Clockwise from top left: “Ailey,” “Bernstein’s Wall,” “On the Divide,” and “Ascension.”
By Virginia Yapp
The 20th annual Tribeca Film Festival kicks off in New York today, bringing back in-person screenings at venues around the city. We’re excited to see 16 Sundance Institute–supported projects in the lineup, and we can’t wait for the chance to see them on the big screen. (Not in NYC? Not a problem — the festival is also offering $15-per-title Tribeca at Home virtual screenings for select titles.) Read on to learn more about these films, the artists who made them, and the Sundance Institute programs that supported them; then head to the Tribeca website to search for in-person and online screening options.
499 | Director Rodrigo Reyes; screenwriters Rodrigo Reyes and Lorena Padilla; producers Inti Cordera and Andrew Houchen
Director Rodrigo Reyes and producers Inti Cordera and Andrew Houchen received a Documentary Film Grant from the Sundance Institute for 499, a powerful hybrid documentary that delves into the brutal legacy of colonialism in Mexico nearly 500 years after Cortez arrived in the Aztec empire. Reyes is also an alumnus of the Institute’s Screenwriters Intensive in Los Angeles, and he received a Spotlight on Storytellers Grant in 2017. The project was part of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival’s Documentary Competition lineup, and its New York City premiere, co-hosted by Cinema Tropical, takes place June 19.
AILEY | Director Jamila Wignot; producer Lauren DeFilippo
Director Jamila Wignot and her producer Lauren DeFilippo brought their resonant biography of the visionary dance pioneer Alvin Ailey through the Sundance Institute’s Catalyst Forum and Film Music and Sound Design Lab in 2020; they also made the film with an assist from the Institute’s Documentary Fund Grant in 2018. The film had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and now Tribeca will host the project’s New York premiere on June 17 as part of its Critics’ Week programming. (Online viewing will open June 18 via Tribeca at Home.)
ASCENSION (登楼叹) | Director Jessica Kingdon; producers Kira Simon-Kennedy, Jessica Kingdon, Nathan Truesdell
Director Jessica Kingdon’s absorbingly cinematic documentary explores the pursuit of the “Chinese dream,” presenting a contemporary vision of China that prioritizes productivity and innovation above all else. Kingdon received a Documentary Film Grant for the project, which will have its world premiere June 12 as part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Documentary Competition. (Online viewing will open June 13 via Tribeca at Home.)
BERNSTEIN’S WALL | Director Douglas Tirola; screenwriters Leonard Bernstein and Douglas Tirola; producer Susan Bedusa
Douglas Bernstein’s documentary provides an enlightening, complex look at one of the greatest figures in 20th century classical music whose passion and creativity guided him well beyond the concert hall. Featuring original music by Sundance Institute Film Music Program director Peter Golub, the project went through Catalyst Forum; it will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of the Spotlight Documentary section on June 14. (Online viewing will open June 15 via Tribeca at Home.)
ENEMIES OF THE STATE | Director Sonia Kennebeck; producer Ines Hofmann Kanna
When making Enemies of the State, a film about the DeHart family’s quest to protect their hacker son from the U.S. government, Sonia Kennebeck and Ines Hofmann Kanna were assisted by a Sundance Documentary Fund Grant. The project was selected as part of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival Documentary Competition, and it will have its U.S. premiere on June 18.
FATHOM | Director Drew Xanthopoulos; producer Megan Gilbride
Filmmaker and cinematographer Drew Xanthopoulos’s documentary is an immersive and sensorial film that follows researchers working to finally decode the communication of humpback whales. The film — which received a Sundance Documentary Fund grant — will have its world premiere at Tribeca on Wednesday, June 16, as part of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival’s Documentary Competition. (Online viewing will open June 17 via Tribeca at Home.)
LAST OUT | Directors Sami Khan and Michael Gassert; producers Michael Gassert, Jonathan Miller, and Sami Khan
Sami Khan, Michael Gassert, and Jonathan Miller’s Last Out follows three Cuban baseball players with Major League dreams who embark on radically different paths when those dreams don’t pan out. Made with a grant from the Sundance Documentary Fund, the project was selected as part of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival’s Documentary Competition; it will screen as part of the 2021 festival on June 19.
MY HEART CAN’T BEAT UNLESS YOU TELL IT TO | Writer-director Jonathan Cuartas; producers Kenny Oiwa Riches, Anthony Pedone, Jesse Brown, Ian Peterson, and Patrick Fugit
Writer-director Jonathan Cuartas was a Knight Fellow in 2019; don’t miss his moody feature starring Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram, and Owen Campbell. The project was a 2020 Tribeca Film Festival selection in the U.S. Narrative Competition, and it will screen at the 2021 festival June 12.
NORTH BY CURRENT | Writer-director Angelo Madsen Minax; producer Felix Endara
A thoughtful, provocative rumination on identity and familial responsibility, writer-director Angelo Madsen Minax’s North by Current turns an unflinching eye toward a family in the process of repair. The project was made with assistance from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Fund, and it is part of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival’s Viewpoints section.
ON THE DIVIDE | Writer-directors Maya Cueva and Leah Galant; producers Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Amanda Spain, Elizabeth Woodward
Sundance Ignite alums Maya Cueva and Leah Galant took part in our Women’s Financing Intensive in 2019 while working on On the Divide. The documentary feature — which tells the story of three Latinx people whose lives collide at the last abortion clinic along the U.S.-Mexico border — will have its world premiere on June 13 at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of this year’s Documentary Competition. (Online viewing will open June 14 via Tribeca at Home.)
PACIFIED (PACIFICADO) | Writer-director Paxton Winters; producers Paula Linhares, Marcos Tellechea, Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Muskat, and Paxton Winters; Viewpoints (2020 selection)
With Pacified, writer-director Paxton Winters takes viewers into the lives of residents of the Brazilian favelas as they’re being cleared for the Rio Summer Olympics. The project — which was supported by the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program Grant — was part of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival’s Viewpoints section, and it will have its New York premiere on June 12.
PRAY AWAY | Director Kristine Stolakis; producer Anya Rous
Producer Anya Rous brought Pray Away through the Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Documentary Lab. With the project, Rous and director Kristine Stolakis reveal the damage inflicted by gay conversion programs, using intimate testimonies from current members and former leaders of the “pray the gay away” movement. Pray Away was a 2020 Tribeca Film Festival selection in the Documentary Competition, and it will have its world premiere on June 16.
SIMPLE AS WATER | Director Megan Mylan; producers Robin Hessman and Megan Mylan
Megan Mylan’s closely observed fragments of lives cut between Turkey, Greece, Germany, and the U.S. Each unfolding scene portrays the elemental bonds holding together Syrian families pulled apart by war, searching for a new life. The project — produced by Mylan as well as Robin Hessman — was part of our Catalyst Forum. See the world premiere of this 2020 Documentary Competition selection on June 20.
STATELESS (APÁTRIDA) | Writer-director Michèle Stephenson; producers Michèle Stephenson, Jennifer Holness, and Lea Marin
Michèle Stephenson’s documentary centers on the lives of several families who were affected by the Dominican Supreme Court’s decision to strip citizenship of individuals who were born in Haiti. Stephenson took the project through the Sundance Institute’s Women’s Financing Intensive in 2016, and the project also received a Documentary Film Grant. The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival selection will screen at the 2021 festival on June 12.
THROUGH THE NIGHT | Director Loira Limbal; producer Jameka Autry
In her vérité documentary Through the Night, filmmaker Loira Limbal takes viewers into a 24-hour daycare center in New York City, exploring the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of working mothers and a childcare provider. The project received a Documentary Film Fund grant, and producer Jameka Autry took part in our Creative Producing Fellowship while working on it. A 2020 selection in the Viewpoints section, Through the Night will have its New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 20.
WAKE UP ON MARS (RÉVEIL SUR MARS) | Writer-director Dea Gjinovci; producers Sophie Faudel, Dea Gjinovci, Britta Rindelaub, and Jasmin Basic
In Dea Gjinovci’s documentary, two teenage sisters lie in a vegetative state in the small Swedish home of their Kosovar family, the cause of their mysterious malady, known as “resignation syndrome,” entwined with their personal trauma experienced as refugees. The project went through our Talent Forum in 2019 and was the recipient of a Documentary Fund Grant. Attend the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival selection’s North American premiere on June 17.