Tribeca with the trimmings

Fest reduces titles, adds star power

The 2008 Tribeca Film Festival has followed through on its promise to trim its slate, announcing Tuesday a features lineup that's nearly 25% smaller than last year's.

The six-year-old fest responded to criticism that it has grown too unwieldy. "There's been elephantitis at film festivals worldwide," artistic director Peter Scarlet said, noting the reduction of features from 159 last year to 122 this year, culled from 2,329 submissions.

"Festivals are getting bigger and bigger, and with the digital revolution more films are getting made," Scarlet added. "There's a limit as to how much new information people can process."

This year, the fest will give a higher profile to those movies that will be screened. Indeed, the competition and Encounters sections announced Tuesday contain some star power, with docus that feature such celebs as Madonna, Richard Gere and Meryl Streep and assorted fictional features starring Sissy Spacek, Dave Matthews and Michelle Monaghan.

Twelve narrative and 12 docu competition features competing for $100,000 in cash prizes were announced Tuesday, along with 21 Encounters features. Thirty-one countries are represented, including 55 world premieres. More lineup announcements are forthcoming.

New works from notable filmmakers include Shane Meadows' teen friendship comedy "Somers Town," Rosa von Praunheim's autobiographical adoption docu "Two Mothers" (Meine Muetter), animator Bill Plympton's dark comedy "Idiots and Angels" and Melvin Van Peebles' character study "ConfessionsofaEx-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha."

Late last year, the fest hired Miramax vet Genna Terranova, who has helped acquire movies like the Felicity Huffman-starrer "Transamerica" and the Samantha Morton drama "Morvern Callar," to up the scripted quotient.

In addition to the trimmed slate, Scarlet noted a number of themes this year. "Almost without exception, these films focus on families or the dissolution and absence of families," he said.

Another trend: first-timers. There are 66 feature debuting efforts represented among the 145 directors in the fest.

Comedies were a large part of this year's Sundance film fest, but they will be less of a factor here. "There were more comedy submissions, but they either weren't very funny or didn't translate from other cultures," Scarlet said.

The previously announced opening night film is Michael McCullers' surrogate mother comedy "Baby Mama." The New York-shot Universal Pictures film starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be shown April 23. The fest runs through May 4 in various venues.

A list of entries in the narrative and docu competitions and in the Encounters section can be found at THR.com.
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