What to See at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival

The Tribeca Film Festival begins Thursday, April 21st, in New York City. Hundreds of feature films, documentaries and short subjects will be screened over the next two weeks offering film fans a plethora of choices of what to see. So, how does someone attending Tribeca decide what to see during the festival? This handy guide to some of the splashier premieres should help.

Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

Actor Michael Rappaport has long professed his love of hip hop but the actor best known for his roles in “Higher Learning,” and “Zebrahead” takes his love of hip hop to new levels with his first directorial effort, the documentary “Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.” This controversial documentary charts the stormy history of the iconic hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest from their formation in 1985 to their much talked about break up in 1998 up to 2008 when Tribe reformed for a series of live performances plagued by the group’s past problems.

The documentary itself was plagued by the kind of infighting that led Tribe to break up over a decade ago. Not long after the film was completed Tribe member Q-Tip disowned the picture and in a series of Twitter posts called out director Rappaport for alleged inaccuracies in the finished film. Thankfully, prior to Beats’ premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Q-Tip relented and offered a mild statement of support.

In interviews Michael Rappaport has said that “Beats, Rhymes and Life” is about discovering ‘Will a Tribe Called Quest make more music?” Find out when “Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” premieres at Tribeca on Wednesday, April 27th.

Catching Hell

Supposed to have been part of sports network ESPN’s acclaimed documentary series “30 for 30” director Alex Gibney’s “Catching Hell” will be screened for the first time at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, April 23rd. The documentary charts the fan reaction to one of baseball’s most talked about moments; Cubs fan Steve Bartman’s fateful and unfortunate attempt to catch a foul ball during game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.

The ball that Bartman reached for was thought to be playable for Cubs left fielder Moises Alou until Bartman reached for the ball and knocked it away into the stands. Cubs fans blame Bartman for the aftermath of the foul pop which saw the Cubs lose game 6 and then game 7 and lose out on the chance to play in the World Series for the first time in more than 50 years.

“Catching Hell” was supposed to feature Steve Bartman’s first ever interview about the incident but negotiations between director Gibney and the reclusive Bartman and his lawyer fell through. Nevertheless, Gibney, a long time Red Sox fan familiar with the dark side of fan enmity, told ESPN that he feels “Catching Hell” is about more than just Steve Bartman and that he is confident the documentary still has impact minus Bartman’s participation.

Detachment

Undoubtedly the most star packed feature at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival is director Tony Kaye’s teacher drama “Detachment.” The film stars Academy Award winner Adrien Brody as a substitute teacher who enjoys his life of roaming from school to school until he meets people who invite him to feel attached. One is an eager student played by newcomer Betty Kaye. Another is a fellow teacher played by “Mad Men” bombshell Christina Hendricks and still another is a teenage runaway that Brody’s teacher takes into his home played by Sami Gayle.

The sprawling cast of “Detachment” also features James Caan, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, Marcia Gay Harden, Tim Blake Nelson, “Breaking Bad” Emmy winner Bryan Cranston and former “CSI” star William Peterson in his first post procedural drama role as a controversial teacher who shows a gay porn movie in his class.

Director Tony Kaye has had a colorful and controversial directing career dating back to his battle with star Edward Norton over the 1998 Neo-Nazi movie “American History X” to his incendiary abortion documentary “Lake of Fire.” Most recently, Kaye wrapped up shooting on the gritty drama “Black Water Transit” with Karl Urban and Laurence Fishburne only to find the film in limbo without a distributor.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Legendary Wuxia master, filmmaker Tsui Hark is bringing his latest martial arts epic “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” to Tribeca Thursday, April 28th. ‘Dee’ is an adaptation of the popular novel series by the late writer Robert Van Gulik and tells the story of an exiled detective who is welcomed back to his home kingdom when the Empress needs someone to investigate a series of mysterious deaths.

Hark’s reputation as a master of crafting martial arts epics is the big draw here and fans of the “Once Upon a Time in China” series are unlikely to be disappointed as some of China’s biggest stars have been cast in ‘Detective Dee’ including Andy Lau, Carina Lau and Tony Leung Ka Fai. The Tribeca screening of “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” is sponsored by Subway Cinema News, a valuable resource for fans of Asian cinema.

Everything Must Go

Will Ferrell isn’t exactly the kind of indie darling who headlines festivals but his latest film, “Everything Must Go,” is not your typical Will Ferrell movie. Made for a meager 8 million dollars, less than what Ferrell was paid for the recent buddy cop comedy “The Other Guys,” and based on a short story by the legendary writer Raymond Carver, “Everything Must Go” is a small and eclectic indie feature from a first time writer/director, Dan Rush.

In “Everything Must Go” WIll Ferrell plays Nick Porter an alcoholic who has just been fired from his job. When he arrives home he finds that his wife has left him and has locked him out of their former home and left his belongings on the front lawn. Taking advantage of a loophole in local laws, Nick declares he’s holding a yard sale which allows him to live on his lawn for 5 days. Joining him and maybe even helping him are a pregnant neighbor played by indie darling Rebecca Hall and a lonely teenager played by Christopher Jordan Wallace.

After garnering stellar reviews at the Toronto Film Festival and the London Film Festival “Everything Must Go” was picked up by Lionsgate and will get the kind of national distribution that few 8 million dollar movies ever get. But first, the film will play at the Tribeca Film Festival, one showing, Wednesday, April 28th.

Other notable Tribeca screenings

The Good Doctor

Orlando Bloom stars as a doctor who is struggling for confidence when he meets a patient, played by Riley Keough, who gives him a boost. Not wanting to lose his newfound strength, the good doctor plots to keep his patient sick in order to keep her close to him. Michael Pena, Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson and Troy Garity co-star.

Tribeca Film Guide: The Good Doctor

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

An all star comedy cast, headed up by SNL stars Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte, comes together with former “Larry Sanders Show” and David Letterman writers Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck to tell the story of a group of spoiled 30 somethings who plan one last epic bash, an orgy, after their swanky Hamptons party pad is sold. Lake Bell, Leslie Bibb, Tyler Labine and Lucy Punch round out the all star cast.

Tribeca Film Guide: A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

The Swell Season

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova became worldwide sensations when they won an Oscar for their musical collaboration on the song “Falling Slowly” from the film they starred in “Once.” The onscreen love affair and musical partnership mirrored for a time the offscreen pairing and “The Swell Season,” directed by Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins and Carlo Mirabella-Davis, picks up Hansard and Irglova’s unique love story as they prepare to tour the world following their Oscar triumph.

Tribeca Film Guide: The Swell Season

The Union

While fans wait impatiently for Cameron Crowe’s next romantic comedy/drama, they will have to make do with Crowe’s first foray into the world of documentary filmmaking. In 2009 Crowe was given unprecedented access as Elton John and Leon Russell worked together to create a new record. Crowe filmed everything from the start of the song writing all the way through the final recording sessions. The Union features guest appearances by Bernie Taupin, Ringo Starr, Jeff Bridges, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks and Brian Wilson and was selected to open the Tribeca Festival on Wednesday, April 20th.

Tribeca Film Guide: The Union