Though the Tribeca Film Festival isn’t just about film anymore, its movie slate remains at the heart of the festival. Its 16th edition, which kicks off with a gala, concert, and premiere of the documentary Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives Wednesday, has expanded its reach to encompass television (this year, the festival will premiere the much-anticipated The Handmaid’s Tale) and even virtual reality—but, as evidenced in this year’s lineup, it’s the documentaries and narratives that prove the biggest draw. From musical documentaries on Clive Davis and Whitney Houston to surprising turns from rising stars like Zoey Deutch and Zosia Mamet, as well as the inevitable, politically inclined selections, here are the 10 films most likely to make headlines in the coming weeks as the festival gets underway.
Jenny Slate [pictured above in a 2015 W editorial] is having a moment, and we’re here for it. In Aardvark, Slate plays a therapist who falls for the brother of a patient—who happens to be played by Mad Men’s Jon Hamm. Don Draper meets Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.
Zoey Deutch, the 22-year-old rising star best known for roles in Vampire Academy and Before I Fall, tackles her first all-grown-up role in Flower. She plays a sexually precocious 17-year-old dealing who forms an unexpected friendship with her mother’s boyfriend’s newly sober son—and we’re cautiously optimistic about this particular teen star-to-leading lady transformation. Flower, which made the 2012 Black List for un-produced scripts, is just the second feature from director Max Winkler, the son of actor Henry Winkler.
Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives
The opening night bonanza centers around the documentary of lauded recording executive Clive Davis. In its world premiere at Tribeca, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives is a survey of the career of a man who helped launch the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Janis Joplin, and more. But that’s not the end: Following the performance, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Jennifer Hudson, Carly Simon, and Dionne Warwick will all take the stage.
A Gray State
Just a week ago, The New Yorker looked into the death of alt-right filmmaker David Crowley, who was making a narrative film entitled Gray State. Set in the near future after a foreign regime took over the United States, it imagined a group of resistance fighters who band together against the occupiers. But before he completed filming, Crowley began to come undone—“Crowley was losing his mind, and he didn’t seem to know it,” writer Alec Wilkinson writes. The documentary A Gray State, a nonfiction thriller executive-produced by Werner Herzog, unravels the deaths of Crowley and his family—ruled a murder-suicide, but quickly taken up by conspiracy theorists—against the current political landscape.
Whitney. “Can I Be Me.”
The documentary, which will see its world premiere at Tribeca, features never-before-seen footage, much of it compiled from Whitney Houston’s 1999 tour, as a means of examining the singer’s troubled relationship to fame. And while it’s reported to be a relatively even-handed account, the Houston estate refused to cooperate or even to give its blessing to the project — which has only made it pique audiences’ interest even more.
Get Me Roger Stone
Longtime Republican operative Roger Stone was a key figure behind the rise of Donald Trump, and he’s the focus of this new documentary that will debut on Netflix in early May. Trump is among the interviewees featured in the film—and as if that weren’t already intriguing enough, Stone will attend the premiere. He hasn’t seen the film yet. Anything could happen.
Indie darling filmmaker Azazel Jacobs directs Debra Winger and Tracy Letts in this breakup-makeup romantic comedy. Winger, a staple on screen throughout the ’80s and ’90s, tackles a now-rare leading-lady role as a middle-aged woman who, stymied by her marriage, embarks on an affair, as does her husband, played by Letts. And it’s only once they’ve each begun pursuing other romantic relationships that they rekindle their marriage. So there’s that.
The Boy Downstairs
Girls may be a wrap, but Zosia Mamet isn’t going anywhere. She stars in The Boy Downstairs, her first major project post-Girls, playing a young woman who moves back to New York after a European escapade—only to find her new building is already occupied. By her ex-boyfriend. The Boy Downstairs is one to watch—especially if the Girls finale left you lacking in tender New York-centered narratives.
New mother Amanda Seyfried won’t be at the premiere of The Clapper, but co-star Tracy Morgan most certainly will be. No one’s claimed dibs on distributing The Clapper just yet, but it’s still managed to be one of the buzziest narrative features at the festival—and since it’s about a man who becomes a meme, it feels relevant, at least. Perhaps it can shed some light on Ken Bone, all these months later.
Rock ’n’ Roll
Filled with francophone humor and self-referential nods, IRL husband-and-wife duo Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard co-headline in this French-language narrative, also directed by Canet. They play versions of themselves, so take from that what you will.
Marion Cotillard plays a spy on screen, but she knows she'd make a bad spy: