New York’s Tribeca Film Festival turns fourteen this year, and with this foray ever deeper into teenage angst arrives a bevy of music-centric films and documentaries. Already a film festival known for popularizing music features (last year’s iteration saw the premiere of Nas documentary Time Is Illmatic, and 2013 brought the debut of the National’s Mistaken for Strangers), the 2015 fest is chock-full of unique live performances, highly anticipated debuts, and reinterpretations of past classics.
The festival kicks off with Live From New York!, a documentary detailing the past four decades of Saturday Night Live, showing at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15, at the Beacon Theatre. Given the event’s longstanding tradition of incorporating music, it’s only appropriate that Atlanta rapper Ludacris (who has appeared on SNL three times) will accompany the doc with a special 30-minute performance post-viewing.
Soul and hip-hop blender Mary J. Blige recently recorded her thirteenth album in London, for which she was joined in the studio by a film crew capturing her process as she worked with Sam Smith, Disclosure, and other scorching British pop talents. The 45-minute Mary J. Blige: The London Sessions will debut on April 16 at 8 p.m. at the Beacon, with a unique performance from Blige directly following the screening.
It was only in the past half-decade or so that a DJ generating enough power to headline a major fest like Coachella became a feasible thing. Contributing to this galactic rise was L.A.’s DJ AM, who passed in 2009 at the age of 36. As I Am: The Life and Times of DJ AM documents the late DJ’s illustrious career and tragic downward spiral. The documentary premieres at 9:15 p.m. on April 17 at Regal Cinemas Battery Park 11.
When the trailer for the Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck was released online last month, an eerie, alluring shiver hit the spines of Nirvana fans the world over. The first of its kind (featuring access to family videos, journal entries, and testimony from Cobain’s inner circle), Montage of Heck should be a festival highlight for both lifelong fans and the generally curious. Spring Studios 6th Floor will host its screening on April 19 at 7 p.m., with a discussion featuring director Brett Morgen and Courtney Love following the film.
Scattered throughout the festival’s twelve-day run are several other music documentaries and events, including Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, which follows an Elvis impersonator who rose to fame after the King’s late death, when Sun Records realized there was potential in profiting off of Presley fans’ remaining dedication. The 1928 silent film Speedy will be reinterpreted when DJ/producer Z-Trip provides live music to accompany a restored print of the muted New York classic. And, since Frank Sinatra would be celebrating his 100th birthday this coming December, to commemorate his legacy, the Tribeca Film Festival will team up with Lincoln Motor Company for Sinatra at 100: Film and Music, featuring recently restored versions of his classic films On the Town (1949), High Society (1956), and Some Came Running (1958). Following the 7:30 p.m. screening of On the Town on Tuesday, April 21, Tony Bennett, the Killers’ Brandon Flowers, and more will perform a special concert covering Sinatra.
Consider: The fourteen-block stretch that makes up Tribeca has served as the home to New York’s premier film festival since the days of Napster. This year, the festival continues to expand its influence across art forms by showcasing stories from the people who wrote our city’s original anthem, “New York, New York,” and performed MTV Unplugged sets back in 1994. Imagine Goodfellas without “Layla“: It’s the same as limiting your Tribeca Film Festival experience without catching a rock doc or two.
The Tribeca Film Festival begins on April 15 and concludes on April 26 with the feature Emelie. Ticket information is available here.
All the Movie References in Drake’s New Short Film Jungle, Explained
Saturday Night Live‘s Forty Essential Music Moments, Ranked
Gene Simmons vs. Rob Zombie: Which Rocker Is Best Suited for Horror?