The festival's political offerings address police brutality, climate change, criminal justice reform and racism
The organizers said it was important for them to challenge the perception that the festival caters to liberal viewers
The Tribeca Film Festival has long been political, but the election of President Donald Trump and the political divide in America directly inspired some of the festival’s political selections this year, Tribeca’s director of programming told CNN.
“(Trump) definitely was an influence for us this year,” Cara Cusumano said. “The election happened in the middle of our programming process and we felt it was especially important that the program feels urgent and responsive.”
The annual festival, which wrapped up Sunday, was founded by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, and real-estate financier Craig Hatkoff, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
While filmmakers did not have ample time to make films directly addressing 2016 politics, the festival’s political offerings address social justice issues, such as police brutality, climate change, criminal justice reform and racism – all issues that were significant during 2016.
“We programmed the festival this year the way the current administration did their budget,” festival co-founder Rosenthal joked to CBS News. “That said, we’re also about entertaining – which this administration has also done for us.”
The 12-day festival draws thousands of filmmakers, artists, activists, celebrities and film enthusiasts from around the world, and while it is not a partisan gathering, the films often spotlight progressive issues and attract a progressive audience.
While some might make the “assumption that our audience might be liberal-leaning,” Cusumano said, it was important for festival organizers to present films that challenge those views, including “The Reagan Show,” which relates Ronald Reagan’s trajectory from Hollywood movie star to President of the United States and legendary Republican figure, and “Get Me Roger Stone,” a Netflix documentary about the controversial Trump adviser.
Stone, a longtime confidant of Trump, made a surprise appearance at the premiere and talked with audience members following the screening last week.
“We hope that we are presenting work that challenges them to get out of their own way of thinking and look at other points of view equally,” Cusumano said. “That’s why a film like ‘The Reagan Show’ was so essential for us to include.”
As Tribeca wraps up, here’s a look back at some of the top political films and documentaries that premiered at the festival this year. The synopsis for each film was provided by festival organizers:
The Reagan Show
“A Republican President takes office at the height of his Hollywood-powered, camera-ready fame. He governs with lenses constantly flashing and claims that he’s just the public face in front of real policymakers as his administration faces dangerous global threats. That’s the story of America’s 40th President, Ronald Reagan.”
Directed by Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez.
Get Me Roger Stone (Netflix release)
“With his bespoke suits and collection of Nixon memorabilia, political firebrand and noted eccentric Roger Stone has been a fixture of Republican politics since the 1970s, yet at the same time has always been an outsider. Despite its success, his brand of confrontational (some would say “dirty”) politics was always publicly rejected by the conservative mainstream, though with the shocking ascendancy of his longtime pet project Donald Trump (interviewed in the film), Stone – the ultimate political trickster – would likely say he was just ahead of his time.”
Directed and written by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, Morgan Pehme.
The People’s House
“‘The People’s House’ takes you on a historic visit of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama’s White House. Through the transportive power of virtual reality, the Obamas take you on an intimate journey inside the West Wing, Executive and private Residences, reflecting on their time there and recounting the building’s profound history since its creation over two centuries ago.”
Created by Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël.
No Man’s Land
“In January 2016, armed protestors in Oregon occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to call attention to what they felt was an intrusion by the federal government into their right to make a living. In a larger sense, the “patriot community” introduced itself as disgruntled American citizens with grounds for airing their grievances against a federal government that didn’t have their best interests at heart. The federal government begged to differ.”
Directed by David Byars.
“Beginning one year before the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Levine and Van Soest’s intimate and cinematic ‘For Ahkeem’ is the coming of age story of 17-year-old Daje Shelton in neighboring North St. Louis. Falling in love and fighting with mom, Daje struggles with typical teen growing pains but also must increasingly combat the institutional and social roadblocks that keep black teens like her from succeeding in America.”
Directed by Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest.
“There’s a new detective agency in Dallas, Texas, started by three exonerated men with decades in prison served between them who look to free innocent people from behind bars.”
Directed by Jamie Meltzer, written by Jamie Meltzer, Jeff Gilbert.
“‘Copwatch’ is the true story of We Copwatch, an organization that films police activity as a non-violent form of protest and deterrent to police brutality.”
Directed by Camilla Hall.
ACORN and the Firestorm
“For 40 years, the community-organizing group ACORN advocated for America’s poorest communities while its detractors accused it of promoting government waste and the worst of liberal policies. Riding high on the momentum of Barack Obama’s presidential victory in 2008, ACORN was at its social zenith when a hidden-camera video sparked a national scandal and brought it all crashing down.”
Directed and written by Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard.
LA 92 (National Geographic release)
“Few images are seared into the American consciousness with the anger and clarity of the beating of Rodney King and the riots following his abusers’ acquittal. Twenty-five years later, Academy Award-winning directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin draw on archival news images and unseen footage to paint an in-depth portrait of those riots and the tempestuous relationship between Los Angeles’ African-American community and those charged with protecting it.”
Directed by Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin.
“‘Blackout’ is an ongoing participatory, volumetric virtual reality project gathering the reflections of real people living in today’s tense political climate through the lens of the New York subway.”
Created by Alexander Porter, Yasmin Elayat, James George and Mei-Ling Wong
Step to the Line
“Shot entirely on location in a California maximum security prison, ‘Step to the Line’ is a documentary that aims to provoke a transformation in the spectator’s eyes about prisoners, the prison system and even themselves.”
Created by Ricardo Laganaro.