Tribeca Film Festival opens 11th year with eye on edgier films
The Tribeca Film Festival will embark on an important evolutionary step when its 11th edition kicks off Wednesday night.
The annual downtown showcase's revamped programming team has spearheaded a slate of 90 movies that in some ways is edgier and more ambitious than in years past, when the fest often seemed to be overrun by bland American independent films.
The changes should help firm up Tribeca's identity as a "discovery" festival, while also boosting a lagging sales market for film distributors that could eventually compete with big-money showcases such as the Sundance Film Festival.
"We of course want the business of film to happen at the festival," said executive director Nancy Schafer. "But more importantly we want to be showing quality films. My belief is that if you show quality films, the industry will follow and the business will happen."
Certainly, the festival is one of New York's hottest tickets. During the past decade, more than 3.7 million people have attended, generating about $725 million in economic activity, organizers said.
Tribeca's big-tent nature inextricably links it to New York, according to Schafer. There is truly something for everyone in this year's internationally diverse lineup: experimental works, independent dramas, sharp documentaries and big movies like opening-night feature "The Five Year Engagement."
"We're very reflective of the fact that there are a million different communities here," Schafer said. "The festival reflects that true diverse nature of the city and I love that about it. Different communities do come out for different films here."
Notably included in the 2012 roster are decidedly noncommercial, hip-sounding projects such as "Francophenia (or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is)," an experimental take on the ubiquitous James Franco's "General Hospital" stint; a collection of shorts that includes one starring Val Kilmer as a strange version of himself; and the ambitious animated work "Consuming Spirits."
"It smells like they are going artier" this year, Movie City News editor David Poland said, "and maybe that is the answer."
Until now, however, Poland said Tribeca has been a "blur," "third-tier" and "more of a video-on-demand pipeline" than anything else.
Any substantial change in the quality of Tribeca's offerings this year can be attributed to the new voices on a programming staff that now features two fest all-stars with strong credentials. Geoff Gilmore, the respected Sundance veteran who's the chief creative officer of parent company Tribeca Enterprises, took a more active role in selecting films. At the same time, Frederic Boyer, who ran the prestigious Directors' Fortnight at Cannes, is Tribeca's new artistic director.
"We don't want to program for the market, we don't want to program for the critics, because I think it's not interesting," Boyer said. "A good festival should have independence."
Of course, Tribeca is no ordinary fest. Founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff to help bring business back to its namesake neighborhood after 9/11, the event is interwoven into the fabric of the city.
And with its family street fair, free outdoor screenings at World Financial Center and more, Tribeca remains focused on strengthening the community, even as it pursues new frontiers in its second decade.