At this year’s Tribeca Festival, fans of LGBTQ cinema might experience an unfamiliar sensation while watching queer programming: They might smile.
“We’re so used to, as queer viewers, being triggered by the stories we’re watching and seeing so much negative content,” said Lucy Mukerjee, the festival's senior programmer. “So I really wanted to make sure that mainstream audiences could watch positive representations of our experiences.”
She added: “None of the characters are coming to terms with their identity; they’re just getting on with their lives.”
The annual event, formerly known as the Tribeca Film Festival, will also go far beyond films and include podcasts, television programs and star-studded panels. This year's program started Wednesday and runs until June 19.
One of the festival highlights is the world premiere of "Three Headed Beast," the first feature film from filmmaking duo Fernando Andrés and Tyler Rugh, both 24-year-old Austin, Texas, natives. The poetic drama delves into the relationship of a Texas-based, long-term bisexual couple in an open relationship. The pair is on the verge of closing their relationship when its foundation starts to show its cracks.
Another film centered on the highs and lows of a polyamorous relationship is Ruth Cadeli's fourth feature, “Petit Mal,” which follows three charismatic women — Martina, Laia and Anto — who are in a "throuple" relationship. When Laia is called away for a long-term project, Martina and Anto are unexpectedly forced to question their love for one another as a pair instead of a trio.
“We have been indoctrinated by stories of the same segment of our community — stories about white gay men — at the expense of stories about queer women or trans and nonbinary folks,” Mukerjee said. “It’s time to make space for those stories, and it feels like a radical act to put films about polyamory in a mainstream festival. It feels good. I’m excited.”
Lesbians, according to Mukerjee, will “love” the international premiere of “Attachment,” a horror romance film written and directed by Danish filmmaker Gabriel Bier Gislason. The love story of Maja, a Danish has-been actor, and Leah, a young, Jewish academic from London, takes a dark turn when Leah has a mysterious seizure. Leah's health scare forces the pair to move to London and live with Leah’s overbearing — and sinister — mother.
Another theme LGBTQ cinema lovers can expect from this year’s festival is intersectionality, said Shakira Refos, an associate programmer of documentaries and panel programming for the festival.
“Oftentimes it seems like there’s only one way to be gay and Black, and what this year highlights is that, that’s a myth,” Refos said. “There’s so many ways to be Black and queer.”
Programmers will be screening “Set It Off,” a 1996 film centered around four Black women — played by Kimberly Elise, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and Vivica A. Fox — searching for peace and freedom in an unforgiving ‘90s-era South Central Los Angeles.
Festivalgoers can also sit in on a panel titled “The Power of Black Women’s Imagination: A Dedication to bell hooks,” which will offer insight into the creation of queer author bell hooks' bestselling book “All About Love: New Visions.”
Another panel will give listeners an inside look at the career of Katori Hall, the Tony-nominated playwright behind "P-Valley," a Starz television series that follows several Black dancers who work at a strip club in Mississippi. Festivalgoers will also hear from "P-Valley" actor Nicco Annan, who plays nonbinary strip club manager Uncle Clifford.
Fans of queer cinema can also see Bryan Darling and Jesse Finley Reed’s debut feature documentary, "All Man: The International Male Story." Narrated by actor Matt Bomer, "All Man" takes a deep dive into the International Male catalog — or, as festival programmers described it, the “secret handshake” among closeted gay men in the ‘80s. The film also examines how the power of fashion and media influenced the modern gay rights movement.