The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off its 17th annual edition on Wednesday night amid a seismic shift in the movie business.
A lot has changed since moviegoers congregated in lower Manhattan, Chelsea and elsewhere last spring.
The increased awareness of the need for diversity in filmmaking voices that has swept the industry, spurred by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, is reflected in this year’s lineup of 96 features.
“One of the things we’re very excited about this year is the very high percentage of women directors that we have at the festival,” Cara Cusumano, director of programming, said. “We have 46 percent of our feature program directed by women and I think that has really shaped what the program looks like, what the films are.”
Noteworthy women behind the camera include writer-director Desiree Akhavan, who brings her acclaimed Sundance sensation “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” with Chloë Grace Moretz to the festival.
Others include Eva Vives’s “All About Nina,” starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a comedian with a tumultuous life away from the stage; the North Dakota-set thriller “Little Woods” starring Tessa Thompson and written and directed by Nia DaCosta; and “Mapplethorpe,” directed by Ondi Timoner, with Matt Smith as the iconic photographer.
“It would be disingenuous to say gender parity is something that can just happen and it worked out that way,” Cusumano said. “It definitely was something we talked about as a priority and something that we felt would be wonderful if the festival could achieve. I think every year we come to the program thinking about how it can be timely and impactful, and how we can really be leading the way in how we shape it.”
The festival’s opening night selection fuses this focus with another defining one for an event born out of the horrors of 9/11: an endeavor to reflect the essence of New York.
It’s “Love, Gilda,” a documentary about the late “Saturday Night Live” icon Gilda Radner, that uses her own words, including through tapes and diaries, to tell her story.
There are plenty of other New York stories on the roster this year, from the drama “Blue Night” with Sarah Jessica Parker to the closing night screening “The Fourth Estate,” in which acclaimed filmmaker Liz Garbus profiles The New York Times’s politics team.
Cusumano and programmer Loren Hammonds maintain that the festival most powerfully conveys the spirit of its native city in everything from attempts to be cutting-edge through exploring virtual reality technologies to its commitment to generating memorable community-based moments.
“We’re very lucky to be in the city that we are and to have such a culturally curious audience,” Hammonds said. “It’s our responsibility to be reflective of the audience that comes to see the films. To say that something is New York is to say that something is global, honestly, so you really do see that reflected in the storytelling.”