The 2021 Tribeca Festival, ostensibly held in New York City, is this year also an online affair, with many features available to home viewers across the U.S. Narrative films, documentaries, shorts programs, TV features and filmmaker Q&As will be available to stream from their premiere dates through June 23.
Of the films previewed at press time, here are some highlights premiering June 15-16. More reviews will follow in the coming days. [You can read about more film recommendations inand , which are also available to watch at home through June 23.]
"Reflection: A Walk With Water" (World Premiere) – In its rubric filmmaker Emmett Brennan's documentary about the preciousness of water shows the physical infrastructure required to supply a vital human need by tracing the course of Los Angeles' aqueduct, on foot, beginning at its source in the high desert of the Eastern Sierra, hundreds of miles from the city. But the meat of the film is in its exploration of how humans have reshaped the landscape – and stolen water from the environment – in order to fulfill this need, without regard to wasted resources or the ecological damage done. While posing the dangers (from droughts and wildfires) that are exacerbated by short-sighted water policies, Brennan's interview subjects – farmers, environmental scientists and Native people – offer valuable lessons in how, by just changing our thinking about water use and infrastructure, we can nurture the environment and biodiversity, produce more food, and cut down on pollution. What one can do with a simple bulldozer is indeed remarkable. Screens at Waterfront Plaza June 15; available At Home June 16-23.
"Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road" (World Premiere) – Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson created a unique sound with his brothers, Dennis and Carl, cousin Mike Love, and bandmate Al Jardine, incorporating vocal harmonies, orchestrations and recording techniques that were unlike anything else heard on the airwaves. (And they didn't only sing about surfing and cars.) But Brian's musical genius was tempered by mental illness and addiction, which by turns facilitated and stifled his creative output for many years. In this film-length conversation with Rolling Stone editor Jason Fine, who chauffeurs his old friend though a roadmap of Beach Boys recording history (with Beach Boys songs, natch, on the MP3 player), the taciturn Wilson opens up – begrudgingly at times – about his youth, his father and brothers, his depression, and the sometimes haunting music that he channeled to the world. A valuable document of a key pop culture icon, colored by archival footage and home movies, this film by Brent Wilson (no relation) is intimate and devout in its portrait of a singular talent, still reaching for the ethereal. Screens at the Battery June 15. (No At Home screenings currently available.)
"No Ordinary Life" (Online World Premiere) – Heather O'Neill's powerful documentary explores the trailblazing work of female news videographers on the front lines of war, who captured some of the most vivid images of conflict and revolution across the globe only after overcoming hurdles owing to gender discrimination. These five CNN veterans (Jane Evans, Maria Fleet, Margaret Moth, Mary Rogers and Cynde Strand) open up about the adrenaline and hazards of reporting under fire (Moth was shot in the face by a sniper in Sarajevo, but survived), and about their "band of sisters" ties, as well as the tremendous costs to their personal lives of living from war zone to war zone. With white-knuckle behind-the-scenes footage of the women at work, "No Ordinary Life" shows what talented camerapeople can achieve, with valor, humor and humanity – a testament to the value of meritocracy without bias. Screens exclusively At Home June 16-23.
Watch a trailer for "No Ordinary Life":
"Pray Away" (World Premiere) – The gay conversion movement, promulgated by religious conservatives beginning in the 1970s, was debunked by health care professionals, but for years church groups preached that homosexual members could become "ex-gays" by rejecting same-sex desire in favor of a heterosexual union. Kristine Stolakis' heartbreaking documentary features interviews with former officials of Exodus International (which was the largest conversion therapy organization); former spokespeople for right-wing advocacy groups (who used the gay conversion story as a weapon to lobby against same-sex marriage rights); and people who'd believed they could change their sexual orientation in order to achieve acceptance in the eyes of God, in accordance with the church's teachings. The film's resolution – they've recanted their positions (some who'd given up pursuing life as a homosexual have since embraced it), and acknowledged the harm they'd caused others – is mollified by the fact that "Pray Away" also features others who continue to witness for the prayerful conversion of LGBTQ men and women. Screens at Brooklyn Commons at MetroTech June 16. (No At Home screenings available.) "Pray Away" will begin streaming on Netflix in August.
Watch a preview clip from "Pray Away":
For more info:
- 2021 Tribeca Festival (through June 20)
for more features.