The Best and Worst Documentaries of the Tribeca Film Festival


5. Burden

Chris Burden was a soft-spoken provocateur, a visual and performance artist who carved out a place for himself in the 1970s by pushing boundaries and crossing lines, tinkering with the idea of art that is not only confrontational but, as one observer puts it, scares the shit out of you. Directors Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey approach his work with precisely the right mixture of skepticism and reverence, particularly as he tips into the realm of all-out instability late in the decade; their final analysis frames him, via the work he’s doing and the contrast of his life now and then, as an elder statesman, someone who became a bit safe. And they leave you feeling like that’s probably for the best.

4. All This Panic

Director Jenny Gage and director of photography Tom Betterton spent three years documenting the lives of seven girls from New York, capturing the difficulty of their teenage years and their transition into young adulthood. It feels genuine, counter-intuitively enough, probably because so much of teenage life is performative anyway; they also lucked out by finding this group of women, who are introspective and smart and funny. There’s also totally self-aware and often wise beyond their years; when one speaks of a keen disappointment with a resigned, “this is what life is,” you wish, for her sake, that she didn’t already know the score. The editing is sly and their cameras capture fleeting moments of casual beauty; it’s a marvelous, absorbing film, with truth vibrating through frame after frame.