By Jeremy Blacklow, Director of Entertainment Media | By GLAAD.org April 20, 2021
The 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, has announced its 2021 feature film line-up and, once again, this year is shaping up to be a very LGBTQ-inclusive year. Scheduled to run from June 9th to 20th — right in the middle of Pride month — this year’s 20th-anniversary festival will feature 12 outdoor screening locations across New York City to coincide with the city’s gradual re-opening.
“After a year of closed cinemas, canceled gatherings, and virtual everything, it is with joy and hope that we finally invite New Yorkers out of their homes and back to the movies. Immersed in the city itself, Tribeca 2021 will bring once-in-a-lifetime big-screen experiences to filmmakers and audiences alike as we reconnect, re-imagine, and reopen through the shared experience of film,” said Cara Cusumano, Festival Director and Vice President of Programming for the Tribeca Festival.
Tribeca’s feature lineup includes 66 films from filmmakers across the globe and 54 world premieres. The features program was curated from nearly 3,000 submissions. And more than 60% of this year’s films are directed by women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ filmmakers. Films slated to premiere at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, but postponed due to COVID-19, will also screen at the festival.
The LGBTQ-inclusive 2021 features lineup includes the following projects:
THE NOVICE (U.S. Competition section)
Dir: Lauren Hadaway
Cast: Isabelle Fuhrman
Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan) plays Alex Dal, a college freshman who joins her university’s rowing team and undertakes an obsessive physical and psychological journey to make it to the top varsity boat, no matter the cost. Intent on outperforming her teammates, Alex pushes herself to her limits – and beyond, alienating everyone around her in the name of success. Furhman’s fierce lead performance collides with Lauren Hadaway’s bold direction and dynamic editing, creating a visceral window into a cutthroat world. Stylish cinematography and a seductive soundtrack complete the experience, evoking the romance and danger of falling in love; the attraction, the drama and the fallout. This unapologetic debut from Hadaway, based on her personal experience as a competitive collegiate rower, heralds a bold new voice in queer storytelling. If you liked Whiplash, this one’s for you.
PERFUME DE GARDENIAS (Midnight section)
Dir: Macha Colon
Isabel (Luz Maria Rondon), an elderly woman living in a middle-class neighborhood in Puerto Rico, has just become a widow. Her husband has passed away, and her adult daughter is staying with her to help her with the funeral. As Isabel mourns this loss, she doesn’t know how to occupy her time moving forward. The uncertainty changes, however, when she crafts a beautiful custom-made funeral for her husband – and it catches the attention of Toña (Sharon Riley), a pious but domineering woman who involves herself in community events, including local funerals. Toña is the self-appointed leader of a coterie of gossipy elderly women from the neighborhood, and she enlists Isabel to put her unusual talents to good use and design custom, idiosyncratic funerals for her ailing neighbors. As Isabel agrees to perform this peculiar line of work – offering seniors a chance to dictate how their lives should be honored, before they die – she also finds new purpose in her own life.
Macha Colon’s Perfume de Gardenias endearingly foregrounds nuanced older characters – that we typically don’t see as protagonists – within a colorful and dynamic narrative, bolstered by darkly comedic humor and an authentic depiction of Puerto Rican culture and generational differences. With infectious energy, Colon’s feature directorial debut explores grief and death in a refreshingly candid manner – and delivers whimsical storytelling that is both lively and poignant.
WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING (Viewpoints section)
Dir: Sean O’Grady
For teenager Melissa, family dysfunction is the norm. When a freak tornado traps Melissa inside the family home’s bathroom with her parents and younger brother, those rifts are exacerbated. And as their confinement within the increasingly-more-claustrophobic-by-the-hour lavatory stretches to multiple days, the situation grows extremely volatile. But there’s more than just hard feelings threatening the family. Something evil is beyond the walls, toying with them. Is this the family’s reckoning at the hands of a higher power? Or was it unintentionally triggered by Melissa and her girlfriend, Amy? Whatever the cause is, one thing’s for certain: All hell is about to break loose.
Based on screenwriter Max Booth III’s 2020 novella, first-time director Sean O’Grady’s We Need to Do Something is a single-location funhouse of horrors, starting off intense as hell and steadily tightening its grip. Unpredictable, unhinged and laced with offbeat humor, it’s a confident and singular descent into domestic nihilism that’s as wildly fun as it is deeply disturbing. Get ready for a workout: You’ll be picking your jaw off the floor whenever you’re not applauding this insane film’s audacity.
Tribeca 2021’s LGBTQ-inclusive Documentary Feature Films include:
NO STRAIGHT LINES: THE RISE OF QUEER COMICS (Movies Plus section)
Dir: Vivian Kleiman
A lively look at five LGBTQ+ comic book artists whose careers go from the underground scene to the cover of Time Magazine and the international stage. In this adaption of Justin Hall’s anthology of the same name, NO STRAIGHT LINES invites Alison Bechdel (Fun Home), Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women), Howard Cruse (Gay Comix), Rupert Kinnard (B.B. And The Diva) and Mary Wings (Come Out Comix) to share their stories and observations on everything from the AIDS crisis and workplace discrimination, to the search for love and a good haircut.
Showcasing the evolution of the comic book, side by side with the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement, Vivian Kleiman’s engaging documentary pays close attention to how the changing times influenced the work. This mash-up of art, comedy and politics is sure to make you laugh, but will also make you think – about the milestones of queer representation and the challenges that the community has encountered and overcome along the way. It’s a warm-hearted tribute to all the artists among us, those who paint the world so that we can better understand it.
Followed by a conversation with Vivian Kleiman, Alison Bechdel, Justin Hall and special guests.
NORTH BY CURRENT (Viewpoints section)
Dir: A. Madsen Minax
An examination of the relationships between mothers and children, truths and myths, losses and gains. After the inconclusive death of his infant niece, filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax returns to his rural Michigan hometown determined to make a film about the family’s wrongful persecution. But soon the scope of his project expands and he finds himself investigating the depths of generational addiction, Christian fervor, and trans embodiment. Like the relentless Michigan seasons, the meaning of family shifts, as Madsen, his sister, and his parents strive tirelessly to accept one other.
Using home movie footage and present day interviews to chart their story, the filmmaker traces the fine line between the truths and fictions that exist in every family. Turning the camera towards himself, Madsen confronts his own relationship with masculinity and his interrogation of what it means to be a good brother. The result is a deeply personal tour de force; a thoughtful, provocative rumination on identity and familial responsibility. North By Current turns an unflinching eye toward a family in the process of repair.
THE CONDUCTOR (Viewpoints section)
Dir: Bernadette Wegenstein
The Conductor takes the audience into the heart of classical music, and into the soul of one of its top artists, the internationally renowned conductor Marin Alsop — the first woman to serve as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra — giving us backstage passes to the artistry and energy that rewards her audiences and inspires her students. Born into a musical family in New York, Marin set her sights on becoming a conductor at just nine years old while accompanying her father to one of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s concerts. With unprecedented access, the director and film crew accompany Marin Alsop to concerts around the world, telling Marin’s story through a combination of intimate interviews and shared moments in the Maestra’s professional and private life, encounters with musicians and cognoscenti in the music world, unseen archival footage with her mentor Leonard Bernstein, and vérité scenes of Marin teaching the next wave of conductors who, like her, were being excluded from the classical music canon. A triumphant film about overcoming discrimination and finding the way to success and the realization of one’s talent against all odds.
BUILDING A BRIDGE (Viewpoints section)
Dir: Evan Mascagni
Executive Producer: Martin Scorsese
The tragic 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the apparent apathy of his peers prompted Father James Martin, a New York-based priest, author, and journalist to pen the book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. The publication and subsequent appearances on outlets from Colbert to Fox News made him something of a celebrity, beloved by many and denounced by those who claim he’s a heretic. Directed by Evan Mascagni and executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, this illuminating portrait follows the outspoken but good-humored Martin as he speaks to packed houses, often flanked by protestors; consoles queer youth and struggling parents; and journeys to Rome.
With the election of Pope Francis and his famous “who am I to judge?” comment, it appeared the Church was finally beginning to accept the LGBTQ+ community. However, a March 15th Vatican statement barring priests from blessing same-sex unions has made Martin’s mission more critical than ever, and begs the question, “What would Jesus do?” If the answer is to demonstrate compassion, love, and acceptance, then Martin is truly doing the Lord’s work.
And here are the LGBTQ-inclusive entries in the 2021 Tribeca Festival Shorts lineup:
LEAF BOAT (Cwch Deilen)
directed and written by Efa Blosse-Mason.
Produced by Amy Morris. (Wales) – New York Premiere, Short Animation.
Love can be scary, but it can also be life’s greatest adventure. With 2D animation, Leaf Boat explores what it’s like to let go and fall in love. With Sara Gregory, Catrin Stewart. In Welsh with English subtitles.
RESIST: The Resistance Revival Chorus
directed and written by Susan O’Brien.
Produced by Susan O’Brien, Dasha Kova, Jillian A. Goldstein. (United States) – World Premiere, Short Documentary.
In the midst of a country divided, a diverse group of women and non-binary individuals unite through the historic power of music to create a movement ignited by song. With NYC Resistance Revival Chorus, Atlanta Resistance Revival Chorus, San Diego Resistance Revival Chorus, Riverside Resistance Revival Chorus.
directed by Ryan White
Produced by Christopher Leggett, Jessica Hargrave, Conor Fetting-Smith, Rafael Marmor, Marc Gilbar. (United States) – World Premiere, Short Documentary.
Coded tells the story of illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, whose legacy laid the foundation for today’s out-and-proud LGBTQ advertisements. With Jari Jones, Judy Goffman Cutler, Jennifer A. Greenhill, John T. Nash. Narrated by Neil Patrick Harris.
directed and written by Cloudy Rhodes.
Produced by Ella Millard. (Australia) – World Premiere, Short Narrative.
Violet (Sariah Saibu) and Blue’s (Morgan Davies) youth collide in an early morning toke that leads to the ocean where connection stirs. What results is a tender, uplifting, queer surf-romance about the nuance of gender and the refuge found in being truly seen. With Morgan Davies, Sariah Saibu.
directed by Bonnie Discepolo, written by Bonnie Discepolo, Trevor Munson.
Produced by Stephen Moffatt, Brad Jayne, Ed Tilden, Kevin Peterson, Trevor Munson. (United States) – New York Premiere, Short Narrative.
A southern mom’s (Anna Camp) life is all shook up when her ten-year-old daughter (Katie Beth West) claims to be a reincarnation of the king of rock and roll. With Anna Camp, Monique Coleman, Daniel Eric Gold, Katie Beth West.
Below are the LGBTQ-inclusive entries for TRIBECA AT HOME:
Dir. Nicole Rodenburg
Produced by Reilly Myklebust, Nicole Rodenburg, Colin Froeber, Written by Colin Froeber, Nicole Rodenburg (United States) – Online World Premiere
In this charming road trip comedy, two strangers are thrown together to perform in a two-person traveling theater troupe across the Midwest, and the tests and triumphs of their journey lead them to form the first genuine friendship of their adult lives.
dir Emily Branham
Produced by Emily Branham, Marc Smolowitz, Jonathan Goodman Levitt. (United States, Cameroon) – Online World Premiere
In 2009, Bebe Zahara Benet was crowned the first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But the franchise hadn’t yet achieved notoriety, so without an infrastructure to support her next steps, Bebe is confronted with the fickleness of fame… With BeBe Zahara Benet (aka Nea Marshall Kudi Ngwa). In English, French, Pidgin with English subtitles.
Here are the LGBTQ-Inclusive indie episodics:
created by Miles Blim, Camille Casmie, Chloe Howard
Episodes 1 & 2 (World Premiere)
VIRAL is a nonlinear comedy about memory, identity, and the insidious effects of the algorithm. With Miles Blim and Chloe Howard.
Created by Héctor Silva Núñez & Lu Urdaneta
Home is a drama series spoken in Spanglish, following two young Latina immigrants (Lu Urdaneta, Camila Rodríguez) in a journey of self-discovery as they try to make a new home together in Miami.
Executive Producer: Emily Kron, Kate Hopkins
When two friends, Max and Fiona, get involved in the niche service of role-playing the dead, they’re forced to help heal grieving strangers through a surreal game of make believe, while confronting deeply buried emotional traumas arising within themselves.
Executive Producer: Che Grayson
Bella (Indya Moore) is a peculiar woman labeled a monster by the man who created her. Trapped in a hotel room, she braves the outside world where she meets Eiko. Will Bella successfully break free from her creator and find her humanity? Or will she fall prey to his deadly prophecy?
In the Special Events podcast program:
HOT WHITE HEIST
In this new scripted podcast from Audible a group of LGBTQIA+ contemporaries attempts to steal the U.S. government’s sperm-bank deposits from some of history’s most brilliant minds — in the hopes of selling the genetic material on the black market to buy an island for a new queer paradise. Tribeca’s premiere event will include an exclusive preview and a live performance.
Two LGBTQ-inclusive podcasts are competing in different categories in the Official Selections lineup:
I’ll Never Be Alone Anymore – The Story Of The Skala Eressos Lesbian Community
created by Cecile C. Simon, Anais Dupuis, Anais Carayon (France)
World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction
The story of a lesbian community that is situated in a remote village in Lesbos, Greece. Created in the 70s, it welcomed thousands of women before declining in the 2000s. Nowadays, the community is formed by older lesbians. But they are not your typical 60-year-old women. They party, they have sex and they speak their minds. What they say about themselves is a precious testimony of a vanishing community that once changed so many women’s lives.
created by James Kim, Brooke Iskra (United States) – World Premiere, Fiction
John walks down Vermont Ave. to clear his head before a big decision. This is an atmospheric and intimate portrait of a thirtysomething in LA during the end of 2020. The fiction piece highlights the things that are unsaid and how the silence between two people can be louder than words. Captured in one long take using 3D sound from Sennheiser Ambeo binaural in-ear microphones, it places the listener directly in the main character’s shoes.
Additionally, the following films have LGBTQ onscreen subjects, although they don’t overtly address queer themes:
Dir. Andrea Nix Fine, Sean Fine, written by Andrea Nix Fine.
Produced by Andrea Nix Fine, Sean Fine, Abby Greensfelder. (United States) – World Premiere.
Academy Award® Oscar winners Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine take us inside the U.S. women’s national soccer league and their continuing fight for equal pay in an effort to create real change in women’s sports. With Megan Rapinoe, Jessica McDonald, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press, Sam Mewis, Julie Foudy. An HBO Max release.
Directed and written by Douglas Tirola. Produced by Susan Bedusa. (United States) – World Premiere.
An enlightening, complex look at one of the greatest figures in 20th-century classical music whose passion and creativity guided him well beyond the concert hall. With Leonard Bernstein.
VENUS AS A BOY
Directed and written by Ty Hodges
Produced by Ty Hodges, Gian Franco, Roya Rastegar, Sanjay M. Sharma. (United States) – Online World Premiere.
Fresh off a heartbreak, enigmatic starving artist Hunter and alluring, confident Ruby have a whirlwind romance in Venice Beach, but can it survive the harsh realities of her glitzy NYC art world? With Ty Hodges, Olivia Culpo, Trace Lysette, Bai Ling, Estelle, Gilles Marini, Daniel Bonjour, Stacy Barthe.
Directed by Jamila Wignot. Produced by Lauren DeFilippo. (United States) – New York Premiere, Feature Documentary.
Told by the man himself, interwoven with decades of awe-inspiring dance footage of his world-famous dance company, Ailey recounts Alvin Ailey’s life story, from humble his Texan beginnings to becoming one of the most iconic choreographers of his generation. With Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, George Faison. A Neon release.
Tickets and passes for the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival can be purchased here: https://tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets