Tribeca Film Festival: Not So White

A still from We All We Got, a film showing at the Tribeca Film Festival that explores the Black Lives Matter movement. Image courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival.

The film fest, hosted in Lower Manhattan this week, brings underrepresented stories, perspectives, and characters to the big screen.

By: Rotceh Maldonado and Shannon Steck

The Tribeca Film Festival, taking place April 13th- 24th in venues throughout Lower Manhattan, never ventures uptown. Still, it exists in direct contrast to this past February’s whitewashed Oscars. Founded in 2001, this year’s festival, originally the brainchild of Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff, brings to Hollywood a dose of much needed representation and a breath of fresh air.

Occurring two months after the February 18th broadcasting of the Oscars and its corresponding #OscarsSoWhite campaign controversy, this year’s Tribeca Film Festival’s lineup makes sure to include a voice for the underrepresented.

Tribeca features a diverse list of films and filmmakers and explores and portrays themes and movements that exist within our own community — making it worth the trip downtown. According to the Festival’s website, the 2016 lineup includes 16 first-time female directors, with a total of 39 female directors, and 29 first-time male directors, with a total of 93 male directors participating in this year’s festivities overall. The website also reveals Tribeca’s 2016 choices touch upon subjects such as the “African diaspora,” “criminal justice,” and “activism.”

On March 2nd the festival’s curators announced the lineup for three of its screening competitions and Viewpoints, a category that the festival created in 2011 that showcases underrepresented themes, characters, and styles. Focusing on identity, Viewpoints’ 2015 lineup included films such as Being 14, which examines female adolescence, and Bad Hurt, a film that delves into mental illness.

Tackling racial issues, the festival’s lineup includes 2 Fists Up, a documentary by Spike Lee, that examines the Black Lives Matter movement and how it sparked waves of activism, both at the University of Missouri and across the United States.

Kicks, Justin Tipping’s directorial debut, takes place in an urban community. It tells the story of fifteen-year old Brandon and his two best friends, who set out across the Bay Area to retrieve his stolen sneakers. Led by a compelling performance delivered by newcomer Jahking Guillorym, Kicks’ strong ensemble cast explores masculinity, sneaker-head culture, and inner city life. The film, full of hip-hop references, offers a soundtrack filled of hip-hop classics.

We All We Got, a documentary directed by Carlos Javier Ortiz, whose work on African American culture has graced the walls of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture New York, focuses on the beginning stages of the Black Lives Matters movement. It looks at youth violence, police brutality, and marginalized communities, through the experiences of people in Chicago.

When speaking to the Daily News last week, Robert DeNiro said the Tribeca Film Festival started as the thought, “what could [we] do for the neighborhood?”

This year, we’ll find out if DeNiro included Harlem in his definition of NYC’s “neighborhood.”

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