April 27, 2015

Falling as close as it does on the calendar to Sundance and SXSW, the Tribeca Film Festival — which ended yesterday — doesn’t always get the first picks and highest-profile of narrative movies. But for years now, those who attend and cover the fest have watched it quietly become one of the best showcases around for documentary film, and this year’s 14th annual installment was no exception. Your film editor took in 21 of the nonfiction entries, and there’s barely a dud in the bunch; here’s a brief overview of what to keep an eye out for.

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BEST OF THE FEST

In My Father’s House

Rapper and writer Che “Rhymefest” Smith and his wife were looking to buy a home in Chicago when they found the house his father — who’d abandoned him as a child — lived in. They bought it, and then discovered (in a twist so neat a screenwriter would be afraid to float it) that his father was homeless. So Smith tracks down his estranged father, who’s a warm guy, a big hugger, and a hopeless drunk, and decides to try and help him get his life back together. What follows is complicated and emotionally fraught, with no easy roles; there’s a real tension as you wait for something to go wrong (and, with alcoholics, something always does). And Che isn’t always a model father himself, and seems at times to push his father to screw up. Directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work; The Trials of Daryl Hunt) capture scenes of extraordinary candor and quiet intensity, creating a work of real depth and heartbreaking inevitability.

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