Tribeca 2021 Preview – Shorts

Now if you have read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I love a good short.  Live Action Short, Documentary Short, Animated Short, Deck Short (finally, they’re in season!), and so this list of films was a lot of fun to look over and see what the possibilities were!  Pardon my Minnesotan, but what a smorgasbord!  A total of 46 films were selected from 20 different countries and you can already see it showcases the innovation that is taking place in media around the globe.

Taking a page out of the Oscars, I’ll break these down into three groups.  Documentary, Live Action (Narrative), and Animation.


If you’re in NYC, I’m jealous because you might get the chance to see the subjects of Blondie: Vivir En La Habana, directed by Rob Roth.  The iconic rock band will be performing in concert as part of the festival programming in support of their documentary about traveling to Havana to perform for the first time.  As a longtime fan, this is top on my list.  William A. Kirkley’s Radical Love also looks appealing, delving into the lives of Michael and Eleanora Kennedy, legal eagles who counted a number of those going against the political grain in the 1960s as clients.  Then there’s Coded, directed by Ryan White which uncovers the legacy of J.C. Leyendecker, an illustrator of carefully designed ads that would pave the way for more overt marketing toward the LGBTQ+ community.

Blondie: Vivir En La Habana, directed by Rob Roth

Lamar Bailey Karamañites pays tribute to Miss Panama, which is about far more than winning a crown.  National kata karate champion Mahiro Takano faces her greatest challenge in James Latimer’s Kata, and keep your eyes out for The Queen of Basketball, directed by Ben Proudfoot which I have a feeling might be the type of documentary short to stick around come awards season.  Proudfoot’s profile of Lucy Harris, the Olympic basketball player most of us have never heard of sounds like just the inspiring story audiences eat up. Finally, I’ll be interested to the dynamics of two filmmakers forced to live together in How to Fall in Love in a Pandemic, directed and produced by Michael-David McKernan.

Kata, directed by James Latimer

Live Action

Here’s where you really can get adventurous because with these live action shorts, you just never know what you’re going to get.  The best thing about your choices?  If you don’t care for them, they’ll be over pretty quickly.  So if you aren’t feeling the family drama of Peninsula, directed and written by Fiona McKenzie, you could switch things up with the light zombie apocalypse comedy The Last Marriage, directed by Gustav Egerstedt & Johan Tappert.  If The Cocktail Party is any indication, I’m guessing writer/director Jessica Sanders knows how to throw a good shindig, what with its unforeseen shift into a martial arts action film. Judging by the logline for Liza Anonymous, directed by Aubrey Smyth, there’s going to be ample room for its star to make several shifts of her own during the short as she changes characters based on what support group she is attending.

Liza Anonymous, directed by Aubrey Smyth

There are at least two different shorts where dance plays a central role.  First up is Stephanie Bollag’s Esther In Wonderland, finding a married Hasidic woman drawn to the freedom she feels through hip hop and breakdance.  In Tj O’Grady Peyton’s Silence, a man at a crossroads happens upon a young ballet dancer in an abandoned building.  I’m not sure if that constitutes a “meet cute” but there’s definitely one in The Angler, directed by David Darg. I mean, when you have a fisherman who gets his line tangled with a single mother…that’s straying into some fairly cute rom com territory, right?  I suppose Girl With a Thermal Gun, directed and written by Rongfei Guo could also fall into this “meet cute” area.  Any man that has fantasies about a woman that takes his temperature can’t be a Mr. Wrong, right?

GraceLand, written and directed by Bonnie Discepolo

The final four shorts to keep watch for are a bit of a jumbled bunch but I think will be worth seeking out if you can find the time. A Syrian FBI informant is put into a desperate situation in No Longer Suitable For Use, directed and written by Julian Joslin. This is another title I could see being an early one to play the long game on its road to the Oscar ceremony.  Something about the plot seems on target to me.  I think the relationship between a bumbling carjacker and his kindly victim in Jon Huertas’s Two Jacked, sounds like twisted fun.  What else sounds fun right about now?  The chance to hear some Elvis in early June, courtesy of writer/director Bonnie Discepolo’s GraceLand, starring the great Anna Camp as a mother to a daughter that thinks she is the reincarnation of The King.  Lastly, the high-school dropout planning to rob her drug dealer in Molly Robber, directed and written by Austin Hall and Zach Visvikis gives the film the whiff of a tightly wound crime nugget and I’m more than ready for it. 


Simply by process of elimination as I went through the list, I found that I wasn’t left with a lot of animated titles, though that could change as the festival kicks off and I hear the good buzz about certain premieres.  For now, I’m setting my sights first and foremost on Namoo from writer/director Erick Oh.  Nominated for an Oscar just this past year for his captivating short Opera, Oh is back with this poem brought to life as a tribute to his grandfather.  Could Oh nab a nom two years running?

Namoo written and directed by Erick Oh

Even though I’m slightly wary of owls (ok, they freak me out), I’ll make an exception for the baby owl in Try to Fly, who, when inexplicably pushed from her nest, experiences an entire life flash before her eyes. For a darker tale, we turn to director Jeff Sher’s Dirty Little Secret, a retelling of The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 through song and animation.  How about even darker?  You got it!  I also have Death and the Lady, directed, written, and produced by Geoff Bailey & Lucy Struever on my list.  This one has Death itself visiting an elderly woman and her faithful canine companion on a rainy evening.   Perhaps ending things with Blush, written and directed by Joe Mateo will send you out on a lighter note.  This looks like a just lovely animated film following an astronaut crash landing on a barren planet…and the visitor that soon arrives.

Blush, written and directed by Joe Mateo

You aren’t tired after the Feature Film category, are you?  We still have Tribeca at Home to explore!

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