Tribeca Festival: The Past, Present and Future of NYC’s Movie and Music Celebration

The Tribeca Festival will be held June 8-19 in New York City. The 20 year-old annual arts festival celebrates film, television, podcasts, musical performances and video games. This year’s highlights include 88 film premieres and musical performances from Lil Baby and Of Monsters and Men.

The Tribeca Festival will feature both live and virtual events at this year’s edition.

A Brief History of the Tribeca Festival

The festival began as a series of dinner parties hosted by Robert De Niro in Lower Manhattan in an effort to revitalize the area following 9/11. The most popular of which had almost 800 people and included former President Bill Clinton. After the initial popularity of the dinner parties, De Niro and fellow co-founders Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff decided to launch a fully fledged film festival.

In 2009 director Damien Chazelle would premier his musical romantic drama Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. The movie is a heartfelt story of a jazz trumpeter who goes through an unusual break up. Chazelle would go on to direct movies about music throughout his career, such as La La Land and Whiplash.

Tribeca would continue to expand its programming offerings in 2016 when it decided to include television shows in the festival. The same year would also include a commemorative screening on the 40th anniversary of De Niro’s classic film Taxi Driver.

The 2022 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival will feature 111 movies from 40 countries.

This 2022 feature film program leaves us proud and humbled by the boundless ingenuity and passion of our indefatigable filmmaking community. Whether a comedic breath of fresh air or a trenchant expose of the most urgent contemporary issues, this year’s official selections again remind us of the vitality and urgency of independent film in a world that needs it more than ever.

Cara Cusumano, Festival Director and VP of Programming

In addition, to several music films Tribeca will also feature several live performances throughout the weeklong festival. This Thursday at the Indeed Theater Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men will celebrate the 10 year anniversary of their debut album, My head is An Animal with a special live performance. On Saturday, June 11 Lil Baby will perform following the debut of his documentary Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby.

Music has always been an integral part of Tribeca, from the live performances to the countless music docs we’ve celebrated at the Festival. This unique series of events aims to highlight the true power of music and underscores Tribeca’s ongoing commitment to year round programming.

Jane Rosenthal, Founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises

To celebrate the relationship between music and film at the Tribeca Festival, here are a few recommendations from both this year’s edition and past ones. The list below includes feature length movies that are specifically about music in New York State

Mr. Soul!

The titular Mr. Soul is Ellis Haizlip, the producer and host of “Soul!” the first Black variety show in America. Which makes “Mr. Soul!” a documentary not about musicians and performers but rather about someone, like Haizlip, who created places for them share their music. Haizlip was a trailblazer for making a TV show centered exclusively on black identity and art. And he was a tastemaker for introducing television audiences to acts such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and The Pips, and Al Green. Interspersed throughout the movie are readings of passages from Haizlip’s journal. In it he regularly uses phrases such as “uplift voices” and “create a safe space” when talking about Black artists. Terms that might be familiar to a contemporary audience until we remember he wrote them in 1968 when they were genuinely revolutionary. Not just because they sought to overturn a status quo (although that was certainly the case) but because he’d thought them up himself. At the end of the documentary, when discussing the show’s eventual cancellation, the poet Sonia Sanchez comments, “I was sad not just because of the demise of Soul! but because I knew they wouldn’t replace it”.

Other Music

Another documentary that isn’t about musical artists but rather about the people that surround them—in this case music listeners. “Other Music” is the story of a legendary, alternative record store in New York City run by co-owners Josh Madell and Chris Vanderloo, which was forced to close in May 2016. If someone ever asked you “What is passion?” you could show them this documentary. Its focus isn’t Other Music’s owners—a falling out with an estranged third partner is hinted at but never addressed—or its customers—although the famous ones are interviewed for the movie. The core of this movie is the question of what does it mean to fill your life with art? The record store, its shelves brimming with esoterica and its staff with their trademark curtness is a testament to how fulfilling a life spent in the arts can be. In all likelihood, if you’re on this website you’d be a fan of “Other Music”. Hell, you may have even shopped there.

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation

The documentary with the most famous subject in our list. It’s also the only documentary to take place outside of New York City. “Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation” is composed entirely of archival footage so expect to see lots of long hair, hippie outfits, and blurred out nudity. The movie doesn’t spend too much time with the famed musical acts and their legendary performances instead it focuses on the festival’s organizers and attendees. The voices of the talking heads are always played over grainy, archival footage from 1969. We never see any of their faces. Which maybe is the point, because it’s not important who went to Woodstock so much as what they went there for: three days of peace and music.

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes

The documentary opens with a montage of famous Blue Note Records releases. If you’re like me you probably didn’t recognize the album covers but did recognize the names: Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock. “Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes” is not interested in the chronological, nuts and bolts of Blue Note’s time in the music business or a history of jazz music. It’s a worthwhile addition to this list because it’s about the significance of that label. It shows us what happens when well-meaning afficionados, like the label’s founders Alfred Lion and Franck Wolff, work with talented artists. In an interview towards the end of the documentary Hancock explains jazz music in one minute when recounting a recording session with Miles Davis. If nothing else watch the documentary just for that anecdote.

2022 Tribeca Festival Recommendations


Tribeca is a downtown film festival and JLo is an uptown girl. Few artists made their New York roots as important to their identity as JLo did. The Netflix documentary “Halftime”, directed by Amanda Micheli, follows Jennifer Lopez over the last few years. In it she prepares for major shows including her 2020 Super Bowl halftime show and the presidential inauguration in 2021. “Halftime” is billed as a documentary in which Lopez prepares for the second half of her career and life. In it she evaluates her own contributions to American pop culture and more specifically Latinx culture. “The Tribeca Festival is eager to bring audiences from all over the world together to honor the importance of purpose-driven creative expression,” said Robert De Niro, the festival’s founder. Likely part documentary, part commercial “Haltfime” promises to be at the very least an entertaining 98 minutes with a charismatic, beloved star and at most a meditation on activism and middle age. Either way Jenny from the Block is here.  


Gracie Marie Bradley stars as the titular Beauty in the film “Beauty” which will make its world premier at the 2022 Tribeca Festival.

The only Tribeca Festival narrative feature included on this list, “Beauty” is the story of Beauty (Gracie Marie Bradley) a talented singer on the verge of industry success in the 1980s. When Beauty innocently signs her first contract she’s met with the realities of pop stardom, asked to hide her relationship with her girlfriend, compromise her identity as a black woman, and intentionally mispresent her own art in pursuit of audience approval. It’s apparent from the description alone that this movie is as much about legendary real-life singers, such as Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle, and countless others as it as about the fictional Beauty. Written by Lena Waithe “Beauty” is about the timeless themes of ambition, identity, and love as told through the lens of the music industry.


The New York Ballet’s Project Lift offers scholarships to homeless children to learn ballet. This documentary follows international ballet star, Steven Melendez, as he teaches young dancers ballet. The catch? Melendez himself was a homeless seven-year-old before joining the LIFT program. The doc follows Melendez and his students over the span of ten years. The movie culminates in a stage performance from the LIFT students that addresses the pain of homelessness.

Music Performances at Tribeca

Thursday, June 9

8 p.m.: Machine Gun Kelly at the Beacon Theater
After the premier of the semi-autobiographical Taurus the rap-rocker will make a special appearance.

8 p.m.: Of Monsters and Men at the Indeed Theater
Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men will perform after a screening of TIU, a feature documentary about the band.

Friday, June 10

6:00 p.m.Pharrell in Conversation at BMCC Tribeca PAC
Pharrell Williams will sit down for a live interview to discuss his career.

8 p.m.: The DOC 54th Birthday Party feat. DJ Quik, Das, and Kurupt at the Beacon Theater Rapper The DOC will celebrate his birthday with the premier of a documentary about his life followed by a live performance.

Saturday, June 11

3 p.m.A Conversation with Taylor Swift at the Beacon Theater
The Grammy winning artist will showcase her movie RedAll Too Well: The Short Film and discuss her creative process with filmmaker Mike Mills.

8 p.m.: Lil Baby at the Beacon Theater
Atlanta rapper Lil Baby will premier Untrapped: The Story of Lil Baby, a documentary about his life and career. Following the screening will be a special performance from Lil Baby.

8 p.m.: Inner City and Blake Baxter at the Indeed Theater
The electronic music group, Inner City, will perform after the screening of God Said Give ’Em Drum Machines, a documentary about the origin of techno music.

8 p.m.: Performance by Onyx Collective and Duendita at Baby’s All Right
Onyx Collective is a jazz ensemble founded in NYC that will be performing with Another artist who is Duendita, a singer-songwriter from Queens.

12 a.m.: DJ sets by Huerco S and Ade Kassim at Baby’s All Right.
The two DJ’s will perform at a festival afterparty.

Tribeca Festival Tickets

Screenings will take place across New York City from June 8-19. The festival’s complete schedule is available online. Tickets for both in person and virtual events are available on the festival website.

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