Tribeca Film Festival rolls out feature films for Pride Month

Tribeca Film Festival Rebel Country” charts the paradigm shift in contemporary country music in the wake of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”
Tribeca Film Festival Rebel Country” charts the paradigm shift in contemporary country music in the wake of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.”
Tribeca Film Festival

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival features nearly 50 shorts, features, and documentaries by LGBTQ filmmakers or about LGBTQ life. Here is a rundown of a handful of films screening in this year’s program.

In the Summers” is a knockout feature debut by the queer writer/director Alessandra Lacorazza. Set entirely in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the film chronicles two sisters, Eva (Luciana Elisa Quinonez as a tween; Allison Salinas as a teen; and Sasha Calle as a young adult) and the queer Violeta (Dreya Castillo/Kimaya Thais/Lio Mehiel), as they visit their father, Vincente (René Pérez Joglar, aka Residente) four times over an approximately ten-year period. The first summer is mostly fun and games, but things get a more distant and awkward as various changes take place during or between visits. Violeta in particular, becomes more defiant, and develops a crush on Camila (Gabriella Surodjawan as a teen; Sharlene Cruz as a young adult). Eva feels lonelier, and Vincente struggles with addiction. Every frame in the film is artfully composed, providing a real sense of place, from the clutter and deterioration of the house to the vast landscape, as when Vincente shows his daughters the stars at night or takes his family to White Sands. What makes “In the Summers” so moving, however, is all that goes unsaid. This finely observed drama builds to a quietly powerful final sequence that may just prompt tears. 

Out gay writer/director Yen Tan’s (“Ciao” “Pit Stop”) tender, melancholic slice-of-life drama, “All That We Love,” opens with Emma (Margaret Cho) bereft after losing her dog, Tanner. She is also concerned about losing her daughter, Maggie (Alice Lee), who is heading off to Australia with her boyfriend Nate (Devon Bostick) for an indeterminate amount of time. While she is comforted by her gay best friend Stan (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) — who has his own grief issues — Emma also unexpectedly reconnects with her ex-husband, Andy (Kenneth Choi), who is in recovery. The beauty of Tan’s graceful, gentle film is how the characters are lost but find ways of being there for one another. “All That We Love” is a poignant meditation on healing that perceptively considers loss, letting go, and second chances. 

“Rent Free” is an amusing, shaggy comedy directed, edited, and cowritten by Fernando Andrés, about two friends — the gay Ben (Jacob Roberts) and the bi Jordan (David Treviño) — who try to delay adulting and stave off homelessness. Moving back to Austin after Ben’s horniness cost him an apartment in New York City, Jordan’s girlfriend, Anna (Molly Edelman), breaks up with him and the guys try crashing with various friends for as long as possible. They claim it is a “social experiment,” but really, it’s their survival plan. Ben is a slacker who earns meager tips delivering food, while Jordan, a photographer, can’t find much work. As they move in with exes and even work for a housesitting app, the guys’ bromance shows signs of strain. The humor derives from Ben and Jordan’s self-destructive, codependent, selfish, and needy tendencies, and “Rent Free” generates its laughs from Roberts’ unselfconscious performance playing off Treviño’s not-so-straight guy. This comedy of manners is modest in its scale and ambitions, and, like its leads, it charms — though for impatient viewers, the film will wear out its welcome. 

The fabulous documentary “Rebel Country” charts the paradigm shift in contemporary country music in the wake of out singer Lil Nas X’s megahit, “Old Town Road.” Challenging the straight white male patriarchy, queer singer Chely Wright discusses coming out, the backlash she experienced, and what it means to pave the road for others. Brooke Eden and Sam Williams (legendary country musician Hank Williams’ grandson) also talk about queer visibility and representation in an industry that just starting to accept queer performers. The documentary also addresses issues of race with profiles of Blanco Brown, Breland and Frank Ray, and gender as musicians Lindsay Ell and Lainey Wilson address their efforts to upset the male status quo. “Rebel Country” is highly enjoyable, and the music is great, too.

Margaret Cho in "All That We Love."
Margaret Cho in “All That We Love.”Tribeca Film Festival

S/He Is Still Her/e—The Official Genesis P-Orridge Doc” is a visually and audibly dynamic film featuring interviews, photos, home movies, concert footage, and pop culture clips that chronicle the third-gender industrial musician whose life was a series of constant reinventions. A transgressive artist and provocateur, Genesis created art that was controversial, performed in bands including Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, and co-founded Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. Questioning authority at every opportunity, Genesis went into exile in America and met Lady Jaye, whom he married. They started a Pandrogeny Project, where they had surgeries and body augmentations to “cut up identity,” look more alike and “confront expectations of gender.” “S/He Is Still Her/e” showcases the performer well and contextualizes Genesis’ life and work while also being reverential toward its subject. This doc may be best appreciated by fans, but the uninitiated may also find value in Genesis’ story.

Griffin Nafly (Everett Blunck), the teenage protagonist of the heartfelt coming-of-age comedy “Griffin in Summer,” obsesses over staging his latest dramatic production to equity standards. However, Griffin’s aspirations are met with a distraction in the form of Brad (Owen Teague), a bad boy handyman whose loud music breaks Griffin’s concentration. But when Griffin learns that Brad is a failed New York City performance artist, he soon obsesses over the decade-older hunk, plying him with whiskey, as well as texting and meeting him regularly. Brad is oblivious to Griffin’s obvious crush, but he agrees to appear in Griffin’s play — a drama about buying into the idea of love only to discover that it is a black hole of betrayal and despair. Soon, life imitates art and Griffin must confront his desires head-on. Writer/director Nicholas Colia’s sensitive film features both cringe-inducing moments and scenes of deadpan comedy, along with a pitch-perfect performance from Blunck and a sly supporting turn from Teague. 

“Bikechess” from Kazakhstan, is the sophomore feature by writer/director Assel Aushakimova, whose debut “Welcome to the USA” was the first Kazakhstanian film with a queer protagonist. Her new film chronicles the exasperating experiences of Dina (Saltanat Nauruz), a state TV reporter. As she conducts her thankless (and dryly comic) assignments, Dina receives unwanted advances from an interviewee, or spends long periods of time waiting around — sometimes in vain. Meanwhile, her lesbian sister, Zhanna (Assel Abdimavlenova) is an activist whose latest campaign to destigmatize menstruation, gets her into legal trouble. “Bikechess” spends most of its running time following Dina, who even has to resist her cameraman, Nurian’s (Shyngys Beibituly), efforts to continue their affair. In contrast, a few brief scenes depict Zhanna’s affectionate relationship with her girlfriend, Alma (Asyl Sarsen). “Bikechess”—the title comes from a new “sport” that involves performing intellectual and physical exercises simultaneously—may be challenging for some viewers, but audiences who vibe with it will appreciate its cheeky subversiveness. 

“Sabbath Queen” is a provocative documentary about Amichai Lau-Lavie, a gay Rabbi who pushes boundaries in the Jewish community. Born in Israel, he felt “othered” as a young man and eventually moves to New York where he joins the Radical Faeries, performs in drag, and becomes the co-founder of Lab/Shul, a ‘God-optional” congregation. When he decides to attend the Jewish Theological Seminary to become a conservative Orthodox Rabbi, he officiating marriages between interfaith couples, generating intense debate. “Sabbath Queen” spends considerable time observing its subject advocating, protesting, contemplating, and celebrating, but the film is most effective when it has Lau-Lavie articulate his positions so that viewers can reflect on his words as well as his actions. 

“Come Closer” is an obviously very personal film for writer/director Tom Nesher, but this turgid drama may alienate viewers. Eden (Lia Elalouf) is devastated when her brother, Nati (Ido Tako), is killed in an accident. She learns that he had a secret girlfriend, Maya (Darya Rosenn), and sets out to meet her. Maya is initially wary of Eden, but they eventually become friends. After they share a kiss, Maya falls in love with Eden. Both young women are coping with loss and finding some healing together, but Eden’s self-destructive tendencies and erratic behavior suggest deeper issues. “Come Closer” feels contrived and even ludicrous at times, and the characters’ fluid sexuality is unconvincing, but Nesher and her actresses commit to the film wholeheartedly. 

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The Tribeca Film Festival 2024 | June 5-16