Bill Nye, Steve Aoki docs join Tribeca Film Fest line-up

Netflix's Team Foxcatcher will have its world premiere at Tribeca, while directors David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg will present a 15-minute sneak peek into their tentatively titled Bill Nye doc, Objective: Change the World.
March 8, 2016

The latest film from Merchants of Doubt director Robert Kenner, a doc about DJ Steve Aoki from the makers of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and a sneak peek of a doc on TV “Science Guy” Bill Nye have joined the Tribeca Film Festival line-up.

The docs are among the titles in the Spotlight, Special Screening, Special Event and Work In Progress sections at this year’s festival, which takes place in New York from April 13 to April 24.

The Spotlight program is home to the festival’s marquee titles and includes 18 documentaries – 12 of which are world premieres.

This year’s Spotlight films include Kenner’s Command and Control, which is based on Eric Schlosser’s 2013 book of the same name and explores the 1980 explosion at the Titan II nuclear site near Little Rock, Arkansas; and Ian Roderick Gray and Dylan Harvey’s The Banksy Job, about the relationships between street artists including Banksy and AK47.

Also in the Spotlight roster: Jon Greenhalgh looks at the life of millionaire philanthropist and convicted murderer John E. du Pont in the Netflix-backed Team Foxcatcher; and Lloyd Kramer’s Midsummer in Newtown, about families and students preparing to stage a rock-pop version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Meanwhile, Roger Ross Williams’ Sundance winner Life, Animated; John Downer’s BBC-backed My Scientology Movie with Louis Theroux; Sonia Kennebeck’s drone warfare-themed National Bird, exec produced by Errol Morris and Wim Wenders; and Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan’s doc about Madonna’s back-up dancers, Strike A Pose, will continue their festival runs at Tribeca.

Justin Krook’s doc about DJ Steve Aoki, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, will world premiere as a special event. Produced by Matthew Weaver, Matt Colon, Happy Walters and David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi), the film will be followed by a conversation and performance with Aoki at the Beacon Theatre.

Tribeca’s Special Screening program includes the world premiere of State of Mind director Daniel Gordon’s Don’t Look Down, about Richard Branson’s attempt to cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in a hot air balloon.

A trio of art-focused films will also screen in the program: Barnaby Clay’s doc about rock photographer Mick Rock, SHOT! the Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock; Kristi Zea’s Everybody Knows… Elizabeth Murray; and Maura Axelrod’s Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back.

Benedikt Erlingsson’s The Show of Shows: 100 Years of Vaudeville, Circuses and Carnivals rounds out the docs playing in the program.

Elsewhere, the festival will host a work-in-progress screening of Brendan Mertens’ Ghostheads, about fan culture around the Ghostbusters movie franchise, while David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg will preview 15 minutes of scenes and clips from their Bill Nye doc Objective: Change the World (working title). The pair – whose project became crowdfunding platform Kickstarter’s most-funded doc, having raised US$800,000 – will also take part in a panel session on fundraising and their filmmaking process.

The 10th annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival will kick off on April 14 with a Gala screening and world premiere of This Magic Moment, a doc about the 1990s Orlando Magic NBA dynasty headlined by Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway.

Seven feature films will screen as part of the Festival, including the docs Keepers of the Game, Magnus, Pistol Shrimps and Win!

Organizers have previously announced the films playing in the World Documentary Competition and the opening night screening of Andrew Rossi’s The First Monday in May.

The list of Spotlight, Special Screening and Work In Progress titles follows, with synopses provided by Tribeca.


Bad Rap, directed and written by Salima Koroma. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Bad Rap follows the lives and careers of four Asian-American rappers trying to break into a world that often treats them as outsiders. Sharing dynamic live performance footage and revealing interviews, these artists will make the most skeptical critics into believers. With humor and insight, the film paints a portrait of artistic passion in the face of an unsung struggle. With Jonathan “Dumbfoundead” Park, Nora “Awkwafina” Lum, David “Rekstizzy” Lee, and Richard “Lyricks” Lee.

The Banksy Job, directed and written by Ian Roderick Gray and Dylan Harvey. (U.K.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Simultaneously hilarious, wild, and bizarre The Banksy Job further illuminates the crazy world of street art and the peculiar relationships between the artists—in particular, Banksy and the artist known as AK47. An art world, mystery caper, The Banksy Job adds another wacky layer to the Banksy story that can’t be missed.

Burden, directed by Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Illustrated with performance, private videos, and recollections from those who knew him, this detailed and innovative documentary looks at the life of the always provocative artist Chris Burden, whose work consistently challenged ideas about the limits and nature of modern art, from his notorious performances in the 1970s to his later assemblages, installations, kinetic and static sculptures, and scientific models.

Check It, directed by Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Fed up with being abused and harassed on the brutal inner-city streets of Washington D.C., a group of gay and trans teens form a gang to fight back. This raw and intimate portrait follows four Check It members as they struggle to find a way out of gang life through an unlikely avenue: fashion.

Command and Control, directed by Robert Kenner, written by Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. A high-stakes documentary thriller, Command and Control—based on Eric Schlosser’s 2013 book of the same name—explores the “human error” that led to an explosion at the Titan II nuclear site just outside Little Rock, Arkansas towards the end of the Cold War, and probes how mutually assured destruction might actually mean self-annihilation.

Team Foxcatcher, directed by Jon Greenhalgh. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Jon Greenhalgh’s Team Foxcatcherchronicles the paranoid, downward spiral of millionaire John E. du Pont that led to the tragic murder of Olympic wrestler David Schultz. Never-before-seen home videos shot during Schultz’s time at Foxcatcher Farms shed light on the disturbing events and serve as a poignant memoir to the legacy of the champion wrestler, husband, and father.  A Netflix release.

Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray, directed by Jenny Carchman. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. The self-help industry is worth $11 billion dollars a year; it captivates those seeking happiness, release from suffering, and those longing for a path and a leader to follow. James Arthur Ray, for many, was that sort of leader. But when a sweat lodge ceremony goes horribly wrong, we learn from Ray and some of his followers that their spiritual path was fraught with danger and perhaps even greater suffering.  

The Last Laugh, directed by Ferne Pearlstein, written by Robert Edwards and Ferne Pearlstein. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. When is comedy not funny? Some would argue, when it’s about the Holocaust. Through interviews and performances featuring people on either side of the issue—including Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Louis C.K., Joan Rivers, Chris Rock, and Abe Foxman—as well as a portrait of a resilient survivor, The Last Laugh offers an intelligent and hilarious survey of what is and is not off-limits in comedy, from the Holocaust and beyond.

Life, Animated, directed by Roger Ross Williams, written by Roger Ross Williams and David Teague. (U.S.) – New York Premiere, Documentary. Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams tells the remarkable story of an autistic young man, unable to speak for much of his childhood, who regained his ability to communicate through a life-long commitment to Disney animated movies. Life, Animated is a moving illustration of the power of love and understanding to fix those things in life that appear irreparable. An Orchard release.

Magnus, directed by Benjamin Ree, written by Linn-Jeanethe Kyed and Benjamin Ree. (Norway) – World Premiere, Documentary. Carlsen is known as the ‘Mozart of Chess’ because, unlike many chess grandmasters, he possesses innate ability, an unbelievable memory, and unrivaled creativity. Memorized moves and calculated probability can only carry a chess player so far; Magnus exploits this weakness in his opponents on his way to becoming the World Chess Champion. In English, Norwegian with subtitles.

Midsummer in Newtown, directed by Lloyd Kramer. (USA) – World Premiere, Documentary. Midsummer in Newtown is a testament to the transformative force of artistic expression to pierce through the shadow cast by trauma. In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, one grieving couple honors their daughter through music, while community children find their voice through a rock-pop version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

My Scientology Movie, directed by John Dower, written by John Dower and Louis Theroux. (U.K.) – International Premiere, Documentary. BBC journalist Louis Theroux joins forces with director John Dower to explore the Church of Scientology. With the help of a former high-ranking Scientologist, Theroux sets out to understand the goings-on of the Church, armed with his irreverent humor and biting irony.  

National Bird, directed by Sonia Kennebeck. (USA) – International Premiere, Documentary. Sonia Kennebeck takes on the controversial tactic of drone warfare, and demands accountability through the personal accounts—recollections, traumas, and responses—of three American military veterans whose lives have been shaken by the roles they played in this controversial method of attack. Executive produced by Wim Wenders and Errol Morris. In Dari, English with subtitles.

Pistol Shrimps, directed and written by Brent Hodge. (U.S., Canada) – World Premiere, Documentary. Sometimes girls just wanna have fun… and ball. Brent Hodge (A Brony Tale, TFF 2014) and Morgan Spurlock (Mansome, TFF 2012) introduce us to an eclectic group of women who play in an LA recreational basketball league, focusing on the Pistol Shrimps, a rag-tag group of actresses (including Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation), comedians, musicians, and mothers who brought nationwide attention to the league that could.

Reset (Relève), directed and written by Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai. (France) – International Premiere, Documentary. Stunningly gorgeous and delicate in both subject and treatment, Reset depicts renowned choreographer and dancer Benjamin Millepied (also known for choreographing the dance sequences in Black Swan) as he attempts to rejuvenate the Paris Opera Ballet in his new position as director. With appearances by composer Nico Muhly, Opera alumna Aurélie Dupont, and designer Iris van Herpen, Reset is a delightfully aesthetic affair. In French with subtitles.

Shadow World, directed by Johan Grimonprez. (U.S., Belgium, Denmark) – World Premiere, Documentary. In this eye-popping montage of archival and news footage and interviews, Johan Grimonprez exposes the shadow world of the global arms trade. In Arabic, English, Spanish with subtitles.

Strike a Pose, directed and written by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan. (Netherlands) – North American Premiere, Documentary. To the fans, they were the unforgettably talented men who supported the career of one of the world’s most beloved and controversial music artists: Madonna. Behind the scenes they were an impressionable group of young dancers whose lives were forever changed by her influence. Strike a Pose reunites the men 25 years later, providing the chance to learn about the emotional truth behind the glamorous facade.  

Win!, directed and written by Justin Webster. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. With inside access to the players, decision makers, and supporters who were central to the formation of New York City Football Club and its historic inaugural season, Win!offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to build a Major League Soccer team from the ground up, in the country’s most competitive sports market. In English, Spanish with subtitles.

Special Event

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, directed by Justin Krook. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. From producers Matthew Weaver, Matt Colon, Happy Walters and David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi, TFF 2011) is an energetic, heart-pumping documentary about one of the most eminent DJs working today: Steve Aoki. In the lead-up to Aoki’s biggest show of his career, the doc examines the driving force behind his passion: Rocky Aoki, daredevil showman, Benihana founder, and Steve’s absent father. Following the film, there will be a conversation and performance with Steve Aoki at The Beacon Theatre. 

Special Screenings

Don’t Look Down, directed by Daniel Gordon. (U.K.) – World Premiere, Documentary. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, daredevil entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson made an audacious attempt to cross the Atlantic and Pacific in the world’s largest hot air balloon. Don’t Look Down is a personal revelation; a dramatic tale of survival and drive. Branson recounts his experience with uncanny vividity, and reveals how baiting death forever changed him.  

Everybody Knows… Elizabeth Murray, directed by Kristi Zea. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. This tribute to the dynamic artist Elizabeth Murray, an intrinsic figure in New York’s contemporary art landscape from the 1970s until the early 2000s, highlights her struggle to balance personal and family ambition with artistic drive in a male-dominated art world. It also addresses her later battle with cancer, at the peak of her career. Screening in partnership with the Whitney Museum of American Art where the film will screen.

Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back, directed and written by Maura Axelrod. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. An art world upstart, provocative and elusive artist Maurizio Cattelan made his career on playful and subversive works that send up the artistic establishment, until a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2011 finally solidified his place in the contemporary art canon. Axelrod’s equally playful profile leaves no stone unturned in trying to figure out: who is Maurizio Cattelan? In English, Italian with subtitles. Screening in partnership with the Guggenheim Museum where the film will screen.

SHOT! the Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock, directed by Barnaby Clay. (U.S.) – World Premiere, Documentary. Legendary music photographer Mick Rock is best known for his iconic photographs of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Queen, and countless others. In a documentary as rock-n-roll as its subject, Mick Rock guides us through his psychedelic, shambolic first-hand experiences as the visual record-keeper of these myths and legends. With a special live music tribute following the screening.

The Show of Shows: 100 Years of Vaudeville, Circuses and Carnivals, directed by Benedikt Erlingsson. (U.K., Iceland) – North American Premiere, Documentary. Benedikt Erlingsson brings us a world of imagination with a compendium of wonderful unseen archival footage of circus performers, cabaret acts, and fairground attractions. The films are set to a haunting electronic score composed by members of Sigur Rós in collaboration with Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson. Screening in partnership with MoMA PS1 where the film will screen inside the VW Dome.

Work In Progress

Ghostheads, directed and written by Brendan Mertens. (Canada, U.S.) – Work-In-Progress, Documentary. Join us for a special sneak preview screening of Brendan Mertens’ documentary exploring the many faces of Ghostbusters fandom and celebrating 30 years of one of cinema’s most iconic franchises. Featuring interviews with Dan Aykroyd, Ivan Reitman, Sigourney Weaver, and Paul Feig.

Untitled Bill Nye Documentary, directed by David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg. (U.S.) – Work-In-Progress, Documentary. When it raised over $800,000 on Kickstarter, The Untitled Bill Nye Documentary broke the fundraising site’s records and instantly became one of the most anticipated upcoming documentaries.  Join the filmmakers and the titular Science Guy as they preview exclusive scenes from their upcoming doc and discuss their process, collaboration, and fundraising strategy.

Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival

This Magic Moment, co-directed by Erin Leyden and Gentry Kirby. (USA) – World Premiere. Documentary. In the mid-1990s, Orlando was the epicenter of excitement in the NBA. The young franchise, led by mega-stars Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, beat Michael Jordan and the mighty Bulls en route to the 1995 NBA Finals. They lost to the Rockets that year but it was clear this team from Orlando was a dynasty in the making. But the Magic’s moment on top was never fully realized – a classic “what-could-have-been” story, where success came fast and big and then ‘poof’, the magic was gone.

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.