The Best and Worst Documentaries of the Tribeca Film Festival

Capsule reviews of 24 non-fiction films from the fest, including "The Reagan Show," "Whitney: Can I Be Me," and "Gilbert."

JOURNEYS

In which gifted documentary filmmakers contemplate life beyond our day-to-day.

The Farthest

When NASA launched the two Voyager probes in summer of 1977, most of the media attention was paid to the “Golden Record” of music, sounds, and multi-lingual greetings prepared for anyone or thing the craft might meet on its journey through interstellar space. Emer Reynolds’s giddily informative documentary gives that element its due, but clearly aims to give proper screen time to the remarkable journey of the craft itself – “the science project of the 20th century,” we’re told, traveling to the farthest planets of our solar system, and beyond. The film walks patiently and clearly through each discovery, then expands each to fit into larger themes regarding exploration and communications. There’s a real sense of wonder here, and of playfulness; this is an important story, but one told with a sense of humor and style. It’s a nerdy movie, in the best possible way – filled with arresting information, cool illustrations, and super-smart people.

The Departure

Director Lana Wilson (After Tiller) helms this intimate and casually beautiful character study of Buddhist priest Ittetus Nemoto, who has dedicated his life to conducting suicide prevention retreats in his native Japan– but must adopt his own teachings about the value of life when he finds his own health in peril. There’s something tremendously profound about his mission and how he approaches it, and Wilson’s sensitive approach honors it, following his example of listening, sympathizing, and respecting the complexity of human emotions. Would that we were all so kind, as filmmakers and as people.