Every year the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan showcases how marvelous movies can be when moviemakers creatively explore issues, develop characters and tell stories. This year’s festival — through April 27 — offers a range of intriguing films. Here are some to look for.
Since Paul Haggis won back-to-back Oscars for writing Crash and Million Dollar Baby, audiences have looked to him to continue to advance the movie drama. In this film, James Franco, Liam Neeson and Adrien Brody lead an ensemble cast to tell interlocking stories set in Rome, Paris and New York. While giving each character enough screen time to connect — without resorting to caricature — can challenge any creator of an ensemble film, Haggis knows this genre well.
April 24 and 27
Venus in Fur
Roman Polanski’s roller coaster life and career would, actually, make quite a film. After early Hollywood success (with Rosemary’s Baby in 1968) followed by horrific tragedy (the murder of his wife Sharon Tate in 1969), he began a controversial exile from Hollywood and continued an inconsistent film career. After several disappointments, he won a surprise Oscar for directing The Pianist in 2001. Like his last film, Carnage, Polanski’s film of Venus in Fur is adapted from a stage play.
April 22 and 26
Two years after James Franco introduced a documentary about James Franco at the Tribeca Festival, James Franco now brings his collection of stories about life in his hometown to the screen starring, no surprise, James Franco. The actor/writer introduces us to teenagers who experiment with things they should avoid, conflict with people they should love, and dream what they should never consider. And it’s set, yes, in Palo Alto, Calif.
April 24, 25 and 26
Alex of Venice
Chris Messina — best known as an actor in Argo on screen and The Mindy Project on television — directs this tale of an attorney who works too much, lives too little, and suddenly confronts the realities of her life when her husband bolts. As an actor, Messina brings a quiet sensitivity to his work; this film will reveal how that thoughtful approach can translate to directing.
April 18, 20 and 26
The roller coaster ride continues for Robin Williams as he looks to reinvent his screen persona with this drama about a man searching for the courage to face his realities. For director Dito Montiel, of the memorable A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, this is a chance to continue the momentum; for Williams, with the uncertainty of his television series The Crazy Ones, it offers a chance to reconnect with film audiences.
April, 20, 22 and 24
Lou Howe’s first film features Rory Culkin who, while searching for a girl from his past, discovers painful realities about the family he already has. Howe originally planned to write fiction and, while studying at Harvard, fell in love with documentary films before experimenting with fictional works. He developed this film while making his thesis, My First Claire, that was nominated for a Student Academy Award.
April 17, 19, 20 and 22
Love is Strange
The latest from Ira Sachs — who made the memorable Keep the Lights On in 2012 — stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a same-sex couple who marry after 39 years of togetherness. When an employer negatively reacts to the news, the couple begins to examine the depth of their commitment to the union. This thoughtful and creative filmmaker never hesitates to get to the heart of the stories he tells.
April 23 and 26
Director Kelly Reichardt uses conventional frameworks to offer messages about environmental awareness. In this thriller, she connects her green agenda to the story of an unlikely trio who plan an outrageous act of terrorism without fully considering the outcomes. As in her earlier films, Reichardt questions how trustworthy institutions can be when pursuing broader agendas.
April 21, 24 and 27
The Tribeca Film Festival offers more than 85 feature films that were selected from more than 6,000 submissions. For ticket information, go to www.tribecafilm.com. The festival runs through April 27.