The Tribeca Film Festival takes over lower Manhattan from Apr. 17–28, with almost 89 feature films—of which more than 50 are world premieres—and a full slate of panels and events. And while it might not have quite as many glitzy red-carpet galas and big-money deals as film-fests like Cannes or Sundance, there’s no shortage of movies worthy of your attention, whether you’re in attendance, following along online or just waiting for the films to reach your local cineplex. So, for your future queue-building pleasure, here are the dozen Tribeca movies we can’t wait to see. ([WP] indicates a movie making its world premiere, [USP] denotes movies screening for the very first time in the U.S.)
Almost Christmas: In this comedy (pictured, top left), Paul Rudd and Paul Giamatti play what the official synopsis calls “two French Canadian ne’er-do-wells.” (Admit it: you’re already sold.) They come south to New York City to sell Christmas trees and get rich. Paul Rudd fans should also watch out for his other exciting Tribeca showing, in the 1980s-set Prince Avalanche, which pairs him with Emile Hirsch. [WP]
A Case of You: This Evan Rachel Wood-Justin Long romance takes on the very newsworthy topic of not-quite-honest online dating profiles. It was co-written by Justin Long and is chockablock with cameos from Sam Rockwell, Brendan Fraser, Peter Dinklage, Sienna Miller, Vince Vaughn and Busy Philipps. Only downside, sort of: if you already have Joni Mitchell stuck in your head, imagine how long you’ll be humming if you do more than just read a blurb. [WP]
Dancing in Jaffa: This documentary follows a familiar formula for feel-good movie success—kids working together towards an unlikely goal (see: Mad Hot Ballroom) and overcoming conflict and challenges (see: Brooklyn Castle)—but takes it up a notch. This time we’ve got children in Jaffa learning ballroom dancing amid their daily experiences living in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [WP]
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me: Elaine Stritch is a stage legend but, at 88, she has recently decided to leave her longtime New York home for a quieter life in Michigan. So where better than New York for the premiere of this documentary about her life and influence? [WP]
G.B.F.: Writer-director Darren Stein hasn’t made a feature film since 1999′s Jawbreaker—a seminal achievement in the dark-teenage-comedy genre—so fans are ready for his return. In G.B.F., Stein goes back to high school for another dark comedy. This time, rather than covering up some manslaughter, the popular girls are battling each other to claim the right to call their first out-of-the-closet classmate their Gay Best Friend. [WP]
I Got Somethin’ To Tell You: It’s sort of hard to believe, but Whoopie Goldberg, actress-writer-producer-Viewer extraordinaire, has never directed a movie. Until now. Her documentary is about comedy legend “Moms” Mabley, who died in the 1970s after conquering numerous obstacles and taboos in the way of her success and acceptance. From tragic beginnings, Mabley became a star—despite her gender, race and sexual orientation. [WP]
Kiss the Water: This is one of those documentaries where first you’re like, “How is there a movie about this?” And then you’re like, “When can I see a movie about this?” This U.S.-U.K. coproduction sounds like the film version of a meditative New Yorker article. It takes viewers to the Scottish Highlands to meet the self-taught fly-maker—as in fly fishing—who supplies Prince Charles with his tackle. [WP]
The Reluctant Fundamentalist: This Mira Nair film, which has already made the rounds of a few international festivals, is one of the biggest titles at the festival. It already has a late April limited-release theatrical date, so it’s possible you won’t have to wait long to see it even if you aren’t in New York. It’s the story of a young man from Pakistan who follows all the rules to succeed in the U.S.: he goes to Princeton, gets a job on Wall Street, dates Kate Hudson. After 9/11, however, the country that welcomed him becomes suspicious—which, in turn, causes him to question how he feels about that country in the first place. [USP]
Robots in Residence: It’s not quite right to describe Robots in Residence as a movie, and it’s not quite fair to put it on this list, since you really need to be in New York to get the full experience. Still, we can’t get over how interesting this project might be: pre-programmed robots, available to festival goers, will work with whoever shows up to direct and film a documentary. They’re not quite monkeys with typewriters, but it’s worth paying attention to what they come up with. Do you need an author to create art?
Teenage: Teenagers weren’t always a separate species of human being—in fact, the word is less than 100 years old. This documentary takes a look at how they evolved to be what they are today, and how the existence of the category changed the history of the 20th century. [WP]
Wadjda: Tribeca isn’t the first showing for this feature film, which already had a theatrical run in several European countries, but it’s got plenty of firsts to make up for that fact. The German-Saudi Arabian co-production is the story of a 10-year-old girl on a quest for her own bicycle—and it’s also the first-ever feature shot exclusively in Saudi Arabia and the first from a female Saudi director. Haifaa Al-Mansour, the filmmaker, had to direct much of the movie from within a van, hidden from view, but—like her character—she demonstrates the power of passionately wanting to do something.
What Richard Did: Actor Jack Reynor is about to go blockbuster with a role in the upcoming 2014 Transformers sequel, but for now you can catch him in this Irish drama, making its U.S. debut at the festival. The movie was nominated for about a dozen Irish Film and Television Awards this year and took home the Best Film and Best Actor trophies. It’s the story of a privileged teenager whose own actions cause his life to fall apart. Those who are eager to take a look will be able to watch from home, as the movie will be featured as part of the Festival’s video-on-demand content. [USP]