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Tribeca Film Festival 2016: J.J. Abrams, Zoe Kazan and more breakout stars through the years

The Tribeca Film Festival, a wonderful event, is not exactly known for its breakout stars in the fashion of, say, the Sundance Film Festival.

That being said, here are seven individuals who either broke out at the festival or saw their careers achieve significant boosts thanks to the annual spring event, the 15th edition of which runs April 13-24, 2016.

J.J. Abrams

Everyone knew of J.J. Abrams as a TV
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mark Ralston

Everyone knew of J.J. Abrams as a TV guru when "Mission Impossible III" made its U.S. premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006, but the cinematic path through "Star Trek" and toward "Star Wars" began here.

Felicity Huffman

Let's be very clear: Felicity Huffman was a
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Araya Diaz

Let's be very clear: Felicity Huffman was a very successful actress long before "Transamerica," in which she brilliantly played a transgender woman, had its North American premiere at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival. But the movie, which earned her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, showed off her range in a way that "Desperate Housewives" surely never did.

Jesse Eisenberg

Jesse Eisenberg's debut film as a leading man,
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ben Gabbe

Jesse Eisenberg's debut film as a leading man, 2002's "Roger Dodger," earned the festival's first-ever "best narrative feature" award. He's subsequently played Mark Zuckerberg, Lex Luthor and plenty of others.

Asghar Farhadi

The great Iranian filmmaker's
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Wonsuk Choi

The great Iranian filmmaker's "About Elly," his fourth picture, won the best narrative award for its North American world premiere at Tribeca in 2009, expanding his renown outside of his home country and leading directly into his Oscar-winning follow-up, "A Separation."

Damien Chazelle

Damien Chazelle, acclaimed and Oscar-nominated director of
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Kevork Djansezian

Damien Chazelle, acclaimed and Oscar-nominated director of "Whiplash" and the already much buzzed-about "La La Land" opening later this year, saw his directorial debut "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench" premiere at the 2009 festival.

Tomas Alfredson

The excellent Swedish horror picture
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Larry French

The excellent Swedish horror picture "Let the Right One In," not to be confused with the slightly less great American remake, is one of the best movies to ever enjoy its world premiere at the festival. Tomas Alfredson went on to make "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and will next year come out with "The Snowman," starring Michael Fassbender.

Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan had acted in theater, on film
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Neilson Barnard

Zoe Kazan had acted in theater, on film and in television before she won the festival's top acting award in 2009 for her work at the fore of the extremely low-budget, NYC-set character study "The Exploding Girl." But that movie catapulted her into a new critical realm.

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