This year marked the 12th anniversary of New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, known for its variety and depth of independent films from around the world. Co-founded by screen legend Robert De Niro in 2002, Tribeca aimed to use the universality of cinema to reunite the city after the 9/11 attacks. Since its creation, the festival has featured over 1,400 films from more than 80 countries. This year, Tribeca certainly did not disappoint. With films ranging from a documentary on Richard Pryor to a story of a young Laotian boy determined to make a rocket, this year’s showings are garnering great praise in the film community. Here is a list of several of the top picks from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival:

1. “Kill Team” – This year’s best documentary feature winner, “Kill Team,” exposes the horrors and unseen side of warfare. The story discloses a platoon of American soldiers who, seemingly out of sheer boredom, murdered innocent Afghani citizens for sport. The film graphically and memorably portrays the incidents and the trials of the soldiers that followed. Audiences are left outraged, shocked and helpless at the end of this film.

2. “The Rocket” – A young boy, born with a curse, is determined to turn his destiny around by building a rocket. In rural Laos, the boy and his family are relocated, and the rocket could be his only chance to save his family and his fate. This year’s best narrative feature winner, the film is endearing, captivating and gives a new perspective on how we perceive the Third World.

3. “Bending Steel” – This film examines the life of Chris “Wonder” Schoeck, a typical guy who just so happens to be able to bend steel by hand. In his quest to resurrect the Coney Island Strongman Spectacular show, Shoeck illustrates the life of strongmen, equating them to animals on exhibit.

4. “Blue Bird” – Here, “The Butterfly Effect’s” surreal storytelling style collides with the gritty family drama aspects of “The Descendants.” The plot is set into motion by a bluebird that flies into the life of an average man and changes him forever. The film brilliantly balances the inter-connectivity of the universe with the pain of the everyday.

5. “Cutie and the Boxer” – The relationship between Japanese artist Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko is uncovered in this artistically beautiful documentary. With more emphasis on the relationship rather than the art, Cutie and the Boxer proves to be an uplifting love story.

6. “Oxyana” – Amidst the 2008 recession, the small town of Oceana, W.Va. has been hit hard and left in a state of desperation after the collapse of the mining industry. The town also suffers from a breakout of OxyContin addicts in due to the economic depression. Nicknamed Oxyana after the incident, the town begins to crumble under both the dying economy and struggling citizens.

7. “Some Velvet Morning” – Stanley Tucci shines as an older man in love with a younger, beautiful woman played by Alice Eve. This relationship drama is at times uncomfortable and awkward, yet remarkable.

8. “Lil Bub & Friendz” – Perhaps the most original film at the festival, “Lil Bub” is a documentary about Youtube phenomenon Lil Bub. While commenting on Internet Age culture, the film manages to stay light and fun throughout its short run time.

9. “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic” – Through the inclusion of film clips, album drops, archival interviews, news clips and never-before-seen testimonials, this documentary truly captures the essence of the 20th century’s greatest comedian.

This year has been one of the best since Tribeca’s inception. With raw characters and beautiful storytelling, these films captured the sometimes lost truth that cinema can offer. Tribeca has proved once again that what independent films lack in budget, they make up for in heart.