Review: ‘Dear David’ (2023), starring Augustus Prew, Andrea Bang, René Escobar Jr., Cameron Nicoll and Justin Long

November 20, 2023

by Carla Hay

Augustus Prew and Cameron Nicoll in “Dear David” (Photo by Stephanie Montani/Lionsgate)

“Dear David” (2023)

Directed by John McPhail

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City in 2017 (and briefly in 1996), the horror film “Dear David” (based on a real Internet story that went viral) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Latin people, and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A comic artist who works for BuzzFeed believes that he is being haunted by a ghost named David, and he chronicles his experiences in messages on Twitter. 

Culture Audience: “Dear David” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching mindless and incoherent horror movies with annoying characters.

Jarrett Siddall in “Dear David” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Dear David” is what happens when misguided filmmakers think a social media fad story can be made into a movie that a lot of people weren’t asking for in the first place. This pointless horror flick is boring, jumbled, and a complete waste of time. “Dear David” is based on true events from 2017, when a BuzzFeed comic artist named Adam Ellis went on Twitter to detail his supposed encounters with a murderous ghost named David. BuzzFeed Studios is one of the production companies behind this forgettable flop movie.

Directed by John McPhail and written by Mike Van Waes, “Dear David” is the first feature film for Van Waes. The “Dear David” screenplay is the weakest link in this terrible movie, but it’s certainly not the only reason why “Dear David” is a complete failure on every level. What viewers will see are monotonous and repetitive scenes of protagonist Adam Ellis (played by Augustus Prew) having nightmarish visions that he’s not sure are real or part of his imagination.

The beginning of this movie shows this introductory statement: “In 2017, Adam Ellis began documenting a series of strange encounters that were happening in his apartment, He posted them on Twitter, and these ‘Dear David’ posts became a viral sensation. The following is based on those true events.”

If you believe that “on Twitter” and “true events” are automatically synonymous, then perhaps you’d like to think that Twitter owner Elon Musk can buy the Brooklyn Bridge too. Hauntings that were fabricated to make people famous have been around much longer than social media existed. You only need to look at the proliferation of paranormal-themed TV shows and Web series to see that plenty of people are trying find fame and fortune from “investigating” hauntings.

And so, the motives of Adam Ellis are obviously suspect from the start. In real life, Ellis has been open about his mental health issues, which might or might not have played a role in his ghostly sightings. The fact that BuzzFeed cashed in on an employee’s admittedly shaky mental health by making this awful movie makes “Dear David” even more repulsive.

“Dear David” begins in New York City in 1996, a year when the Internet was fairly new to the world. A reclusive loner boy named David Johnson (played by Cameron Nicoll), who’s 10 years old, spends a lot of time using the Internet on a computer in the basement of his family home. David’s mother is worried about his Internet activities. David’s father has the opposite opinion: He thinks that the Internet is a sensation that will take over the world.

An early scene in the movie shows David getting cyberbullied in a chat room by an anonymous person, who sends David a message calling David a “loser.” David writes back, “Why are you so mean?” The harasser answers, “Why don’t you kill yourself?”

The movie then fast-forwards to 2017. At BuzzFeed headquarters in New York City, Adam is a comic artist who’s not doing very well on the job. He’s distracted by Internet harassers who insult his work. Adam’s annoying boss Bryce (played by Justin Long, in a quick cameo) hints that Adam could be fired if Adam doesn’t get a larger audience for Adam’s work. Bryce says that Adam has “relatable” content, but Adam’s audience reach is “kind of lame.”

Adam has two writer co-workers whose desks are right next to his. Evelyn (played by Andrea Bang) is Adam’s closest friend at work and one of the few people he trusts will be supportive of him when things in his life get weird. Norris (played by Tricia Black) is phony and very competitive. Norris the type of person who tries too hard to impress the boss while making passive-aggressive digs at her co-workers.

“Dear David” spends quite a bit of time on Adam’s relationship with his boyfriend Kyle Sanchez (played by René Escobar Jr.), who is loving and loyal but getting impatient and feels somewhat hurt that Adam is not ready to introduce Kyle to Adam’s mother. (The movie never says what happened to Adam’s father.) There’s also some other drama about how Adam hasn’t come out as gay to everyone in his life.

Who is the ghost that’s causing the terror in the movie? Two unlucky teens named Kevin (played by Seth Murchison) and James (played by Ethan Hwang) find out when they go the Internet to play pranks on people under false identities. An example of the pranks is Kevin and James pretending to be attractive young women looking for dates with men, and when they get men to be interested, Kevin and James reveal that they are really underage boys and shame the men for being perverts.

One day, someone on the Internet named David falls for one of their pranks. David doesn’t think it’s funny and tells Kevin and James that they are both going to die. During their contentious online conversation, David warns Kevin and James that when people first talk to David online, they can only ask David two questions.

It should come as no surprise that one of the teens breaks this rule and asks more than two questions. One of the questions Kevin asks is: “How am I going to die?” David answers, “Alone, afraid, and wetting your bed.” You can easily guess what happens to Kevin in this dreadfully predictable movie.

Adam also encounters David online, but David torments Adam much longer than David’s usual victims. After doing some research, Adam is convinced that the David who’s been contacting him on the Internet and who’s attacking him in these haunting visions is the ghost of a boy named David, who had a tragic story. Take a wild guess which David that is. The ghost who is haunting Adam appears to be an adult version of David (played by Jarrett Siddall), who doesn’t look very menacing and looks more like psychiatric facility patient who needs to brush his teeth.

“Dear David” could’ve had so many interesting things to say about cyberbullying and ghost hauntings, but the movie doesn’t know what to do with these narratives and just makes everything a mess. The acting performances are subpar for the movie’s characters, who are hollow, irritating or both. The overall direction for “Dear David” is sloppy and unfocused. Because the foundation of “Dear David” is a weak and gimmicky Internet story that briefly went viral, that foundation sinks quickly into a cesspool of cinematic muck where stupid horror movies are quickly forgotten.

Lionsgate released “Dear David” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on October 13, 2023.

2023 Critics Choice Documentary Awards: ‘Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie’ is the biggest winner

November 12, 2023

by Carla Hay

Michael J. Fox in “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

The following is a press release from the Critics Choice Association:

The Critics Choice Association (CCA) unveiled the winners of the Eighth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards at a gala event in New York City. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie took home five trophies in all including the top award of the evening for Best Documentary Feature. The film’s other victories were Best Director for Davis Guggenheim, Best Editing for Michael Harte, Best Narration for Michael J. Fox, and Best Biographical Documentary.

The Critics Choice Documentary Awards recognize the year’s finest achievements in documentaries released in theaters, on TV and on major digital platforms, as determined by the voting of qualified CCA members. 

20 Days in Mariupol, American Symphony, and The Deepest Breath each took home two awards.

20 Days in Mariupol won the awards for Best First Documentary for director Mstyslav Chernov, and Best Political Documentary.

Jon Batiste won Best Score for his work on American Symphony and the film also took home the award for Best Music Documentary. 

The Deepest Breath was another of the evening’s double award-winners, with wins for Tim Cragg in Best Cinematography and Best Sports Documentary. 

The trophy for Best Archival Documentary was awarded to Being Mary Tyler Moore.

Best Historical Documentary went to JFK: One Day in America.

The award for Best Science/Nature Documentary was presented to Secrets of the Elephants.

In the True Crime Documentary category, there was a tie between Lennon: Murder Without a Trial and Telemarketers.

The Last Repair Shop won the award for Best Short Documentary.

Best Limited Documentary Series went to The 1619 Project.

30 for 30 took home the award for Best Ongoing Documentary Series.

At the ceremony, the Pennebaker Award was presented to acclaimed documentarian Ross McElwee. The award, formerly known as the Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award, is named in honor of D A Pennebaker, a past winner. It was presented to Kopple by Chris Hegedus, Pennebaker’s long-time collaborator and widow.

For the fourth year in a row,  the Critics Choice Documentary Awards welcomed National Geographic Documentary Films as the Presenting Sponsor.

The Catalyst Sponsors for the Eighth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards were Amazon MGM Studios and Netflix. 

The Spirits Sponsor of the event was Milagro Tequila.

To stream the ceremony, learn more about the Critics Choice Documentary Awards, and see the full list of nominees and winners, visit the Critics Choice Association website.


Winners of the Eighth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards



20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)
American Symphony (Netflix)
Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions)
The Deepest Breath (Netflix)
The Eternal Memory (MTV Documentary Films/Paramount+)
Judy Blume Forever (Amazon Studios)
Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)
The Mission (National Geographic)
Stamped from the Beginning (Netflix)
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)*


Maite Alberdi – The Eternal Memory (MTV Documentary Films/Paramount+)
Madeleine Gavin – Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions)
Davis Guggenheim – Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)*
Matthew Heineman – American Symphony (Netflix)
Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss – The Mission (National Geographic)
Steve McQueen – Occupied City (A24)


20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)*
26.2 to Life (Film Halau)
Bad Press (Oklafilm)
Bobi Wine: The People’s President (National Geographic)
Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)
Orlando, My Political Biography (Sideshow)
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (Greenwich Entertainment)
The Thief Collector (FilmRise)


Tim Cragg – The Deepest Breath (Netflix)*
Tony Hardmon, Matthew Heineman, Thorsten Thielow – American Symphony (Netflix)
Lennert Hillege – Occupied City (A24)
Franz Lustig – Anselm (Sideshow)
D. Smith – Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)
Toby Strong, James Boon, Bob Poole, Neil Fairlie, Wim Vorster, Joshua Tarr, Pete Allibone, Neil Harvey, Andreas Knausenberger – Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic)


Sammy Dane, Jim Hession, Matthew Heineman, Fernando Villegas – American Symphony (Netflix)
Madeleine Gavin – Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions)
Michael Harte – Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)*
Michelle Mizner – 20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)
D. Smith – Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)
Aaron Wickenden – The Mission (National Geographic)


Jon Batiste – American Symphony (Netflix)*
Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans – The Mission (National Geographic)
Nainita Desai – The Deepest Breath (Netflix)
Philip Glass & Paul Leonard-Morgan – The Pigeon Tunnel (Apple TV+)
Katya Richardson & Kris Bowers – The Last Repair Shop (Breakwater Studios)
D. Smith – Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)


20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)
   Written and Performed by Mstyslav Chernov

32 Sounds (Abramorama)
   Written and Performed by Sam Green

The Disappearance of Shere Hite (IFC Films)
   Written by Nicole Newnham, Eileen Meyer and Shere Hite
   Performed by Dakota Johnson

John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial (Apple TV+)
   Performed by Kiefer Sutherland

Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic)
   Written by Martin Williams, Caroline Hawkins and Jonathan Frisby
   Performed by Natalie Portman

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)*
   Written and Performed by Michael J. Fox


Being Mary Tyler Moore (HBO | Max)*
The Disappearance of Shere Hite (IFC Films)
It Ain’t Over (Sony Pictures Classics)
JFK: One Day in America (National Geographic)
The Lady Bird Diaries (Hulu/ABC News Studios)
The League (Magnolia Pictures)


The 1619 Project (Hulu/Onyx Collective)
JFK: One Day in America (National Geographic)*
The Lady Bird Diaries (Hulu/ABC News Studios)
Lakota Nation vs. United States (IFC Films)
The League (Magnolia Pictures)
Occupied City (A24)
Stamped from the Beginning (Netflix)


Being Mary Tyler Moore (HBO | Max)
The Disappearance of Shere Hite (IFC Films)
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (HBO Documentary Films)
Judy Blume Forever (Amazon Studios)
Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields (Hulu/ABC News Studios)
Sly (Netflix)
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)*


American Symphony (Netflix)*
Carlos (Sony Pictures Classics)
Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop (Netflix)
Little Richard: I Am Everything (Magnolia Pictures/CNN Films)
Love to Love You, Donna Summer (HBO | Max)
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (AMC Theatres)
What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? (Abramorama)


20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)*
Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions)
Bobi Wine: The People’s President (National Geographic)
Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court (Showtime)
Every Body (Focus Features)
Lakota Nation vs. United States (IFC Films)
Silver Dollar Road (Amazon MGM Studios)


32 Sounds (Abramorama)
Between Earth & Sky (PBS)
Life on Our Planet (Netflix)
Path of the Panther (National Geographic)
Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food (Netflix)
Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic)*
Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West (Gravitas Ventures)


Black Ice (Roadside Attractions)
BS High (HBO | Max)
The Deepest Breath (Netflix)*
It Ain’t Over (Sony Pictures Classics)
The League (Magnolia Pictures)
Reggie (Amazon Studios)
Stephen Curry: Underrated (Apple TV+)
Welcome to Wrexham (FX)


Burden of Proof (HBO | Max)
The Jewel Thief (Hulu)
John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial (Apple TV+)* (tie)
Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal (Netflix)
Telemarketers (HBO | Max)* (tie)
The Thief Collector (FilmRise)
Victim/Suspect (Netflix)


The ABCs of Book Banning (MTV Documentary Films/Paramount+)
The Barber of Little Rock (Story Syndicate)
Between Earth & Sky (PBS)
Keys to the City (New Yorker)
The Last Repair Shop (Breakwater Studios)*
Last Song From Kabul (MTV Documentary Films/Paramount+)


The 1619 Project (Hulu/Onyx Collective)*
Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul (Netflix)
Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court (Showtime)
JFK: One Day in America (National Geographic)
John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial (Apple TV+)
Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic)
Shiny Happy People (Amazon Studios)
Telemarketers (HBO | Max)


30 for 30 (ESPN)*
Frontline (PBS)
Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal (Netflix)
Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller (National Geographic)
Welcome to Wrexham (FX)

About the Critics Choice Awards

The Critics Choice Documentary Awards are an offshoot of the Critics Choice Awards, which are bestowed annually by the CCA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. Historically, the Critics Choice Awards are the most accurate predictor of Academy Award nominations.

The Critics Choice Awards ceremony will be held on January 14, 2024 at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Century City, CA, and will be broadcast live on The CW.

About the Critics Choice Association (CCA) 

The Critics Choice Association is the largest critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 580 media critics and entertainment journalists. It was established in 2019 with the formal merger of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, in recognition of the intersection between film, television, and streaming content. For more information, visit:

To learn more about the Critics Choice Documentary Awards and see the full list of nominees, visit the Critics Choice Association website. 

Review: ‘She Came to Me,’ starring Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, Joanna Kulig, Brian d’Arcy James and Anne Hathaway

October 20, 2023

by Carla Hay

Peter Dinklage and Marisa Tomei in “She Came to Me” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“She Came to Me”

Directed by Rebecca Miller

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City and briefly in Delaware, the comedy/drama film “She Came to Me” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) portraying the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An opera composer, who is in a stale marriage to his psychiatrist, overcomes his writer’s block after he has a sexual encounter with a female tugboat captain, who has a history of stalking, while his 18-year-old stepson has relationship problems of his own that involve an accusation of statutory rape.

Culture Audience: “She Came to Me” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and movies that try to be “slice of life” but aren’t very realistic.

Evan Ellison (pictured in front, at left) and Anne Hathaway (pictured in front, at right) in “She Came to Me” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“She Came to Me” is a meandering, off-balance dumpster of half-baked ideas. It fails to have much compelling drama and isn’t very funny in attempts at absurdist comedy. Everything really falls apart in the last half-hour that is annoying nonsense. The movie’s talented cast members mostly flounder around in characters who often don’t have believable chemistry with each other in relationships where they’re supposed to have believable chemistry.

Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, “She Came to Me” had its world premiere at the 2023 Berlin International Film Festival. The fact that this subpar movie was at such a prestigious film festival is an example of how family connections (Miller is married to Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis) and having famous cast members can give certain filmmakers an advantage to get their movies into a major film festival. The Berlin International Film Festival tends to choose very artsy movies. There’s nothing artsy about “She Came to Me.”

“She Came to Me” is a clumsy back-and-forth stumble between two storylines that are shoved together in the last 20 minutes in a way that looks completely fake and unearned. It’s as if Miller couldn’t think of a good way to end the movie and came up with something that panders to the lowest-common, silly denominator in the last third of the film, when the tone for the previous two-thirds of the film aimed to have more of a cutting-edge comedic tone.

In “She Came to Me” (which takes place mostly in New York City and briefly in Delaware), the two storylines that are awkwardly placed are about the love life problems of a father and his 18-year-old stepson. The marketing of “She Came to Me” misleadingly makes it look like the father’s storyline is the only focus of the movie, but the son’s storyline gets nearly as much screen time. The teenage romance that takes up so much time in “She Came to Me” is not hinted at in the movie’s poster or trailer.

In the beginning of “She Came to Me,” viewers are introduced to New York City-based opera composer Steven Lauddem (played by Peter Dinklage) and his psychiatrist wife Patricia Jessup-Lauddem (played by Anne Hathaway), who are experiencing a rough patch in their marriage. Steven is mopey and anxious because he has writer’s block and is expected to meet a deadline in a few weeks to complete the first draft of his next opera.

Patricia has her own issues: She seems to be obsessive-compulsive about keeping everything neat and clean. Patricia has relegated her sex life with Steven to be “by appointment only.” She is also conflicted about her interfaith background (her mother was Catholic; her father was Jewish), but Patricia is currently a practicing Catholic.

The first scene in the movie shows Steven and Patricia at a house party. Some of Steven’s colleagues in the opera industry are there. Steven is very uncomfortable and reluctant to be at the party, because he doesn’t want to have to answer questions about his next opera, which he secretly hasn’t even begun to write. Only a few people, such as Patricia, know that Steven has writer’s block. Patricia thinks this party will be a good networking opportunity for Steven.

One of the people at the party is Duftin Haverford (played by Gregg Edelman), a high-ranking official at an opera company. Duftin inevitably asks Steven when Steven’s next opera will be completed. Steven pretends that he can meet Duftin’s deadline for a first draft in two weeks. It’s a deadline that Steven is dreading.

As Duftin walks away from Steven and Patricia, Duftin tells his party companion that Steven had a nervous breakdown five years ago and went into a deep depression. Patricia was Steven’s therapist, but at some point, their relationship obviously became more than a doctor-patient relationship, and they got married. Duftin quips, “If she were my therapist, I’d marry her too.” Little does Duftin know how stagnant this marriage has become.

Meanwhile, Patricia’s 18-year-old son from her first marriage is Julian Jessup (played by Evan Ellison), who is having a happy romance with his 16-year-old girlfriend Tereza Szyskowski (played by Harlow Jane) while they are students at the same high school. Julian and Tereza, who have no siblings, are good students in school and spend as much time as they can together. Tereza and Julian are lab partners in a science class, and they both have aspirations to become “futurist” engineers. It’s mentioned later in the movie that Patricia’s first husband (Julian’s father) left her and Julian and then died after the divorce.

Julian and Tereza are very close, but apparently not close enough for Tereza to introduce Julian to her parents or invite him into her home. Tereza’s mother Magdalena Szymkowski (played by Joanna Kulig) is a Polish immigrant who works as a house cleaner. Tereza and Magdalena have a tension-filled relationship that is typical of what can happen between a parent and a teenage child: The teenager wants more freedom than the parent is willing to give.

Magdalena is protective of Tereza because she doesn’t want Tereza to make wrong decisions when it comes to love and romance. The movie doesn’t go into too many details of what happened to Tereza’s biological father. However, Magdalena says enough in conversations for viewers to know that it was a bad marriage, where Magdalena felt disrespected and stifled, so she has vowed to never be financially dependent on a man again. She’s teaching Tereza to have the same outlook on life.

Ironically, Magdalena is now with a live-in partner who is very controlling. Magdalena’s current beau is Trey Ruffa (played by Brian d’Arcy James), who has adopted Tereza, even though he and Magdalena aren’t married. Trey works as a courtroom stenographer. Trey likes to think that even though he didn’t go to college, he knows enough about the law that he could be a prosecutor if he had the credentials for it.

Trey is a very strict parent, while Magdalena is willing to have more flexibility in parenting of Tereza. There’s a useless tangent in the movie about Trey being a Civil War re-enactment enthusiast. He brings an uninterested Magdalena and Tereza to a Civil War re-enactment event where participants have to dress in Civil War-era costumes.

There are other reasons (that are at first unspoken, but come out later in the movie) to explain why Tereza doesn’t feel comfortable bringing Julian to her home to introduce him to her parents. There are differences between Julian and Tereza when it comes to their ages (and what they can legally do because of their ages), social classes and races. (Julian is black, and Tereza is white.) If there’s a racist in Tereza’s family, it’s easy to guess who it is. Tereza is reluctant to show Julian what her family is like, but she is welcome in Julian’s home, where Tereza has a very good rapport with Patricia.

One day, while Steven is wallowing in self-pity over his writer’s block, he decides to walk his French bulldog Levi and go to a local bar at around 11 a.m. to have a drink or two. At the bar, he meets an unusual stranger: a tugboat captain named Katrina Trento (played by Marisa Tomei), who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but is passing through New York City for work-related reasons. Steven and Katrina have a conversation where they tell each other a little bit about their lives. He doesn’t tell Katrina right away that he’s married.

Katrina mentions that her tugboat business has been in her family for generations. She makes it obvious that she’s attracted to Steven and invites him to go on her tugboat nearby. Steven is curious but a little nervous. On the tugboat, Katrina reveals more about herself. She confesses, “I’m addicted to romance.” She also says she’s been in court-ordered rehab, because she has a history of stalking love interests.

Most people with common sense would steer clear of someone with these problems, but Steven seems to crave the attention that Katrina is giving him at that moment. And so, when she starts taking off her baggy work clothes to reveal that she’s got slinky lingerie underneath, it comes as no surprise that Katrina seduces Steven. None of this is spoiler information, since this plot development (and many others) are revealed in the trailer for “She Came to Me.”

At the end of this sexual encounter, Katrina starts babbling to Steven as if she expects them to be in a relationship. Steven tactfully tells Katrina that what they had is a one-time encounter, and he doesn’t want to see her again. He also urges her to get psychiatric help for her obsessiveness. He then quickly leaves the tugboat.

Steven’s tryst with Katrina (and his accidental fall in the dock’s water when he leaves the tugboat) jolt him out of his writer’s block and inspire him to write the opera “She Came to Me,” which is about an attractive female tugboat captain who seduces men and kills them. The opera is a hit. Katrina eventually finds out that she’s the inspiration for the opera when she goes to a performance. After the show, Katrina tells Steven (who is surprised to see Katrina) that she has permanently moved to New York City. (This plot development is also revealed in the movie’s trailer.)

All of this sounds like more than enough for two movies, which is why “She Came to Me” is often unfocused and unwieldly. The movie’s opera scenes are embarrassingly horrible. In no way, shape or form would this amateurish opera ever realistically be on any legitimate, major opera stage in New York City. There are some high school productions in real life that look better than the opera scenes in “She Came to Me.”

And although the “love triangle” between Steven, Patricia and Katrina is a major part of the movie, the three middle-aged adults in this situation are a lot more foolish and less mature than the two teenagers (Julian and Tereza), who go through their own personal drama. The storyline involving Steven, Patricia and Katrina gets so unrealistic, it’s almost like it belongs in a completely separate movie. “She Came to Me” starts off with a somewhat offbeat comedic tone, then makes an abrupt turn into a melodrama, and then sinks into a cesspool of ridiculous schmaltz.

The cast members are not to blame for why this disappointing movie has such an unfortunate identity crisis. Dinklage, Ellison, Jane and Kulig give solid performances. Hathaway and Tomei (the two Oscar winners in the movie’s principal cast) make an effort to bring nuance to their roles, but the characters of Patricia and Katrina are such cringeworthy clichés (the sexually repressed wife and the wacky, uninhibited mistress), these stereotypes are borderline misogynistic. Toward the end of the movie, certain characters make decisions that are nonsensical and look very inauthentic. Ultimately, viewers are more likely to feel disconnected from most of the characters in this dreadful dud of a movie, instead of feeling connected and invested in what will happen next.

Vertical released “She Came to Me” in select U.S. cinemas on October 6, 2023.

2023 New York Comic Con: What to expect at this year’s event

October 10, 2023

by Carla Hay

Norman Reedus in “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” (Photo by Emmanuel Guimier/AMC)

The 18th annual New York Comic Con takes place October 13 to October 15, 2023, in New York City. In 2022, New York Comic Con returned to being an in-person-only event, after being a hybrid event (where people could attend in person or virtually) in 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Comic Con was cancelled as an in-person event in 2020, and instead presented as a scaled-down virtual-only event.

Before the pandemic, New York Comic Con attracted about 250,000 people per year since 2017, according to ReedPOP, the company that produces the event. The first New York Comic Con took place in 2006. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, attendees are no longer being asked to wear a face covering/mask while inside a New York Comic Con building. In 2022, attendees were no longer required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, which were requirements in 2021.

In 2023, New York Comic Con’s main hub remains the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, which began in July 2023, New York Comic Con in 2023 for the first time will not have panels with cast members of movies, TV shows, or video games that are owned by companies that are members of Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)—essentially, any major, corporate-owned company that makes or distributes movies, TVs and video games. If any SAG-AFTRA members make speaking appearances at New York Comic Con, they can’t talk about any “struck” work (work that is part of the strike) that they’ve been involved with in any way.

Exceptions are made for projects owned by companies that are not AMPTP members—in other words, independent projects. Cast members who are involved in these independent projects are allowed to work on and promote those projects. For example, AMC Networks (not a member of AMPTP) has showcases at New York Comic Con in 2023, including a panel on October 12 for AMC’s “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon” that will feature an appearance by star Norman Reedus to promote the show. In August 2023, SAG-AFTRA granted a waiver for AMC shows “The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon,” “The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live” and “Interview With the Vampire” for cast members of these three shows to work for and promote these shows during the strike.

TV shows continue to dominate the most high-profile panels and activities. New York Comic Con in 2023 has the following TV shows with panel showcases in the event’s largest rooms: Apple TV+’s astronaut drama “For All Mankind” will have a panel on October 12. The fantasy Web series “Critical Role” gets a spotlight on October 12. Apple TV+s horror series “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” has a showcase on October 13. On October 14, several cast members from Max’s comedy series “Our Flag Means Death” will have panel discussion not about the show (which is struck work) but about themselves and their comedy experiences.

“Star Trek” Universe series will once again get a spotlight at New York Comic Con, with a panel discussion on October 14. Also on October 14, Prime Video will have a two-hour showcase of its sci-fi/fantasy/action/horror programming, with some sneak previews and exclusive footage. The Disney+ live-action fantasy series “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” (based on Rick Riordan’s book series) will have a panel and sneak preview on October 15.

“Goosebumps,” the TV series version of R. L. Stine’s fantasy novel series, will show its first episode and have a Q&A with creatives from the show on October 13, the same day that the series will premiere on Disney+ and Hulu. The Season 3 premiere of USA Network/Syfy’s “Chucky” will have its world premiere at New York Comic Con on October 12. More TV show panels with special screenings on October 13 include FX’s animated series “Archer” and Crunchyroll’s anime series “My Hero Academia.”

Other animated series getting their own panels at New York Comic Con include Hulu’s “Futurama” on October 12; Crunchyroll’s “Dragon Ball” series on October 12; Crunchyroll’s “Attack on Titan” on October 13; Netflix’s anime series “Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” on October 14. Adult Swim’s “Ricky and Morty,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Smiling Friends” have a panel showcase on October 12.

Fox’s animated series “Krapopolis” and “Grimsburg” (a show that debuts in 2024) will share a panel session on October 14. The English-language voice cast members of Crunchyroll’s “One Piece” animated TV series will have a panel on October 14. Disney Channel’s animated series “The Owl House” (2020-2023) has been cancelled, but some of the voice actors from the show are doing an October 15 panel (not sponsored by Disney) to talk about the show.

Henry Cavill, Dua Lip, and John Cena in “Argylle” (Photo by Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures/Apple Original Films/Marv)

Most of the feature films that have panels at New York Comic Con this year are animated films, action films and horror movies. On October 12, sneak preview information will be given about 2024’s “The Stranger” horror film series, directed by Renny Harlin. Shudder is having a panel bringing together several directors of its popular “V/H/S/”horror movie anthology series. Animated films getting their own panels or screenings include “The Tunnel to Summer, The Exit of Goodbyes” (anime film dubbed in English) on October 12. The comedy sequel “Good Burger 2” will be showcased on October 15.

[September 12, 2023 UPDATE: A panel for the horror movie “Thanksgiving,” with director Eli Roth in attendance, was set to take place on September 13, but the panel has been cancelled for an unspecified reason.]

On October 12, prolific horror movie/TV producer Jason Blum will talk about his current and upcoming movies, including “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” “Night Swim” and “Totally Killer.” For a panel taking place on October 14, filmmaker Matthew Vaughn will discuss his movies that he’s directed, including “Kick-Ass,” the “Kingsman” series and “Argylle.”

In addition, the 2023 edition of New York Comic Con will have Q&As that each spotlight different actors and actresses. Ewan McGregor (star of several “Star Wars” movies and Disney+’s “Obi-Wan Kenobi” series) will do a Q&A on October 12. David Tennant, who is best known for his starring roles in BBC’s “Doctor Who” and Prime Video’s “Good Omens,” will also do a Q&A on October 12. Several stars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe will take to the stage on October 14: Chris Evans, also known as Captain America, gets a solo spotlight, while “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” co-stars Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Pom Klementieff and Michael Rooker will do a group discussion. Because they cannot talk about “struck work,” the focus of the talks will be other topics.

Stars of Broadway shows and other musicals are represented on several panels presented by Playbill. “The Big Broadway Nerd Panel” will return and this year will feature Broadway stars such as Casey Likes, Roger Bart and Liana Hunt on an October 12 panel. There are also panels for “Back to the Future: The Musical”(October 13); “Wicked” (October 13); “Death Note: The Musical” (October 14); and “The Broadway Bard Party” (October 15).

The 2023 Harvey Awards Hall of Fame ceremony will be take place during New York Comic Con on October 12. The recipients are Marv Wolfman and George Pérez (who is being inducted posthumously) of DC Comics’ “New Teen Titans” fame; Chris Claremont (Marvel Comics’ “X-Men”); Walt Simonson (Marvel’s “Thor”); Louise Simonson (Marvel’s “Power Pack”)l and Bill Griffith (the nationally syndicated “Zippy the Pinhead” comic strip).

New York Comic Con also offer specialty areas for attendees with specific identity needs. Returning after its 2022 debut is the Pride Lounge (located in Room 1C01-02), for people with LGBTQ interests, with some LGBTQ-themed discussion panels and guest appearances. Family HQ (in Room 1E05-06) is a family-friendly environment, with an emphasis on activities for pre-teen children. In addition, Gaming Zone (in Room 1E) returns to offer a variety of options for gamers. The Community Lounge (located in the River Pavilion) is for informal gatherings and if attendees just need a place to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the other areas of the event. Professional Programming (for industry professionals) will also take place in the River Pavilion.

And, of course, there will be plenty of panels, exhibits and previews for comic books, video games, podcasts, fantasy novels and other pop-culture attractions. It wouldn’t be a Comic Con without cosplaying and merchandise sales. The Cosplay Central area returns to the River Pavilion at the Javits Center. While at Cosplay Central, cosplayers can mingle, pose for photos, use the dressing rooms and attend panel discussions. The New York Comic Con finalist round for the Cosplay Central Costume Showcase will take place on October 15 at Main Stage 1D Hall. New York Comic Con also has an enormous amount of merchandise for sale for numerous types of entertainment.


Several stars from movies and TV shows will have individual autograph sessions and/or photo opportunities with fans, for a fee. All celebrities are offering autographs and photos, unless otherwise noted. Prices will vary, according to the celebrity. Participants include:

  • Charisma Carpenter (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) on October 12 and October 15.
  • John Carpenter (“Halloween,” “The Thing”) on October 13, October 14 and October 15
  • Tim Curry (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “It”) on October 12 and October 13.
  • Rhys Darby (“Our Flag Means Death,” “Flight of the Conchords”) on October 14 and October 15.
  • Chris Evans (“The Avengers” and “Captain America” movies) on October 13 and October 14.
  • Karen Gillan (“Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, “Jumanji” movies) on October 13 and October 14.
  • Sean Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, “Gilmore Girls”) on October 13 and October 14.
  • Tom Hiddleston (“Thor” movies, “Loki”) on October 14 and October 15.
  • Chukwudi Iwuji (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”) on October 12, October 13 and October 14.
  • Pom Klementieff (“Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, “Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One”) on October 12, October 13 and October 14.
  • James Marsters (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Slayers: A Buffyverse Story”) on October 12 and October 15.
  • Ewan McGregor (“Star Wars” prequel trilogy; “Obi-Wan Kenobi”) on October 12 and October 13.
  • Shameik Moore (“Spider-Verse” movies, “Samaritan”) on October 13, October 14 and October 15.
  • Kathryn Newton (“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” “Freaky”) on October 14.
  • Kathy Najimy (“Hocus Pocus,” “Sister Act”) on October 13 and October 15.
  • Ron Perlman (“Hellboy,” “Sons of Anarchy”) on October 14 and October 15.
  • Michael Rooker (“Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, “The Walking Dead”) on October 12, October 13 and October 14.
  • Katee Sackoff (“Battlestar Galactica,” “The Mandalorian”) on October 14 and October 15.
  • Susan Sarandon (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Blue Beetle”) on October 12 and October 13.
  • David Tennant (“Doctor Who,” “Good Omens”) on October 13 and October 14.
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Birds of Prey”) on October 12 and October 13.


(All panel descriptions are courtesy of New York Comic Con.)

“The Cast of Critical Role”

October 12, 2023, 11 AM – 12 PM

Empire Stage

From Twitch streaming to a tabletop media empire, Critical Role has grown significantly from their humble beginnings. Join the cast as they sit down at NYCC to chat about their history together and answer fan questions! Panelists: Matthew Mercer, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Ashley Johnson, Marisha Ray and Taliesin Jaffe.

“Dragon Ball”

October 12, 2023, 12:45 PM – 1:45 PM

Empire Stage

Delivering the latest information on the world-famous manga and anime franchise “Dragon Ball.” We will talk about new developments in the “Dragon Ball” series, along with a mysterious new teaser. Also the appearance of special guests!

“Dr. Stone”

October 12, 2023, 2:45 PM – 3:45 PM

Main Stage

The beloved sci-fi, animated series “Futurama” triumphantly returned to Hulu with all new-episodes after a 10-year hiatus. Celebrate with a room full of “Futurama” fans as we screen the season finale episode and get a sneak peek at Season 12, followed by a panel with the creatives behind the show.


October 12, 2023, 4:15 PM – 5:15 PM

Main Stage

We’re celebrating 10 years of the “Attack on Titan” anime! Join Crunchyroll and the “Attack on Titan” main dub cast for a special program, including Q&A and activities, as we look back at the long journey of AOT.

“The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon”

October 12, 2023, 4:15 PM – 6:15 PM

Empire Stage

NYCC attendees will be the first to see The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon season finale ahead of its airing on Sunday, October 15 at 9pm ET/8c on AMC and AMC+, followed by a Q&A with Chief Content Officer of the Walking Dead Universe Scott M. Gimple, Showrunner David Zabel and Executive Producer Greg Nicotero and moderated by Entertainment Weekly’s Dalton Ross.

“Scavengers Reign”

October 12, 2023, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Room 405

Join Max Original Animation for an expansive conversation surrounding “Scavengers Reign.” Co-Creator/executive producer Joe Bennett and the team of writers and directors Benjy Brooke, Sean Buckelew, and James Merrill will explore and dive into the creative process that has turned their award-winning animated short into Max’s newest adult animation series. The panel features a first look into the season with a screening of the debut episode before it premieres on Max.

“Adult Swim”

October 12, 2023, 5:45 PM – 7:15 PM

Main Stage

Immerse yourself in the world of Adult Swim with a must-see screening event. NYCC fans will be the first to see a collection of new Adult Swim content from the Emmy-winning global phenomenon “Rick and Morty,” the iconic, long-running series “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” the second season of the hit series “Smiling Friend,” and more breaking news. This is a can’t-miss event for Adult Swim fans.

“Monarch: The Legacy of Monsters”

October 13, 2023, 11 AM – 12:30 PM

Empire Stage

Following the thunderous battle between Godzilla and the Titans that leveled San Francisco and the shocking revelation that monsters are real, “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” tracks two siblings following in their father’s footsteps to uncover their family’s connection to the secretive organization known as Monarch. Clues lead them into the world of monsters and ultimately down the rabbit hole to Army officer Lee Shaw (played by Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell), taking place in the 1950s and half a century later where Monarch is threatened by what Shaw knows. The dramatic saga – spanning three generations – reveals buried secrets and the ways that epic, earth-shattering events can reverberate through our lives. Panelists: Chris Black, Matt Fraction, Tory Tunnell, Andy Goddard, Ronna Kress and Sean Konrad.

“Attack on Titan: 10 Years of Anime”

October 13, 2023, 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM

Empire Stage

We’re celebrating 10 years of the “Attack on Titan” anime! Join Crunchyroll and the “Attack on Titan” main dub cast for a special program, including Q&A and activities, as we look back at the long journey of AOT.


October 13, 2023, 3 PM – 4 PM

Main Stage

Join the team behind “Goosebumps” as they screen the premiere episode of the chilling new series, inspired by R.L. Stine’s worldwide bestselling books, debuting October 13 on Disney+ and Hulu.

“My Hero Academia”

October 13, 2023, 5 PM – 6 PM

Empire Stage

Join Crunchyroll for the world premiere of the new Original Episode from My Hero Academia Season 6, UA HEROES BATTLE! This exclusive early screening features the English dub, and will be available to NYCC attendees before Japan. Get ready for some card game action that will showcase your favorite heroes like never before!


October 13, 2023, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Room 405

In honor of all things “Evil,” Friday the 13th, and the upcoming fourth season of the series coming exclusively to Paramount+, fans will be treated to a special screening of a fan-favorite episode. Fans will also have a chance to participate in an “Evil”-themed trivia contest, so study up and come prepared to win demonic swag!

“Shining Vale”

October 13, 2023, 6 PM – 7 PM

Room 405

Watch the first two episodes of season two of Starz’s hit horror-comedy “Shining Vale.” Attend for a chance to win tickets to the SOLD OUT premiere night party, “Escape to #ShiningVale!” on Friday, October 13. Must be present to win.

eight-part drama stars and is executive produced by Academy Award-nominee LaKeith Stanfield and created by Kelly Marcel, who also serves as executive producer.


October 13, 2023, 6:45 PM – 7:45 PM

Empire Stage

The murderous doll we all know and love is back for more mischief just in time for Halloween! Join Chucky for an exclusive screening of a new episode from the series and much more. “Chucky” airs Wednesdays at 9PM on USA & SYFY.

“The Changeling”

October 13, 2023, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Room 405

Adapted from the acclaimed best-selling book of the same name, “The Changeling” is a fairytale for grown-ups — a horror story, a parenthood fable and a perilous odyssey through a New York City you didn’t know existed. Join us for a special “Friday the 13th” Q&A with some of the brilliant minds behind the all-new dark, mythical fairytale that will intrigue viewers at every shocking turn, hosted by “The Changeling” author, Victor LaValle. The

“Rhys Darby, Con O’Neill, Vico Ortiz, Nathan Foad, Kristian Nairn & Matthew Maher In Conversation”

October 14, 2023, 10:45 AM – To Be Determined

Empire Stage

Join these six comedic geniuses as the talk about their craft and their careers.

“Krapopolis” and “Grinsburg”

October 14, 2023, 12:30 PM – 2:30 PM

Main Stage

FOX Entertainment is bringing “Krapopolis” and “Grimsburg” to New York Comic Con! Set in mythical ancient Greece, “Krapopolis” tells the story of a dysfunctional family of humans, gods and monsters that try their hand at running the world’s first cities – without trying to kill each other, that is. Created and exec produced by Dan Harmon (“Rick and Morty”), the series features the voices of Hannah Waddingham, Richard Ayoade, Matt Berry, Pam Murphy and Duncan Trussell. “Grimsburg,” the all-new animated comedy starring and executive produced by Jon Hamm, joins the iconic FOX Animation Domination block in 2024. Grimsburg centers on Marvin Flute (Hamm), who may be the greatest detective ever to catch a cannibal clown and correctly identify a mid-century modern armoire. But there’s one mystery he still can’t crack — himself. To do that he must return to “Grimsburg,” a town where everyone has a secret or three, and redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow detectives, his ferocious ex-wife and his lovably unstable son.

“Star Trek Universe”

October 14, 2023, 1:45 PM – 3 PM

Empire Stage

The fan-favorite “Star Trek” universe returns to New York Comic Con, featuring a special advance screening of an all-new episode from the current season of the hit Paramount+ original animated comedy series “Star Trek: Lower Decks” plus more exciting reveals and surprises for “Star Trek” fans in attendance. Panelists: Mike McMahan and Alex Kurtzman.

“Prime Video Presents: The Power of Prime”

October 14, 2023, 3:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Empire Stage

Join Prime Video at New York Comic Con’s Empire Stage for a special presentation featuring exclusive first looks and never-before-seen footage of returning fan-favorite series and highly anticipated new series.

“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off”

October 14, 2023, 5 PM – 6 PM

Main Stage

Bryan Lee O’Malley, BenDavid Grabinski & Edgar Wright are bringing back the beloved cult-classic world of Scott Pilgrim with the upcoming Netflix series, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. In this new reimagining of the beloved comics, Scott Pilgrim meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers, but learns he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to date her. Then things get even more complicated. Join Bryan & BenDavid for a Q&A and exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming anime series from UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group, and animation studio, Science SARU. Based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

“One Piece Dub Villains Panel”

October 14, 2023, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM

Main Stage

Join Crunchyroll and Toei Animation for an early “One Piece” dub episode premiere screening followed by Q&A with the English dubbed voices for some of One Piece’s most iconic villains. Panelists: David Sobolov (English voice of Kaido), Gabe Kunda (English voice of King).

“The Owl House”

October 15, 2023, 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Room 405

Come back to the Boiling Isles with Sarah-Nicole Robles (she/her; Luz Noceda), Avi Roque (they/them; Raine Whispers), Cissy Jones (she/her; Lilith Clawthorne), and Mela Lee (she/her; Kikimora) as they recount favorite stories from their time on The Owl House, and why giraffes are absolutely terrifying. This event is not being organized or sponsored by Disney.

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians”

October 15, 2023, 1:15 PM – 2:15 PM

Empire Stage

The highly anticipated Disney+ Original series makes its debut at New York Comic-Con with an exclusive sneak peek. Based on the best-selling book series by award-winning author Rick Riordan, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” tells the fantastical story of a 12-year-old modern demigod, Percy Jackson, who’s just coming to terms with his newfound divine powers. When the sky god, Zeus, accuses him of stealing his master lightning bolt, Percy sets off on an adventure of a lifetime with his friends, Grover and Annabeth, to find it and restore order to Olympus. “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” will debut with a two-episode premiere on December 20 on Disney+.


(All panel descriptions are courtesy of New York Comic Con.)

Blumfest NYCC

October 12, 2023, 7 PM – 8 PM

Empire Stage

Blum is in the house. Blumhouse founder and reigning king of horror Jason Blum, the producer of “M3GAN,” the “Halloween” trilogy and “The Black Phone” reveals exclusive details about the company’s terrifying upcoming films, including “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” “Night Swim” and “Totally Killer.”

“Shudder Presents: The Latest in Horror”

October 13, 2023, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Main Stage

In celebration of the return of the popular V/H/S franchise – V/H/S/85 begins streaming on October 6 – Shudder brings together directors from each installment of the horror phenomenon to talk about their respective films, the horror genre today, the evolution of the franchise and what’s to come. The panel, moderated by Shudder’s VP of Programming Samuel Zimmerman, will feature David Bruckner (V/H/S/1), Chloe Okuno (V/H/S/94), Natasha Kermani (V/H/S/85), Jason Eisener (V/H/S/2), and Tyler McIntyre (V/H/S/99), among others.

“Karen Gillan, Chukwudi Iwuji, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn & Pom Klementieff In Conversation”

Star of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” gather for a discussion.

October 14, 2023, 11 AM – To Be Determined

Main Stage

“Matthew Vaughn: From Kick-Ass to Kingsman to Argylle”

October 14, 2023, 6:15 PM – 7:15 PM

Empire Stage

With his brand new spy thriller “Argylle in the can, master filmmaker Matthew Vaughn takes you behind the curtain of the blockbusters that could only come from his twisted mind, including “Kick-Ass,” “The Kingsman” films, “X-Men: First Class,” “Stardust” and “Layer Cake.”

“Good Burger 2”

October 15, 2023, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

Main Stage

This panel will feature never-before-seen clips and artwork from “Good Burger 2,” the all-new Paramount+ original movie and sequel to the iconic ‘90s feature film based on the sketch from Nickelodeon’s hit comedy series “All That.” “Good Burger 2” will premiere later this year exclusively on Paramount+.

2023 New York Film Festival: main slate announced

August 8, 2023

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in “May December” (Photo by Francois Duhamel/Netflix)

The following is a press release from Film at Lincoln Center:

Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) announces the 32 films that comprise the Main Slate of the 61st New York Film Festival (NYFF), taking place September 29–October 15 at Lincoln Center and in venues across the city.

Secure your seats with Festival Passes, limited quantities on sale now. Single tickets go on sale September 19 at noon ET.

“The unsettled state of the industry is an unavoidable talking point these days, but my hope is that our festival, as it has done through its 61-year history, will serve as a reminder that the art of cinema is in robust health,” said Dennis Lim, Artistic Director of the New York Film Festival. “The filmmakers in this year’s Main Slate are grappling with eternal questions—about how movies relate to the world, about what it means to make art from life, about the most interesting ways to approach the contemporary moment and the historical past—and the answers they have proposed are thrilling in their variety, ingenuity, and urgency. We can’t wait for our audience, so vital to the festival experience, to discover these 32 new films.”

This year’s Main Slate showcases films produced in 18 different countries, featuring new titles from renowned auteurs, exceptional work from returning NYFF directors as well as those making their NYFF debut, and celebrated films from festivals worldwide including Cannes prizewinners: Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall; Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest; Wim Wenders’s Perfect Days; Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s About Dry Grasses; and Aki Kaurismäki’s Fallen Leaves. At the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival, Angela Schanelec’s Music was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay and Bas Devos’s Here was awarded best film in the Encounters section and the FIPRESCI prize.

Appearing in the NYFF Main Slate for the first time are Annie Baker, Bas Devos, Felipe Gálvez, Jonathan Glazer, Andrew Haigh, Raven Jackson (an NYFF57 FLC Artists Academy alum), Michael Mann, Rodrigo Moreno, Paul B. Preciado, Wang Bing, and Zhang Lu; additional returning NYFF filmmakers include Lisandro Alonso (FLC 2014 Filmmaker in Residence), Marco Bellocchio, Bertrand Bonello, Catherine Breillat, Sofia Coppola, Víctor Erice, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Agnieszka Holland, Hong Sangsoo, Radu Jude, Yorgos Lanthimos, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Martín Rejtman, and Alice Rohrwacher (FLC 2016 Filmmaker in Residence).

A special addition to this year’s Main Slate is the North American premiere of a newly unearthed and restored short directed by legendary filmmaker Agnès Varda and featuring Pier Paolo Pasolini while both were in town for the 4th New York Film Festival in 1966. It will precede two Main Slate features: La Chimera and Pictures of Ghosts.

As previously announced, the Opening Night selection is Todd Haynes’s May December; Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla is the Centerpiece; and Michael Mann’s Ferrari will close NYFF61. Currents, Revivals, Spotlight, and Talks sections will be announced in the coming weeks—sign up for NYFF updates for the latest news.

All NYFF61 documentaries are presented by HBO®.

The New York Film Festival will offer festival screenings in all five boroughs of New York City in partnership with Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Staten Island), BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) (Brooklyn), the Bronx Museum of the Arts (Bronx), Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem (Manhattan), and the Museum of the Moving Image (Queens). Each venue will present a selection of films throughout the festival; a complete list of films and showtimes will be announced later this month.

The NYFF Main Slate selection committee, chaired by Dennis Lim, also includes Florence Almozini, Justin Chang, K. Austin Collins, and Rachel Rosen.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema and takes place September 29–October 15, 2023. An annual bellwether of the state of cinema that has shaped film culture since 1963, the festival continues an enduring tradition of introducing audiences to bold and remarkable works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. 

Secure your seats with Festival Passes, limited quantities on sale now with discounts through August 17. NYFF61 single tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, September 19 at noon ET, with pre-sale access for FLC Members and Pass holders prior to this date. Become an FLC Member by August 15 to secure pre-sale access. 

61st New York Film Festival Main Slate

Opening Night
May December
Dir. Todd Haynes

Dir. Sofia Coppola

Closing Night
Dir. Michael Mann

About Dry Grasses
Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt
Dir. Raven Jackson

All of Us Strangers
Dir. Andrew Haigh

Anatomy of a Fall
Dir. Justine Triet

The Beast
Dir. Bertrand Bonello

La Chimera
Dir. Alice Rohrwacher

Close Your Eyes
Dir. Víctor Erice

The Delinquents
Dir. Rodrigo Moreno

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World
Dir. Radu Jude

Dir. Lisandro Alonso

Evil Does Not Exist
Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

Fallen Leaves
Dir. Aki Kaurismäki

Green Border
Dir. Agnieszka Holland

Dir. Bas Devos

In Our Day
Dir. Hong Sangsoo

In Water
Dir. Hong Sangsoo

Janet Planet
Dir. Annie Baker

Dir. Marco Bellocchio

Last Summer
Dir. Catherine Breillat

Dir. Angela Schanelec

Orlando, My Political Biography
Dir. Paul B. Preciado

Perfect Days
Dir. Wim Wenders

Pictures of Ghosts
Dir. Kleber Mendonça Filho

Poor Things
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

La Práctica
Dir. Martín Rejtman

The Settlers
Dir. Felipe Gálvez

The Shadowless Tower
Dir. Zhang Lu

Youth (Spring)
Dir. Wang Bing

The Zone of Interest
Dir. Jonathan Glazer

61st New York Film Festival Main Slate Films & Descriptions

Opening Night
May December
Todd Haynes, 2023, U.S., 113m
North American Premiere

Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), a popular television star, has arrived in a tight-knit island community in Savannah. Here, she will be doing intimate research for a new part, ingratiating herself into the lives of Gracie (Julianne Moore), whom she’ll be playing on-screen, and her much younger husband, Joe (Charles Melton), to better understand the psychology and circumstances that more than 20 years ago made them notorious tabloid figures. As Elizabeth attempts to get closer to the family, the uncomfortable facts of their scandal unfurl, causing difficult, long-dormant emotions to resurface. From the sensational premise of first-time screenwriter Samy Burch’s brilliantly subtle script, Todd Haynes (Safe; Carol, NYFF53) has constructed an American tale of astonishing richness and depth, which touches the pressure and pleasure points of a culture obsessed equally with celebrity and trauma. It’s a feat of storytelling and pinpoint-precise tone that is shrewd in its wicked embrace of melodrama while also genuinely moving in its humane treatment of tricky subject matter. Boasting a trio of bravura, mercurial performances by Moore, Portman, and Melton, May December is a film about human exploitation, the elusive nature of performance, and the slipperiness of truth that confirms Todd Haynes’s status as one of our consummate movie artists. A Netflix release.

Sofia Coppola, 2023, U.S., 110m
North American Premiere

Never has there been a more obsessed-over American pop icon than Elvis Presley, yet no one knew him more tenderly during his superstar years than Priscilla Ann Wagner, whose own story as Elvis’s romantic partner and only wife has rarely been told from her perspective. Director Sofia Coppola, who in her remarkable filmography has so often returned to intimate portraits of women living complicated lives behind closed doors, has found a subject exquisitely tailored to her interests. As portrayed with extraordinary poise and strength by Cailee Spaeny, Priscilla finally becomes the center of her narrative. Coppola follows her love affair with Elvis (an equally revelatory, larger-than-life Jacob Elordi), from her early years as a teenage army brat stationed in West Germany to her surreal arrival at Graceland, which becomes both her home and prison. With her customarily precise attention to texture and detail, Coppola has created one of her most stirring, vivid films, a tribute to a woman who was living in the public eye before she had truly experienced the world. Featuring evocative, moody cinematography by Philippe Le Sourd and original music by Phoenix. An A24 release.

Closing Night
Michael Mann, 2023, U.S., 125m
North American Premiere

Michael Mann (The Insider) brings his astonishing command of technique and storytelling to bear on this emotional, elegantly crafted dramatization of the life of the legendary car manufacturer and entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari at a professional and personal fulcrum. It’s 1957, and the marriage of Enzo (Adam Driver, in an artfully internalized performance) and Laura (Penélope Cruz, a ferocious revelation) has begun to irrevocably fracture as a result of his philandering and the tragic recent death of their young son. Their unsettled domestic world is on a collision course with his work life as Enzo faces a pair of major turning points: financial pressure to increase productivity, which means going against his long-standing desire to only produce race cars, and preparations for the treacherous cross-country open-road Mille Miglia race. Dovetailing these narrative strands, Mann effortlessly shifts gears between elegiac and spectacular, climaxing in an exhilarating and terrifying race across the Northern Italian landscape—a visual and aural wonder of revving machinery against bucolic splendor—that ranks with the greatest set pieces of Mann’s career. Aided by a magnificent cast, which also includes Shailene Woodley, Gabriel Leone, Patrick Dempsey, and Jack O’Connell, and glorious on-location shooting in Ferrari’s hometown of Modena, Mann has constructed a marvel of classical cinema. A NEON release. 

About Dry Grasses
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2023, Turkey, 197m
Turkish with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

In a village nestled within the wintry landscape of the East Anatolia region of Turkey, an art teacher named Samet (Deniz Celiloglu) is struggling through what he hopes to be his final year at an elementary school. Already tiring of the unforgiving environment, where he has been assigned by the government’s public education system, Samet is further disillusioned and frustrated after a young girl in his class, Sevim, appears to accuse him of inappropriate behavior. The only light on the horizon for Samet is his growing friendship with—and clear attraction to—a teacher from a nearby school, Nuray (Merve Dizdar), a sharp, politically engaged woman unafraid to put the self-involved Samet in his place for his general apathy and narcissism. The latest deeply philosophical drama from Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, NYFF49) is a work of elegant, novelistic filmmaking, rigorously unpacking questions of belief versus action, the tangible versus the enigmatic, and who we wish to be versus how we live. A centerpiece conversation between Samet and Nuray—capped off by a provocative metacinematic flourish—ranks with Ceylan’s greatest sequences, and Dizdar, who won the Best Actress prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, commands every second she’s on screen. A Sideshow/Janus Films release.

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt
Raven Jackson, 2023, U.S., 97m 

One of the most visually striking, profoundly moving American movie making debuts in years, Raven Jackson’s All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is an arresting immersion into a young woman’s inner world, filmed and edited with an extraordinary tactility and attention to the tiniest detail. This impressionistic journey skips ahead and back through decades to tell the story of Mack, whose upbringing in rural Mississippi is touched by grace, dotted with heartbreak, and always carried aloft by the surrounding natural beauty. As she ages, she loses loved ones and gains others, while making decisions that change the course of her life, and that of her beloved sister. Relying on sounds and images to tell her story, and employing minimal dialogue, Jackson has created something breathtakingly quiet and ultimately transporting—a spiritual tribute to the moments, feelings, and connections that make a life. An A24 release.

All of Us Strangers
Andrew Haigh, 2023, U.K., 105m

British director Andrew Haigh, whose 2011 feature breakthrough Weekend is among the most widely beloved queer romances of the 21st century, has returned with an expertly modulated, emotionally overwhelming love story suspended in a metaphysical realm. Adam (Andrew Scott), a melancholy screenwriter living alone in a newly built, nearly empty high-rise on the outskirts of London, meets and tentatively begins a passionate relationship with the more extroverted Harry (Paul Mescal), his apparent only neighbor in the building. At the same time, Adam begins another, parallel journey, venturing out to the city’s suburbs to confront his troubled past and perhaps reconcile his unsettled present. Adapted from a 1987 novel by Taichi Yamada, All of Us Strangers is uncommonly perceptive about the desires, fears, and traumas of a specific generation of gay men while extending into the universal—or perhaps the cosmic—in its depiction of familial love and estrangement. And in a quartet of superb performances, Scott, Mescal, Jamie Bell, and Claire Foy pierce straight to the heart. A Searchlight Pictures release.

Anatomy of a Fall
Justine Triet, 2023, France, 150m
French and English with English subtitles

The winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Justine Triet’s drama is a riveting procedural and a delicate inquiry into the impossibility of an ultimate truth in human relationships. When the husband of famous novelist Sandra Voyter (played by Toni Erdmann’s Sandra Hüller) is found dead on the ground outside their chalet in the French Alps, authorities suspect that she might have been responsible, as the impact and position of his body suggest a push rather than a fall. This leads to a murder trial that puts every aspect of their marriage under impossible scrutiny, and whose outcome might hinge on the perspective of their vision-impaired 11-year-old son. Triet’s fiercely intelligent, emotionally devastating film dissects the ways we create subjective narratives for ourselves and others and questions the insufficiency of language to describe the essential mysteries each of us possesses. At its core is the brilliant Hüller, whose Sandra is articulate, open, and utterly inscrutable. A NEON release.

The Beast
Bertrand Bonello, 2023, France, 146m
English and French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

A filmmaker consistently unafraid to wade through the weird miasma of contemporary life, Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama; Coma, NYFF60) works from the outside in, dramatizing the psychological toll of the political and cultural world around us. Here he has created a dynamic and disturbing parable that jumps between three different time periods (1910, 2014, and 2044) to diagnose our acute—and perhaps eternal—feelings of estrangement and alienation. Using Henry James’s haunting 1903 short story “The Beast in the Jungle” as his film’s provocative inspiration, Bonello tells the story of a young woman (Léa Seydoux) who undergoes a surgical process to have her DNA—and therefore memories of all her past lives—removed. In so doing, she realizes her fate has long been intertwined, for better and worse, with a young man (George MacKay). Touching on modern anxieties of AI and incel culture, which may recur throughout history as commonly as love and hate, The Beast, like all good science-fiction, asks essential questions about the ever-shifting status of humanity itself.

La Chimera
Alice Rohrwacher, 2023, Italy, 135m
Italian with English subtitles

With her customarily bewitching mixture of earthiness and magical realism, Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro, NYFF56) conjures a marvelous entertainment set in a rural Italy eternally caught between the ancient and the modern. Josh O’Connor (The Crown) stars as Arthur, a ne’er-do well Englishman, handsomely rumpled and recently out of prison, who returns to a rural town in central Italy where he hesitantly reconnects with a ragtag group of tombaroli (tomb raiders), for whom he uses his uncanny powers of divination to locate graves that date back to the Etruscan period and teem with antiquities of immense value to collectors and museums. Yet the melancholy Arthur has other ghosts on his mind, including his long-lost love Beniamina, who haunts his memory like her own ghostly civilization. Featuring gorgeous rough-hewn textures from the great cinematographer Hélène Louvart and outstanding supporting work from Isabella Rossellini, Carol Duarte, and Alba Rohrwacher, La Chimera is a dreamlike descent into a majestically tattered world right beneath our own. A NEON release.

Close Your Eyes
Víctor Erice, 2023, Spain, 169m
Spanish with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Spanish director Víctor Erice’s fourth film in 50 years, Close Your Eyes is the culmination of one of the most legendary careers in modern cinema, following the masterpieces The Spirit of the Beehive, El Sur, and The Quince Tree Sun (NYFF30)In this elegiac personal epic about time, memory, and, of course, the movies, an aging filmmaker named Miguel (Manolo Solo) is reluctantly pulled back into a decades-old mystery connected to his final, unfinished work, titled The Farewell Gaze. During production, his leading actor and close friend, Julio (Jose Coronado), vanished and was never heard from again; in the process of trying to track him down so many years later, Miguel must come to terms with his own past, his present life, and the irrevocably changed processes of his art form. Featuring captivating performances from a cast that also includes Ana Torrent (Beehive’s unforgettable child star) in a moving role as Julio’s grown daughter, Close Your Eyes is a poignant, summative work that finds original ways to remind viewers of the moving image’s ability to reach across time.

The Delinquents
Rodrigo Moreno, 2023, Argentina, 183m
Spanish with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

A heist picture unlike any other, The Delinquents upends genre expectations with a gentle yet deftly constructed existentialist fable. Timid bank clerk Morán (Daniel Elías), fed up with his dead-end middle-management job, decides one day to simply walk into the vault, pack a bag with enough cash to cover his salary until retirement age, and saunter out. Knowing he has been inevitably caught on security camera, Morán plans on turning himself in, but not before passing the stash along to his coworker Román (Esteban Bigliardi), now an accomplice who agrees to hold onto the money until Morán gets out of prison. From this gripping premise, Argentinean writer-director Rodrigo Moreno spins an endlessly surprising tale that moves into increasingly idyllic territory, adding layer upon layer to the twinned stories of these two men’s lives, and inquiring what it means to be free in a world of monetary satisfaction. A MUBI release.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World
Radu Jude, 2023, Romania, 163m
Romanian with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

As he proved with his scandalous, scathing political comedy Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (NYFF59), Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude is among the most radical filmmakers working today and one of the few unafraid to diagnose the absurd evils and moral blind spots that make contemporary living what it—unfortunately—is. In his latest film, Jude again explodes conventional boundaries of narrative and form, this time charting a lacerating course through one day in the life of a severely overworked film production assistant, Angela, who drives around Bucharest on her latest gig: filming work accident victims auditioning to be in a safety equipment video for a German multinational corporation. At the same time, the sleep-deprived Angela upkeeps her own side project—a face-filtered, trash-talking, right-wing alter ego with more than 20,000 viewers that serves as the film’s perverse Greek chorus. Intercutting all this with footage from Romanian director Lucian Bratu’s feminist 1981 film Angela Moves On, following the travels of a female cab driver around the city’s same sights and locations, Jude initiates a conversation with his country’s past and present, while engaging in a meta-commentary about the ability of the captured image to exploit, and to contort the truth.

Lisandro Alonso, 2023, Argentina/France/Portugal, 146m
English, Portuguese, and Lakota with English subtitles
North American Premiere

The protean Argentinean director Lisandro Alonso (La Libertad, NYFF39; Jauja, NYFF52) continues to shapeshift, delight, and challenge with his marvelous and immersive new film, which takes the viewer on an unexpected journey through three stories set in wildly different terrain, each of them reflecting lives haunted by the specter of colonialist violence. In the first, Viggo Mortensen and Chiara Mastroianni guest-star in a black-and-white neo-Western pastiche following a taciturn gunslinger seeking revenge in a lawless frontier town. In the second section, in a different kind of law-and-order narrative, set during the present day in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, we accompany a Native American cop (Alaina Clifford) on her nighttime patrols, revealing a community troubled by addiction and poverty, but also, because of the cop’s good-hearted basketball coach niece (Sadie Lapointe), touched by transcendence. Finally, the film travels to the magnificent Brazilian rainforest of the 1970s, where Indigenous workers pan for gold while articulating their dream lives. Cleverly transitioning between segments without hand-holding the viewer, Alonso has created an improbably unified aesthetic experience that leaves it up to us to make the connections among its transient worlds.

Evil Does Not Exist
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, 2023, Japan, 105m
Japanese with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Deep in the forest of the small rural village Harasawa, single parent Takumi lives with his young daughter, Hana, and takes care of odd jobs for locals, chopping wood and hauling pristine well water. The overpowering serenity of this untouched land of mountains and lakes, where deer peacefully roam free, is about to be disrupted by the imminent arrival of the Tokyo company Playmode, which is ready to start construction on a glamping site for city tourists—a plan, which Takumi and his neighbors discover, that will have dire consequences for the ecological health and cleanliness of their community. The potent and foreboding new film from Oscar-winning director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, both NYFF59) is a haunting, entirely unexpected cinematic experience that reconstitutes the boundaries of the ecopolitical thriller. Intensified by a rapturous, ominous score by Eiko Ishibashi, this mesmeric journey diverges from country-vs-city themes to straddle the line between the earthy and the metaphysical. A Sideshow/Janus Films release.

Fallen Leaves
Aki Kaurismäki, 2023, Finland, 81m
Finnish with English subtitles

Sweet-souled in story, scalpel-sharp in filmmaking precision, this enchanting love story from Finnish virtuoso Aki Kaurismäki circles around two financially strapped Helsinkians who keep finding and losing one another in a world that seems to be falling apart. Evoking such dark-comic romances from his early career such as Shadows in Paradise and Ariel (NYFF27), the sardonic yet exquisitely melancholic Fallen Leaves devotes its wry, humane gaze to grocery clerk Ansa (Alma Pöysti) and construction laborer Holappa (Jussi Vatanen), who commence an on-again, off-again relationship of extreme tentativeness, while seeking employment and stability. As with the greatest of Kaurismäki’s films, everyday details register as grand, meaningful cinematic gestures. This filmmaker has scrupulously carved another fictive universe out of a handful of specific, vivid locations, yet Fallen Leaves very much takes place in the world we’re living in, which makes its surrender to hope all the more affecting. Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. A MUBI release.

Green Border
Agnieszka Holland, 2023, Poland/Czech Republic/France/Belgium, 146m
Polish, Arabic, English, and French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

A Syrian family leaves the violence of their country behind, hoping to cross from Belarus into Poland and then onto the safe haven of Sweden. But, like so many lost souls, they end up caught in a political maelstrom, demonized by the Polish government and press and used as pawns in an inhumane, deadly border game. This harrowing, urgent drama from the veteran Polish director Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa; Spoor, NYFF55) constructs an intricate account of the contemporary global humanitarian crisis, expanding out to encompass the interconnected lives of security patrol officers, activist lawyers, and civilians who put themselves on the line for strangers. With the sobering and sometimes shocking Green Border, Holland reaffirms both her unyielding commitment to political filmmaking and the ability of immersive storytelling to illuminate the darkest corners of the world.

Bas Devos, 2023, Belgium, 82m
Dutch, French, Romanian, and Mandarin with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Stefan, a migrant construction worker living in Brussels, is planning a trip home to his mother in Romania. In preparing for his voyage, he reconnects with local family members over gifted bowls of homemade soup, interacts with strangers, and discovers a revivifying commune with nature. This all leads him to an unexpected connection with Shuxiu, a Chinese-Belgian bryologist, who’s studying the local moss. The gradual cultivation of this friendship—beautifully performed by actors Stefan Gota and Liyo Gong—motivates this hushed, emotionally resonant film about the power of observation, of people often deemed socially invisible, and of the larger green world surrounding us. In his lovely and tranquil fourth feature, Belgian filmmaker Bas Devos (Ghost Tropic) has created a work that finds transcendence in the simplest human encounters and the most radiant of cinematic gestures. Winner of the Best Film prize in the Berlin International Film Festival’s Encounters competition. A Cinema Guild release.

In Our Day
Hong Sangsoo, 2023, South Korea, 83m
Korean with English subtitles
North American Premiere

For his 30th feature film, Hong Sangsoo has crafted a slippery yet captivating inquiry into the search for meaning, connection, and artistic satisfaction. In Our Day alternates two seemingly unrelated stories: in the first, a disillusioned former actress named Sangwon (Hong regular Kim Minhee) who has left her profession behind and is recharging at the apartment of her longtime friend Jung-soo (Song Sunmi); in the second, a middle-aged poet, Hong Uiji (Ki Joo-bong), who has become a cult figure for a new generation of young readers, is being visited by a student (Park Miso) making a documentary about him and a young man (Ha Seong-guk) drilling him with questions about the meaning of it all—which makes it difficult for the artist to refrain from drinking, even though his doctors have sworn him off alcohol. From these two disparate strands, Hong delightfully evokes a world rich with enigma and possibility, in which the most seemingly minute detail (the whereabouts of a cat, the spiciness of a noodle dish) has outsized repercussions and asking life’s big questions often brings us back to square one. A Cinema Guild release.

In Water
Hong Sangsoo, 2023, South Korea, 61m
Korean with English subtitles
North American Premiere

A youthful trio has convened off-season on the desolate yet beautiful Jeju Island. The director, leading actress, and cinematographer are preparing to shoot a film, yet the subject matter remains unclear. While potential professional and romantic jealousies simmer in the background, Hong Sangsoo instead prioritizes the contingencies of artmaking and inspiration, as the film-within-the-film’s first-time director (Shin Seokho) gradually discovers the melancholy centerpiece of his self-funded passion project. Characteristically small yet enormously touching, Hong’s latest treasure happens upon a simple aesthetic conceit that pays dividends: the image is mostly out of focus, lending each frame a delicate, smudgy impressionistic quality. As the young director’s movie gradually makes itself clear on screen, so does Hong’s vision of the often all-consuming pursuit for artistic meaning. A Cinema Guild release.

Janet Planet
Annie Baker, 2023, U.S., 113m

It’s the summer before Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) starts sixth grade, and she is spending the lazy months with her acupuncturist mother, Janet (Julianne Nicholson), in their home in the woods. As the months drift by, the bespectacled, taciturn girl, fiercely observant, watches Janet and three enigmatic adults who drift in and out of their lives, whether romantic interests or reconnected friends. Set in 1991 rural Western Massachusetts, the superb debut film from Pulitzer Prize­–winning playwright Annie Baker is a work of surreal tranquility that moves at a different, lost pace of life, and which perceives heartbreak just as Lacy is beginning to grasp the world and her place in it. Baker has created a film about a mother and daughter quite unlike any other, heightening the viewer’s senses and expressing oceans of feeling with the smallest gestures. Nicholson and Ziegler perform their roles with an inspiring lack of sentimentality, and the wondrous supporting cast includes Elias Koteas, Sophie Okonedo, and Will Patton. An A24 release.

Marco Bellocchio, 2023, Italy, 134m
Italian and Hebrew with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

In 1858 Bologna, a 6-year-old named Edgardo Mortara was seized by authorities of the papal state, taken away from his Jewish parents, and placed in the care of the Church. Believed to have been baptized in the cradle under odd circumstances, the child would be claimed as a Catholic. His mind erased of his family’s religious heritage and beliefs, Edgardo was, unbeknownst to him, at the center of an international firestorm that led directly to the Italian people’s rejection of the Pope’s rule amidst the tumultuous Risorgimento. In this sumptuously mounted film from treasured octogenarian director Marco Bellocchio, the Mortara case becomes an extraordinary, nearly operatic historical drama. Kidnapped is at once a personal, human-scale narrative of a family in crisis, following parents who will do anything to retrieve their child from the clutches of a ruthless theocratic government, and a wide-scope portrait of a country on the cusp of revolution. A Cohen Media Group release.

Last Summer
Catherine Breillat, 2023, France, 104m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

One of the world’s most consistently provocative filmmakers for nearly 50 years, Catherine Breillat proves with her incendiary, compelling new drama that she is not through toying with viewers’ comfort levels. In Last Summer, Léa Drucker stars as Anne, a lawyer who specializes in cases of sexual consent and parental custody. Seemingly happily married to kind-hearted businessman Pierre (Olivier Rabourdin) with adopted twin daughters, Anne inexplicably finds herself drawn to Pierre’s estranged 17-year-old son Théo (Samuel Kircher) after the boy returns home to live with them. Embarking on a passionate affair with the teenager, Anne all too willingly thrusts herself into a maelstrom of attraction, intimidation, and manipulation. Breillat’s incisive screenplay—cannily altered from the Danish erotic thriller Queen of Hearts on which it’s based—elegantly surveys the situation’s extreme power dynamics while giving the brilliant Drucker the chance to create a character who exists entirely within her own moral boundaries. A Sideshow/Janus Films release.

Angela Schanelec, 2023, Germany/France/Greece/Serbia, 105m
Greek and English with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Leading contemporary German filmmaker Angela Schanelec (I Was at Home, But…, NYFF57) is singularly adept at creating dramas of unexpected catharsis via the most oblique narrative strategies. Her latest film, Music, pushes this approach to new levels of emotionality. Using abstract gestures and broad narrative ellipses, yet still managing to plumb the depths of its characters’ complicated traumas, Music tells the story of a young man and woman unknowingly united by the same violent death. Brought together by fate and horrible irony, Ion (Aliocha Schneider) and Iro (Agathe Bonitzer) first meet in prison, where he’s an inmate and she’s a guard; they kindle a romance fomented by passion for classical music and opera, followed by marriage and children. Yet as in all tragedies, the past returns to haunt them. Inspired by the Oedipus myth, Schanelec has created an alternately austere and vivid portrait of grief and redemption through art told with her distinctive compositional rigor. A Cinema Guild release.

Orlando, My Political Biography
Paul B. Preciado, 2023, France, 98m
French with English subtitles

Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando is both historical anchor and hopeful North Star of writer and philosopher Paul B. Preciado’s first film, a sweeping yet intimate documentary that takes a panoramic look at past and present trans lives. Preciado’s literate, charming conceptual approach casts 26 trans and non-binary people as different versions and evocations of Woolf’s famous gender nonconformist, using the book as a starting point to talk about both the social and metaphorical meanings of transness and how Woolf’s reflections on the body untethered from both time and gender normativity remain radical. Fleet and visually inventive, Preciado’s film is finally a robust polemical inquiry into contemporary trans personhood and political disenfranchisement that points the way toward a possible utopia. Winner of four prizes at the Berlin International Film Festival, including the Teddy Award. A Sideshow/Janus Films release.

Perfect Days
Wim Wenders, 2023, Japan/Germany, 124m
Japanese with English subtitles

As in his finest movies, Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, NYFF22) here locates the magnificence in the everyday, casting the incomparable Koji Yakusho as the taciturn, good-natured Hirayama, who goes about his solitary hours working as a public toilet cleaner in Tokyo. Interacting on his rounds with a variety of city denizens whose eccentricities put his gentle nature into even more delightful relief, the middle-aged Hirayama becomes the quiet hero of his own story, doing his menial work without complaint, bemused yet often enchanted at the younger folk orbiting him, and delighted by the natural wonders poking out from the corners of the always changing cityscape. Hirayama is a creature very much of the present, devoted to a daily routine that is nearly monastic—until it is disrupted by someone from his past. Working in concert with Wenders’s documentarian eye, Yakusho, who won the Best Actor award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, makes his character’s every movement magnetic. A NEON release.

Pictures of Ghosts
Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2023, Brazil, 93m
Portuguese with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

The life of a true cinephile is one constantly haunted by the dead, as the history of the movies is a corridor of ghosts. Brazilian filmmaker and unrepentant cinema obsessive Kleber Mendonça Filho’s new documentary serves as a poignant testament to the liminal state of movie love, telling, in three chapters, the story of his cinematic world—namely the city of Recife, where his youthful film education took place. At theaters like the Veneza and the São Luiz, Mendonça discovered a popular art form that would change his life; today, with the landscape of the city altering drastically, he surveys its empty rooms now pregnant with memories. This moving and playful film, as much about the architectural and social structures of a city as about the movies that inspire and haunt us, honors the personal spaces that are also the communal lifeblood of our urban centers. A Grasshopper Film release.

Poor Things
Yorgos Lanthimos, 2023, U.S./U.K./Ireland, 141m

In his boldest vision yet, iconoclast auteur Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, NYFF53; The Favourite, NYFF56) creates an outlandish alternate 19th century on the cusp of technological breakthrough, in which a peculiar, childlike woman named Bella (Emma Stone) lives with her mysterious caretaker, the scientist and surgeon Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). Violently rambunctious, with a growing and unquenchable desire for sexual gratification, Bella turns every social propriety on its head. The shocking truth about her state, soon revealed, doesn’t stop Godwin’s gentle young apprentice (Ramy Youssef) from falling in love with her. After a rakish, libertine lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) whisks her away to see the world, Bella comes to understand her place in it, allowing us to bear witness to her journey of self-actualization. At once poignant and grotesque, Poor Things, based on a 1992 novel by Alasdair Gray, is a punkish update of the Frankenstein story that becomes a deeply feminist fairy tale about women taking back control of their own bodies and minds. A Searchlight Pictures release.

La Práctica
Martín Rejtman, 2023, Argentina/Chile/Portugal, 89m
Spanish with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Leading light of the New Argentine Cinema, Martín Rejtman returns with his first film in nearly a decade (following Two Shots Fired, NYFF52), a shrewd deadpan comedy that provides further evidence that few directors are as adept at dramatizing the absurdity of the mundane. Gustavo (Esteban Bigliardi), an Argentinean yoga instructor living in Chile, has recently separated from his wife, which leaves him essentially without an apartment and complicates keeping his business afloat. Adding injury to insult, he’s dealing with a torn meniscus, a meddling mother, a new client who might be a thief and another who gets amnesia during a session. A flirtation with a former student, Laura (Camila Hirane), brings promise for the future. Directed and acted with wry precision, the entrancing La Práctica is a sardonic yet loving immersion into a world in which wellness retreats and physical and spiritual self-improvement naturally exist side-by-side with romantic and professional neuroses.

The Settlers
Felipe Gálvez, 2023, Chile, 100m
Spanish with English subtitles

A tale of brutal colonialist violence set against the sweeping, mountainous backdrop of Chile at the turn of the 20th century, Felipe Gálvez’s handsomely mounted, emotionally wrenching adventure plays off conventions of the American Western while becoming its own haunting work of cinematic historical exploration. The film follows the journey of three men—an officer of the British army, a mercenary from the American Southwest, and a Chilean mixed-race marksman and tracker to guide the two outsiders—hired by a tyrannical landowner to scout the boundaries of his vast property and execute a new trade route. The true nature of their dispatch, however, comes into focus: to rid the area of its indigenous tribes. With its evocative period setting and arresting landscapes, The Settlers is a vivid, immersive experience, featuring an indelible final passage that reminds us the past is always present. A MUBI release.

The Shadowless Tower
Zhang Lu, 2023, China, 144m
Mandarin with English subtitles
North American Premiere

A novelist and literature professor turned movie director who has been quietly building an impressive filmography for the past 20 years, the 61-year-old Zhang Lu has now constructed an elegiac film about middle-age—its confusions and complications, as well as its beauty and grace. Set in Beijing’s Xicheng district, The Shadowless Tower (its title referring to a 13th-century Buddhist temple known to locals for its odd shape and noteworthy lack of shade) follows the compelling, distinctly human rhythms of Gu Wentong (Xin Baiqing), an aging divorcé who has abandoned his love of poetry writing to become a food critic. Estranged from his disgraced father (hauntingly inhabited by legendary Fifth Generation Chinese filmmaker Tian Zhuangzhuang) and only occasionally there for his adorable young daughter, who is being watched by his sister and brother-in-law, Gu feels unmoored from life. When, on a work gig, he emotionally connects with a fiercely independent 25-year-old photographer (the marvelous Huang Yao), he suddenly finds himself confronting his unsettled past and destabilized present. Zhang strikes a delicate balance between abstract feeling and the satisfactions of storytelling in this expansive, uncommonly sensitive portrait of contemporary living and the radiancy that can exist in both the sunlit streets and the darkest margins. A Strand Releasing release.

Youth (Spring)
Wang Bing, 2023, France/Luxembourg/Netherlands, 215m
Chinese regional dialects with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

The latest epic work of observational nonfiction from Wang Bing furthers the filmmaker’s ongoing chronicle of the economic, social, and personal upheavals happening across a transforming China. Deepening the intimacy with which he captures communities of people living amidst financial struggle and toiling for little money in exploitative conditions, Youth (Spring) is a remarkable account of rural migrant workers employed in textile factories in Zhili, a town outside Shanghai. Over the course of five years, Wang follows various groups of people, most of them in their twenties, as they labor over their clothes-making, interact in the cramped dormitories where they live after hours, bargain (often fruitlessly) for better wages, and create emotional bonds and relationships with one another. As the title suggests, this film is specifically about the lives of the young, forcefully and humanely depicting—with its director’s customary patience and unassuming formal rigor—the consequences of the country’s rapid growth on the minds and bodies of a new generation of workers. An Icarus Films release.

The Zone of Interest
Jonathan Glazer, 2023, U.K./U.S./Poland, 105m
German and Polish with English subtitles

In his chilling, oblique study of evil, British director Jonathan Glazer (Under the Skin) situates the viewer at the center of frighteningly familiar banality. It’s summer in the mid-1940s, and a German family merrily idles by a river. Father Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and mother Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) tuck their kids in bed at night. They entertain family and guests in their vast backyard garden on the weekends. In the mornings, she oversees chores with a cadre of housekeepers and cooks; he goes to work as head Commandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Their domestic life is paradisiacal. Yet over the wall abutting their home, we can see smokestacks, and at night we hear screams and occasional gunshots. Loosely inspired by the 2014 novel of the same name by Martin Amis, Glazer has created a singular, unsettlingly timeless representation of inhumanity and our capacity for indifference in the face of atrocity, filmed and edited with aptly cold precision and punctuated with an ominous score by Mica Levi. Winner of the Grand Prix at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. An A24 release.

Precedes La Chimera and Pictures of Ghosts:
Pier Paolo Pasolini – Agnès Varda – New York – 1967
Agnès Varda, 2022, France, 3m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
In 1966, two legendary filmmakers, in town for the 4th New York Film Festival, took a walk through Times Square. Armed with 16mm color film, Agnès Varda captured Pier Paolo Pasolini. A year later, she edited the footage and recorded his brief commentary track, discussing the uses of documentary filmmaking, Christianity, and the nature of reality. The elements were only discovered in 2021 and restored by Cine-Tamaris, in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata, to their lustrous expressivity.

Secure your seats with Festival Passes, limited quantities on sale now. Single tickets go on sale September 19 at noon ET.

Review: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,’ starring the voices of Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Shamon Brown Jr., Micah Abbey, Ayo Edebiri, Ice Cube and Jackie Chan

July 31, 2023

by Carla Hay

Michelangelo, aka Mikey (voiced by Shamon Brown Jr.); Donatello, aka Donnie (voiced by Micah Abbey); Leonardo, aka Leo (voiced by Nicolas Cantu); and Raphael, aka Raph (voiced by Brady Noon), in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”

Directed by Jeff Rowe; co-directed by Kyler Spears

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the animated film “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” features a cast of characters portraying mutant animals and a racially diverse mix of humans representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: Four crime-fighting hero brothers, who happen to be teenage mutant ninja turtles, team up with a teenage aspiring journalist, to stop a mutant insect named Superfly from his plans to enslave and torture humans worldwide.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise fans, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching comical adventure animation that various generations of people can enjoy.

April O’Neil (voiced by Ayo Edebiri); Raphael, aka Raph (voiced by Brady Noon)l Leonardo, aka Leo (voiced by Nicolas Cantu); Donatello, aka Donnie (voiced by Micah Abbey); and Michelangelo, aka Mikey (voiced by Shamon Brown Jr.), in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” (Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is a vibrant example of how good storytelling, talented cast members, and appealing visuals can make animation the ideal format for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” started out as a comic book series in 1984. It has since spawned several animated series and films (live-action and animated), as well as albums, live tours and a seemingly never-ending supply of merchandise. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is among the best of what the franchise has to offer.

Directed by Jeff Rowe and co-directed by Kyler Spears, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” doesn’t do anything radically different with the basic concept of the franchise. The story still takes place in New York City, where four teenage mutant ninja turtle brothers grew up in the city’s sewers and now fight crime. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jeff Rowe, Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit wrote the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” screenplay.

What’s different about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is that the movie is much more centered around the teenage characters than the live-action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movies, which tended to give human adults about the same amount of screen time. The chief villain in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” is not human, but a giant mutant insect named Superfly.

The four mutant turtles brothers have distinct personalities, signature colors and preferred weapons that identify each brother.

  • Michelangelo, also known as Mikey (voiced by Shamon Brown Jr.), is the level-headed leader of the group. His signature color is blue. His preferred weapons are katanas.
  • Raphael, also known as Raph (voiced by Brady Noon), is the hot-tempered and physically strongest brother, who often clashes with Mike over decisions. Raph’s signature color is red. His preferred weapons are sai.
  • Donatello, also known as Donnie (voiced by Micah Abbey), is the mild-mannered tech expert of the group and the brother who’s most likely to be a peacemaker in fights between Mikey and Raph. Donnie’s signature color is purple. His preferred weapon is an oak Bō.
  • Leonardo, also known as Leo (voiced by Nicolas Cantu), is the goofy and impulsive brother who is the one most likely to want to party. His signature color is orange. His preferred weapons are nunchucks.

Do viewers have to know the above information about the brothers before seeing “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem”? No, but it helps viewers tell these characters apart quicker than viewers who are unfamiliar with these characters. The brothers’ origin story is explained early in the movie, which generally does a good job of setting up the story for people who might be seeing these characters for the first time.

In the beginning of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” it’s shown how these mutant characters came to be. An eccentric scientist names Baxter Stockman (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito) went rogue and created mutants from animals that he kept in his lab. His lab was eventually raided by the government. Stockman died during this raid, but he left behind a toxic ooze that can turn any being into a mutant.

Four baby turtles managed to escape from the raid and were found and raised by a mutant rat Splinter (voiced by Jackie Chan), a jaded but very overprotective adoptive father who kept the four brothers hidden in the sewers with. When the brothers became old enough to be curious about the outside world where humans live, Splinter reluctantly gave in to the brothers’ pestering to take them outside.

The experience did not go well at all. Upon emerging in the middle of Times Square, this mutant family was attacked and taunted by humans, out of fear and hatred. Splinter vowed never to take the brothers above ground again. But now that the brothers are teenagers, they want to defy a parent’s rules, as teenagers tend to do. These brother turtles have been sneaking out at night and fighting crimes, but they have to do so in disguise (they wear masks) and as mysterious and elusive heroes.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” has many themes about “fitting in” to society, trying to find self-acceptance, and experiencing prejudice based on outward appearances. The turtle brothers long to be part of the human world but can only watch from a certain distance. While many human teenagers in high school think school is to confining, the turtle brothers feel confined in their own environment and are fascinated with wanting to go to high school, which represents freedom to the turtle brothers.

One night, the turtle brothers help a human teenager named April O’Neil (voiced by Ayo Edebiri), who’s about 16 or 17 years old, after her scooter is stolen. (The character of April is usually an adult in other “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” stories.) April (who is an aspiring investigative journalist) is smart and witty, but she has her own “misfit” issues because she’s bullied at school and is somewhat of a social outcast with her student peers. She’s been given the unflattering nickname Puke Girl by some of the school bullies because of an incident when she vomited out of nervousness during the school’s live closed-circuit TV newscast. Meanwhile, Mikey develops a crush on April and gets a little bit of teasing about it from Raph.

The word is out that there’s a criminal mastermind who’s plotting to destroy the world. His named is Superfly (voiced by Ice Cube), a swaggering mutant insect, who has a hatred of humans because of the way he was treated by humans. Superfly has a gang of mutant accomplices, of course. These sidekicks include Leatherhead (voiced by Rose Byrne), Mondo Gecko (voiced by Paul Rudd), Ray Fillet (voiced by Post Malone), Genghis Frog (voiced by Hannibal Buress) and Wingnut (voiced by Natasia Demetriou).

The turtle brothers team up with April to try to stop Superfly, with the hope that if they succeed, then human society will finally accept the turtle brothers. In addition to battling Superfly, the turtle brothers also have to contend with a nemesis named Cynthia Utrom (voiced by Maya Rudolph), a government official who was responsible for the raid that led to Dr. Stockman’s demise. Cynthia is menacing in a bureaucratic way, unlike Superfly’s street-tough methods. Other supporting characters are two dimwitted mutants: warthog Bebop (played by Rogen, one of the producers of the movie) and rhinoceros Rocksteady (voiced by John Cena), who both bring some comic relief with their buffonery.

All of the principal cast members do admirable jobs of making their characters memorable and with identifable personalities, while the animation is a combination of gritty and gorgeous. Superfly is a ruthless “gangster” villain (Ice Cube plays this role to the hilt), but the movie also shows Superfly as an example of someone who was bullied who ends up becoming a worse bully than his tormentors. Another standout is Edebiri in her voice role as April, who has a lot of heart and relatable humanity, thanks to Edebiri’s engaging performance.

Fortunately for viewers, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” doesn’t over-complicate its “good versus evil” plot. The action sequences are entertaining to watch, while the dialogue is often laugh-out-loud funny. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” doesn’t get preachy about it, but amid all the cartoonish fun is a cautionary message about the repercussions of mistreating others. The movie ends on a cliffhanger, but there’s so much to like about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” many viewers will still want a sequel, even if there had been no cliffhanger.

Paramount Pictures will release “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” in U.S. cinemas on August 2, 2023.

Review: ‘Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music,’ starring Taylor Mac

June 25, 2023

by Carla Hay

Taylor Mac in “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music”

Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in 2016 in New York City, the documentary film “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” features a predominantly white group of people (with some African Americans) who are connected in some way to drag performer Taylor Mac and his one-time-only, 24-hour performance of pop hits.

Culture Clash: During his performance, Mac discusses some of the racism and homophobia behind some of history’s most popular songs.

Culture Audience: “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” will appeal primarily to viewers who are fans of drag performers and music documentaries that focus on unconventional artists and unusual performances.

Taylor Mac in “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Vivacious and engaging, this concert documentary starring drag performer Taylor Mac offers a bittersweet presentation of iconic pop songs, without glossing over some of these songs’ problematic histories. It’s an extremely unique 24-hour performance. The 2016 show took place as a one-time-only event, at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York City’s Brooklyn borough. During this 24-hour continuous performance, Mac performed popular songs from 24 decades (each decade got its own hour), from 1776 to 2016. Attendees had the option to sleep at the venue in a separate room.

Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” had its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival. The majority of the documentary’s footage is of highlights from this epic concert. The rest of the documentary consists of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with principal members of the events team.

Mac explains in the beginning of the film that he conceived this event as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the AIDS crisis. The show starts with 24 musicians on stage, but after each hour, one less musician goes on stage, until the last hour, when Mac is be the sole performer on stage. The decreasing numbers of band musicians on stage are supposed to be symbolic of how communities and families lost people to the AIDS crisis.

Mac also says in the documentary, “The show is about our history of Americans. That history is in our souls.” He also says that “a queer body can become a metaphor for America.” He later adds, “I learned my politics from radical lesbians.”

Mac gives a brief personal background about himself, by saying that he grew up in Stockton, California, which he describes as a very homophobic city that’s overrun with a lot of “ugly tract houses.” After he graduated from acting school, Mac says that he had difficulty getting auditions. However, he found work at New York City drag nightclubs. And the rest is history.

Some of the key people on the event team also give their perspectives of the show. Niegel Smith, the show’s co-director, calls it a “radical realness ritual” that “asks us to move closer to our queerness.” During one of the audience interaction parts of the show, Mac tells audience members to slow dance with people who are of the same gender. The song selection for this same-sex slow dance is “Snakeskin Cowboys,” a song made famous by Ted Nugent, who is a political conservative. It’s obviously Mac’s way of reclaiming the song and putting it in a progressive queer context.

Matt Ray, the show’s musical director, comes from a jazz background. He says the biggest problem in America is “lack of community.” This 24-hour performance, says Ray, is Mac’s way of trying to bring back community to live events. Machine Dazzle, the show’s costume designer, is seen in costume fittings with Mac, who says that he gave no creative restrictions on how Dazzle could make the costumes. Also seen in the documentary is makeup artist Anastasia Durasova.

It’s no coincidence that the performance starts with the year 1776, since it’s the year of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. Freedom, liberation and fighting against oppression are constant themes throughout the show. During his performances of popular songs from each decade, Mac gives historical context of what was going on in the United States at the time when the song was popular and why some of the songs have a much more disturbing meaning than they seem to have.

“Yankee Doodle Dandy,” performed in the hour covering the years 1776 to 1786, sounds like an upbeat and patriotic song. But Mac also reminds people that during this time, the United States was also built on the enslavement of black people and the destruction of Native Americans. The 1820s song “”Coal Black Rose” has racist origins, since it was originally performed by white people wearing blackface makeup, and the song’s lyrics are about raping an enslaved black woman. For the 1830s song “Rove Riley Rove,” Mac says he’s performing the song to evoke a mother or nanny during the Trail of Tears era, when the Native Americans were forced to go on dangerous and deadly routes when they were forced off their ancestral lands.

Not all of the songs performed have depressing and bigoted histories. When Mac gets to the 1970s decades, he performs songs such as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and David Bowie’s “Heroes.” For “Heroes,” which is performed in the context of the Cold War between Russia and the United States, two giant inflatable penises—one with a U.S. flag decoration, one with a Russian flag decoration—float around on stage. Mac straddles at least one of these inflatable sex organs.

Other songs performed in the show include Laura Branigan’s 1982 hit “Gloria” (which Mac interprets in the performance as a sexual liberation song); the Rolling Stones’ 1969 classic “Gimme Shelter”; and “Soliloquy” from the 1945 musical “Carousel,” which Mac was his father’s favorite song. Mac also says that his father died when Mac was 4 years old.

Audience members are encouraged to sing along and participate. And sometimes, Mac invites audiences members on stage during the performance, such as when he selects the oldest person in the room (a man in his 80s) and youngest person in the room (a 20-year-old woman) to dance on stage together. In another part of the show, audience members throw ping pong balls at each other.

Mac doesn’t do all of the lead vocals during the show. There are also guest singers, including Heather Christian, Steffanie Christian, Thornetta Davis, and Anaïs Mitchell. However, there’s no doubt that Mac is the star. He has a charismatic command of the stage, even though he’s not a great singer. He has a wry sense of comedy and keeps the energy level fairly high, even though performing this 24-hour show would be exhausting by any standard.

“Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” has a simple concept with an extravagant and very flamboyant presentation. If drag performances and some bawdiness meant for adults have no appeal to you, then watching this documentary might be overwhelming or a little hard to take. The performance in “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” will never be duplicated by Mac, but this memorable documentary is the next best thing to being there.

HBO and Max will premiere “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” on June 27, 2023.

2023 Tribeca Festival: complete list of winners

The following is a press release from the Tribeca Film Festival:

The 22nd annual Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, today announced the winning storytellers in its competition categories at an awards ceremony at Racket NYC. The top honors went to Cypher for the Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature, A Strange Path for Best International Narrative Feature, and Between the Rains for Best Documentary Feature. Awards were given in the following competition categories: Feature Film, Short Film, Audio Storytelling, Immersive, Games, Human / Nature, AT&T Untold Stories, and Tribeca X.

The Festival, which hosts more than 600 events across New York City, concludes on June 18th.

“We take great pride in recognizing this year’s collection of diverse, trailblazing works and creators,” said Cara Cusumano, Festival Director and Vice President of Programming. “Today’s honorees are a compelling testament that storytelling across genres and platforms is on a vibrant and inspiring trajectory.”

Some award winners received the unique Tribeca Festival Art Award from a selection of artists led by curator Racquel Chevremont. Supported by CHANEL, the world-class artists donated work to honored filmmakers.

Winners of the Audience Award, which are determined by audience votes throughout the Festival, will be announced at a later date.

Select awarded films, including A Strange Path, Between the Rains, and Boca Chica will be available to watch via the Tribeca at Home platform beginning June 19 through July 2, 2023.

2023 Winners and Special Jury Mentions, as selected by the 2023 Festival Jury, are as follows:



Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature: Chris Moukarbel for Cypher, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For its kaleidoscopic use of music, created imagery and found materials, in service of an interrogation of celebrity, conspiracy culture and the nature of narrative reality itself.” This award is sponsored by OKX. 

Best Performance in a U.S. Narrative Feature: Ji-Young Yoo for Smoking Tigers, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For this actor’s skill in holding the depth of their character’s experience with a quiet strength, vulnerability and a willingness to stay soft and open to their scene partners and camera alike.”

“Smoking Tigers”

Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature: So Young Shelly Yo for Smoking Tigers, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “This screenplay pulled us into its leading characters, making us care deeply about their pasts and futures. It skillfully juggled multiple storylines and journeys with nuance, emotional honesty, deft sequencing until the final beautiful scene.”

Mina Sundwall in “The Graduates”

Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature: Caroline Costa for The Graduates, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “From the very first frame, it was clear the cinematographer was someone in complete command of their craft. From their naturalistic approach to lighting to tight compositions, the cinematographer supported the emotional journey of the film at every turn.”

U.S. Narrative Feature Special Jury Mention: Monica Sorelle for Mountains, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For its authentic, specific portrayal of a culture we had not seen on screen. A deeply emotional and empathetic portrait of a family in a changing world with brilliant leading performances.”


Lucas Limeira in “A Strange Path”

Best International Narrative Feature: Guto Parente for A Strange Path, (Brazil) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “In considering the International Narrative Feature Award, one film rose to the top with its surprising warmth and deeply compelling storytelling. We are honored to present the best International Narrative Feature award to Guto Parente for A Strange Path.”

Best Performance in an International Narrative Feature: Carlos Francisco for A Strange Path, (Brazil) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “In a slate full of compelling performances, one radiated a magnetic realism. In a brief but essential turn, this actor balanced the nuances of humanity and demanded to be watched. We happily honor Carlos Francisco with Best Performance in an International Narrative Feature.”

Carlos Francisco in “A Strange Path”

Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature: Guto Parente for A Strange Path, (Brazil) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “A great screenplay is a combination of structure and poetry. Our award is going to a screenplay that gave us not only the grief of reconciliation but a joyful expression of absurdity.”

Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature: Linga Acácio for A Strange Path, (Brazil) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “The Winner in this category blew us away with the strength of their visual force. Cinematography that illuminates the narrative with not only the natural beauty of the location, but the psychological landscape of the lead.”


Patrick Achucka and Kole Achucka in “Between the Rains” (Photo by Andrew H. Brown)

Best Documentary Feature: Andrew H. Brown and Moses Thuranira for Between the Rains(Kenya) – World Premiere.Jury comment: For craft, storytelling, impact — and above all a raw, elegant coming-of-age portrait of resilience that unanimously blew us away.”

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Feature: Andrew H. Brown for Between the Rains(Kenya) – World Premiere. Jury comment:”Combining the patience and elegance of portraiture — with the immediacy of observational cinema verite — this cinematographer truly transported us into a rarely seen world.”

“The Gullspång Miracle” (Photo by Pia Lehto)

Best Editing in a Documentary Feature: Mark Bukdahl and Orvar Anklew for The Gullspång Miracle, (Sweden, Norway, Denmark) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For cleverly and adeptly taking us on an entertaining and emotionally-layered mystery that zigs, zags and surprises.”

Documentary Competition Special Jury Mention: David Gutnik for Rule of Two Walls, (Ukraine) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For embedding us with a group of artists who refused to be stripped of their heritage and cultural expression, we would like to give a special jury mention for human rights and artistic expression to Rule of Two Walls.”


Sponsored by Canva

Laura Galán in “One Night With Adela” (Photo by Diego Trenas)

Hugo Ruiz for One Night With Adela (Spain) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “When we think about what makes a great director, we think about a bold, singular vision. An artist with an ability to sustain a point of view, take risks and surprise us with their unique perspective. This director conjured a superb conductor’s ability to reign in a symphony, delivering a highly ambitious first film that left us all affected viscerally. Unanimously. We are excited and curious to see what they will make next.”


Sponsored by Bulleit

A scene from “Q” (Photo by Jude Chehab)

Jude Chehab for Q, (Lebanon, United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “At the end of the day the Jury chose to recognize the rising luminance of a young director who epitomizes the essence of the New Director award. “She did it all.” She wrote, produced, directed and shot this oblique and complicated family story in the closed world of a  mysterious Syrian spiritual order. Her photography is gorgeous, and she speaks with the indomitable drive of a voice demanding to be heard. We are united in our curiosity to follow her development as an artist and observe what she does next.”

Best New Documentary Director Award Special Jury Mention: co-Director Nate Pommer for Scream of My Blood: A Gogol Bordello Story, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “The first Special Jury mention goes to Scream of My Blood: A Gogol Bordello Story, for the enduring use of art as a weapon against cant and authoritarianism. We are grateful to the director for translating Gogol Bordello’s rebellious joy and rage at remaining human and vibrant in the face of everything time has thrown in its path.”

New Documentary Director Special Jury Mention: Jane M. Wagner for Break the Game, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “We gave the special jury mention to BREAK THE GAME for taking the innovative risks in its execution, that its protagonist took discovering her authentic self. Within the sterile confines of an electronic universe, the director revealed the critical core of human connection, kindness and growth, which we can shorthand as the real meaning of love.


Scarlet Camila in “Boca Chica” (Photo by Micaela Cajahuaringa)

Gabriella A. Moses, Boca Chica, (Dominican Republic) – World Premiere. “With strong visual language that drew us in, lived in performances and original magnetic storytelling, this movie fearlessly confronted family dynamics. The filmmaker expertly portrays the disparity between how the American dream  is perceived outside of the US versus the experience of immigrants freshly arriving on American soil. Honoring the chaos of puberty while introducing its exploitation.”

Nora Ephron Award Special Jury Mention: Smoking Tigers, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “A film with an intimate power, captivating performances and striking cinematography. This film tenderly explores the complexity of adolescence, the immigrant experience, being a child of divorce and how familial trauma can impact romantic relationships.”


Sponsored by Bulleit

Jason Momoa in “Common Ground” (Photo courtesy of Big Picture Ranch)

Common Ground, (United States) – World Premiere. Sobering yet hopeful, Common Ground exposes the interconnectedness of American farming policy, politics, and illness. Follow the solution-driven plight of Regenerative Farmers as they make a case for soil health across the continent and beyond. Directed by Rebecca Tickell, Josh Tickell. Produced by Rebecca Tickell, Josh Tickell, Eric Dillon.


Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lilas-Rose Cantin and Leane Labreche-Dor in “Dead Cat” (Photo by Shawn Pavlin)

Best Narrative Short: Annie-Claude Caron and Danick Audet for Dead Cat, (Canada) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “Out of the impressive list of narrative shorts, this one stood out as a complete work that surprised, entertained, and resonated on a universal level. This film tells the story of parents trying to shield their daughter from the reality of death, but it does so with equal amounts of grounded humor and depth.”

Narrative Short Special Jury Mention: Gabrielle Demers for Blond Night, Jury comment: “Takes you on a most unexpected journey. It challenges our understanding of sexuality as told through the unique lens of disability. The protagonist gives a performance that’s steeped in authenticity and leaves an indelible mark long after the credits roll.”

Narrative Short Special Jury Mention: Annelise Hickey for Hafekasi, Jury comment: “The film threads the needle through the nuanced and complex relationship between a mother and daughter but pulls a specific focus on the divide that occurs between them when differing cultures are ignored.”

Best Animated Short: Mitra Shahidi for Starling, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “On its surface, mourning the death of a child is a challenging subject matter, but this film explores it with charm, mischievousness, and a dash of hope. The animation is immersive and stylized in the best ways. To select this as the winner was unanimous.”

Student Visionary Award: Daniela Soria Gutiérrez for Fairytales, (Mexico) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “This director brought a naturalistic style to a child’s imagination with uncanny and nuanced hints of revulsion woven into a greater story of friendship.”

Best Documentary Short: Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson for Black Girls Play: The Story of Hand Games, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “A story that has yet to be told about a vital driving force in music, culture, and society spanning multiple generations.”

Documentary Short Special Jury Mention: Devon Blackwell for Goodbye, Morganza, Jury comment: “This film is a beautiful, humanity filled portrait of a family that tells the larger American story of race, economic inequity, and home.”


“The Pirate Queen A Forgotten Legend”

Main Competition – Storyscapes Award: Eloise Singer for The Pirate Queen: A Forgotten Legend, (United Kingdom) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For its outstanding technical execution, immersive user experience, and unique and untold story of a nearly forgotten woman in history.”

Storyscapes Special Jury Mention: Kinfolk for Kinfolk: Black Lands, (United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “A profound and authentic representation of the Black experience in America, KINFOLK’s mission to bring history to contemporary audiences through AR technology not only celebrates the richness of Black culture and history in New York City and beyond, but also serves as a powerful tool for education and understanding, making it a standout contender deserving of recognition.”

New Voices Award: Terril Calder for Meneath: The Mirrors of Ethics, (Canada) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “Both a dream and a nightmare, the work incites a necessary conversation with exceptional use of craft, storytelling and unexpected use of technology with the potential to iterate in a way that undoubtedly will empower future work.”

New Voices Special Mention: Poulomi Basu for Maya: The Birth (Chapter 1), (United Kingdom, France, United States, India) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “An imaginative way to tell an everyday story in a vivid world. Presenting a shift in perspective, the project opens new imaginaries with under-told narratives. This project left us on a hook and the jury is excited to see its next steps and continued development.”


KO_OP, Goodbye Volcano High, (Canada, United States) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For how much this game felt of the moment and questions whether you should still care about anything when everything sucks — complete with doom scrolling, dinosaurs and high school band drama.”

Special Jury Mention for Tribeca Games: Julián Cordero and Sebastian Valbuena for Despelote, (New York, Ecuador) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For how it offers a dreamlike portal into a soccer-obsessed child’s everyday life, and shows how cultural expression—whether through sports or creative pursuit—can make our lives richer.”


“The Very Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen”

Fiction Audio Storytelling Award: Alex Kemp for The Very Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen (Wolf at the Door Studios) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “This piece is an ambitious production that drew the listener in, and had us wondering what mysteries would unfold. It was intriguing, moving, and created a strong sense of place in its audio storytelling. We can’t wait to hear the next episode of The Very Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen.”

Narrative Nonfiction Audio Storytelling Award: Aline Laurent-Mayard for Free From Desire (Paradiso Media) – World Premiere. Jury comment: “For its delightfulness, its fresh perspective, and its deceptively-easy-sound, we would like to award the Tribeca Audio Award for Established Audio to “Free From Desire” by Paradiso Media. This compelling personal story has lessons and insights for anyone with a body. Aline’s evocative and charming writing was a spoonful of sugar for a deeply-entrenched problem in larger society: the ways we do and don’t talk about sexuality, and how that impacts our sense of belonging in the world.”

Independent Fiction Audio Storytelling Award: Cory Choy and Feyiṣayo Aluko for Aisha – World Premiere. Jury comment: “To listen to “Aisha” is to inhabit this piece and also to be a body within it. The experience that this piece provided not only gave us a firm view of the main character’s external plight, but also insight into their internal struggle and conflict through sound design that blurs the lines between reality and fiction. “Aisha” warrants repeat listening.”

Independent Nonfiction Audio Storytelling Award: David Modigliani for Shalom, Amore – World Premiere. Jury comment: “An unexpectedly moving narrative that blends the personal, political, and comical. Through the uncovering of family letters written decades earlier, Shalom Amore takes us on a journey across generations and continents. From the hosts’ grandparents’ first kiss and a torn stocking to the exploration of rising antisemitism in our own time.”


Color Book, (United States) – Following the passing of his wife, a devoted father is learning to raise his son with Down Syndrome as a single parent. While adjusting to their new reality, the two embark on a journey through Metro Atlanta to attend their first baseball game. Written and directed by David Fortune. Untold Stories is a multi-year, multi-tier alliance between AT&T and the Tribeca Festival that awards $1 million dollars, mentorship, and distribution support to systemically underrepresented filmmakers to produce their films. Color Book will also be guaranteed a premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.


Sponsored by Tubi

Best Feature: Farhoud Meybodi for Earthbound (Gjenge Makers) – Earthbound: Nzambi Matee, executive produced by Orlando Bloom, explores the life and achievements of Nzambi Matee, a Kenyan innovator and entrepreneur who is tackling the plastic waste epidemic in her hometown of Nairobi. Directed by Farhoud Meybodi.

Best Short: Rudy Valdez for Translators (U.S. Bank) – Translators, follows Harye, Densel, and Virginia, a few of the over 11 million child translators in the United States, as they translate for their parents in everyday situations. Directed by Rudy Valdez.

Best Series: Patrick Daughters for Full Bleed (Adobe) – Full Bleed, a documentary series taking viewers inside these iconic moments, going beyond the expected creator profile to explore what it takes to push boundaries, and examine how obstacles can become the conduit for groundbreaking work. Episode one of three, submitted here, centers the decade-long development of Freedom Tower with celebrated architect Daniel Libeskind. Directed by Patrick Daughters.

Best Immersive: Jamie Hewlett and Fx Goby for Gorillaz Presents… Skinny Ape (Google) – Gorillaz Presents… Skinny Ape, sets out to revolutionize the concept of musical performances by transforming the streets of New York and London into stages for two groundbreaking experiences. On December 17 and 18 fans gathered together to witness Gorillaz play in real life – actually larger than life – with Murdoc, 2D, Noodle and Russel towering over them in the midst of two of the world’s most iconic skylines. Created by Jamie Hewlett and Fx Goby.   

Best Audio: Pedro Mendes for Making an Impossible Airplane (Atlassian) – Making an Impossible Airplane: The Untold Story of the Concorde, a podcast part of Atlassian’s brand evolution to be seen as a champion of open collaboration. Our goal was to tell a story that hadn’t been told before to engage audiences, solidify Atlassian’s philosophy & promise of ‘impossible alone’, and unleash the potential in each team: engineers in two different countries, with two different languages, two different units of measurement, forced together by politics. Directed by Pedro Mendes.


About the Tribeca Festival

The Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, brings artists and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, music, audio storytelling, games, and XR. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is synonymous with creative expression and entertainment. Tribeca champions emerging and established voices, discovers award-winning talent, curates innovative experiences, and introduces new ideas through exclusive premieres, exhibitions, conversations, and live performances.

The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. The annual Tribeca Festival will celebrate its 22nd year from June 7–18, 2023 in New York City.

In 2019, James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems bought a majority stake in Tribeca Enterprises, bringing together Rosenthal, De Niro, and Murdoch to grow the enterprise.

About the 2023 Tribeca Festival Partners

The 2023 Tribeca Festival is presented by OKX and with the support of our partners: AT&T, Audible, Black Women on Boards, Canva, CHANEL, City National Bank, Diageo, Easterseals Disability Services, Expensify, Indeed, NBC4 and Telemundo 47, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, National CineMedia, New York Magazine, Novartis, P&G, ServiceNow, Spring Studios New York, The Wall Street Journal, Tubi, United Airlines, Variety and Vulture.

2023 Tony Awards: ‘Kimberly Akimbo’ is the top winner

June 11, 2023

by Carla Hay

Tony Awards logo

Cast members and producers of “Kimberly Akimbo” at the 76th Annual Tony Awards at the United Palace in New York City, on June 11, 2023. (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS)

With five prizes, including Best Musical, “Kimberly Akimbo” was the top winner at the 76th annual Tony Awards, which were presented at the United Palace in New York City on June 11, 2023. For the second year in a row, Ariana DeBose hosted the show, which was televised on CBS in the United States and streamed live and on demand on Paramount+, the streaming service owned by CBS parent company Paramount. A pre-show event called “The Tony Awards: Act One,” hosted by Julianne Hough and Skylar Astin, was shown on CBS and Pluto TV. Hough and Astin were also presenters at the Tony Awards ceremony.

The Antoinette Perry “Tony” Awards, which are for Broadway productions, are presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. The competitive categories are voted for by 769 designated Tony voters within the theatre community, according to a Tony Awards press release.

In non-competitive categories, the 2023 Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre went to presented to Lisa Dawn Cave, Victoria Bailey and Robert Fried. The Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award was presented to Jerry Mitchell. Special Tony Awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre went to Joel Grey and John Kander. The Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University gave the Excellence in Theatre Education Award to Jason Zembuch Young of Plantation, Florida.

“Kimberly Akimbo,” which had eight Tony Award nominations, is about a lonely teenage girl (the title character), who has a disease that causes her to age four-and-a-half times as quickly as most other people. As a teenager, she has the outward appearance of an elderly woman. In addition to winning Best Musical, “Kimberly Akimbo” won Tony Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (for Victoria Clark); Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (for Bonnie Milligan); Best Book of a Musical (for David Lindsay-Abaire); and Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre (for Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori).

“Some Like It Hot,” a musical based on the 1959 movie of the same name, went into the show with the most nominations (13) and ended up winning four Tony Awards: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (for J. Harrison Ghee); Best Costume Design of a Musical (for Gregg Barnes); Best Choreography (for Casey Nicholaw); and Best Orchestrations (for Charlie Rosen and Bryan Carter).

“Leopoldstadt” (the Jewish family saga that takes place in Vienna, Austria, from 1899 to 1955) won four Tony Awards: Best Play; Best Direction of a Play (for Patrick Marber); Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (for Brandon Uranowitz); and Best Costume Design of a Play (for Brigitte Reiffenstuel). Written by Tom Stoppard, “Leopoldstadt” had six Tony nominations going into the ceremony.

In terms of diversity, some milestones were achieved at the 2023 Tony Awards ceremony. LaChanze became the first black person to win two Tony Awards in the same year for producing. As a producer of “Kimberly Akimbo,” she was one of the winners of Best Musical. As a producer of “Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog,” she was one of the winners of Best Revival of a Play. Alex Newell of “Shucked” and Ghee of “Some Like It Hot” became the first openly non-binary people to win Tony Awards. Newell won the prize for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical.

The 2023 Tony Awards featured performances from the casts of Tony Award nominated best musicals and revivals, including “Camelot,” “Into the Woods,” “& Juliet,” “Kimberly Akimbo,” “New York, New York,” “Parade,” “Shucked,” “Some Like It Hot” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Also giving performances were the casts of “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical” and “Funny Girl.” Joaquina Kalukango, winner of the 2022 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, performed the from “The Phantom of the Opera” song “Wishing You Were Somehow Here” for the In Memoriam segment that paid tribute to people in the Broadway community who passed away since the 2022 Tony Awards ceremony.

Presenters included Barry Manilow, Melissa Etheridge, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Marcia Gay Harden, Kelli O’Hara, Denée Benton, Colman Domingo, Leah Michele, Dominique Fishback, Lily Rabe, Marcel Spears, Wayne Brady, Kenny Leon, Lupita Nyong’o, Kennedy Kanagawa, Brian d’Arcy James, Sara Bareilles, Wilson Cruz, Tatiana Maslany, Common and Uzo Aduba.

For the CBS broadcast, Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss/White Cherry Entertainment were executive producers. Weiss also served as director of the show. Because of the Writers Guild of America strike, the 2023 Tony Awards was unscripted.

The following is a complete list of nominees and winners of the 2023 Tony Awards:


Best Musical

& Juliet

Producers: Max Martin & Tim Headington, Theresa Steele Page, Jenny Petersson, Martin Dodd, Eva Price, Lukasz Gottwald,, Independent Presenters Network, Jack Lane, Library Company, Shellback, Shivhans Pictures, Sing Out, Louise!, Kim Szarzynski, Taylor/Riegler, Tenenbaum/Keyes, Barry Weiss, John Gore Organization

Kimberly Akimbo*

Producers: David Stone, Atlantic Theater Company, James L. Nederlander, LaChanze, John Gore, Patrick Catullo, Aaron Glick

New York, New York

Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, Tom Kirdahy, Wendy Federman & Heni Koenigsberg, Crossroads Live, Playing Field, Stephanie P. McClelland, Ambassador Theatre Group, Waiting in the Wings Productions, Colin Callender, Gilbert and DeeDee Garcia/Sue Vaccaro, Peter May, Rileyfan, Silverhopkins+/Hunter Johnson, Jay Alix & Una Jackman, Eric Passmore, Thomas Swayne, Elliott Cornelious/SunnySpot Productions, Santino DeAngelo/Cynthia Tong, Craig Balsam, Richard Batchelder, Concord Theatricals, Creative Partners Productions, Marguerite Hoffman, Jessica R. Jenen, John Gore Organization, MGM on Stage, James L. Nederlander, Linda B. Rubin, Seriff Productions, Shivhans Pictures, on Broadway, AGL Productions/Brad Blume, Hunter Arnold/Red Mountain Theatre, Cue to Cue Productions/Roy Putrino, Jamie deRoy/Janet and Marvin Rosen, Edgewood/Silva Theatrical Group, Dale Franzen/Henry R. Muñoz, III, Deborah Green/Chris Mattsson, Branden Grimmett/DMQR Productions, Christen James/Gregory Carroll, NETworks Presentations/Lamar Richardson, Ron Simons/Adam Zell, Chartoff-Winkler


Producers: Mike Bosner, Jason Owen, AEG Presents/Jay Marciano/Gary Gersh, Jeffrey A. Sine, Richard Smith, Silvia Schmid, Bob Boyett, Jeremiah J. Harris, James L. Nederlander, EST/Emily Tisch, Sony Music Entertaiment, DudaAllen, David W. Busch, Karen Fairchild, HoriPro Inc., Gordon-Helfner, John Gore Organization, Madison Wells Live, S&Co., Terry Schnuck, Jimi Westbrook, ZKM Media

Some Like It Hot

Producers: The Shubert Organization, Neil Meron, MGM on Stage, Roy Furman, Robert Greenblatt, James L. Nederlander, Kenny Leon, Hunter Arnold, John Gore Organization, The Dalgleish Library Company Group, Sheboygan Conservatory Partners, Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, Bob Boyett, Cue to Cue Productions, Janet and Marvin Rosen, The Araca Group, Concord Theatricals, Marc Howard, Independent Presenters Network, Juanita Jordan, Jujamcyn Theaters, Henry R. Muñoz, III, Ostar, Mariah Carey, D.S. Moynihan

Best Play

Ain’t No Mo’

Author: Jordan E. Cooper
Producers: Lee Daniels, BET: Black Entertainment Television, Len Blavatnik, Ron Burkle, Aryeh B. Bourkoff, 59th & Prairie Entertainment, RuPaul Charles, I’ll Have Another Productions, Jeremy O. Harris, Lena Waithe, Tucker Tooley Entertainment, CJ Uzomah, Ann Cox, Gina Purlia, Bob Yari, Marvin Peart, Colleen Camp, Marvet Britto, Jeremy Green, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Jillian Robbins, The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett

Between Riverside and Crazy

Author: Stephen Adly Guirgis
Producers: Second Stage Theater, Carole Rothman, Khady Kamara, Atlantic Theater Company

Cost of Living

Author: Martyna Majok
Producers: Manhattan Theatre Club, Lynne Meadow, Barry Grove, Williamstown Theatre Festival

Fat Ham

Author: James Ijames
Producers: No Guarantees, Public Theater Productions, Rashad V. Chambers, National Black Theatre, Tim Levy, Bards on Broadway, Bob Boyett, Ghostbuster Productions, James Ijames, Cynthia Stroum, Audible, Adam Cohen, Blake Devillier, Firemused Productions/JamRock Productions, The Forstalls, Iconic Vizion/Corey Brunish, John Gore Organization, Midnight Theatricals, David Miner, Robin Gorman Newman/PickleStar Theatricals, Marc Platt, Play on Shakespeare, The Wilma Theater, Colman Domingo, Cynthia Erivo, Andy Jones, Dylan Pager, Roundabout Theatre Company, Oskar Eustis, Patrick Willingham, Mandy Hackett, Sade Lythcott, Jonathan McCrory


Author: Tom Stoppard
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, Roy Furman, Lorne Michaels, Stephanie P. McClelland, Gavin Kalin, Delman Sloan, Eilene Davidson, Brad Edgerton, Patrick Gracey, Hunter Arnold, Burnt Umber Productions, Cue to Cue Productions, The Factor Gavin Partnership, Harris Rubin Productions, Robert Nederlander, Jr., No Guarantees, Sandy Robertson, Iris Smith, Jamie deRoy/Catherine Adler, Dodge Hall Productions/Waverly Productions, Richardo Hornos/Robert Tichio, Heni Koenigsberg/Wendy Federman, Thomas S. Perakos/Stephanie Kramer, Brian Spector/Judith Seinfeld, Richard Winkler/Alan Shorr

Best Revival of a Musical

Into the Woods

Producers: Jujamcyn Theaters, Jordan Roth, New York City Center, Daryl Roth, Hunter Arnold, Concord Theatricals, Nicole Eisenberg, Jessica R. Jenen, Michael Cassel Group, Kevin Ryan, ShowTown Productions, Armstrong, Gold & Ross, Nicole Kastrinos

Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot

Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Adam Siegel, Naomi Grabel


Producers: Seaview, Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, Alex Levy, Kevin Ryan, Eric & Marsi Gardiner, Interscope & Immersive Records, Erica Lynn Schwartz, Creative Partners Productions, Marcia Goldberg, John Gore Organization, Cynthia Stroum, Tom Tuft, Benjamin Simpson, Nathan Vernon, Brian & Nick Ginsberg, Ruth & Stephen Hendel, Roth-Manella Productions, Chutzpah Productions,, Ahava 72 Productions, The Andryc Brothers, The Array, At Rise Creative, Caiola Jenen Productions, Coles Achilles, deRoy Brunish Productions, Fakston Productions, Federman Batchelder, Level Forward, Pencil Factory Productions, Renard Lynch, Robin Merrie, Rubin Stuckelman, Runyonland Sussman, Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson, Bee Carrozzini, New York City Center

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Producers: Jeffrey Seller, Bob Boyett, Diana DiMenna & Plate Spinner Productions/Aaron Glick, Eastern Standard Time, Roy Furman, Thomas Kail, Jim Kierstead/Benjamin Leon IV, TourDForce Theatrical, Maggie Brohn, Andy Jones

Best Revival of a Play

August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson

Producers: Brian Anthony Moreland, Sonia Friedman, Tom Kirdahy, Kandi Burruss & Todd Tucker, Hunter Arnold, Playing Field, The Factor Gavin Partnership, FBK Productions/, Jay Alix & Una Jackman, Creative Partners Productions, Harris Rubin Productions, Marguerite Steed Hoffman, Alia Jones-Harvey, Mark Gordon Pictures, Stephanie McClelland, Moore Delman, James L. Nederlander, Seriff Productions, The Shubert Organization, Salman Al-Rashid/Jamie deRoy, Brad Blume/Cliff Hopkins, Jean Doumanian /Fakston Productions, Edgewood/DMQR Productions, Jay & Cindy Gutterman/Caiola Productions, Van Kaplan/Lu-Shawn Thompson, Erik A. King/Finewomen Productions, Marc David Levine/William Frisbie, Syrinda Paige/Kevin Ryan & Diane Scott Carter, Silva Theatrical Group/Tilted, Thomas Swayne/Cynthia J. Tong, Constanza Romero-Wilson

A Doll’s House

New Version by: Amy Herzog
Producers: Ambassador Theatre Group Productions, Gavin Kalin Productions, Wessex Grove, Julie Boardman, Kate Cannova, Bob Boyett, Hunter Arnold, Creative Partners Productions, Eilene Davidson Productions, GGRS, Kater Gordon, Louise L. Gund, Los Angeles Media Fund, Stephanie P. McClelland, Tilted, Jessica Chastain, Caitlin Clements/Francesca Moody Productions, Caiola Productions/Amanda Lee, Ted & Richard Liebowitz/Joeyen-Waldorf Squeri, Richard & Cecilia Attias/Thomas S. Barnes, OHenry Theatre Nerd Productions/Runyonland MMP, The Jamie Lloyd Company

The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window

Producers: Seaview, Sue Wagner, John Johnson, Phil Kenny, Audible, Sony Music Masterworks, Jillian Robbins, Jeremy O. Harris, Larry Hirschhorn and Ricardo Hornos, Shields Smedes Stern Ltd., Kevin Ryan, The Shubert Organization, Willette and Manny Klausner, Marco Santarelli, Be Forward Productions, Concord Theatricals, Creative Partners Productions, Invisible Wall Productions, Salman and Moudhy Al-Rashid, TodayTix Group, Ido Gal, HarrisDonnelly, Sally Cade Holmes, Stella LaRue, LAMF Protozoa, Kati Meister and John Sorkin, Meredith Lynsey Schade, Catherine Schreiber, Dennis Trunfio, MCM Studios,, BAMM Productions, CarterMackTaylorWilliam, HB2M Productions, HK-Undivided Productions, MAJIKK Theatricals, Tanker Kollev Productions, Douglas Denoff, OHenry Productions, Plate Spinner Productions, Runyonland Productions, Mad Gene Media, Scrap Paper Pictures, Joi Gresham, BAM, Gina Duncan, David Binder, Elizabeth Moreau

Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog*

Producers: David Stone, LaChanze, Rashad V. Chambers, Marc Platt, Debra Martin Chase, The Shubert Organization

Best Book of a Musical

& Juliet

David West Read

Kimberly Akimbo*

David Lindsay-Abaire

New York, New York

David Thompson & Sharon Washington


Robert Horn

Some Like It Hot

Matthew López & Amber Ruffin

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Almost Famous

Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Cameron Crowe & Tom Kitt

Kimberly Akimbo*

Music: Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire


Music & Lyrics: Helen Park & Max Vernon


Music and Lyrics: Brandy Clark & Shane McAnally

Some Like It Hot

Music: Marc Shaiman
Lyrics: Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog
Corey Hawkins, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog
Sean Hayes, Good Night, Oscar*
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Between Riverside and Crazy
Wendell Pierce, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play

Jessica Chastain, A Doll’s House
Jodie Comer, Prima Facie*
Jessica Hecht, Summer, 1976
Audra McDonald, Ohio State Murders

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical

Christian Borle, Some Like It Hot
J. Harrison Ghee, Some Like It Hot*
Josh Groban, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Brian d’Arcy James, Into the Woods
Ben Platt, Parade
Colton Ryan, New York, New York

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical

Annaleigh Ashford, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sara Bareilles, Into the Woods
Victoria Clark, Kimberly Akimbo*
Lorna Courtney, & Juliet
Micaela Diamond, Parade

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play

Jordan E. Cooper, Ain’t No Mo’
Samuel L. Jackson, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson
Arian Moayed, A Doll’s House
Brandon Uranowitz, Leopoldstadt*
David Zayas, Cost of Living

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play

Nikki Crawford, Fat Ham
Crystal Lucas-Perry, Ain’t No Mo’
Miriam Silverman, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window*
Katy Sullivan, Cost of Living
Kara Young, Cost of Living

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical

Kevin Cahoon, Shucked
Justin Cooley, Kimberly Akimbo
Kevin Del Aguila, Some Like It Hot
Jordan Donica, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Alex Newell, Shucked*

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical

Julia Lester, Into the Woods
Ruthie Ann Miles, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Bonnie Milligan, Kimberly Akimbo*
NaTasha Yvette Williams, Some Like It Hot
Betsy Wolfe, & Juliet

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Miriam Buether, Prima Facie
Tim Hatley & Andrzej Goulding, Life of Pi*
Rachel Hauck, Good Night, Oscar
Richard Hudson, Leopoldstadt
Dane Laffrey & Lucy Mackinnon, A Christmas Carol

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Beowulf Boritt, New York, New York*
Mimi Lien, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Michael Yeargan & 59 Productions, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Scott Pask, Shucked
Scott Pask, Some Like It Hot

Best Costume Design of a Play

Tim Hatley, Nick Barnes & Finn Caldwell, Life of Pi
Dominique Fawn Hill, Fat Ham
Brigitte Reiffenstuel, Leopoldstadt*
Emilio Sosa, Ain’t No Mo’
Emilio Sosa, Good Night, Oscar

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Gregg Barnes, Some Like It Hot*
Susan Hilferty, Parade
Jennifer Moeller, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Clint Ramos & Sophia Choi, KPOP
Paloma Young, & Juliet
Donna Zakowska, New York, New York

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Neil Austin, Leopoldstadt
Natasha Chivers, Prima Facie
Jon Clark, A Doll’s House
Bradley King, Fat Ham
Tim Lutkin, Life of Pi*
Jen Schriever, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Ben Stanton, A Christmas Carol

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Ken Billington, New York, New York
Lap Chi Chu, Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot
Heather Gilbert, Parade
Howard Hudson, & Juliet
Natasha Katz, Some Like It Hot
Natasha Katz, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street*

Best Sound Design of a Play

Jonathan Deans & Taylor Williams, Ain’t No Mo’
Carolyn Downing, Life of Pi*
Joshua D. Reid, A Christmas Carol
Ben & Max Ringham, A Doll’s House
Ben & Max Ringham, Prima Facie

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Kai Harada, New York, New York
John Shivers, Shucked
Scott Lehrer & Alex Neumann, Into the Woods
Gareth Owen, & Juliet
Nevin Steinberg, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street*

Best Direction of a Play

Saheem Ali, Fat Ham
Jo Bonney, Cost of Living
Jamie Lloyd, A Doll’s House
Patrick Marber, Leopoldstadt*
Stevie Walker-Webb, Ain’t No Mo’
Max Webster, Life of Pi

Best Direction of a Musical

Michael Arden, Parade*
Lear deBessonet, Into the Woods
Casey Nicholaw, Some Like It Hot
Jack O’Brien, Shucked
Jessica Stone, Kimberly Akimbo

Best Choreography

Steven Hoggett, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Casey Nicholaw, Some Like It Hot*
Susan Stroman, New York, New York
Jennifer Weber, & Juliet
Jennifer Weber, KPOP

Best Orchestrations

Bill Sherman and Dominic Fallacaro, & Juliet
John Clancy, Kimberly Akimbo
Jason Howland, Shucked
Charlie Rosen & Bryan Carter, Some Like It Hot*
Daryl Waters & Sam Davis, New York, New York

Review: ‘Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive,’ starring Gloria Gaynor

June 10, 2023

by Carla Hay

Gloria Gaynor in “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive”

“Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive”

Directed by Betsy Schechter

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of the world from 2015 to 2020, the documentary film “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” features a group of African American and white people, including Gloria Gaynor, commenting on the life and career of Gaynor.

Culture Clash: Gaynor, who transitioned from being a disco icon to a gospel artist, gets candid about surviving sexual abuse, a crippling back injury, an unhappy marriage and ageism.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Gloria Gaynor fans, “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in watching a documentary about longtime artists in the music industry.

“Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” is a traditional documentary that is not exactly groundbreaking, but it is uplifting, and it has the benefit of Gloria Gaynor’s candid participation. Most viewers will learn something interesting about Gaynor from watching this movie. “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” had its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, where Gaynor performed a five-song set after the movie was shown.

Directed by Betsy Schechter, “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” (which was filmed from 2015 to 2020) was clearly made by people who are fans of Gaynor. However, the movie isn’t an overly fawning, glossy portrait of the singer, whose main claim to fame is the Grammy-winning 1978 disco anthem “I Will Survive.” Gaynor is open about very painful aspects of her life. She also shows an endearing self-awareness about her fame and legacy in the music business. Her combination of strength and vulnerability are what make this documentary worth watching.

Born as Gloria Fowles in Newark, New Jersey, in 1943, Gaynor admits in the documentary that she’s had lifelong insecurities and abandonment issues because her father Daniel Fowles abandoned her mother Queenie Mae Proctor when Proctor was pregnant with Gloria. Despite coming from a financially disadvantaged broken home, Gaynor (who grew up with five brothers and one sister) says of the childhood that she and her siblings had: “We were very happy. Kids don’t know that they’re poor if they’re loved.”

Gaynor says that she was very close to her mother, who encouraged Gaynor to become a professional singer. Proctor was also a talented singer, but she never got to become a professional singer because of having to work other jobs as the head of a single-parent household. “She was wonderful,” Gaynor says of her mother. “She was my best friend, my confidante.”

When Gaynor was 25 years old, her mother died from health issues. Of course, Gaynor was devastated. In the documentary, Gaynor talks about how she handled her grief: “I threw myself into music, which was an outlet for my pain.” She began to perform in nightclubs in the Newark area.

In the 1960s, Gaynor had very modest success as the lead singer of the jazz/R&B band Soul Satisfiers. In the early 1970s, she became the lead singer of a pop/R&B group called City Life, which essentially disbanded after Clive Davis signed Gaynor to a solo artist deal with Columbia Records. Tony Tarsia and Bill Cireua are two former City Life members who are interviewed in the documentary.

Gaynor’s first single for Columbia Records was 1974’s “Honey Bee,” which flopped. She got dropped from Columbia Records, but was then quickly signed to MGM Records. In 1975, she had her breakthrough single with a cover version of the Jackson 5’s 1971 hit “Never Can Say Goodbye.” Her dance version of the song became a success, just as disco was becoming a major force in pop culture. Gaynor was considered the first queen of disco before Donna Summer came along and took that title with a string of hit singles and albums.

Gaynor freely admits that her career was never the same after the “Disco Sucks” backlash in the early 1980s. This backlash was spearheaded mainly by rock fans who didn’t like how disco was taking over radio airwaves and music charts. In the 1980s, she became a born-again Christian and eventually made the switch to gospel music. These days, Gaynor’s concerts are a mixture of her old hits and her newer gospel songs.

It would’ve been very easy for this documentary to be mostly a nostalgia trip. The movie does have a lot of great archival footage from Gaynor’s secular music years, but most of the documentary’s narrative is in showing the recording of her gospel album “Testimony,” which was recorded in Nashville and released in 2019. What many viewers probably won’t know is that it took several years for the album to be made.

“Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” chronicles this journey, including showing the frustrations of Gaynor and her team (including her sassy manager Stephanie Gold) in trying to get Gaynor a record deal at an age when most people are expected to be retired. In the documentary, Gaynor says she has no plans to retire anytime soon.

In addition to ageism, another obstacle that Gaynor has in getting a record deal is her image as a disco diva, which still looms large, because “I Will Survive” is her biggest hit. She is told that, realistically, many people don’t know or don’t care that Gaynor is now a gospel singer. The documentary shows a series of rejection letters that Gaynor gets from record companies.

Gaynor and members of her team are shown in a conference room meeting with Jackie Patillo, president/ executive director of the Gospel Music Association. Patillo gives Gaynor this crucial advice: Form “strategic alliances” with well-known hit artists in gospel music and contemporary Christian musc, and make song collaborations with them.

And sure enough, artists such as Yolanda Adams, MercyMe singer Bart Millard, and the Crabb Family singer Jason Crabb end up collaborating with Gaynor on the “Testimony” album. The documentary has some very entertaining footage from these recording sessions that show immense vocal talent on display. (Crabb also performed “Singing Over Me” with Gaynor at the Tribeca Festival premiere of this documentary.)

Also in these recording session scenes are musician Mike Farris, music producer F. Reid Shippen and music producer Chris Stephens, a self-described Gaynor superfan who used to have his own disco group. Far from Gaynor having to beg these younger artists to perform with her, these artists are immensely flattered that they have been asked and seem to be a little star-struck by Gaynor too. Over time, it’s easy to see that Gaynor was recording a very special album.

The documentary weaves the making of the album into Gaynor’s memories of her past that she shares in interviews for the movie. She details how, at the height of her success for “I Will Survive,” she was actually very lonely. But then, she met and fell in love with Linwood Simon, the brother of her backup singing group the Simon Sisters. At the time that Simon and Gaynor met, he was a police officer, but he quickly became her manager, even though he had no previous experience in the music business. Gaynor and Simon got married in 1979.

Gaynor describes the courtship and early years of their marriage as Simon being her “knight in shining armor” in a “fairytale romance.” That fairytale eventually turned into a nightmare. Gaynor says that Simon was very controlling and chronically unfaithful to her. His controlling ways and his tendency to send her on grueling tours chipped away at her self-esteem and her health, Gaynor says.

Because she was afraid of being abandoned, Gaynor admits that she stayed longer in the marriage than she should have. Simon and Gaynor divorced in 2005. Concert agent George Leightner, who worked with Gaynor in 1980s, has this observation of Gaynor’s marriage that turned miserable: “It’s ironic that she did the song ‘I Will Survive,’ because she was barely living.” Gaynor admits, “I allowed myself to be controlled.”

Gaynor also gets candid about her health issues, particularly a serious back injury that she got when she fell down on stage during a concert in New York City in 1978. She experienced paralysis from the waist down for three months. And she had the first of many back surgeries that left her hunched over and in constant pain in her elderly years. The documentary includes Gaynor’s journey to getting a transformative back surgery. Dr. Hooman Melamed, a New York City-based orthopedic back surgeon who performed the operation, is interviewed in the documentary.

Most documentaries about entertainers include descriptions of drug or alcohol use. Gaynor says that in her 1970s and 1980s heyday, she and Simon liked to party. She says that she drank alcohol and occasionally smoked marijuana, but she never had any addictions. She describes a vivid memory of a party in the 1980s where she tried cocaine for the first time because she suspected that her husband was going to have a tryst with one of the women at the party, and Gaynor didn’t want to fall asleep.

After snorting the cocaine, Gaynor says that she felt something grab her chest and tell her that it was enough. And she says she never did cocaine again. In the documentary, Gaynor says she believes that God was speaking to her in that moment. It had a profound effect on her and motivated her to strengthen her faith in Christianity. Alfonso R. “A.R.” Bernard Sr., pastor of the Christian Cultural Center, says that Gaynor joined his church around this time.

Gaynor’s 1997 memoir “I Will Survive: The Book” covers some of the same topics that are in “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive,” but this documentary is obviously much more focused on Gaynor’s 21st century life. She’s able to look back on some of her biggest mistakes (including staying too long in a toxic marriage) with candor and wisdom.

One curious aspect of the documentary is that none of Gaynor’s siblings is interviewed in the movie. However, Gaynor’s niece Hosanna Proctor is briefly featured in the documentary, which shows her choking up with tears when she described Gaynor as the “rock” and the “matriarch” of the family. “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” mentions the 1995 murder of Gaynor’s only sister, Irma Proctor, who was kicked to death in Elizabeth, New Jersey, because she tried to stop a fight. Her murderer was convicted and sent to prison.

Gaynor’s grief over this murder is too painful for her to discuss at length in the documentary. A subject that isn’t discussed at all in the film is Gaynor’s regret over not having children, because her then-husband didn’t want any children. It’s a regret that Gaynor has expressed in other interviews, but not in this documentary, which doesn’t mention the parenting issue at all.

The documentary shows that Gaynor’s manager Gold is the non-biological family member who’s the closest to Gaynor. “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” has several sometimes-comedic scenes of the sisterly relationship that Gaynor has with Gold, who was originally hired at Gaynor’s personal assistant. Gold says that she went to work for Gaynor in 2004, during a low point in Gaynor’s life.

“I came to help her,” says Gold. “She didn’t have any money. She was struggling.” Gold also describes their relationship as mercurial, saying that she and Gaynor can “fight like cats and dogs” and then “forget it three seconds later.” Gaynor says that even though Gold is much younger than Gaynor, her managerial role often makes it feel like Gold is the “older” sister.

Gaynor says that she decided to go public about her sexual abuse because Gold told her Gaynor’s story would help other survivors of sexual abuse. In the documentary, Gaynor mentions that the first time she was sexually abused was when she was 12 years old and sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend at the time. The second time she was sexually abused was at age 17, and the abuser was the cousin of her boyfriend at the time.

The documentary includes footage that show the impact and legacy of “I Will Survive,” including the song being added to the U.S. National Recording Registry in 2016. One of the movie’s highlights is footage of Gaynor paying an emotional visit students and employees of Luis Vives School in Valencia, Spain. In 2016, Valencia was reeling from a tragc bus accident that killed 13 exchange students. The tween students of Luis Vives School did a performance of “I Will Survive” in a video that went viral.

Some music stars secretly hate their biggest hit, but that’s not the case with Gaynor. She says it’s because she knows “I Will Survive” has helped countless people, including herself, through difficult times. (ABC News anchor Robin Roberts, a cancer survivor, is a Gaynor fan and is shown briefly meeting Gaynor and telling her how much “I Will Survive” means to her.) “I feel a great sense of responsibility,” Gaynor says of the impact that her music has had on people. “I am flattered that God would trust me with this.”

At her advanced age, Gaynor says she can no longer do the type of extensive touring (more than 300 shows a year) that she used to do. These days, Gaynor says she does about 40 to 50 concerts a year. “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” doesn’t have much footage of Gaynor at home (the documentary mentions that she lives in Green Brook Township, New Jersey), but that’s probably because she still travels a lot.

A fascinating thing that most people don’t know but is mentioned in the documentary is that at the age of 65, around the same age she was when she got divorced, Gaynor decided to fulfill her longtime dream of going to college. An epilogue in the documentary shows what the outcome was for this academic pursuit. Watching “Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive” is not only a testament to her talent and durability but it’s also proof that someone’s age should not dictate how much personal growth that someone can continue to have.

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