The Tribeca Film Festival has evolved and expanded a tremendous amount since 2002, when Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff founded the event in a bid to help revitalize lower Manhattan.
But there is one theme that’s remained a constant from that first edition to the 13th, which kicks off tonight and runs through April 27: a plethora of New York-centric movies.
The 87 feature-length films debuting at the festival include a documentary about a tasty city institution (Nathan’s Famous), a look at Queensbridge native Nas’ seminal “Illmatic,” a film about the ’70s Knicks and narrative features set everywhere from Manhattan to East New York, starring everyone from Alfred Molina and John Lithgow to America Ferrera and Glenn Close.
These are 10 of the most “New York” movies at this one-of-a-kind NYC fest:
You know Nathan’s, chances are you love it, and now there’s a chance to learn about the illustrious nearly century-long history of the Coney Island institution thanks to this documentary from Lloyd Handwerker, Nathan’s grandson.
“Time Is Illmatic”
“Illmatic,” one of the most important albums in hip-hop history, gets the documentary treatment in a film that chronicles the influences behind Nas’ work and the process of recording what many consider to be an example of the art form at its finest.
“Love is Strange”
Alfred Molina and John Lithgow play a Manhattan couple who find their relationship tested amid trying economic circumstances. The movie, a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and slated for release in August, is the latest from acclaimed city-based independent filmmaker Ira Sachs (“Keep the Lights On”).
“5 to 7”
A young New Yorker (Anton Yelchin) meets a French diplomat’s wife (Bérénice Marlohe) outside the St. Regis Hotel and a love affair begins. Frank Langella and Glenn Close play Yelchin’s parents.
“When the Garden was Eden”
Actor Michael Rappaport is also an accomplished documentarian and he follows his A Tribe Called Quest flick “Beats, Rhymes & Life” with this documentary about the Knicks’ glory days. All the familiar names are here, from Walt “Clyde” Frazier to Willis Reed; from Bill Bradley to team president Phil Jackson.
After completing his Broadway run opposite BFF Ian McKellen, Park Slope resident Patrick Stewart plays a ballet instructor being interviewed about the ’60s NYC ballet scene in this adaptation of a Tony-winning play.
Speaking of ballet, this documentary follows New York City Ballet choreographer Justin Peck as he crafts an original work for the company.
This East New York-set drama blends fact and fiction to follow a real-life Bloods gang member as he mentors a younger man and tries to go straight.
The entangled romantic relationships of young New Yorkers have always made for potent cinematic subjects. The latest film in that vein stars America Fererra, Amber Tamblyn and Common, among others.
“The Search for General Tso”
The roots of General Tso’s Chicken, that American Chinese delicacy and a staple on restaurant menus citywide, are explored in a documentary that tries to get at the heart of its popularity.