TFF delivers full menu of funky freebies



Founded in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Tribeca Film Festival was envisioned as a means of galvanizing an ailing neighborhood — and the 2010 festival goes further than ever before in providing free events that reach out to Tribeca residents (as well as families and film fans across the wider metro area). The majority of films may be screening in the East Village and Chelsea — but as far as free events are concerned, the party’s downtown.

“The festival has become a way to showcase the neighborhood, as well as a calling card, making Tribeca a destination for so many families,” says Peter Downing, (who has served as creative director of the Tribeca Family Festival and the much-anticipated Street Fair since the fest’s first year). I think that’s a big part of the passion I bring to this; people do indeed come from far and wide to spend a day with us, and get caught up in the Tribeca experience. That’s always in the back of our minds, as we structure our wide range of free events. I take it seriously: We’re the hosts of the party, and we try to think of things that will show off the best side of the neighborhood.”

Most of the free events can be categorized into either family-friendly street fairs, outdoor screenings, or exclusive filmmaker panels — but Downing says this year’s planning of all three categories has had to navigate the unexpected hiccup of widespread road construction. “The good news is that soon, the Tribeca neighborhood will have these lovely cobblestone streets. My challenge was that those streets are currently being torn up; and I had to figure out where the street fair would actually take place,” he says. “Ironically, it’s led us to find more creative and inventive ways of staging things, and it might actually bring visitors into more areas of the neighborhood. So at the end of the day, this might offer more of a complete Tribeca experience.”

On Saturday, May 1st, both the Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair and ESPN Sports Day will take over Tribeca streets from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m., spread out between various blocks. Some of the festivities will take place on Greenwich St. between Chambers and Harrison; others will be found in Washington Market Park (Chambers St. at Greenwich) as well as in the Borough of Manhattan Community College Tribeca Performing Arts Center (199 Chambers St.).

“Washington Market Park is such a lovely park, and here on this one block alone you have such a spectacular amount of history that we can now call attention to,” Downing says. “This park is where ships would unload their goods, and these streets became cobblestone because all those ships would literally use cobblestones as ballast. When they took these stones off, they suddenly became the pavement for the streets.”

Downing says the highlight of the Family Festival Street Fair is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for families to walk along — and pose with — the festival’s official red carpet. Positioned outside the BMCC Tribeca PAC, families can trace the steps of movie stars while posing with wax figures imported for the day by Madame Tussauds New York. “One of the best parts of this year’s event is that we are able to go into the heart of BMCC, and to really bring that into the experience,” Downing says. “And families will be able to walk along the same red carpet that we are using for our biggest premieres. I mean, how neat is that?”

Meanwhile, playing out near the red carpet all day May 1st will be an array of performances that make use of the BMCC outdoor plaza as a performance space. Cast members from Broadway’s “Wicked” will perform, along with Bubble Do Beatles, AudraRox and Broadway Kids Care. Spread out throughout the day will be performances by youth ballet schools, as well as dance troupes, school choirs, gymnastics teams and student Afro-Cuban drumlines. The BMCC festivities will culminate in a first-ever Family Festival screening of a festival premiere: Robert Kirbyson’s “Snowmen.” Admission is free (tickets are required).

Elsewhere during the Street Fair will be a special performance by Mike Diamond (Mike D) of the Beastie Boys. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Church Street School for Music and Art (at 74 Warren St.), Diamond will lead a sizeable Guitar “Play-In” alongside other musicians. “It’s going to be such a great moment,” Downing says, “And later in the day, Mike D will lead a march of guitar players from their location back to our main stage for a performance — a musical march right through the heart of Tribeca.”

All day long, an array of arts and crafts activities will line neighborhood streets. Face painting, puppeteers, sand sculpting, stilt walkers and jugglers will be found in Washington Market Park. Kids can make their own kites at the Kite Garden and crate giant bubbles at the Bubble Garden. Older kids aspiring to dramatic careers can take part in the “Take Two Film Academy” — where all are given the chance to host their own talk show.

Duane Street (between Greenwich St. and Hudson St.) will be overrun by high-octane sporting events May 1st, during the fourth annual Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day. With all events free and open to the public, athletes from the BMX Jams Tour will demonstrate their latest free-wheeling skills. Mr. Met will be greeting fans of all affiliations, and Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls street team will showcase their freestyle soccer tricks. Most major New York sports franchises — from the Knicks to the Rangers to the WNBA’s New York Liberty — will have a presence; and just as older visitors practice their pitching and throwing skills (thanks to the clinic sponsored by the New York Women’s Baseball Association), ESPN will set up the “play Your Way” area for younger athletes — where kids can hop, jump, skip and soar. Power Play NYC will be present to teach sport fundamentals to kids of all ages.

Nancy Schafer, the festival’s executive director, says the BMX skills on display during the ESPN Sports Day will also be front and center at the 2010 Tribeca Drive-In — a three-night series of outdoor film events at the World Financial Center Plaza (doors open at 6 p.m. for pre-screening programs; films start around 8:15 p.m.). The series ends on April 24th with the world premiere of the ESPN Films documentary “The Birth of Big Air” — a Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville-produced BMX profile of Mat Hoffman, who entered the circuit at the age of 13 and rose to the pinnacle of the sport only three years later. As part of the Drive-In festivities, Hoffman (“The Condor”) is scheduled to show off his craft.

“What’s always been most gratifying to me is the incredible array of demographics you can see here from one night to the next,” Schafer says. “We’ve always set out to program different genres, and to bring out the crowds; and sometimes, it’s not the movies you would expect that bring out the biggest crowd for an outdoor party. One of the highlights was when we showed the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and I was worried that people might not think of a 25-minute video as a full film — but the turnout was just amazing, and they all learned the dance moves. It was a testament to how many diverse tastes and appetites this event is serving.”

The 2010 Drive-In represents as eclectic a program as Tribeca fans have ever seen. “The Spirit of Salsa” screens April 22md, along with a night of salsa dancing and instruction. In honor of Twentieth Century Fox’s 75th anniversary, Tom Hanks will receive the Drive-In treatment with a special screening of the 1988 hit “Big.” BMX fans will then have Saturday night all to themselves. “It’s really a great lineup, you have this salsa flavor, and this throwback to ‘Big’ and then this soaring BMX documentary,” Schafer says. “Now there’s a trio of films that has a little something for everyone.”

Finally, there are two separate series of free panel discussions that await festivalgoers. At the Union Square Barnes & Noble (33 East 17th St.), three screenwriting panels will begin at noon from April 24th through 26th. Susan Orlean will host the final panel, about the challenges facing writers of all genres in making the jump to the big screen. There will also be six panels focusing on the business and technology of cinema, all set to take place between April 23rd and 29th at the SVA Theater (333 West 23rd St.). Among the highlights are “Is the Sky Falling? A Closer Look at the Future of Film Distribution,” a wide-ranging discussion about what the future of moviegoing means for filmmakers, set to begin at 2 p.m., April 23rd; and “Dollar and Sense: Making the Most of Your Production Budget,” an in-depth panel for emerging artists as to how to deliver world-class content without breaking the bank, which is set to begin at 3 p.m. on April 28th.