Tribeca Film Festival Lights Up NYC

Published on in Industry Announcements / Events

The Tribeca Film Festival lit up the NYC skyline with a dazzling array of films and projects ranging from full-length features to documentaries and shorts. Then to just to add to the mix, there were unique and original works in the VR and immersive space. Then there were even more Tribeca Talks that offered an intimate and personal glimpse into filmmaking as an art form. Incredible as it sounds, the Tribeca Film Festival has grown into a truly diverse and exciting collection of events that attracts thousands of filmmakers, cinematographers and patrons from all over the world.

Getting Focused

Soon after being credentialed to cover the Tribeca, I came to a startling discovery. There was no way getting around that I was not going to get to every short, film and talk that I wanted to go to. So, I took a deep breath and decided to focus on some of the documentaries that covered a fairly wide range of topics and the VR/ Immersive experience. Let's get started! 

The Documentaries

Why documentaries? Because if you have a passion for a topic or a person or a thing you can become a documentarian. It's such a rush to be there when life happens whether planned or not. Here are three fantastic examples of stellar work I got to see at this year's festival.

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable follows the life of world champion surfer Bethany Hamilton. From the very earliest stages of her life to surviving a shark attack and losing her arm to becoming a mom, this film really is deep. Different than the commercial feature film based on her life, Soul Surfer, this film has an edge to it. It shows all of the behind the scenes of overcoming obstacles, all the way to the triumph of motherhood. 

As with many docs, the film relies on “original” film.

Grainy footage and interviews featuring Ms. Hamilton’s parents and friends added authenticity to the film. If you dig a good old-fashioned story (along with mad surfing) about overcoming incredibly daunting challenges, you should see this film. 

The release of this film resonates with the thought that women can and should be on equal footing with men. That theme was repeated over and over because Ms. Hamilton was determined just to be a competitor. Period. 

Satan and Adam

A film 23 years in the making, Satan and Adam tells the tale of two men. Satan, a black street musician in Harlem, and Adam a white, Ivy League-educated harmonica player formed an unlikely friendship that develops when artists collaborate.

The chance meeting of these two musicians and how they rose to become international recording artists is amazing. But besides the incredible story, I found out some very interesting technical information.

As I was talking to the director, I came to find out that since the film took years to shoot and cut, there was a ton of format obstacles to overcome. 8mm, 16mm, 3/4 UMatic, 1 inch, VHS you name it; they shot it. And this is all on a shoestring budget. For conforming and editing, everything was converted to hi-res files and then output to 2K. This film is a testament to the filmmakers and the hundreds of people who worked on the film.

Again, lots of grain. But it didn't matter. Because the film originated in NYC it all worked so well.

The Serengeti Rules

This film is visually stunning. Shot on ARRI Alexa Mini, RED (unspecified) and drones. this If you love beautiful cinematography, you must see this film.

Exploring some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth, five pioneering scientists make surprising discoveries that flip our understanding of nature on its head and offer new hope for restoring our world. Academy Award‐winning Passion Pictures and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios present one of the most important but untold science stories of our time — a tale with profound implications for the fate of life on our planet.

Beginning in the 1960s, a small band of young scientists headed out into the wilderness, driven by an insatiable curiosity about how nature works. Immersed in some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth —from the majestic Serengeti to the Amazon jungle; from the Arctic Ocean to Pacific tide pools — they discovered a single set of rules that govern all life.

Now in the twilight of their eminent careers, these five unsung heroes of modern ecology share the stories of their adventures, reveal how their pioneering work flipped our view of nature on its head, and give us a chance to reimagine the world as it could and should be.

Tribeca Film Festival Immersive

Incredible. Cool. Fun. Packed. High Energy. So cutting edge.

As one of the first festivals to champion VR as a dynamic form of storytelling, this year's offerings include 33 virtual reality (VR) innovative exhibitions and experiences from top creators.

Several Immersive projects featured in the program tackle timely cultural issues, including racism (1,000 Cut Journey), climate change (This is Climate Change), immigration and xenophobia (Terminal 3), nuclear war (The Day The World Changed) and HIV/AIDS (Queerskins: a love story).

In addition, the lineup includes programming that allowed visitors to become active participants in astonishing experiences, such as swimming with sharks (Into the Now), caring for a baby elephant (My Africa), being caught in the bombing raid of a town square (Hero) and participating in a groundbreaking collaboration of AR and Immersive Theater from creators Graham Sack, Sensorium Works and NY Theater Workshop (objects in mirror AR closer than they appear).

What did I learn at Tribeca Film Festival this year? Content is King, I love film grain and I loved every minute of it. In the end, we are storytellers for ourselves and others. The delivery of that content VR or film can and is taking on a whole new meaning. I knew I wasn't going to get to everything, but what I did see and hear was so inspirational and yes, very cool. Now go out there and make something! 

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About the Author

Mark Foley
Mark Foley
Mark J. Foley, MBA BA is an award-winning producer and director and the Technology Editor for He is on a mission to provide the best in new equipment reviews, along with exclusive analysis and interviews with the best, the brightest, and the most creative minds in the entertainment and production business. Have a suggestion for a review? Email Mark at

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