NEW YORK (AP) — Jennifer Lopez’s “Halftime” documentary kicked off the 21st Tribeca Festival, kicking off the annual New York event with an intimate behind-the-scenes portrait of the singer-actor filmed during the tumultuous year she turned 50, co-directed the super-bowl and narrowly missed an Oscar nomination.
The premiere at the United Palace in Washington Heights served as a fitting opener for the Tribeca Festival, which dropped “Film” from its name to better reflect the wide array of concerts, talks, TV premieres, podcasts and virtual reality exhibits that fill increasingly its busy schedule of live events alongside films.
This year’s festival, which runs until June 19, will feature many big names, from Al Sharpton (the subject of the festival’s closing documentary ‘Loudmouth’) to Taylor Swift (who will speak with filmmaker Mike Mills on the 2021 short she directed), to fill some of Manhattan’s biggest venues. There will be reunions (“Heat” by Michael Mann) and directorial debuts (including Ray Romano’s “Somewhere in Queens”).
But after a scuttled 2020 edition and a largely open-air 2021 festival scheduled for New York’s initial pandemic cultural reopening, Tribeca turned to Lopez, a Bronx native, whose hits include “Let’s Get Loud,” to bring Tribeca all the way.
“Halftime” director Amanda Micheli hopes the documentary, which premieres June 14 on Netflix, showcases a new side — sometimes vulnerable, often resilient — to her famous subject.
“I felt like she was a glamorous, wildly successful person,” Micheli said in an interview. “Then when I met her, I was like, ‘This woman is a world-class athlete. She’s a sportswoman. The way she carries herself and the way she works. She’s an artist but I I really connected with that side of her. She’s a fighter.
“Halftime” bears some of the usual hallmarks of artist-developed documentaries. It is designed to be an affectionate portrait. But “Halftime” sets itself apart by capturing the challenges even superstars face in an entertainment industry not always welcoming to Latino performers. In an early clip, a reporter asks Lopez about her back.
“Jennifer has always tried to prove herself,” says Micheli. “I don’t want to downplay it to: Oh, she’s a woman of color and women of color have it harder. But it’s true, especially in the entertainment industry. You think back to those press junkets for “Selena,” and people on the red carpet are like, “Can you speak some Spanish for us, honey?” That was a novelty.”
For the documentary, Micheli gathered footage shot in late 2019 and early 2020 by Lopez’s crew and others, as well as some 1,000 hours of archival footage. During the time period covered by the film, Lopez starred in and produced the acclaimed drama “Hustlers,” winning her Oscar buzz, and she was tapped to perform in the 2020 Super Bowl with Shakira.
Both events were high points for Lopez while reflecting some of the struggles she faced along the way. Splitting the Super Bowl stage is sometimes viewed in “Halftime” as a matter of frustration. Lopez calls having two headliners “the worst idea ever,” not because she’s not excited about collaborating with Shakira, but because of the time constraints of adapting Shakira’s songs. the other. Lopez also fights to have the plight of immigrant children separated at the US-Mexico border incorporated into the show. Lopez initially sought out a Bruce Springsteen cameo to sing “Born in the USA”
Meanwhile, Lopez was unexpectedly surprised for her first Oscar nomination for “Hustlers,” a female-led production about navigating her way through a male-controlled industry. The weight of those expectations can be seen in scenes like the one following the Golden Globes, where Lopez says “I let everyone down” after not winning. Missing out on an Oscar nomination, she said, was disappointing because many had suggested it was inevitable.
“The truth is, I really thought I was going to be nominated,” Lopez says in the film.
“We didn’t want it to look like the smallest violin in the world,” explains Micheli. “But it’s fascinating to see someone really trying hard and wanting something so badly. Stars aren’t supposed to admit they want an Oscar. But she admits in the film that she had hope, that she wanted this recognition. Who wouldn’t?
Micheli thinks that before doing “Halftime”, Lopez hadn’t really dealt with certain elements of her life depicted in the documentary.
“The way the press has treated it in hindsight is kind of crazy,” she says. “Watch the clip of people talking about her ass. I didn’t understand until I met her how it affected her, that she really felt like people questioned her talent and still do sometimes. I think she really felt like she was always fighting to prove herself and had to work twice as hard as anyone else to prove herself. I think a lot of marginalized people feel that.
When Micheli first showed Lopez a 12-minute sample reel of behind-the-scenes footage, she nervously waited for Lopez’s response.
“She looked at me and said, ‘My body is shaking. I’ve never seen myself like this before,'” Micheli says. .”
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP