“Contemporary Color” to open Tribeca doc competition

Bill Ross and Turner Ross' documentary about David Byrne's 2015 musical color guard show (pictured) will open the World Documentary competition at this year's Tribeca Film Festival.
March 2, 2016

A documentary about David Byrne’s musical color guard show will open the World Documentary competition at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Directed by Western filmmakers Bill Ross and Turner Ross, Contemporary Color (pictured) is billed as a “cinematic interpretation” of the former Talking Heads front man’s 2015 show at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center for which color guard teams – synchronized dancers who perform with flags, rifles and sabers – performed routines to live music by St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado, Blood Orange, Ad-Rock and others. The film will have its world premiere at Tribeca.

Other docs bowing at the fest include Alma Har’el’s LoveTrue, which explores the nature of “true love” and screened as a work-in-progress at last year’s festival; Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Film: a GRAPHIC Design Experiment, about the graphic designer’s quest to discover the meaning of happiness; and Rich Hill co-director Tracy Droz Tragos’ HBO-backed Abortion: Stories Women Tell, which will bow in the festival’s ‘Viewpoints’ program.

Of the 25 films screening in Viewpoints – a program dedicated to “bold directorial visions” – 11 are documentaries. Among them are Kristi Jacobson’s HBO-produced Solitary, which promises to give viewers “unprecedented access” into solitary confinement within a supermax prison; and Obit, Vanessa Gould’s look at obituary writers who work at The New York Times. Both films will world premiere at Tribeca.

In all, festival organizers have announced 55 of the 101 feature films set to screen across the U.S. Narrative, International Narrative, Documentary Competition and Viewpoints programs.

Tribeca will host 77 world premieres, eight international premieres, six North American premieres, four U.S. premieres and five New York premieres. One third of this year’s films were directed by women – the highest in the festival’s history. The slate was chosen from 6,626 submissions.

The festival revealed last month that Andrew Rossi’s The First Monday in May would open Tribeca.

Films screening in the Spotlight, Midnight and Special Sections will be announced on March 8. The festival takes place from April 13 to 24 in New York City.

The list of World Documentary Competition and Viewpoint documentary titles follows, with synopses provided by Tribeca.

World Documentary Competition

Contemporary Color, directed by Bill Ross and Turner Ross. (USA) – World Premiere. Opening Film. In the summer of 2015, legendary musician David Byrne staged an unprecedented event at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to celebrate the art of color guard—synchronized dance involving flags, rifles, and sabers—by pairing regional color guard teams with performers, including St. Vincent, Nelly Furtado, and Ad-Rock. More than a concert film, Contemporary Color is a cinematic interpretation of a one-of-a-kind live event, courtesy of visionary filmmakers Bill and Turner Ross.

All This Panic, directed by Jenny Gage. (USA) – World Premiere. What is it like to come of age in New York City? First-time director Jenny Gage follows vivacious sisters, Ginger and Dusty, and their high school friends over the course of their crucial teen years. In this sensitive and cinematic documentary, Gage captures all the urgency, drama, and bittersweetness of girlhood as her subjects grapple with love, friendship, and what their futures hold.

Betting on Zero, directed and written by Ted Braun. (USA) – World Premiere. Allegations of corporate criminality and high-stakes Wall Street vendettas swirl throughout this riveting financial docu-thriller around hedge fund titan Bill Ackman and his crusade against nutritional giant Herbalife.

BUGS, directed and written by Andreas Johnsen. (Denmark) – World Premiere. Head Chef Ben Reade and Lead Researcher Josh Evans from Nordic Food Lab are on a mission to investigate the next big trend in food: edible insects. Filmmaker Andreas Johnsen follows the duo on a globe-trotting tour as they put their own haute-cuisine spin on local insect delicacies (bee larva ceviche, anyone?) in the pursuit of food diversity and deliciousness.

Do Not Resist, directed by Craig Atkinson. (USA) – World Premiere. In Do Not Resist, director Craig Atkinson, through keen and thoughtful observances, presents a startling and powerful exploration into the rapid militarization of police forces in the United States. Filmed over two years, in 11 states, Do Not Resist reveals a rare and surprising look into the increasingly disturbing realities of American police culture.

The Happy Film: a GRAPHIC Design Experiment, directed by Stefan Sagmeister, Ben Nabors, and Hillman Curtis. (U.S.) – World Premiere. Designer Stefan Sagmeister takes us on a personal journey to find out what causes happiness. Experimenting with three different approaches—meditation, therapy, and drugs—Sagmeister embarks on an entertaining and introspective quest, accented with a whimsical panoply of graphics, charts, and proverbs. The Happy Film may not make you happier, but it will surely move you to reexamine your own pursuit of happiness.

Keep Quiet, directed by Joseph Martin and Sam Blair. (UK, Hungary) – World Premiere. Passionate in his anti-Semitic beliefs, Csanád Szegedi was the rising star of Hungary’s far-right party until he discovers his family’s secret—his maternal grandparents were Jewish. The revelation prompts an improbable but seemingly heartfelt conversion from anti-Semite to Orthodox Jew. This captivating and confrontational film explores the complex and contradictory character of Szegedi, prompting deep questions about Szegedi’s supposed epiphany. In English, Hungarian with subtitles.

LoveTrue, directed by Alma Har’el. (U.S.) – World Premiere. Alma Har’el, director and cinematographer of the 2011 TFF Best Documentary Feature Bombay Beach, returns with LoveTrue, a genre-bending documentary, demystifying the fantasy of true love. From an Alaskan strip club, a Hawaiian island, and the streets of NYC—revelatory stories emerge about a deeper definition of love. Set to a hypnotizing score by Flying Lotus and exec produced by Shia LaBeouf.

Memories of a Penitent Heart, directed by Cecilia Aldarondo. (USA, Puerto Rico) – World Premiere.
Like many gay men in the 1980s, Miguel moved from Puerto Rico to New York City; he found a career in theater and a rewarding relationship. Yet, on his deathbed he grappled to reconcile his homosexuality with his Catholic upbringing. Now, decades after his death, his niece Cecilia locates Miguel’s estranged lover to understand the truth, and in the process opens up long-dormant family secrets. In English, Spanish with subtitles.

The Return, directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway, written by Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway, and Greg O’Toole. (U.S.) – World Premiere. How does one reintegrate into society after making peace with a life sentence? California’s controversial and notoriously harsh three-strikes law was repealed in 2012, consequently releasing large numbers of convicts back into society. The Return presents an unbiased observation of the many issues with re-entry through the varied experiences of recently freed lifers.

Tickling Giants, directed and written by Sara Taksler. (U.S.) – World Premiere. Charting Bassem Youssef’s rise as Egypt’s foremost on-screen satirist, Tickling Giants offers a rousing celebration of free speech and a showcase for the power of satire to speak for the people against a repressive government. Where this story differs from the familiar success of Youssef’s idol, Jon Stewart: Bassem’s jokes come with serious, dangerous, and at times revolutionary consequences. In Arabic, English with subtitles.

Untouchable, directed by David Feige. (U.S.) – World Premiere. When a powerful Florida lobbyist discovered his daughter was sexually abused, he launched a crusade to pass some of the strictest sex offender laws in the country. Today, 800,000 people are listed in the sex offender registry, yet the cycles of abuse continue. David Feige’s enlightening documentary argues for a new understanding of how we think about and legislate sexual abuse.


Abortion: Stories Women Tell, directed by Tracy Droz Tragos. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. In 1973, the US Supreme court decision Roe v. Wade gave every woman the right to have an abortion. In 2016, abortion remains one of the most divisive issues in America, especially in Missouri. Award-winning director and Missouri native Tracy Droz Tragos sheds new light on the contentious issue by focusing on the women and their stories, rather than the debate. An HBO Documentary Film.

After Spring, directed by Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Close to 80,000 Syrian refugees live in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. After Spring immerses us in the rhythms of the camp, the role of the aid workers, and the daily lives of two families as they contemplate an uncertain future. Executive produced by Jon Stewart, this is a fascinating journey through the camp’s physical and human landscapes. In Arabic, English, Korean with subtitles.

The Charro of Toluquilla, directed and written by Jose Villalobos Romero. (Mexico) – International Premiere, Documentary. Jaime García appears to be the quintessentially machismo mariachi singer, yet beneath his magnetic confidence lies a man struggling to maintain a relationship with his estranged family while living as an HIV-positive man.  In Jose Villalobos Romero’s remarkable cinematic debut, he utilizes vivid tableaus and stylized perspective to paint a beautifully unique and emotional portrait of a man divided. With Analia Garcia Hernandez, Rocio Hernandez, La Paloma, Andrea Dominguez, Ventura Garcia. In Spanish with subtitles.

14 Minutes from Earth, directed and written by Jerry Kolber, Adam “Tex” Davis, Trey Nelson, and Erich Sturm. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. On October 24th, 2014, a secret three-year mission by a small crew of engineers came to fruition deep in the desert of New Mexico. There, a human being (Alan Eustace ) was launched higher than ever before without the aid of a spacecraft—shattering all records. This film documents the mission and its greater implications for the scientific community and stratospheric exploration.

haveababy, directed by Amanda Micheli. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Amanda Micheli’s haveababy opens with a YouTube-based competition for a free round of in vitro fertilization, courtesy of a Las Vegas fertility clinic. Through this controversial contest, Micheli explores the complexities of America’s burgeoning fertility industry and paints an intimate portrait of the many resilient couples determined to have a baby against all odds.

Houston, We Have a Problem!, directed by Žiga Virc, written by Žiga Virc and Boštjan Virc. (Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, Qatar) – World Premiere. The space race and NASA’s moon landing are as much part of our national identity as they are fodder for conspiracy theories. Houston, We Have a Problem! adds new material to the discussion on both fronts, as filmmaker Žiga Virc investigates the myth of a secret multi-billion-dollar deal involving America’s purchase of Yugoslavia’s space program in the early 1960s.​ In Croatian, English, Serbian, Slovene with subtitles.

Keepers of the Game, directed by Judd Ehrlich. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Lacrosse is a sacred game for Native Americans, traditionally reserved for men. When a women’s varsity team forms in upstate New York, they aim to be the first Native women’s team to take the championship title away from their rivals Massena High. But when their funding is slashed, and the indigenous community is torn, they find more than just the championship is on the line.​

Night School, directed and written by Andrew Cohn. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Indianapolis has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country. For adult learners Greg, Melissa and Shynika, a high school diploma could be a life-changing achievement. Andrew Cohn’s absorbing documentary observes their individual pursuits, fraught with the challenges of daily life and also the broader systemic roadblocks faced by many low income Americans, including wages and working conditions.

Obit, directed by Vanessa Gould. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Within the storied walls of The New York Times, a team of writers is entrusted with reflecting upon the luminaries, icons, and world leaders of our day. Vanessa Gould’s fascinating documentary introduces us to those responsible for crafting the unequaled obituaries of the NYT. As we’re taken through their painstaking process we learn about the pressures accompanying a career spent shaping the story of a life.

The Ride, directed and written by Stéphanie Gillard. (France) – World Premiere, Documentary. The Ride takes us along the annual 300-mile trek through the South Dakota Badlands. There, young men and women of the Lakota Sioux ride horseback and reflect upon the history of their ancestors. This intimate, stunningly photographed account captures the thoughts and emotions of the young riders and the adults who guide them along their journey.

Solitary, directed by Kristi Jacobson. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. With unprecedented access, director Kristi Jacobson offers a deeply moving portrait of life inside solitary confinement within a supermax prison. Filmed over the course of one year, this riveting film tells the story of the complex personalities that dwell on either side of a cell door while raising provocative questions about the nature of crime and punishment in America today. An HBO Documentary Film.

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, directed by Deborah S. Esquenazi. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. In 1994, four women were tried and convicted of a heinous assault on two young girls in a court case that was infused with homophobic prejudice and the Satanic Panic sweeping the nation at that time. Southwest of Salem is a fascinating true crime story that puts the trial of the San Antonio Four in context of their ongoing search for exoneration.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.