The 2021 Tribeca Festival opened the door to podcasting last fall when it began taking submissions for Official Selection consideration in fiction and narrative nonfiction audio stories and podcasts with plans to award each category with a juried award when the festival is held in June. The seven-members of the Tribeca Podcast Advisory Board have made their pick with a dozen podcasts originating from the U.S. and beyond and from big publishers like Radiotopia and PBS to independent producers.
“The past few years have seen an explosion in the popularity of podcasts, making this the perfect time to introduce our inaugural Tribeca Podcast Program,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises and the Tribeca Festival. “We look forward to welcoming the creative forces behind this year’s most anticipated new programs.”
The Official Selection list includes:
- Anomaly, created by Heather Taylor, Hillary Nussbaum (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction
After an earth-changing event causes civil war along the east coast, 17-year-old Kory Hernandez is sent to live with a host family in a small Illinois town battling the impact of climate change. Unsure of her place in this new world, she wonders: what, and who, can one trust in a world turned upside down?
- Black Santa, created by Jordan Crafton (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction
Slide and his friends are risking it all for a Christmas miracle, as they look for "Black Santa" of the Brooklyn projects. Slide's love for sixteen-year-old Gianna has him and his friends willing to risk it all for a Christmas miracle. But first, they must receive a pardon from "Frosty the Snowman" to travel through "Jack Frost's" Projects. This Christmas tale is like none other. It's a holiday story with a modern twist.
- Blind Guy Travels, created by Matthew Shifrin (U.S.) - World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction
Blind Guy Travels invites you into life without sight. Join host Matthew Shifrin as he experiences a Marx Brothers comedy, crafts a TED Talk, and then a Hinge profile, collaborates with LEGO to develop instructions for blind builders, and prepares for college graduation. Blind Guy Travels is a production of Radiotopia from PRX.
- Earth Eclipsed, created by Nicholas Prufer, AJ Churchill, Victor Lee (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction
A neuroscientist on the brink of a galaxy-changing discovery that will save millions of lives has her work interrupted when she’s kidnapped by a renegade miner. Set in the distant future, this immersive audio series explores what it means to live in a utopian society and the great lengths one must go to preserve humanity.
- Guardians of the River, created by House of Pod and Wild Bird Trust (U.S., Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction
This is the story of the guardians of the Okavango water system, a network of rivers spanning three countries in Africa, and home to some of the most endangered animals on the planet. These guardians have a monumental task: trying to protect a remote, near pristine environment facing threats from all sides. This podcast follows what happens when worlds connect, and at times collide, with the common goal of protecting a place.
- I'll Never Be Alone Anymore - The Story Of The Skala Eressos Lesbian Community, created by Cecile C. Simon, Anais Dupuis, Anais Carayon (France) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction
The story of a lesbian community that is situated in a remote village in Lesbos, Greece. Created in the 70s, it welcomed thousands of women before declining in the 2000s. Nowadays, the community is formed by older lesbians. But they are not your typical 60-year-old women. They party, they have sex, and they speak their minds. What they say about themselves is a precious testimony of a vanishing community that once changed so many women’s lives.
- The Imperfection, created by Alex Kemp (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction
Charlie and Amber both suffer from a rare condition that causes them to wildly hallucinate. When their psychiatrist suddenly goes missing, they rally together with the doctor’s other patients to search for him. Along the way, they encounter secret societies, half-human half- spider centaurs, and a hidden borough of New York under the East River. But how do you find the truth when you can’t tell what’s real?
- Monster, created by Tommy Bertelsen (U.S.) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction
A sonic memoir about confronting a real demon while making a horror movie in Latvia.
- Mother of Maricopa, created by Leah Henoch, Katie Henoch, Sydney Fleischmann (U.S.) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction
In 2011, police raided a Tantric temple in Phoenix, Arizona and arrested its founder, Tracy Elise, on 100 counts related to prostitution, money laundering, and more. What the state saw as a brothel, Elise saw as a house of worship. In Mother of Maricopa, sisters Leah and Katie Henoch explore the story of the Phoenix Goddess Temple and the compelling questions that lie beyond Elise’s guilt or innocence.
- Something Strange Is Happening, created by Tessa Bartholomew, Christina Kingsleigh Licud (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction
This scripted horror anthology podcast is built around one terrifying premise: When immigrants came to America, we brought our languages and cultures, but there’s one thing we miscalculated: we brought our monsters, too. Set in LA’s Historic Filipino Town, Season One features monsters and evil spirits of Filipino folklore, back for vengeance in modern times. Each season travels to a different immigrant town for an American horror story like you’ve never heard.
- Un(re)solved, created by Frontline PBS (U.S.) – World Premiere, Narrative Nonfiction
What prompted the FBI to reinvestigate over one hundred unsolved civil rights era murders? And what does justice look like for families whose loved ones were killed? Reporter James Edwards seeks answers to these questions, reflecting on his own family’s experiences along the way.
- Vermont Ave., created by James Kim, Brooke Iskra (U.S.) – World Premiere, Fiction
John walks down Vermont Ave. to clear his head before a big decision. This is an atmospheric and intimate portrait of a thirtysomething in LA during the end of 2020. The fiction piece highlights the things that are unsaid and how the silence between two people can be louder than words. Captured in one long take using 3D sound from Sennheiser Ambeo binaural in-ear microphones, it places the listener directly in the main character’s shoes.
Tribeca Podcast Advisory Board members include producer Jad Abumrad, Gimlet Media CEO Alex Blumberg,iHeartMedia Digital Audio GroupCEO Conal Byrne, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, Serial Media co-founder Sarah Koenig, Crooked Media Chief Content Officer Tanya Somanader, and journalist Connie Walker. The Tribeca Podcasts program is curated by Leah Sarbib, its Manager of Audio Storytelling.
The 2021 Tribeca Festival, which will be the first major film festival to host in person events since the start of the pandemic, will also host several podcast-related discussions. They include Abumard discussing his work on shows like Radiolab and Dolly Parton’s America, filmmaker Jason Reitman discussing his work on the Ear Hustle series, and producers Will Manalti and Steven Leckart discussing their work on the new Apple TV+ podcast about Siegfried & Roy.
There will also be a celebration featuring influential Black voices in audio entertainment. And Audible will debut a new scripted podcast targeted to the LGBTQIA+ community.
“From Immersive in 2013, to TV in 2016, Tribeca has always been at the forefront of embracing new modes of cinematic storytelling,” said Cara Cusumano, Festival Director and Vice President of Programming for the Tribeca Festival. “Now with Tribeca Podcasts, we are once again expanding the scope of our programming to spotlight the innovative creators and stories happening in the audio form.”
The 2021 Tribeca Festival will take place in New York from June 9 to 20.