David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s doc about a father’s videogame for his dying son, Thank You for Playing (pictured), and Albert Maysles’ latest project, In Transit, on America’s longest train route, are among 12 documentary titles competing in the Tribeca Film Festival’s world documentary feature competition.
The festival – which last month revealed its opening night film, the SNL doc Live from New York! - runs from April 15 to 26. This year’s selection includes feature films from 31 countries, including 64 world premieres, three international premieres, 13 North American premieres, five U.S. premieres, 11 New York premieres and one restoration.
Among the docs enjoying world premieres is Thank You for Playing, which follows Ryan and Amy Greene’s videogame project about their son Joel’s fight against cancer, and was presented at IDFA’s Central Pitch competition in Amsterdam last November. Also bowing is In Transit, which was co-directed by Maysles, Nelson Walker, Lynn True, David Usui and Ben Wu. The film centers on The Empire Builder, America’s busiest long-distance train route between Chicago to Seattle, and the passengers it takes across the country.
Other notable world premieres include Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s later offering In My Father’s House, which follows rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith’s mission to reconnect with his estranged father; as well as Cosima Spender’s Palio, on the world’s oldest horse race in Siena, Italy.
The films are to compete for cash prizes totaling US$225,000, as well as artwork from the Artists Awards program.
Elsewhere, the festival has revealed the titles in its “Viewpoints” program, which celebrates “distinctive visions from innovative voices” and features both narrative and documentary titles.
The program’s 11 documentary entries include world premieres for Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands’ Uncertain, on an aquatic weed threatening a Texas lake; Patrick O’Brien’s TransFatty Lives, about the director’s diagnosis of ALS; and Jeanie Finlay’s Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, about a mysterious masked singer instrumental in starting the “Elvis is Alive” myth.
Other docs bowing include Amy Kohn’s A Courtship, about the practice of Christian relationships; Steve Hoover’s Crocodile Gennadiy, on a self-appointed savior in Ukraine who sets out to reach drug-addicted youth; Andrew Jenks‘ dream/killer, about the personal consequences of a wrongful conviction; and Ido Mizrahy’s GORED, about Spanish bullfighter Antonio Barrera.
The list of World Documentary Feature Competition and Viewpoints titles follows, with descriptions courtesy of Tribeca:
WORLD DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION:
Autism in Love
Directed by Matt Fuller. (USA) – World Premiere.
What does it mean to love and be loved? With remarkable compassion, director Matt Fuller examines the reality of autistic adulthood and shows how the members of this often-misunderstood community cope with the challenge of keeping romance alive. Autism in Love is a celebration of accepting the differences in others, and in ourselves.
The Birth of Saké
Directed by Erik Shirai. (USA) – World Premiere.
Traditional and labor-intensive, the production of Saké has changed very little over the centuries. Erik Shirai’s love song to the artisans who have dedicated their lives to carrying on this increasingly rare artform follows the round-the-clock process for six straight months, offering a rare glimpse into a family-run brewery that’s been operating for over 100 years. In Japanese with subtitles.
Directed and written by Camilla Nielsson. (Denmark). – North American Premiere.
In the wake of Robert Mugabe’s highly criticized 2008 presidential win, Zimbabwe’s first constitutional committee was created in an effort to transition the country away from its authoritarian leadership. With unprecedented access to the two political rivals overseeing the committee, this riveting, firsthand account of a country’s fraught first steps towards democracy plays at once like an intimate political thriller and unlikely buddy film. In English, Shona with subtitles.
Havana Motor Club
Directed and written by Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt. (Cuba, USA) – World Premiere.
Reforms have offered opportunity in Cuba but the children of the Revolution are unsure of the best route forward. For a half-dozen drag racers, this means last-minute changes to their beloved American muscle cars, as they prepare for the first sanctioned race in Cuba since 1960. Punctuated by a lively Cuban soundtrack, Havana Motor Club offers a fascinating glimpse at the resilience and ingenuity of the competitive spirit. In Spanish with subtitles.
In My Father’s House
Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, co-written by Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg, and Pax Wassermann. (USA) – World Premiere.
After moving into his childhood home on Chicago’s South Side, Grammy Award–winning rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith hesitantly sets out to reconnect with his estranged father, the man who abandoned him over 20 years ago. In My Father’s House is a stirring, multi-generational chronicle of Che’s sincere but often-fraught journey to build a future for his own family by reconnecting with his traumatic past.
Co-directed by Albert Maysles, Nelson Walker, Lynn True, David Usui, and Ben Wu. (USA) – World Premiere.
The Empire Builder is America’s busiest long-distance train route, running from Chicago to Seattle. Throughout these corridors sit runaways, adventurers, and loners – a myriad of passengers waiting to see what their journey holds. A touching and honest observation, co-directed by the iconic documentarian Albert Maysles, In Transit breathes life into the long commute, and contemplates the unknowns that lie at our final destination.
Directed and written by Ivy Meeropol. (USA) – World Premiere.
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant looms just 35 miles from Times Square. With over 50 million people living in close proximity to the aging facility, its continued operation has generated controversy for the surrounding community. In the brewing fight for clean energy and the catastrophic possibilities of complacency, director Ivy Meeropol weaves a startling portrait of our uncertain nuclear future.
Directed by Cosima Spender, written by John Hunt. (UK, Italy) – World Premiere.
In the world’s oldest horse race, the Palio, taking bribes and fixing races threatens to extinguish the passion for the sport itself. Giovanni, unversed in corruption, challenges his former mentor, who dominates the game. What ensues is a thrilling battle, filled with the intoxicating drama that is at the center of Italian tradition. In Italian with subtitles.
Song of Lahore
Directed by Andy Schocken and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. (USA, Pakistan) – World Premiere.
Until the late 1970s, the Pakistani city of Lahore was world-renowned for its music. Following the ban of music under Sharia law, many artists were forced to abandon their life’s work. Song of Lahore turns the spotlight on a stalwart group of lifelong musicians who continue to play despite their circumstances. They end up attracting listeners from all over the world. In English, Punjabi, and Urdu with subtitles.
Thank You for Playing
Co-directed and co-written by David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall. (USA) – World Premiere. For the past four years, Ryan and Amy Greene have been working on That Dragon, Cancer, a videogame about their son Joel’s fight against that disease. Following the family through the creation of the game and the day-to-day realities of Joel’s treatment, David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall create a moving testament to the joy and heartbreak of raising a terminally ill child.
Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle
Directed and written by Nick Berardini. (USA) – World Premiere.
Do you blame the technology or the person wielding it? With damaging reports of taser-related deaths at the hands of police officers, this conundrum spurs a carefully constructed argument that tasers are in fact lethal. Yet more than 17,000 police departments in the United States continue to use the electric rifle.
Directed by Leah Wolchok. (USA) – World Premiere.
The New Yorker is the benchmark for the single-panel cartoon. This light-hearted and sometimes poignant look at the art and humor of the iconic drawings shows why they have inspired and even baffled us for decades. Very Semi-Serious is a window into the minds of cartooning legends and hopefuls, including editor Bob Mankoff, shedding light onto their how their humor evolves.
VIEWPOINTS (Documentary selections)
All Eyes and Ears
Directed and written by Vanessa Hope. (China, USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary.
When former Utah governor Jon Huntsman was appointed United States Ambassador to China, the charming career politician arrived at his new post with his entire family—including his adopted Chinese daughter, Gracie. Huntsman’s diplomatic struggles and triumphs are explored in the broader context of China’s relationship with the rest of the world, and intersected with Gracie’s personal experience living in China as a Chinese-American. In Mandarin, Cantonese, English, with subtitles.
Directed by Amy Kohn. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary.
Amy Kohn’s fascinating documentary offers a peek into the practice of Christian courtship, wherein a woman hands over the responsibility of finding a husband to her parents and the will of God. Such is Kelly’s path, enlisting her adopted spiritual family to find her Mr. Right.
Directed and written by Steve Hoover. (USA)– World Premiere, Documentary.
Crocodile Gennadiy, a real-life, self-appointed savior, who works tirelessly to rescue homeless, drug-addicted youth from the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. At the same time, he challenges dealers and abusers. Despite criticism, Gennadiy is determined to continue his work. Sundance Award-winning director Steve Hoover’s second feature is a bold portrait of a man on a mission. In English, Russian with subtitles.
Directed by Andrew Jenks. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary.
In the fall of 2005, 20-year-old Ryan Ferguson received a 40-year prison sentence for a murder that he did not commit. Over the next 10 years, his father Bill engages in a tireless crusade to prove Ryan’s innocence. Interspersed with footage from the Ferguson family archive, Andrew Jenks’ film looks at the personal consequences of a wrongful conviction.
Directed and written by Ido Mizrahy, co-written by Geoffrey Gray. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary.
Gored centers on Spanish bullfighter Antonio Barrera, holder of the dubious title of “Most Gored Bullfighter in History,” as he grapples with the end of his career. Captivating footage of past and present bullfights reveal Barrera’s tremendous passion for the sport, as well as his seemingly irresistible urge to confront death at every opportunity. In Spanish with subtitles.
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King
Directed and written by Jeanie Finlay. (UK) – World Premiere, Documentary.
Millions of Americans clung to the hope that Elvis Presley faked his death. For the executives at Sun Records that fantasy became an opportunity in the form of Orion, a mysterious masked performer with the voice of The King. But who was the man behind the mask? In this stranger-than-fiction true story, Jeanie Finlay explores a life led in service to those who couldn’t let Elvis go.
Directed by Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary.
A rare, insider’s view of an FBI undercover investigation in progress, (T)ERROR follows a 63-year-old informant in his attempt to befriend a suspected Taliban sympathizer, and build a case against him. Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe’s startling and timely exposé questions the sacrifices that are being made to prevent terror in the United States.
Toto and His Sisters (Toto Si Surorile Lui)
Directed and written by Alexander Nanau. (Romania) – North American Premiere, Documentary.
Shot over a period of 15 months, this hands-off documentary follows siblings living in a Bucharest slum. With their mother in jail, Toto and his two sisters, Ana and Andreea, live in what appears to be a communal drug den. As Ana drifts away with frequent drug use, Toto and Andreea must stick together in an orphanage, awaiting their mother’s return. In Romanian with subtitles.
Directed by Patrick O’Brien, co-written by Patrick O’Brien, Scott Crowningshield, Lasse Jarvi, Doug Pray. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary.
Director Patrick O’Brien is TransFatty, the onetime NYC deejay and Internet meme-making superstar. In 2005, O’Brien began to document his life after being diagnosed with ALS and given only two to five years to live. TransFatty Lives is a brazen and illustrative account of what it’s like to live when you find out you are going to die.
Co-directed and co-written by Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary.
An aquatic weed threatens the lake of the small American border town of Uncertain, Texas, and consequently the livelihoods of those who live there. As some of the men in town attempt to figure out their future, they confront a past that haunts them.
Directed by Crystal Moselle. (USA) – New York Premiere, Documentary.
Everything the Angulo brothers know about the outside world they learned from obsessively watching movies. Shut away from bustling New York City by their overprotective father, they cope with their isolation by diligently re-enacting their favorite films. When one of the brothers escapes, the world as they know it will be transformed. A Magnolia Release.