5 stranger-than-fiction documentaries to catch at tribeca film festival

From 60s skate culture in Venice Beach to a stunning exploration of true true love, Tribeca Film Festival has some forceful stories to tell this year. Here are five you absolutely can’t miss.

by Hannah Ongley
14 April 2016, 7:15pm

still from 'lovetrue,' directed by alma har'el

This year's documentary lineup at the Tribeca Film Festival is testament to the saying that fact is stranger than fiction. Israeli director Alma Har'el kicks things off this weekend with a stunning real-life subversion of the typical true love fantasy, one that also boasts Flying Lotus and Shia LaBeouf as contributors. The rest of the documentary selection is equally eclectic: David Bowie's official photographer gets a spotlight, as do women with important tales to tell about abortion. Other filmmakers lift the veil on the art world's most intriguing players and circle back to 60s Venice Beach and the birth of skateboarding. Check out our top selections below.

Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock, dir. Barnaby Clay
Those of us who didn't personally witness the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust are probably familiar with David Bowie's 70s trajectory thanks to Mick Rock. During his time as Bowie's official photographer — lensing images such as the iconic shot of Bowie and Mick Ronson dining on a train car — The Starman told his manager, "Mick sees me the way I see myself." But Bowie was only one name on a list of Rock's clients that included the likes of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Queen, and Joan Jett. In this feature, director Barnaby Clay makes the photographer the star by guiding viewers through his own rock 'n' roll adventures.

Skateboarding's First Wave, dir. Don Burgess
One of the best images of vintage skateboarding is of Farrah Fawcett in the original 1976 Charlie's Angels movie. Nowadays, guys are normally the face of the sport, but the feminist angle wasn't just a fictional movie plotline. "The girls could compete against the boys, and they beat 'em," says a dude in the trailer for Don Burgess' new film about the early days of skate culture in Southern California. "Skateboarding would have been one of the first activities where girls did compete," says Colleen Boyd Turner, who was a competitive skater in the 60s. The feminist angle is just a bonus cool facet to this authentically Valencia-tinged looked the sport's renegade roots.

Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back, dir. Laura Axelrod
A floating lifeless Pinocchio, a woman nailed to a wall, Pope John Paul II struck down by a meteor, a squirrel committing suicide: these are the more outrageous of the 128 items that filled the rotunda of the Guggenheim for the museum's unprecedented (and highly unconventional) Maurizio Cattelan exhibition in 2011. Filmmaker Laura Axelrod's documentary illustrates the enigmatic art world prankster via interviews with curators, collectors, fellow luminaries, and ex-girlfriends. The question, "Who is Maurizio Cattelan?" is never fully answered, and it's best that way.

LoveTrue, dir. Alma Har'el
Shia LaBeouf (as producer) and Flying Lotus (as composer) are the two most recognizable names attached to this atypical love story that blurs the line between documentary and fiction. But if you're not familiar with Israeli director Alma Har'el, her name is definitely one to learn. Har'el, in her follow-up to her 2011 hybrid doc Bombay Beach, follows three real-life couples facing their own sets of obsctacles while challenging the fantasy of love. Shot in Hawaii, New York, and Alaska, it looks as stunning as it sounds.

Abortion: Stories Women Tell, dir. Tracy Droz Tragos
We've heard so much about the political state of abortion this election year, and for good reason. Since the US Supreme court decision Roe v. Wade gave every woman the right to have an abortion in 1973, we've experienced a disturbing backslide. In 2011, over half the states in the nation had significantly restricted access to abortions. But what we don't hear as frequently are the voices of the women themselves. Missouri native Tracy Droz Tragos hands a mic not just to those who have undergone the procedure but also to activists, medical providers, and those still struggling with unplanned pregnancies. These are the people who the film argues we should really be listening to. 

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Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy Tribeca Film Festival

Shia LaBeouf
Tribeca Film Festival
Mick Rock
Maurizio Cattelan
abortion stories
tff 2016
skateboarding's first wave