Ten Years Later, Tribeca Film Fest Is as Lively and Inclusive as Ever

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Ten years into its life, the Tribeca Film Festival has solidified its status as the rare fest that is all things to all people. That's fitting given the event's beginnings as an exercise in restorative populism in the wake of 9/11.

Even as co-founders Jane Rosenthal, Craig Hatkoff and Robert De Niro, executive director Nancy Schafer, programming director David Kwok and Tribeca Enterprises chief creative officer Geoffrey Gilmore grow the festival brand in novel ways, the main event continues to provide an eclectic mix of world cinema, studio fare, community events and debut work for producers and reps in the market for fresh filmmaking voices.

"What's cool that happened organically is there are 60 first-time filmmakers in the festival out of 93 feature films this year," Kwok says. "There's discovery across the board. There's always been a good pool of new talent coming out of the festival."

Although the fest, which runs April 20 to May 1, was never designed as a market model (and its slot right before the Festival de Cannes undercuts its ability to draw higher-profile premieres), it has seen acquisitions rise to more than 30 a year. Recent Tribeca premieres have found homes at Anchor Bay (City Island), Oscilloscope (Monogamy) and Image Entertainment (Every Day).

World narrative competition films Blackthorn, a look at the last years of Butch Cassidy; Angels Crest, a dark drama about a small-town tragedy; and Jesus Henry Christ, a comedy about a child genius and his mother, are on buyers' watch lists, as are the smaller Viewpoints dramas Stuck Between Stations and Rid of Me.

The program's nonfiction slate, which has featured Oscar contenders Jesus Camp and Taxi to the Dark Side (which won), remains especially active. In recent years, distributors have begun approaching sales agents with bids for remake rights. Case in point: Marshall Curry's Racing Dreams played at Tribeca in 2009, drawing standing ovations and the prize for best documentary, and DreamWorks purchased remake rights the following year to make a dramatic version of the story. Tribeca docs such as Semper Fi: Always Faithful and Donor Unknown enter the 2011 program with similar appeal.

The music docs God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon and The Union -- Cameron Crowe's look at Elton John and Leon Russell, which opens the fest with a free outdoor screening -- should also draw major interest. "We just line up like it's a festival in our backyard, basically," says Magnolia's Eamonn Bowles, who has acquired Cocaine Cowboys, Jesus Camp and other docs at Tribeca.

As always, events accompany the main program, such as the Tribeca/ESPN sports film festival and a soccer tournament for entertainment players called NY Fest that will be kicked off by Pele. Drive-in series screenings include Fame, The Muppets Take Manhattan and When the Drum Is Beating.

Tribeca's recently launched distribution arm Tribeca Film will also have an especially strong presence in the 2011 program. Festivalgoers will get a look at such Tribeca titles as Peter Mullan's Neds, Steven Silver's The Bang Bang Club and Massy Tadjedin's Last Night.

But as the festival, and all of its moving pieces, slowly expands its impact on the business, that inevitability remains a secondary consideration. Says one sales agent: "It's more a festival for New Yorkers than it is a festival for the industry."           

5 FILMS TO WATCH FOR

Detachment
Screenwriter Carl Lund Director Tony Kaye
Adrien Brody and Marcia Gay Harden star in this drama about a stoic substitute teacher at a failing public school.

God Bless Ozzy Osbourne
Directors Mike Fleiss and Mike Piscitelli
Recent footage from the road is mixed with family interviews and Osbourne's self-reflections. Lucidity optional.

Jesus Henry Christ
Writer-director Dennis Lee
This comedy features a name cast (Toni Collette, Michael Sheen) in the story of a single mother juggling her crazy life and a genius preteen son.

Puncture
Screenwriter Chris Lopata
Directors Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen
Captain America star Chris Evans toplines this real life-based drama about a drug-addicted Houston personal-injury lawyer who takes on the health care and pharmaceutical industries.

Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon
Director Stephen C. Mitchell
This work-in-progress screening about the band, formed in Tennessee after a childhood of Bible-thumping and poverty, should appeal to the Followill family's millions of worldwide fans.

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