Founded in 2002 to revitalize the section of lower Manhattan struggling in the wake of 9/11, the Tribeca Film Festival—the brainchild of Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff—is now one of the country’s preeminent cinema showcases along with Sundance and Telluride. It’s probably physically impossible to see every film screening at the festival—in 2014, nearly 200 films will be shown—so BookTrib has created a pocket guide to the festival. So grab your program, your plane ticket to the Big Apple (if you’re not there already), and get ready to hunker down for some fascinating flicks.

What to watch if you love Catcher in the Rye: GABRIEL


In Lou Howe’s feature-length debut, Rory Culkin—yes, Macaulay’s younger brother—plays the titular character, a young man suffering from an undisclosed mental illness and struggling to find his place in the world. If you’re wondering what Holden Caulfield might look like onscreen, post-breakdown, Culkin’s raw, simmering performance is just the ticket.


What to watch if you want your friends to think you’re smart: REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG

Nothing beats reading Susan Sontag’s work but the next best thing might be Nancy D. Kates’s documentary on the noted literary figure. Narrated by Patricia Clarkson (who could read the phonebook aloud and we’d buy a ticket), Kates’s film tracks the seminal moments in the life of one of the twentieth century’s most influential critics and feminist icons.

What to watch if you’re a fan of youth adrift, with a side of illegal substances: PALO ALTO

Adapted by Gia Coppola—the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola and niece of Sofia Coppola—from James Franco’s debut short story collection of the same name, this is the story of young people with a knack for attracting trouble. Like the director herself, Coppola’s debut (she also adapted Franco’s book Palo Alto for the screen) stars several second generation Hollywood stars on the rise, from Emma Roberts to Jack Kilmer, along with established names like James Franco and Val (father of Jack) Kilmer.

What to watch if you want to feel like you’re seeing a Broadway play (alternately, what to watch if you like controversy before the opening credits roll): VENUS IN FUR

There’s always more than what’s on screen to consider when Roman Polanski directs a new film. The filmmaker, who’s still in exile in Europe, is a talented if extremely polarizing director. His latest, an adaptation of David Ives’s 2010 Tony Award-winning play, is drawing comparisons to his first feature, 1962’s Knife in the Water, for its sexual and psychological tension. This time around, French stars—one of whom happens to be Polanski’s real-life wife—Matthieu Almaric and Emmanuelle Seigner play a theater director and his muse, respectively, who blur the lines between the professional and the personal while rehearsing for a new stage production.


If Seigner and Almaric in Venus whetted your appetite for all things French, you’d be wise to check out Marion Vernoux’s Bright Days Ahead (based on Fanny Chesnel’s novel (A Young Girl with the Gray Hair), a drama centered on the love affair of an older woman (Fanny Ardant) and her much-younger teacher (Laurent Lafitte), as well as Guillaume Nicloux’s comedy, The Kidnapping of Michel Hoellebecq (featuring the same Monsieur Hoellebecq in a starring role). Bright finds Ardant, a longtime favorite of the French screen, tested when she falls for her young computer teacher and must decide how to change a life led to please other people. Kidnapping takes real events—author Michel Hoellebecq really did disappear during his book tour—and turns them into fiction, imagining what would have happened if the reclusive author had in fact been kidnapped.

What to watch if you want to spur a conversation about the environment (or domestic terrorism): NIGHT MOVES

From director Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy & Lucy), this drama puts the battle over the environment front and center as three activists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard) plan and execute the bombing of a dam in Oregon. Taut, dark, and topical, Reichardt’s film showcases three strong performances (Fanning also shines in the adaptation of Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing, another festival film) and subject matter that grows more relevant by the day.

What to watch if you’re in the mood for a non-Hollywood romance: THE ONE I LOVE and LOVE IS STRANGE

 To give away the central conceit of Charlie McDowell’s The One I Love, starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, would be cheating. But know that it’s about a married couple who, in an attempt to save their failing relationship, end up at couples retreat and are confronted with the ultimate head-trip. Moss, of Mad Men fame, and Duplass, a triple threat actor/writer/director most recently seen as the self-righteous midwife on The Mindy Project, bring a special chemistry to the screen in this twist on the typical romcom. And in another iteration of the classic love story, Ira Sachs’s Love is Strange finds a longterm couple (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) dealing with the consequences of marriage on their own relationship and their relationships with friends, family, and employers. We need more films like this, especially with such stellar casts.

What to watch to remind yourself your childhood probably wasn’t that bad: EVERY SECRET THING

Adapted from Laura Lippman’s novel of the same name by Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said) and directed by Amy Berg (West of Memphis), this is the haunting story of two girls (Dakota Fanning and Danielle Macdonald) who committed a horrific crime as children and now, seven years later, are released back into the community. Lippman’s novel, her first of what would become several stand-alones following her multi-book Tess Monaghan series, won the Anthony and Barry awards for Best Mystery and Best Novel, respectively, in 2003. Berg, who’s accustomed to grim subject matter, is the perfect choice to direct a film about the kind of crime no one wants to talk about.

What films are YOU excited to see, either at Tribeca or after they open in wide release? 

Image Credits:

Cover Image:


Regarding Susan Sontag:

Palo Alto:

Venus in Fur:

Bright Days Ahead:

The Kidnapping of Michel Hoellebecq:

Night Moves:

The One I Love:

Love is Strange:

Every Secret Thing: