This year’s Tribeca Film Festival slashes its lineup from last year’s 120 films to just 86. Instead of booking publicity blitzes for blockbusters like Mission: Impossible III or Spider-Man 3, as in years past, it opens on April 22 with Woody Allen’s more modest Whatever Works. Allen’s first New York film in five years stars Larry David as an aging, Woodyish “genius” who beds an impressionable young girl (Evan Rachel Wood)—partly by impressing her with great movies. After watching 51 of the festival’s films, we came up with sixteen sure ways to impress your date.
By Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman
In Staten Island, kids fear the bogeyman Cropsey because he kills kids with his hook. Or ax. Or hands. In this fascinating documentary, we get the nightmarish story behind an urban myth—a series of child murders in the eighties that traumatized the borough, leaving some residents so obsessed that, more than twenty years later, they’re still digging for missing kids. –L.H.
By Marshall Curry
We’ve been waiting for Curry’s follow-up to his stunning 2005 political documentary Street Fight. Now he trains his lens on three young kids competing in the national go-kart circuit and dreaming of nascar stardom. The result is an exciting, poignant tale of growing up fast with adult ambitions. –B.E.
By Asghar Farhadi
In this sharp, panic-riddled examination of pretense, a group of young Iranians are weekending in a beach house when Elly, a relative outsider, suddenly disappears into the sea. The camaraderie sours; the squabbling intensifies; and the friends’ guilty discomfort fills the space like a stench. –M.S.
By Stephan Elliott
How do you update Noël Coward’s fizzy 1924 masterpiece of class conflict for the 21st century? You don’t. Elliott’s lovely take on Coward’s female American race-car driver marrying into an upper-crust British family is terrifically acted by Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas, and (surprise!) Jessica Biel. –B.E.
By José Padilha
Stark in the extreme, this documentary about starving Brazilian families could have felt manipulative, even exploitive (at one point the filmmaker shoots as children devour rock-hard beans). Instead, it’s profoundly moving, thanks to Padilha’s even tone and stunning camera work. –M.S.
By Rune Denstad Langlo, April 24
Derailed by depression, a retired Norwegian skier snowmobiles north in order to visit a son he’s never met. But this is no dirge: Along with seriocomic disasters, a bluegrass soundtrack, and lovely snowy tracking shots, there is an accretion of revelations, each a step stumbling toward self-discovery. –B.K.
By Hirokazu Kore-eda
The novelistic Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows) has a subtle grasp of the everyday madness of families. Here, he explores how the death of an eldest son continues to reverberate years later. –L.H.
Love the Beast
By Eric Bana
Celebrity documentaries can be vain affairs, but Bana’s earnest, winning story about his 1974 Ford Falcon Coupe is as much about his home as it is about himself. A mix of memory and interviews, it’s a portrait of the Australia few tourists see, the Melbourne suburbs: a life of mates and muscle cars. –E.P.
By Celine Danhier
New York’s cocky, explosive No-Wave scene gets its due in this work-in-progress documentary overbooked with a stellar downtown guest list: Jim Jarmusch, Debbie Harry, Lydia Lunch, Nick Zedd, Steve Buscemi, and many others. –L.H.
The Fish Child
By Lucía Puenzo
Puenzo’s white-knuckle follow-up to XXY reunites her with Inés Efron. The rising star moves on from playing a hermaphrodite to embodying a suburban Argentine girl who falls in love with her family’s maid, triggering a headlong, intense thriller. –B.E.
By Michael Sládek
Eighties artist turned pariah Mark Kostabi (the guy who famously pranced around in a suit made of money) is pretty much a footnote these days, despite his egregious self-promotion. He does, however, make for an entertaining boom-era fable about the commodification of fine art. –E.P.
By Yojiro Takita
Don’t you hate it when the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film is given to a movie you can’t see? Now’s your chance to view this year’s, in which a disillusioned cellist becomes an undertaker. Sounds almost alienatingly quirky, but in fact Departures is an enormously affecting, even haunting film with a superb lead performance by Masahiro Motoki. –B.E.
By Ian Olds
In this riveting documentary, Olds uses the Taliban’s 2007 kidnapping and murder of Ajmal Naqshbandi, who helped visiting reporters navigate Afghanistan, to explore the invisible line separating foreigners and locals in international war journalism. Naqshbandi’s fellow captive, an Italian, was released thanks to his government’s intervention. –B.E.