“Mary J. Blige: The London Sessions”
During every Tribeca Film Festival, there is always a group of music-themed films. Mary J. Blige’s odyssey to London to team up with Sam Smith and Disclosure to record her new album marks this selection. It is a close-up look at the creative process and at Blige’s continuing growth as an artist and as a woman putting a painful past behind her. Her vulnerability is as striking as her music is moving.
“Stranded in Canton”
Documentary/narrative hybrid that explores the burgeoning political, social and economic relations between rising power China and the growing number of African citizens who migrate to China seeking their fortunes.
“Misery Loves Comedy”
A documentary that attempts to use comedians to answer the age-old question of where does good comedy really come from. That is, can comedy exist without tragedy? Featured are Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hanks, Amy Schumer, Judd Apatow, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry David and others.
Heartwarming, heartbreaking, inspiring and funny. This documentary about a burgeoning filmmaker almost cut down in the prime of his life by ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Patrick O’ Brien was a 30-year-old filmmaker and DJ when the disease set in. Instead of allowing it to curtail his dreams, he forged ahead, using his God-given creative talent even as the disease stole all of his motor functions. He turned the camera on himself, his family, his friends and his caregivers for an unflinching, yet unsentimental, look at life with the illness that in short order rendered him a quadriplegic—a life that included finding a girlfriend and fathering a child.
In the age of books such as “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” could it be that the only book we need for relationship advice is the Bible? This fascinating documentary takes the religious, specifically the Christian, route in trying to navigate the choppy waters of dating and relationships. The subject of the film, 33-year-old Kelly, is adopted as an adult by spiritual parents Ron and Dawn. Kelly has lived with them for the past 10 years and agrees to continue to do so until they manage to marry her off. As her spiritual parents, any potential suitors must first get their approval before having access to Kelly and even then, if at any point they decide that the guy is not suitable, Kelly must submit to their decisions. The film chronicles one such relationship and its surprising conclusion.
Inspired by the classic “The Decameron,” “Wondrous Boccaccio” is a visual idyll and a fantastic voyage to the Italian countryside in the late Middle Ages/dawn of the Renaissance. A group of beautiful young Tuscanites run away to the country to escape the plague ravaging the city. To pass the time, they regale each other with stories of romance and folly. Each whimsical tale becomes its own film within a film, but what is constant is the enchanting characters, the gorgeous pastoral setting and beautiful costuming.
High-octane, intense ride along with a cocaine-fueled, morality-challenged undercover police officer in London. The main character, Michael, is a complex amalgam of a corrupt yet charismatic cop who becomes touched by the plight of one of the women forced into prostitution by the criminals he is both using to feed his own greed and trying to take down. Eventually, he gets caught in the tangled web of his own making.
A charming romantic comedy starring Lake Bell and Simon Pegg set in England and in the tradition of “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” Here though, the main character is Nancy, the jaded 30-something single girl desperate enough to actually pretend to be someone else to steal that person’s date. Viewers are tempted to be judgmental until they realize that on some level, we all present a different version of ourselves when setting out on new romantic adventures or at the very least, we are strongly tempted to do so.
“Birth of Sake”
The Japanese have a saying about sake: “Nihonshu wa ryori wo erabanai.” This statement translates in English to “Sake doesn’t fight with food.” In this documentary, we get an up close look at the inner workings of one of the oldest sake-making breweries in Japan, the Tedorigawa Brewery. The process of creating this sake is so sensitive and so painstaking that it takes the team of men who make it away from their families for six months out of each year. Despite the long period of time, and close quarters in which they must co-exist, harmonious relationships among the men prevail. The way the film is shot is a reflection of delicate balance and beauty of these relationships and of the high-quality product it enables.
Surreal, existential examination of the effects of child abduction on families and society, which, as the filmmaker explains, boil down to “the desire for justice or vengeance that is inherent in every human being.” The film is simultaneously an exercise in noir and magical realism. It is partially based on the filmmaker’s personal experience of having been the victim of a failed kidnapping attempt as a child in India as well as the current conditions there, where an estimated 100,000 children are abducted each year.
“Far From Men”
Based on a short story by Camus, an off the beaten path buddy film/Western set in 1950s Algeria. One man is a Muslim accused of murder, and the other is a white man ordered to bring him to the nearest prison many miles away. On their arduous journey, we get a lesson in the complexities of the concept of justice.
“Orion: The Man Who Would Be King”
Jimmy Ellis is a charismatic and talented singer whose gift of sounding preternaturally like Elvis Presley was at the same time a curse. This film explores the tragedy of a gifted individual whose search for fame eclipsed his need for his own identity.