The 19 Kickstarter-funded Films You Can Catch at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival
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This year, there are 19 Kickstarter-funded films at the Tribeca Film Festival — and more than 31,000 supporters pledged more than $2.08 million to help bring them to life. We think that's amazing. <3
For the past six years, Kickstarter-funded Tribeca Film Festival premieres have experienced some incredible successes in theaters, on national broadcasts, and across digital platforms. We’ve seen festival favorites like The Birth of Sake, Mala Mala, Thank You for Playing, Very Semi-Serious, and Welcome to Leith get released theatrically and I Got Somethin’ to Tell You (HBO), (T)error (PBS), and The Genius of Marian (PBS) air on television. Many of these films and their talented creators have even been in contention for major awards — 2015’s Racing Extinction (formerly The Heist) even snagged a nom for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. We’d like to think these Kickstarter-funded films are the toast of Tribeca — and beyond!
There’s a wonderfully diverse array of Kickstarter-funded films on this year’s slate, including indie narratives, twisty thrillers, documentaries that tackle social issues head-on, and even a cool virtual reality experience that brings you face to face with critically endangered white rhinos. Others we’re especially excited about include a doc on the Ghostbusters fan community, who call themselves "Ghostheads," and a documentary about Mr. Spock and Leonard Nimoy made by Leonard’s son Adam Nimoy. Plus, there’ll be a very special spotlight on the unfinished Bill Nye documentary (Kickstarter’s second most funded doc of all time!).
We’re also pleased to announce that shorts director Carlos Javier Ortiz was just named a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow in the field of Film/Video. He plans to use the fellowship to work on part of a series of short films chronicling the contemporary stories of Black Americans who headed north during the Great Migration.
We hope you’ll join us at the festival to cheer on these films! You can find ticket information for the festival here.
(Film descriptions below all courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.)
U.S. NARRATIVE COMPETITION
Always Shine (Feature Narrative)
Director: Sophia Takal
Two women, both actresses with differing degrees of success, travel north from Los Angeles to Big Sur for a weekend vacation in Always Shine, Sophia Takal’s twisty, psychological thriller. Both see the trip as an opportunity to reconnect after years of competition and jealousy have driven a wedge between them, but upon arrival to their isolated forest retreat, the pair discovers that their once intimate friendship has deteriorated into forced conversations, betrayals both real and imagined, petty jealousies, and deep-seated resentment. As the women allow their feelings to fester, each begins to lose their bearings not only on the true nature of their relationship, but on their own identities. Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire) and Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters of Sex) give brave and raw performances as Beth and Anna, two women whose ideas of success are dictated as much by external cultural criterion as their own sense of self-worth. Beautifully photographed and assuredly directed by Takal, Always Shine wraps itself in an evocative shroud of dread and paranoia that lingers long after the final frame.
Folk Hero & Funny Guy (Feature Narrative)
Director: Jeff Grace
Recently dumped by his fiancée and with a stagnating standup routine, aspiring comedian-slash-copywriter Paul (Alex Karpovsky, Girls) is stuck. The manager of the club where he performs suggests he take some time off to update his comedy material, and in waltzes his childhood friend Jason Black (Wyatt Russell), an acclaimed folk-rock musician about to embark on a solo acoustic tour of the east coast. Jason suggests Paul needs to get his mojo back — and he should start by opening for Jason on tour. They set off on the road together, picking up a new act (folk singer Bryn, played by Meredith Hagner) on the way. But when Jason reveals an ulterior motive behind the tour, rifts are exposed in their otherwise affable camaraderie. Folk Hero & Funny Guy is a music-infused spin on the road trip buddy comedy.
The Happy Film (Feature Documentary)
Directors: Stefan Sagmeister, Ben Nabors, and Hillman Curtis
New York designer Stefan Sagmeister lives in the city of his dreams and creates work for the likes of the Rolling Stones and Jay-Z. Business is good, creative juices are flowing, and yet he suspects there must be more to life. Sagmeister takes on the daunting project of changing his personality by trying to figure out the causes of happiness. On the advice of a trusted psychologist, Sagmeister experiments with three different approaches: meditation, therapy, and drugs. The Happy Film follows his pursuit, and all that he encounters along the way: joy, ecstasy, heartbreak, change, love, and death. Sagmeister accents his quest with a whimsical panoply of graphics, charts, and proverbs that illustrate his curious and adventurous spirit. The Happy Film is not guaranteed to make you happier, but Sagmeister's journey will surely move you to reexamine your own pursuit of happiness.
Memories of a Penitent Heart (Feature Documentary)
Director: Cecilia Aldarondo
Twenty-five years after Miguel died from AIDS, his niece, filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo, embarks on an excavation into a quagmire of unresolved family drama. Like many gay men in the 1980s, Miguel moved from Puerto Rico to New York City; he found a career in theater and a rewarding relationship. Yet on his deathbed he grappled to reconcile his homosexuality with his Catholic upbringing. Now, decades after his death, Cecilia locates Miguel’s lover Robert, who has been shunned and demonized by the family, in order to understand the whole story. Braiding recently discovered home movies, interviews, and contemporary vérité footage, Memories of a Penitent Heart dissects a family secret while exploring the AIDS crisis and the rarely heard story of Latino artists who died in the early days of the epidemic. This is a moving story about mistakes of the past and second chances that also questions how faith is used in times of crisis.
The Return (Feature Documentary)
Director: Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway
In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 36, effectively repealing the state's notoriously harsh three-strikes law that had sentenced thousands of nonviolent offenders to a lifetime behind bars. But what does it mean to be released from prison after being sentenced to life? How does one begin to reintegrate into society? The Return depicts the struggles of two newly released former lifers as they deal with restoring relationships, avoiding personal triggers, finding meaningful employment, and managing the mental health problems, which had previously contributed to their imprisonment.
Directors Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega (Better This World) have created another searing and poignant character study that points to systemic problems with the American justice system. The Return puts a profoundly human face on the massive statistics of imprisoned people in the US.
TRIBECA TUNE IN
For the Love of Spock (Feature Documentary)
Director: Adam Nimoy
For the Love of Spock is a documentary film about the life of Star Trek's Mr. Spock, as well as that of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Mr. Spock for almost fifty years, written and directed by his son, Adam Nimoy.
After Spring (Feature Documentary)
Directors: Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching
Close to 80,000 Syrian refugees live in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, the second-largest such camp in the world. Fifty-eight percent of its inhabitants are children. After Spring immerses us in the rhythms of the camp, the role of the aid workers, and the daily lives of two families as they contemplate an uncertain future. All aspects of refugee camp life are explored, including medical assistance, the self-sustaining economy of its urban center, and even pizza-making. But it all arcs on bringing purpose and education to the children uprooted from their homes, often termed the "lost generation." Executive produced by Jon Stewart, this is a fascinating journey through the camp’s physical and human landscapes.
HAVEABABY (Feature Documentary)
Director: Amanda Micheli
Infertility is just the beginning of a long road in the quest to have a child for the couples at the center of HAVEABABY, Amanda Micheli’s documentary profile of patients of a Las Vegas fertility clinic. Each year, the clinic hosts a YouTube-based competition called “I Believe,” which gives one lucky couple a shot at an in vitro fertilization treatment they could not otherwise afford. Hundreds of couples apply, yet there can be only one winner. Even after the competition ends, Micheli's sensitive lens continues to follow the ups and downs of the various competitors—depicting the enormous physical and emotional toll of this journey, and for some, the inspirational rewards on the other side.
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (Feature Documentary)
Director: Deborah S. Esquenazi
“This case is the last gasp of the Satanic ritual abuse panic.” So says Debbie Nathan, a journalist and author of Satan’s Silence and one of the many experts called up in the documentary Southwest of Salem to explore the case of the San Antonio Four. In 1994, four women were accused, tried, and convicted of the heinous sexual assault of two young girls—as one newscaster puts it, “the modern version of the witchcraft trials.” Twenty years later, the four women have maintained their innocence, insisting that the accusations were entirely fabricated and born of homophobic prejudice and a late-’90s mania about covens, cults, and child abuse. Southwest of Salem is a riveting and layered true crime story that explores the web of prejudices in a contentious trial and the interrelated political and personal forces that work to convict those thought guilty that perhaps trample the innocent in the process.
Here Alone (Feature Narrative)
Director: Rod Blackhurst
After a terrible virus ravages human civilization, Ann finds herself living alone in a forest, foraging for supplies, and accompanied only by a radio that broadcasts a single transmission in French. Few animals even remain; the only survivors seem to be the roving hordes of infected creatures with a taste for human flesh. One fateful day, Ann crosses paths with two more survivors, Chris and Olivia. But after surviving on her own for so long, she struggles to relate to them and and their desire to settle down and start a new community. As Ann tells Chris, “Those who stay, die.” Though a stomach-clenching thriller, Here Alone is less about the threat itself than the people who are surviving it. For Ann, killing the infected is an easier proposition than connecting with her new companions in a world where intimacy, jealousy, and your fellow man can be just as dangerous.
Ghostheads (Feature Documentary)
Director: Brendan Mertens
A special sneak preview screening of Brendan Mertens' documentary exploring the many faces of Ghostbusters fandom and celebrating 30 years of one of cinema’s most iconic franchises. Featuring interviews with Dan Aykroyd, Ivan Reitman, Sigourney Weaver, and Paul Feig.
Untitled Bill Nye Documentary (PANEL)
Directors: David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg
When it raised over $800,000 on Kickstarter, The Untitled Bill Nye Documentary broke the fundraising site's records and instantly became one of the most anticipated upcoming documentaries. Join the filmmakers as they discuss their process, collaboration, and fundraising strategy, and preview exclusive scenes from their upcoming doc.
SHORTS IN COMPETITION: NARRATIVE
Balcony (Short Narrative)
Director: Toby Fell-Holden
In a neighborhood rife with racial tension, a local girl falls for a recent arrival who is the victim of prejudice and shame.
Future Boyfriend (Short Narrative)
Director: Ben Rock
Stuart and Kaylie are enjoying their third date until Stuart reveals a secret that threatens to derail their relationship. Is he telling the truth, or is it just science fiction?
Shooting an Elephant (Short Narrative)
Director: Juan Pablo Rothie
Adapted from George Orwell's autobiography—a young British imperial policeman in Burma is given the no-win mission of handling a rogue work elephant, only to find that the role he is destined to play is that of public executioner.
SHORTS IN COMPETITION: DOCUMENTARY
The Carousel (Short Documentary)
Director: Jonathan Napolitano
In the small town of Binghamton, New York, there spins a 1925 carousel that once inspired Rod Serling and has since become a portal into the Twilight Zone.
Joe's Violin (Short Documentary)
Director: Kahane Cooperman
A 91-year-old Holocaust survivor donates his violin to an instrument drive, changing the life of a 12-year-old schoolgirl from the Bronx and, unexpectedly, his own.
We All We Got (Short Documentary)
Director: Carlos Javier Ortiz
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the country’s recent focus on youth violence, police brutality, and marginalized communities, We All We Got is an elegy of urban America and an intimate portrait of the people affected by violence in Chicago.
Directors: Kel O’Neill & Eline Jongsma
The Ark is a project about extinction made tangible. It is also about the post-natural solutions—IVF, stem cell technology—that could potentially bring endangered species back from the brink of destruction. The northern white rhinoceros is the most endangered animal on the planet. Only three remain, and they are protected at all times by armed bodyguards. Until recently, there were four of them left, but Nola died in San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park in November 2015 during the making of this project, which makes this story even more urgent. In San Diego, a team of scientists continue to develop a "genetic rescue" program for the species. Central to this program is the Frozen Zoo, a four foot tall, liquid nitrogen-cooled aluminum canister in the basement of the San Diego Zoo’s lab complex. The Ark is a virtual reality documentary that puts viewers face-to-face with the last northern white rhinos and tells the story of the global coalition of scientists who are fighting to rescue the species. The Ark offers a way to know these animals—to be in their presence—even in the event of their extinction.