The annual Tribeca Festival wrapped up on Sunday, both in New York and virtually, and as usual, the festival contained a wide selection of music documentaries. Here are reviews of four of the most notable ones:
This one, taking a look at the Philadelphia-based rapper and performer Tierra Whack, took home the festival’s award for Best Narrative Film. You may have noticed that’s not the documentary category, because it’s not, really, a documentary at all.
Director Chris Moukarbel‘s film certainly looks like a documentary, appearing for most of its first third like a legitimate, earnest non-fiction look at a rising music star. But eventually, it weaves in some nontraditional — and, well, not real — elements, involving mysterious figures filming the action, upset fans, and even far-flung conspiracy theories.
In a way that’s reminiscent of Exit Through the Gift Shop, Cypher expertly navigates the line between real and not real, and I’m excited for the arguments that will ensue once people see this.
All Up in the Biz
This doc, from music documentary wizard Sacha Jenkins (he also made last year’s Louis Armstrong film), follows the life and death of New York rap legend Biz Markie.
If all you know of Markie is his hit “Just a Friend,” the documentary fleshes out the rapper’s place in the New York City hip-hop scene, as well as his various brushes with movies and other mainstream pop culture.
The film also takes a big swing in its depiction of Biz’s final year, which was spent in a hospital room, as we see a puppet representation of the rapper in the hospital as his wife and doctors tend to him. It’s very poignant and affecting, even as Biz’s widow only hints at the various battles and lawsuits that followed the rapper’s death.
The documentary is scheduled to arrive on Showtime soon.
Let the Canary Sing
This Tribeca-premiering film, directed by Alison Eastwood, is a career-spanning documentary about Cyndi Lauper, the pop singer who had a brief period at the top of the pop culture firmament in the mid-1980s, thanks to a string of mega-hits and her part in the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling” epoch.
The outer borough native’s run at the top was brief, but she’s remained a beloved figure all along, including her close connection with the LGBTQ community. Lauper speaks of some of her hit songs being inspired by the deaths of close friends from AIDS, while she recently resurfaced as the composer of the Tony-winning Kinky Boots. Broadway is littered with pop stars who have tried and failed to write hit musicals, but Lauper’s shot was a success.
The archival footage is outstanding, and we learn some harrowing stuff about the singer’s upbringing.
There’s no word on when the film might be appearing.
While Cypher pretended to be an earnest documentary about and up-and-coming music star, this film is the actual real thing. Directed by Beth Aala, Uncharted follows established pop star’s Alicia Keys‘ She Is The Music songwriting camp, and tells the stories of a few women taking a shot at performing and/or songwriting stardom.
The three women, Jean Deaux, Ayoni, and DaVionne, have their ups and downs, but all emerge as compelling personalities with intriguing backstories.
There’s no word on distribution for the film.
The film festival also featured documentaries about the Indigo Girls, Milli Vanilli, Ron Delsener, Gogol Bordello, and Gloria Gaynor.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.