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Documentaries take centre stage at Tribeca

The Trials of Muhammad Ali shows how race, religion and politics crashed together to help shape one of the world’s most famed competitive athletes.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali shows how race, religion and politics crashed together to help shape one of the world’s most famed competitive athletes.

A world heavyweight champion, a brassy Broadway legend, ground-breaking comics, an Oscar-winning director and a four-legged internet star are among subjects that documentary film-makers have trained their lenses on at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

We’re excited about showing how creative documentary film-makers are

Organisers say the two-week festival, which opened last Wednesday and includes nearly 100 features, has historically comprised nearly as many documentaries as narrative films, which often prove to be among its most popular offerings.

This year the documentary roster includes a number of subjects boasting bold-face names, from pioneering comedian Richard Pryor to writer Gore Vidal and boxing great Muhammad Ali.

“We’re excited about showing how creative documentary film-makers are,” said Genna Terranova, the festival’s vice president of programming. “While all these subjects are great, not everybody can make a great documentary about a great person.”

This year’s offerings include Shoot Me, an intimate look at the life and career of Broadway (and 30 Rock) star Elaine Stritch featuring interviews with Tina Fey and Nathan Lane.

In Michael H. Profession: Director, the camera lens turns on the sometimes-controversial film-maker Michael Haneke, who won the best foreign language film Oscar in February for Amour.

Other highlights, such as Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic, had to depend on archival or found footage, because Pryor died in 2005 at age 65.

With the help of interviews with Mel Brooks, Robin Williams, Jesse Jackson and Whoopi Goldberg, the portrait of the often-troubled, ground-breaking comedian and actor is being billed as the most extensive examination of Pryor to date.

Goldberg also turns up as director of another Tribeca selection, with I Got Somethin’ to Tell You, about the pioneering black comic Moms Mabley, which festival organisers describe as “a true passion project” for the actress.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali shows how race, religion and politics crashed together to help shape one of the world’s most famed competitive athletes.

In The Director, Christina Voros channels her expertise as a cinematographer to bring a unique perspective on how creative director Frida Giannini transformed Italian fashion house Gucci.

“The way Christina tells that story, there’s a cinematic sensuality to it, which is very much at the heart of Gucci – which, of course, is the subject of the film,” Terranova said.

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia welds one-on-one interviews with the celebrated writer, who died last year, with commentary by his closest friends, including his nephew, film-maker Burr Steers.

“One personality that’s generating some buzz isn’t a human one. It’s the cat,” Terranova said, referring to Lil Bub, the wide-eyed subject of Lil Bub & Friendz. “That one really is garnering a lot of attention.”

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