Aretha Franklin

7 Must-See Music-Themed Films At Tribeca Film Festival

Steve Dietl/Bleecker Street
Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley and Kevin Spacey as President Richard Nixon in Liza Johnson’s Elvis & Nixon. 

From Elvis Presley to Richard Branson and Steve Aoki

Co-founded by Oscar-winning actor Robert DeNiro, New York’s Tribeca Film Festival kicks off its 15th edition April 13. 

Among the nearly 80 world premieres shown during the 11-day event are several music-themed documentaries and narratives. Below are seven noteworthy world premieres taking place during the festival. The date listed is for the premiere; most of the films have subsequent screenings during the festival. 

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Elvis & Nixon: Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon, Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley, what more do you really need to know? The historical comedy, directed by Liza Johnson, looks at their 1970 meeting, during which The King asked the President if he could have a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drug to add to his collection of police badges. (4/18)

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The producers of the excellent Jiro Dreams of Sushi doc turn their attention to superstar DJ Steve Aoki as he prepares for one of the biggest shows of his career and examines what makes him tick, including his relationship with his absentee father. A discussion and performance with Aoki follows the premiere. (4/15)

Don’t Look Down: Daniel Gordon’s documentary chronicles Virgin Records founder Richard Branson’s attempts to cross the Atlantic and Pacific in a hot air balloon, including revealing Branson’s thoughts when he thought he was about to die. (4/19)

Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of  Rock: The camera turns its lens on Mick Rock in Barnaby Clay’s documentary on the legendary music photographer, as Rock tells the stories behind his iconic photos of Queen, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and many more. Following by a live music tribute. (4/22)

Geezer: Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong plays a suburban father of two, who, as he turns 40, decides to revisit his time as a lead singer in a pop punk band. The Lee Kirk-directed comedy also stars Fred Armisen, Selma Blair, Judy Greer, and Chris Messina. Armstrong will perform following the film. (4/23)

Midsummer in Newtown: Bring the tissues. As they work through the trauma of the 2012 school shooting, the children of Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut find transformation and healing as director Lloyd Kramer follows them while they mount a pop-rock version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream (4/17)

Hard Lovin’ Woman: She’s best known as an actress, but for years, Juliette Lewis has fronted her own band, Juliette Lewis and the Licks. Fellow actor Michael Rapaport chronicles Lewis’ devotion to her first love and the sacrifices she has made along the way to follow her passion. Lewis will perform on the opening night of the festival following the short film screenings. (4/15)

Among  other music-related events worth checking out:

*DJ Z-Trip will perform a live set during the Harold Lloyd classic silent film, Safety Last! (4/17)

*The Acid will perform at the world premiere of the bomb, the highly anticipated multi-media installation that immerses the goer in the reality of nuclear weapons. (4/24)

*Ethan Hawke leads a Q&A with Patti Smith about her creativity and legacy for Tribeca Talks: Storytellers. (4/14)