor, the reality of his existence starts opening up to him. The film’s synopsis feels purposefully obtuse, no doubt to avoid spoilers, but it was enough to snag our attention.

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

Dir. by Sophie Huber

The legendary jazz label gets the documentary treatment it deserves. Sophie Huber’s doc features interviews with Herbie Hancock and Norah Jones, and focuses on the impact Blue Note beyond just the world of music. (We’re hoping it also dedicates some of its runtime to their art design – we’ve long been fans of Blue Note’s consistently classy sleeves.)

Mary Shelley

Dir. by Haifaa Al Mansour

This gothic romance imagines the whirlwind relationship between teenage Mary Wollstonecraft and the poet Percy Shelley, which resulted in her penning the classic piece of horror literature, Frankenstein, before she turned 20. May Shelley’s potent cast includes Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Joanne Froggatt, and Maisie Williams.

Studio 54

Dir. by Matt Tyrnauer

Filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer explores the history New York City’s most legendary nightclub and its founders: two Brooklyn buddies who made – and lost – a fortune at the height of the club’s popularity in the late ‘70s. We’re looking forward to taking in the documentary’s archival footage, no doubt featuring the many celebrity guests who frequented its dancefloor, such as Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Liz Taylor, and Liza Minelli.

Woman Walks Ahead

Dir. by Susanna White

Jessica Chastain plays a widow traveling west to paint Sitting Bull when she runs into interference from an army officer (played by freshly-minted Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell) intent on going to war with the Native Americans in the area. There are never enough Westerns being produced for our liking, so this one – based on a true story – certainly has our attention.

Nico, 1988

Dir. by Susanna Nicchiarelli

This film imagines the final tour of singer, model, Velvet Underground collaborator and Warhol darling Nico, as she crisscrosses Europe performing for rapt audiences in an increasingly erratic state. Danish actress Trine Dyrholm’s performance as the damaged musician is said to be riveting.

7 Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through the Gateway Chosen By the Holy Storsh

Dir. by Vivieno Caldinelli

How’s this for a comedy premise? Claire and Paul (Kate Micucci and Sam Huntington) move from Ohio to Los Angeles and land a great deal on an apartment. They discover there’s a catch, however: ever since an enigmatic cult leader killed himself in the apartment’s bathroom, his followers have been breaking into the place to commit ritual suicide in their tub. From the sound of it, that’s not the dealbreaker you’d expect it to be. This dark comedy also features appearances from Dan Harmon and Taika Waititi.


Dir. by Robert Budreau

Stockholm dramatizes the famous hostage situation which gave name to the condition known as “Stockholm syndrome.” Star Ethan Hawke re-teams with his Born to be Blue writer-director Robert Budreau, a film we liked and are eager to see them follow up. Noomi Rapace and Mark Strong also star.


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