Six Must-See Documentaries Premering at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival
Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Tribeca Film
This month marks the return of the Tribeca Festival, which begins on June 9 and goes on until June 20. During the event, a number of films will make their debut, including a handful of notable documentaries. Of course, there’s the Dave Chappelle Documentary, which will explore the comedian’s socially-distanced cornfield concerts he hosted last year, but there will also be documentaries on Rick James, A$AP Rocky, Dick Gregory, and Gordon Parks.
For those wanting to know a little bit more about these documentaries, you’re in luck — we’ve rounded them up here and have provided additional details about each one, including summaries of the films. Unfortunately, all of these — except for the Dave Chappelle Documentary — are sold out for in-person screenings, but you can purchase tickets to see these films (except for the Chappelle doc) from the comfort of your own home for $15 each.
These are the top six must-see documentaries at this year’s Tribeca Festival.
Director: Sacha Jenkins
Directed by Sascha Jenkins — who also created the brilliant Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men documentary — Bitchin’ aims to tell the story of Rick James’ career as a funk and R&B icon, with Jenkins examining “the brain beneath the braids, charting his soaring artistic success and eventual personal decline,” according to a summary of the film. The documentary will be comprised of rare archival performances, animation, interviews with family and collaborators and recorded conversations with James himself, as Jenkins explores James “not with reverence, but instead with indisputable care as he delves into the circumstances that birthed this one-of-a-kind personality.”
Directer: The Architects
Back in 2019, A$AP Rocky was put into a Stockholm prison after a violent altercation took place between him and his entourage and two locals. His imprisonment even made its way to the White House, with then-president Donald Trump getting involved with Rocky’s case.
Stockholm Syndrome is centered around this moment in the Harlem rapper’s career. Directed by The Architects, the documentary “reveals Rocky’s experience with the inequities of the Swedish judicial system and the dangers of stardom and scapegoating through a series of twists and turns, ultimately paralleling the need for prison reform in our own backyard,” according to a summary of the film. The doc will fuse archival footage, contemporary interviews, animation, and live concert footage to help tell its story “of how one of rap’s biggest superstars became embroiled in an international incident, leading to an unexpected political awakening.”
Director: Andre Gaines
A pioneering comedian who also was a brave and outspoken civil rights activist, Dick Gregory was someone who wanted to make people laugh just as much as he wanted to fight for their humanity. The One and Only Dick Gregory explores that duality: a comedian who used his public platform for activism during the civil rights movement of the ’60s. Serving as the directorial debut of Andre Gaines — he was the associate producer for Spike Lee’s 2014 film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus — and executive produced by Kevin Hart and Lena Waithe, the documentary “takes a close look at Gregory’s legacy, documenting his many personal reinventions throughout the decade,” according to a summary of the film. People who were influenced by Gregory like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock also appear in the film to speak on Gregory’s impact.
Director: Jeremy Elkin
Described as “Paris Is Burning meets Larry Clark’s KIDS” in the summary of the film, All the Streets Are Silent explores how hip-hop and skateboarding’s relationship came to be in downtown Manhattan in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Directed by Jeremy Elkin, who shot a number of skate films in the 2000s in his home city of Montreal before moving to New York, the documentary will include never-before-seen archival footage from the era, as well as interviews with notable figures from both the hip-hop and skateboarding worlds that were a part of that downtown scene. Also, legendary hip-hop producer Large Professor is providing the score for the doc.
Director: John Maggio
A legendary photographer, the late Gordon Parks became known for his portraits of Black Americans, whether that was poignant images of a family getting ice cream at a segregated dessert stand or pictures of larger-than-life figures like Malcolm X or Muhammad Ali. (His photos even served as inspiration for Kendrick Lamar’s “Element” music video.) Directed by John Maggio — the director behind last year’s cyber warfare and and cyber spying documentary The Perfect Weapon — and executive produced by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, Inspired By Gordon Parks “melds a moody score with Parks’ entrancing images to create a thorough and graceful portrait of one of America’s most important photographers,” according to a summary of the film. Ava Duvernay, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Nelson George, Anderson Cooper, and others will also make appearances in the doc.
Directers: Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert
Dave Chappelle’s socially-distanced cornfield concerts in Yellow Springs, Ohio served as a much-needed distraction from the bleakness of the pandemic last year. Those that were able to attend one of the events didn’t just get a stacked lineup of comedians — Chappelle included — but musical performances too, as was the case with a Block Party Chappelle held on July 4 that featured Erykah Badu, Common, Questlove, and others.
Untitled “follows Chappelle as he provides the community he calls home with two things desperately needed in difficult times – economic and comic relief,” according to a summary of the film, adding that “What began as an experimental socially-distanced live comedy show in a neighbor’s cornfield, grew into an unforgettable summer with his neighbors, friends and fellow comedians.” Steve Bognar and Julia Reichart — the pair that also directed Chappelle’s 8:46 special — are also directing Untitled.