Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs in Susanna Fogel’s “Life Partners.” | ERIK LANG/ TRIBECAFILM.COM
With the annual Tribeca Film Festival running through April 27, it’s worth remembering that you’re better off arriving at a screening just in time and with a ticket, rather than terribly early but with nothing more than cash in hand and good intentions. Advance purchase will get you a seat.
As for your enjoyment of the films, there are no guarantees. But the ones that made this by-genre list, filled with world premieres, famous actors, and post-screening talks, seem more than promising.
Everyone who’s ever pined for something –– or someone –– they’re just not meant to have will appreciate the growing dilemma at the core of “Life Partners” (Apr. 18, 6 p.m.; Apr. 20, 5:30 p.m.; Apr. 24, 3:30 p.m.). This world premiere, the feature directorial debut of co-writer Susanna Fogel, has its main characters staring down the barrel of 30 and wondering if their friendship is more than the sum of its co-dependent history. After breezing through the last 10 years largely on the strength of their complementary temperaments, straight Paige (Gillian Jacobs) and lesbian Sasha (Leighton Meester) have an intense friendship that seems more like a happy marriage. Their bond begins to shift, though, when Paige meets Tim (Adam Brody).
A sea change in the life of one partner also threatens the couple at the center of Ester Martin Bergsmark’s “Something Must Break” (Apr. 17, 5:30 p.m.; Apr. 18, 10:30 p.m.; Apr. 19, 4 p.m.; Apr. 23, 9:45 p.m.). Set in the back streets and forgotten parks of Stockholm, Andreas (Iggy Malmborg ) has an intoxicating connection to Sebastian (Saga Becker) that owes more to their rooftop tangos than the beer they stole from that 7-Eleven — but soon, Sebastian’s androgynous fluidity becomes as much a threat to their deepening romance as the questions straight-identifying Andreas is already facing.
Ira Sachs’ follow-up to his acclaimed “Keep the Lights On” is a different kind of emotionally intense look at long-term gay relationships being tested by outside forces. “Love is Strange” (Apr. 23, 6 p.m.; Apr. 26, noon) benefits from the star power and dramatic chops of Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as a Manhattan couple who face unexpected discrimination after making their union official.
Set in the housing projects of Caracas, Venezuelan screenwriter Mariana Rondon directs newcomer Samuel Lange in “Bad Hair” (Apr. 20, 9 p.m.; Apr. 22, noon; Apr. 25, noon; Apr. 26, 6:45 p.m.). When nine-year-old Junior decides he’ll be sporting straight hair instead of tight curls for an upcoming yearbook photo, it triggers a fit of homophobic panic from his stressed mother.
Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini celebrate Puerto Rico’s transgender community in the documentary “Mala Mala” (Apr. 19, 8 p.m.; Apr. 21, 9 p.m.; Apr. 23, 3:30 p.m.; Apr. 26, 7 p.m.). The highs and lows of fighting for acceptance — personal and communal — are captured through candy-colored cinematography as well as interviews with advocates, activists, business owners, sex workers, and entertainers, including the drag troupe Doll House. The directors, along with subjects Ivana Fred, Denise Rivera, Alberic Prados, April Carrión, Queen Bee Ho, Sophia Voines, and Paxx Moll, will be on hand to take questions from the audience after the April 19 screening at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea, 260 W. 23rd St.
One of the nation’s first openly gay members of Congress –– and its longest serving –– gets quizzed by none other than Alec Baldwin, who’s had his share of trouble with the LGBT community of late, following the sole screening (on April 27 at 2:30 p.m. at SVA Theater, 333 W. 23rd St.) of Sheila Canavan and Michael Chandler’s “Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank.” The documentary, which promises insights as unvarnished as its subject’s last name, questions how Frank’s life as a gay man propelled him into his many campaigns for social justice during 40 years in state and federal office.
Ä°ggy Malmborg and Saga Becker in Ester Martin Bergsmark’s “Something Must Break” | TRIBECAFILM.COM
NEW YORK STORIES
In “Ballet 422,” (Apr. 19, 9:30 p.m.; Apr. 22, 7 p.m.; Apr. 23, 6:30 p.m.; Apr. 27, 11:30 a.m.), cinematographer and documentarian Jody Lee Lipes takes a quiet but unflinching fly-on-the-wall look at 25-year-old choreographer Justin Peck, as he pools the collective resources of New York City Ballet’s musicians, designers, and dancers in order to create the company’s 422nd original piece.
Based on the Tony Award-winning play, writer/ director Stephen Belber’s “Match” (Apr. 18, 9:30 p.m.; Apr. 20, 2:30 p.m.;Apr. 24, 6 p.m.) lands a Seattle couple (played by Matthew Lillard and Carla Gugino) in New York to conduct research for a dissertation on the 1960s dance scene. Their subject is Toby (Patrick Stewart), a former hoofer turned hermetic ballet instructor, who regales them with colorful anecdotes — but drops the social niceties when their line of questioning becomes uncomfortably personal.
Before arriving on Broadway, John Carney’s Dublin busker tale “Once” clicked with moviegoers and scored the 2007 Best Original Song Oscar for “Falling Slowly.” The Irish writer/ director is back, this time using the soundtrack of a New York summer to connect the dots between damaged souls and music as a bonding agent. “Begin Again” (Apr. 26, 6 p.m.) has romantically involved songwriters Gretta (Keira Knightley) and Dave (Adam Levine) moving to the big city after Dave scores a major label deal. When his infidelity forces Gretta to become a personal and professional solo act, her raw performance on an East Village stage catches the attention of a disgraced record exec (Mark Ruffalo), who’s also in need of reinvention.
TV writer Amy Berg (“Person of Interest” and “Leverage”), whose Catholic priest sex abuse documentary “Deliver Us From Evil” was nominated for a 2006 Academy Award, makes her fiction feature debut. “Every Secret Thing” (Apr. 20, 6 p.m.; Apr. 23, 3 p.m.; Apr. 24, 7 p.m.), an adaptation of Laura Lippman’s novel, takes place in a New York suburb. Seven years after a baby goes missing from her front porch, a pair of young girls blamed for the crime are released from prison — and face the scrutiny of two detectives when another child disappears. Diane Lane and Dakota Fanning are among the cast.
Brooklyn writer-director Onur Tukel stars in “Summer of Blood” (Apr. 17, 6 p.m.; Apr. 18, 11:30 p.m.; Apr. 24, 9:45 p.m.; Apr. 26, 10 p.m.), his dark comedy about relationships, attraction, and commitment. After rejecting his successful girlfriend’s proposal, misanthropic Eric, stuck in a dead end job, has an alleyway encounter with a vampire that leaves him with newfound confidence, an insatiable liquid diet, and an ironic perspective on what it means to be human.
Alfred Molina and John Lithgow in Ira Sachs’ “Love is Strange.” | JEONG PARK/ TRIBECAFILM.COM
Those of us old enough to remember the punkish pixie who fronted The Sugarcubes can appreciate the decades-long creative arc of Björk, a seriously avant-garde performer and video artist to whom the current pop vanguard owes an enormous debt. “Björk: Biophilia Live” (Apr. 26, 8:30 p.m.) blends concert footage of songs from her eighth studio album with animation as well as science and nature footage.
Director Lloyd Handwerker brings an insider’s edge to “Famous Nathan” (Apr. 17, 7 p.m.; Apr. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Apr. 25, 8:30 p.m.; Apr. 26, 3:30 p.m.), his documentary about the humble origins and lasting legacy of Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters. Drawing from home movies and rare archival footage, Handwerker uses interviews with colorful family members and Coney Island characters to show how his immigrant grandfather’s American dream became a culinary reality — and a cultural touchstone.
Cultural preservation is the theme of “Tomorrow We Disappear” (Apr. 19, 7 p.m.; Apr. 20, 10 p.m.; Apr. 22, 6:30 p.m.; Apr. 25, 9:30 p.m.). When high-rise developers purchase the land occupied by New Delhi’s Kathputli colony of puppeteers, performers, and magicians, an already vanishing form of Indian folk art is threatened with extinction. “We are the flying birds,” they tell the filmmakers, “here today and gone tomorrow.”
“The Overnighters” (Apr. 22, 9 p.m.; Apr. 23, 8:30 p.m.) finds a small conservative North Dakota town overwhelmed by the influx of desperate men in search of employment, when hydraulic fracturing uncovers a rich oil field. The compassion shown to them by a local pastor soon puts him at odds with those who don’t embrace the church’s far-reaching “love thy neighbor” policy.
James “The Amazing” Randi gets some long-overdue love in “An Honest Liar” (Apr. 18, 9 p.m.; Apr. 20, 3 p.m.; Apr. 23, 5:30 p.m.; Apr. 25, 5:30 p.m.). For the better part of his 50-year career, Randi has been exposing con artists who use the professional magician’s bag of tricks to hoodwink and swindle the gullible masses. Hated by faith healers, fortune-tellers, and gurus (including self-professed spoon-bender Uri Geller), Randi’s masterful debunking of these phonies has earned the admiration of Penn Jillette, Bill “The Science Guy” Nye, and “Mythbuster” Adam Savage — all of whom appear in the film to back up the assertion that every one of us is vulnerable to deception.
Lingering shots of Northern China’s wintry industrial landscape give atmospheric depth to director Diao Yinan’s “Black Coal, Thin Ice” (Apr. 19, 6:45 p.m.; Apr. 22, 10 p.m.; Apr. 24, 4 p.m.; Apr. 26, 5:30 p.m.). The Best Film winner at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival injects social realism into its familiar cop redemption plot. Five years after being suspended from the force, the only work Zhang Zili can find is as a security guard at a coal factory. When new crimes fit the pattern of his old botched serial murder case, Zhang follows a trail leading to an enigmatic laundromat proprietor, whose possible connection to the deaths gives them a noirish edge.
Opening on a classic dark and snowy night in northern Italy, “Human Capital” (Apr. 18, 5:30 p.m.; Apr. 21, 10 p.m.; Apr. 22, 6 p.m.; Apr. 27, 2:30 p.m.) is director Paolo Virzi’s adaptation of Stephen Amidon’s best-selling novel — about how two loosely linked families become intertwined by conflicting perspectives on love, class, and ambition.
Revenge is a dish best served in the cold and with a pitch-black sense of humor. Hans Petter Moland’s “In Order of Disappearance” (Apr. 17, 9:30 p.m.; Apr. 20, 6 p.m.; Apr. 23, 9 p.m.) is a stylish action-thriller set in the dead of a frozen Norwegian winter, as Nils comes undone after his son’s heroin overdose. Upon discovering a connection to Serbian drug dealers and a local criminal mastermind, the grieving father goes from a one-note vigilante to the centerpiece of an escalating gang war.
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL | Through Apr. 27 at various Manhattan venues | Tickets, schedule at tribecafilm.com/festival or 646-502-5296