Each spring in lower Manhattan, movie makers and fans gather to experience the depth of talent working today in independent film.

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival – running April 19 through 30 – offers 98 feature-length films from 30 countries, including 78 world premieres, six international premieres, six North American premieres, two U.S. premieres, and six New York premieres.

That’s quite a feat for an event that Robert De Niro started to bring people back to Tribeca after 9/11. Here are some of the most anticipated titles of the 2017 event.

 

Aardvark

What does it take for people to overcome emotional distress? John Hamm and Zachary Quinto star in a drama that questions the realities of mental illness, the impact of therapy and the potential for human healing. Brian Shoaf wrote and directed.

 

Abundant Acreage Available

How do families react to death? Amy Ryan, last seen in Bridge of Spies, stars in Angus MacLachlan’s exploration of how siblings react when a parent dies. The issues begin to get complicated when the relatives appear to claim their shares.

 

The Boy Downstairs

Have you ever looked for an apartment in New York City? If so, you may see yourself in Sophie Brooks’ realization that what may seem too good may actually be too good. Especially when looking for an apartment. Or finding a boyfriend.

 

Chuck

Where do movie ideas come from? Liev Schreiber plays Chuck Wepner, known as the Bayonne Bleeder, a liquor salesman from New Jersey who once went 15 rounds fighting Muhammad Ali. And, then, his story inspired Sylvester Stallone to write the movie Rocky.

 

The Dinner

What can derail a dinner party? Richard Gere and Laura Linney explore family secrets over dinner in this film adaptation of Herman Koch’s novel. The last time Gere played a festival — Time Out of Mind at the New York Film Festival of 2014 — the results were extraordinary.

 

I Am Heath Ledger

What really happened in this actor’s life? The world of this extraordinary actor — who won a posthumous Oscar for The Dark Knight — comes to the screen with interviews from friends and colleagues that remind us of the talent and the tragedy.

 

Keep the Change

How can people make a difference to those who live with autism? Filmmaker Rachel Israel explores the world of autism in this romantic comedy about a man and woman who meet in a support group and consider how others may react to the feelings they share.  

 

Love After Love

What can death do to a family? Andie MacDowell, Chris O’Dowd, and James Adomian star in a second look at families and death at Tribeca. In this entry, writer/director Russell Harbough explores how a mother and her sons react when the father dies.

 

The Lovers

What has Debra Winger been doing? The three-time Oscar nominee returns to the screen as a woman, trying to survive in an unhappy marriage, who considers her options later in life. Tracy Letts, who won a Tony a few years ago for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, costars.

 

One Percent More Humid

What does the future hold? The joys and fears of looking ahead — and confronting the past — come to life when two childhood friends meet during summer vacation from college in this drama from filmmaker Liz W. Garcia. Juno Temple and Julia Garner star.

 

Saturday Church

What can it mean for family members to support each other? Filmmaker Damon Cardasis examines how individuals in a family react to a young man’s coming of age, his gender confusion, and the support he needs to explore potentially painful issues.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Who was behind the success of Arista records? This look at the career of Clive Davis — the man who founded the legendary label — shows how music producers can shape how we celebrate music. Yes, Davis brought us Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, and others.

 

For tickets to the Tribeca Film Festival, go to tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets. For information, go to tribecafilm.com or call 1-866-941-3378.

 

Celebrating past Tribeca gems

 

by Mark Schumann

The Reel Dad

 

As we anticipate this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and the movies it will feature, take a look at four gems featured at the event in recent years. These are available for home viewing.

 

Grandma (2015)

If you savor the chance to experience a master class in screen acting, celebrate this touching, compelling and deftly developed film about a woman confronting the consequences of her choices. The movie is called Grandma and the actress is the inimitable Lily Tomlin at the top of her craft at age 75. The role and the story give this legendary performer the chance to deliver a portrayal of magnificent scope within the confines of a 79-minute road film. At one moment she radiates the charm – especially when she smiles – that we have cherished for decades; minutes later she surprises with a dramatic discovery that is piercing in its precision and memorable in its impact. In every small moment of gesture or glance Tomlin reveals something essential about a most interesting woman. She builds the performance with great economy, never overdoing any line reading or going for the cheap chuckle. It’s not so much that she acts the role of grandma with perfection; for 79 minutes she becomes this woman. And, as the people lucky enough to be in the theater, we leave the film feeling we have just spent a lovely time with a fascinating lady we had the chance to get to know well.

 

The Meddler (2016)

In this lovely film, Susan Sarandon reminds parents that our work is never done, no matter what ages our children may reach. She suggests, as well, that we may have to become more flexible as our children grow up. And she considers how a parent should give adult offspring the opportunities to fly on their own fuel no matter where they may land. As meaningful as these lessons may be, another endearing message of The Meddler is what a great actress can accomplish when she secures material at the level of her talent. For more than 40 years, Sarandon has made us believe in many women, their fears, challenges and hopes. In The Meddler, she adds another portrait to her gallery of strong women with the courage to stand up to others. What makes the film – and Sarandon – so appealing is how the character never loses her sense of humor. No matter whom she happens to annoy, Sarandon’s character always manages to smile, even when those in her sight want to run the other way. And, as she tries to come to terms with her late husband’s death, Sarandon manages to grasp the humanity of the moment, never letting herself feel sorry for the changes she must absorb.

 

Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story (2012)

While years may have passed since the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the issues of the era remain in our lives. Documentarian Raymond DeFelitta investigates the current state of racial relations in the South through the eyes of his father, Frank, who made a landmark documentary on the subject in the mid-1960s. At that time, when television broadcast in black-and-white, issues of racial tension were often swept under carpets in lovely Southern homes. People who professed their faith in churches on Sundays spent other days trying to preserve a way of life that separated colors. African Americans in the South were denied any number of civil liberties and freedoms that others took for granted; many found themselves as indentured as their families a century before. Opportunities were denied, freedoms forbidden, rights stifled. People lived according to rules set by a social system still locked in the struggle of a different time. In the film, in present day, Raymond returns to Greenwood to dissect the impact of the original film as well as how day-to-day living may have changed in almost 50 years. Through moving interviews with Booker’s family, as well as a creative use of archival and new footage, the younger DeFelitta wonders if, while the politics may have shifted, what divides people may not be much different.

 

Before Midnight (2013)

Occasionally we experience a film so smart in approach, and authentic in characters, that we feel invited to share real moments with real people rather than observe staged situations a filmmaker may create. Richard Linklater’s film takes us to the heart of a complex and caring relationship between a husband and wife who, sometimes, let life get in the way of how they love. As they handle jobs, raise children and juggle extended families, they confront a universal challenge: How do we prevent the details of our lives from robbing us of the joys of our lives? And how do we make sure that our schedules don’t overwhelm our priorities? What makes this journey special is how Linklater — with collaborators Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke — chartered this relationship on film for almost 20 years. Their first film, Before Sunrise in 1995, reveals two young people eager to experience life and naïve about its demands. Nine years later, in Before Sunset (from 2004), they rediscover each other, now mature enough to recognize the patterns of youth without, necessarily, the skills to navigate. The new film, again set nine years later, finds the married couple living in Paris, raising twins and juggling the pressures of people living lives more serious than, perhaps, they ever intended.