by Ron Worthy
We are elated to return for our 6th year of coverage of the Tribeca Film Festival. As in other years, we are highlighting our top picks of the festival for music lovers. Each year, we painstakingly review all of the features, documentaries, shorts, events and other immersive experiences and pull together our recommendations for our community. We look for music related themes, strong soundtracks and other related factors such as subjects and subject matter to narrow down our picks. Our goal is to help our readers navigate the festival to have a more pleasurable experience. We do the work and you have the fun.
This year, because of Covid 19, the festival is a bit different than in previous years. Like last year, most of the movies are available online and various levels of passes can be purchased for access. Several of the features will be shown in various locations around the city. This is an exciting and amazing addition to previous programming which was much more limited in terms of location.
This year, there are some incredible films. We will be writing reviews on some of our top pics. In particular, frequent soulhead contributor and culture critic Michael A. Gonzales will be reviewing several films including the much anticipated (and our top pick) “Bitchin: The Sound and Fury of Rick James” by the legendary Sacha Jenkins. Music journalist Jerry Barrow will be reviewing several films as well including A$AP Rocky’s “Stockholm Syndrome.” Skating guru Tony West will be reviewing “All the Streets are Silent,” a documentary about downtown Manhattan’s skateboarding and hip-hop cultures of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for our daily picks as well throughout the festival.
TOP OVERALL PICKS
- Bitchin: The Sound and the Fury of Rick James – This profile of legendary funk/R&B icon Rick James captures the peaks and valleys of his storied career to reveal a complicated and rebellious soul, driven to share his talent with the world. Known for his unapologetic and charismatic stage presence, James has been celebrated for his massive catalog of such hit songs as “Mary Jane” and “Superfreak.” In this definitive portrait, acclaimed filmmaker Sacha Jenkins examines the brain beneath the braids, charting his soaring artistic success and eventual personal decline. Available online Wed June 16 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Untitled: Dave Chappelle Documentary – Fueled by the murder of George Floyd, shut-in by the closures of business and unable to perform around the country, the movie follows Chappelle as he provides the community he calls home with two things desperately needed in difficult times – economic and comic relief. What began as an experimental socially-distanced live comedy show in a neighbor’s cornfield, grew into an unforgettable summer with his neighbors, friends and fellow comedians. Ultimately, Chappelle’s cornfield concerts would serve as a model of courage not just for his community, but for the entire live entertainment industry. Sat June 19 – 8:00 PM Radio City Music Hall Tickets and Info
- The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show – While the country was embroiled in a divisive election with racial tensions flaring, Civil Rights activist and trailblazing performer Harry Belafonte guest hosted The Tonight Show for one week in 1968. By then, Johnny Carson had turned this pioneering late night show into one of the most powerful platforms of communication. In an unprecedented move, Belafonte took a predominantly white institution, The Tonight Show, and transformed it into a multicultural and political experience. Sat June 19 – 11:00 AM Brooklyn Commons at MetroTech Tickets and Info
- All The Streets are Silent – In the late 80s and early 90s, the streets of downtown Manhattan were the site of a collision between two vibrant subcultures: skateboarding and hip hop. Narrated by Zoo York co-founder Eli Gesner with an original score by legendary hip-hop producer Large Professor (Nas, A Tribe Called Quest), All the Streets Are Silent brings to life the magic of the time period and the convergence that created a style and visual language that would have an outsized and enduring cultural effect. Available online Fri June 11 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Stockholm Syndrome – Harlem-bred Rakim Mayers rode a rocket to stardom as multi-platinum rapper A$AP Rocky, on the strength of his energetic performances, cutting edge fashion, and irreverent attitude. All of this came crashing to a halt in 2019 when he was thrown in a Stockholm prison following a violent altercation with a pair of local provocateurs. Stockholm Syndrome chronicles the meteoric rise of this contemporary trendsetter, capturing the exuberance of youth and urgency of hip-hop in equal parts, before taking a detour into darkness. Available online Mon June 14 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- In The Heights – It’s the hottest day of the summer in Washington Heights, NYC. Bodega owner Usnavi dreams of opening a bar in the Dominican Republic, while also pining for aspiring designer Vanessa. His best friend Benny hopes to reconnect with Nina, his ex home for the summer from Stanford. Above it all, Abuela Claudia keeps a watchful eye over the intersecting stories of the rapidly changing neighborhood’s many residents. Wed June 09 – 7:00 PM Various Locations Tickets and Info
- Buddy Guy: The Blues Take the Blues Away – Chicago blues great Buddy Guy never was the same after he heard John Lee Hooker’s seminal “Boogie Chillun’” while growing up in his rural stomping grounds of Lettswork, Louisiana. In 1957 he set out for the Windy City and its vibrant blues scene, where he played his way into the clubs, cut records, befriended and gigged with other greats (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Rush), forged his skillful, intense, wild persona, hit the road, influenced new generations of musicians (Mick, Keith, Eric, Stevie Ray Vaughan), performed at the Obama White House and collected nine Grammys along the way. Available on Sun June 13 – 2:00 PM Tickets and Info
- The One and Only Dick Gregory – Dick Gregory was an icon for Black America. A comedian who used his considerable public platform for activism during the civil rights movement of the 60s, he was the rare entertainer who felt almost as at home on the couch of The Tonight Show as he did on the front lines of the fight for racial equity and justice. Comprised of stunning archival footage and contemporary interviews, Andre Gaines’ brilliant debut feature takes a close look at Gregory’s legacy, documenting his many personal reinventions throughout the decades, while hearing from the countless entertainers (Dave Chappelle & Chris Rock among them) who have been inspired by his blueprint. Available online Sun June 20 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Ricky Powell: The Individualist – Ricky Powell rose to unexpected fame as an unfiltered street photographer capturing the downtown New York scene of the 80s and 90s. Eventually befriending and becoming an honorary member of the Beastie Boys entourage and joining them on tour, Powell captured some of the wildest moments in New York fashion, music, and art with his gorgeous and gritty portraits. With gripping testimonies from those who have found themselves on the other side of Ricky’s lens—including Natasha Lyonne, Debi Mazar, Mike D, Laurence Fishburne, Chuck D, and LL Cool J—this is an unforgettable, quintessential New York story. Mon June 14 – 7:30 PM Tickets and Info
- A Choice of Weapons – Inspired by Gordon Parks – Best known for his iconic portraits of everyday Black Americans in all their pain, ordinariness and glory, photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks shot everything from fashion to Malcolm X, Gloria Vanderbilt and Muhammed Ali. Available online Sat June 19 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong – Torres – Even if the name “Ben Fong-Torres” doesn’t ring a bell, you’ve probably read his work. Soon after graduating from San Francisco State College, he started writing for Rolling Stone in 1968. The next year, he was hired as an editor and writer. Fong-Torres’s cover stories on Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, and Jefferson Airplane helped to shape the way a country understood its counterculture, while Rolling Stone, under Fong-Torres’s guidance as a senior editor, became Rolling Stone. Available Online Mon June 14 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- The Five Heartbeats – A quintet of hopeful young African American men from an amateur vocal group called The Five Heartbeats. After an initially rocky start, the group become a top flight music sensation. Along the way the guys learn many hard lessons about the reality of the music industry with its casual racism and greed while the personal weaknesses of the members threaten to destroy the integrity of the band. Sat June 19 – 6:00 PM Pier 76 in Hudson River Park Tickets and Info
- A-Ha The Movie – The music of Queen and the Velvet Underground instilled a sense of destiny in three teenagers living in a small town in 1970s Norway. That dream led to A-ha: the synth-pop trio featuring keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, vocalist Morten Harket, and guitarist Pål Waktaar-Savoy. No Norwegian act had broken through internationally quite like they did when they burst onto the international scene with 1985’s “Take on Me,” buoyed by an iconic sketch-animation video by Steve Barron. Available online Sun June 13 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Dirty Little Secret – The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is retold in song and animation. Available online Mon June 14 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Shorts: Arts and Soul – Music and dance shorts that will soothe your soul. Available online Tue June 15 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Shorts: Shining Stars – Enjoy these shorts celebrating Juneteenth. Available online Sun June 20 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- A Song of Grace – A Song of Grace tells a poetic story about a Black mother raising an exceptional young artist. Available online Fri June 18 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Shorts: Animated Shorts Curated by Whoopi Goldberg – Imaginative storytelling and captivating craft. Available Online Mon June 14 – 6:00 PM Tickets and Info
- Magnolia Bloom – In 1950s Las Vegas, a black singer (Lex Scott Davis) is on the verge of her big break, but she risks it all when she learns her audience won’t be integrated. Tickets and Info
- The Cypher – With his reputation and a potential record deal on the line, Khalil (Nigel Cox) confronts his opponent Yung Reap (O’Shay Neal) and defends his secret during a freestyle competition. Fri June 18 – 5:00 PM Brooklyn Commons at MetroTech Tickets and Info
- Esther in Wonderland – Drawn to the expressiveness of hip hop and breakdance, Esther (Naian González Norvind) tests the boundaries of her restricted existence as a young married woman in a Hasidic community in 1990s Crown Heights. Available Online Sun June 13 – 6:00 PM Ticket and Info
- Storytellers: Blondie – From irreverent Lower East Side punk outfit to bona fide music legends, Blondie will forever be synonymous with the punk spirit that lives in all of us. The band’s influence has shaped the worlds of music, fashion and art. Comprised of founding members Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke, Blondie’s chart-topping success and fearless spirit led to induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. Rob Roth is an artist and director based in New York City. Roth works in a variety of media including film, theater, audio, and installation to create his richly textured works. Together, these four riveting artists will take us on a journey of musical storytelling. Tue June 15 – 7:00 PM AT&T Terrace Tickets and Info
- Storytellers: Mike Jackson and John Legend – Get Lifted Film Co. is led by Emmy® and Tony® Award-winning producer Mike Jackson, EGOT recipient and award-winning producer John Legend, and Emmy® Award-winner and CEO of the entertainment management and social-impact company Friends At Work, Ty Stiklorius. Get Lifted has developed television projects with networks including ABC, NBC, FOX, HBO, Showtime, Netflix and MTV. Thu June 10 – 5:00 PM AT&T Terrace Tickets and Info
- Tribeca Talks: Ogresse – Grammy-Winning Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant discusses her work on the upcoming animated film Ogresse, based on her wildly original and widely acclaimed song cycle. Get a glimpse at this groundbreaking work-in-progress, followed by musical selections performed live with accompaniment by pianist Sullivan Fortner. Sat June 19 – 12:00 PM Waterfront Plaza at Brookfield Place, Battery Park City Tickets and Info
- WarpSound Music Experience – WarpSound is a first-of-its-kind, audience-interactive live music experience featuring virtual artists Nayomi, a lo-fi loving cyborg, and Dragoon, an energy drink-addled, half-iguana DJ, plus special guests including world champion turntablist A-Trak. Wed June 16 Tickets and Info
- Current – Current is an immersive sound experience in Lower Manhattan. Beginning at specific times of day, participants are guided on a walk using their own mobile device and headphones. Using binaural sound design and on-location recordings, Current weaves an observed and imagined narrative of historic and anecdotal stories on themes of water, time, destruction, and construction. Free Zuccotti Park, Lower Manhattan More Info
7 Years: A Conversation with Tariq Trotter and Zola Mashariki – Ahead of the release of 7 Years, an Audible Original Words + Music production from rapper and The Roots frontman Tariq Trotter, join this exclusive conversation between the performer and Head of Audible Studios Zola Mashariki. The two will discuss Trotter’s innovative audio production, the evolution of his singular creative voice, the unique joy of Black storytelling, and the integration of song and story to create something truly exceptional for listeners. Sat June 19 – 5:00 PM AT&T Terrace Tickets and Info
Ron Worthy is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of soulhead.com. A passionate audiophile who has been a DJ for over 25 years, Ron studied classical music and plays 4 instruments. He loves discussing all things Prince, Hip-Hop, and Funk. When he is able, he shoots a mean game of pool, digs comedy, loves eating fried fish sandwiches, making crab cakes and drinking micro-brews from all over the World. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and cat. Check out some of his work for soulhead.