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Published on June 14th, 2021 | by Meg Lemke

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MUTHA’s Watch List for TRIBECA FILM FEST—Streaming Now

The Tribeca Film Festival just kicked off in hybrid fashion—with live films screening in NYC but ALSO across the US with a nifty platform allowing festival viewers to stream at home.

In years past, I adored taking the train from BK to Manhattan to cover Tribeca fest, camping out in an almost empty theater with oddball film blogger types (and their ziplock bags of popcorn) on a random weekday morning for advance screenings, emerging blinking in the late afternoon as literal red carpets rolled out for the evening premieres, then rushing back to make my older kid’s school pick up. But, I couldn’t do it last year, because Spring 2020 found me stuck in the walk-up apartment with two small children sobbing/remote-schooling. (And to deep particular regret felt in a “you’ve missed everything forever” fashion, I’d skipped 2019, because that spring I had acquired a moderately colicky newborn, and despite it being my second round with small-small infant, had forgot it would be difficult to still hop over to a festival.)

So 2021: it’s getting better, maybe? We hope. My childcare situation’s continuing to experience Covid compromise, so I’m streaming into Tribeca fest (with hopes to trek back into those dark morning theater venues next year). And readers, you can join alongside. Pack up your ziplock bag of theater treats and check out tickets to stream, sold through June 20th (with films running through the 23rd).

Here’s what I’ve bookmarked. Then stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of films that turn out as awesome as they sound.

If you want to just dive in and explore, check out the FULL digital guide.

Descriptions here are cribbed direct from Tribeca press, comments are ad hoc from me.

MUTHA WATCH LIST

NORTH BY CURRENT

“An examination of the relationships between mothers and children, truths and myths, losses and gains. After the inconclusive death of his young 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.”

This seems so obvious a fit for top of our list, a documentary delving into loss as well as queer identity and parenting and complex generational issues. YES PLEASE.

ACCEPTED

“In rural Louisiana, the TM Landry Prep School boasted a remarkable 100 percent college acceptance rate for its ambitious, underprivileged high school graduates. Adherence to the strict discipline and unconventional teaching program created by its charismatic founder Mike Landry all but guaranteed admission into the country’s most elite colleges, but did the means justify the ends? When the New York Times reported on the school’s secret to success, their exposé blew the lid off of Landry’s controversial methods, and the school buckles under the scrutiny, leaving the students’ fates hanging in the balance. (Documentary)”

It honestly hurts my stomach just to read this write-up, because of how deeply runs the systematic inequality and general f’d up issues of education in America, and that discomfort means to me it’s a necessary viewing.

THE JUSTICE OF BUNNY KING

Bunny King (The Babadook’s Essie Davis) spends her days washing car windshields on a busy street, pocketing the change she earns in tips. For now, she’s sleeping on her sister’s couch, but she’s saving up for a place of her own. What Bunny wants more than anything is to be reunited with her two children who’ve been placed in foster care, and until she finds her own house, family services won’t let her act as their parent. When a plan that would finally allow Bunny to bring her kids home falls apart, Bunny is forced to become a champion not only for herself and her children but also for her teenage niece Tonya (Thomasin McKenzieJojo Rabbit), who’s desperate for her help.”

Sounds like we might be so lucky to run this fictional character’s personal essay. But I’ll say I’ve been disappointed before by clumsy portrayals of class issues/struggling-moms on screen; am curious to check this out, fingers crossed.

ON THE DIVIDE

“McAllen Texas is home to Whole Woman’s Health clinic—the last abortion clinic in the US/Mexico border. The life decisions of three characters intertwine at this clinic, as they grapple with how their devotion informs their role in fighting for or against abortion rights.”

Reproductive rights are under attack in America; keen to consider this look at how the debates play out in the cultural context of this film, which was filmed during Trump’s administration and anti-immigration actions on the border.

QUEEN OF GLORY

“Brainy scientist Sarah, a doctoral student at Columbia University, is weeks away from following her very married boyfriend to Ohio when her mother dies suddenly, leaving Sarah the owner of a small but beloved Christian bookstore in the Bronx. Tasked with planning a culturally respectful funeral befitting the family matriarch, Sarah must juggle the expectations of her loving yet demanding family.”

This is a comedy, by a first-time director who also stars, Nana Mensah, set in NYC’s Ghanaian-American community and part of Tribeca’s Juneteenth programming. Super excited for this one.

FALSE POSITIVE

“After difficult struggles with fertility, loving couple Lucy (Ilana Glazer) and Adrian (Justin Theroux) seem to have finally found their potential savior in the charming and world-renowned reproductive specialist Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan). But as their dreams begin to come true and hope transforms to happiness, cracks start to appear in the façade of normalcy, sending the now-expectant mother into a spiral of suspicion that threatens her grasp on reality.”

Whoa, it’s Broad City‘s Ilana trying to get preggers! This is funny to me also because there’s an extended sketch that really STUCK IN MY MIND for SOME REASON from that TV series where Abbi’s high on the floor of a doctor’s waiting room (I think?) and someone mistakes her for a mom and she’s horrified. (OK also: Is the age difference with Theroux going to come up?) (Is that Pierce Brosnan performing IVF (or something) in that press photo? )

THE KIDS

“It has been 26 years since Larry Clark’s notorious indie cult classic Kids was released to an unsuspecting nation. Shot on the streets of Greenwich Village and starring a cast of real NYC teenagers, the film immediately became a lightning rod for controversy. Labeled as a sex and drug-fueled tale of excess and moral depravity, it still went on to become a bonafide hit which inspired intense debate and scrutinty. Over the decades the film has continued to gather a devoted following, and is responsible for birthing the careers of auteur Harmony Korine and actresses Rosario Dawson and Chloe Sevigny. But what happened to the rest of the kids?”

The original film and its characters are seared into my psyche from my own coming-of-age in the 90s; and for a while Chloe Sevigny (now a mom) lived in my neighborhood, I passed her on the street when my daughter was bitty, who now is about to enter pre-teen-hood here in BK. I also read Mannie Murphy’s graphic narrative I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which riffs around Gus Van Sant and exploitation of the teens he used in his films; seems a reckoning has come; and possibly a cautionary tale re: contemporary kids streaming their lives online, too.

NO STRAIGHT LINES

Hello, Alison Bechdel

“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.”

MUTHA’s comics section (and the comics community in general) owes so much to the legacy of the pioneering folks celebrated in this film—would be remiss not to call out this necessary viewing

SHORTS

From Black Birth

I love short films just like short stories for MUTHA-viewing; if, like me, you can’t be sure if your kid is going to nap 15 minutes or a couple of hours, so committing to a feature length feels so risky you miss a whole festival… don’t, delve instead into shorts where nothing’s much more than 20 minutes long, and some are less than ten. On my list to watch include Black Birth and Esther in Wonderland—I’ve sampled a few others already, and HIGHLY recommend Waves (short enough that any more description’s a spoiler).

ALSO THERE’S MORE

Want to escape-watch something NOT AT ALL ABOUT PREGNANCY OR CHILD-REARING OR WHATEVER? Bunch of my thematic picks above weren’t available yet when I logged on this weekend. So far, my zoning-out viewing has included the the Covid-era rom-com 7 Days (loooved it) and British cringe-comedy-kinda-horror All My Friends Hate Me (recommended for uncomfortable laughs).

Honestly, though, my film festival mode is to pick a time and walk in to whatever’s playing, without more than a glance at the description. In that spirit I recommend running your cursor down the digital guide and taking a risk. Then log a comment here to let us know what you’re watching.

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About the Author

Meg Lemke is the Editor-in-Chief of MUTHA. She also programs the comics and graphic novels at the Brooklyn Book Festival, acts as a guest editor at Illustrated PEN, and takes on miscellaneous freelance projects in-between. She has worked as a book editor at Teachers College Press at Columbia University, Seven Stories Press and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her writing has appeared in The Paris ReviewThe Seattle Review, The Atlanta Review, The Good Mother Myth blog, and Seleni, among other publications. She lives with her family in the dense mother-zone of Park Slope, Brooklyn. Find her @meglemke and meglemke.tumblr.com or read up on her formative years at Lady Collective.



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