The 15th annual Tribeca Film Festival kicks off in New York City tomorrow, April 19. The robust and diverse festival was founded back in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Craig Hatkoff, and Robert De Niro in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that stunned the world and left the neighborhood of Tribeca scrambling to pick up the pieces. Since then, an estimated three million people per year make their way to the TFF with hundreds of films to screen.
This year’s opening film “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives” is based on Davis’ 2013 autobiography. Directed by Chris Perkel, the film is a riveting profile of legendary music man Clive Davis. It spans his remarkable five-decade career, providing an incredible tour of the most sensational music of the cultural revolution, from the ’60s to the rise of hip-hop. In Aretha Franklin’s words, Davis is, “the greatest record man of all time.”
Though “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives” isn’t exactly a Black film, I thought it might be of interest to music lovers. In addition to the opening night film, here are the Black Films at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.
— “ACORN and the Firestorm” directed by Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard
By the people and for the people, community organizing group ACORN became a major player in the 2008 presidential election that resulted in Barack Obama’s victory. Conservatives took issue with the group, firing accusations of voter fraud and government waste at the left-leaning organization. The ensuing political drama spawned the now-omnipresent Breitbart Media, drove an even deeper wedge between Democrats and Republicans, and served as a prescient foreshadowing for much of today’s political climate.
— “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Bad Boy Story” directed by Daniel Kaufman
In 1993, Sean “Diddy” Combs, aka Puff Daddy, founded Bad Boy Records, and in 2016, the Bad Boy Family reunited for the biggest homecoming in hip-hop history. Director Daniel Kaufman and Live Nation Productions share this raw and exclusive look behind the scenes at the history and legacy of Bad Boy through a complex portrait of the label’s mastermind, Sean “Puffy” Combs. The film also looks back to trace the label’s emergence in Harlem and Brooklyn; it’s meteoric rise, the tragic killing of Biggie Smalls, and the lasting influence on music, fashion, marketing, and culture.
— “Copwatch” directed by Camilla Hall
“Copwatch” is the true story of We Copwatch, an organization that films police activity as a non-violent form of protest and deterrent to police brutality. In her feature film debut, director Camilla Hall crafts an intriguing and timely profile of citizen-journalist-activists- including Ramsey Orta who filmed Eric Garner’s fatal arrest- who seek to disrupt the ever-present challenge of police violence.
— “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” directed by David France
This documentary centers on self-described “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson, who was a legendary fixture in New York City’s gay ghetto, who along with fellow trans icon Sylvia Rivera, founded Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), a trans activist group based in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village. Mysteriously, Marsha was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992. At the time, the NYPD pegged her death as a suicide, a claim that Marsha’s comrades have always firmly rejected. Structured as a whodunit, “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” celebrates the lasting political legacy of Marsha P. Johnson while seeking to finally solve the mystery of her unexplained death
— “For Ahkeem” directed by Jeremy S. Levine & Landon Van Soest
Beginning one year before the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Levine and Van Soest’s intimate and cinematic “For Ahkeem” is the coming of age story of 17-year-old Daje Shelton in neighboring North St. Louis. Daje struggles with typical teen growing pains of falling in love and fighting wither her mom while combating the institutional and social roadblocks that keep black teens like her from succeeding in America.
— “LA 92” directed by Dan Lindsay & TJ Martin
25 years after the Rodney King verdicts, “LA 92” revisits the 1992 LA Riots. The unrest, widespread looting, arson, and assaults were all captured by TV news and broadcast to a shocked nation. By the time the violence was quelled, more than fifty people had lost their lives, and over $1 billion dollars in damage had been done to South Central Los Angeles and the surrounding neighborhoods. With no talking heads or interviews, Linsday and Martin thrusts their audience headfirst into the inferno.
— “Saturday Church” directed by Damon Cardasis
14-year-old Ulysses is a shy and effeminate teen being raised in the Bronx by his strict Aunt Rose. He finds escape in a rich fantasy life of music and dance, and soon with a vibrant transgender youth community called Saturday Church. Damon Cardasis’ directorial debut is a rousing celebration of one boy’s search for his identity.
— “True Conviction” directed by Jamie Meltzer
There’s a new detective agency in Dallas Texas, started by three exonerated men who are working to free innocent people who are incarcerated. “True Conviction” follows these men as they not only try to rebuild their lives and families but also attempt to fix the criminal justice system. As the drama unfolds, we are given privileged access and insight not only into the personal lives and struggles of the detectives but also to the difficulties they face in the pursuit of justice.
— “Whitney. ‘can I be me'” directed by Nick Broomfield & Rudi Dolezal
Whitney Houston was a sure thing, or as sure as the music industry had ever seen. A transcendent talent with pedigree and mentorship to match, she was going to be the greatest female vocalist ever. For a time, she was, and then she all-too-publicly fell short. Documentarian Nick Broomfield and iconic music video director Rudi Dolezal offer a never-before-seen backstage look at the height of Houston’s stardom and trace with penetrating detail the forces that contributed to her shortened career and subsequent death in 2012, at age 48.
The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 19-30th.