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NEW YORK — The 10th Tribeca Film Festival kicked off Wednesday night with the first-ever opening-night outdoor community event, with appearances by Martin Scorsese, Denis Leary, Elton John and festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal, followed by the screening of the opening film, The Union, by Cameron Crowe.
The launch ceremonies on the lower Manhattan waterfront — near Ground Zero — were open to the public and scheduled to end with a concert by John.
Leary opened the proceedings by introducing a rendition of “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles and the choir from PS22 in Staten Island, which had performed at this year’s Oscars.
Leary then tried some Meat Loaf and Gary Busey jokes on a tough crowd. He quipped that he is working on a documentary about a collaboration between the two, who butted heads as contestants on this season’s The Celebrity Apprentice.
Leary’s quip was a reference to Crowe’s doc, The Union, which describes how music legend Leon Russell and John, one of his biggest fans, came together to produce an album, also called The Union, last year.
With the community event, the Tribeca team wanted to hearken back to the original intention of the festival: bringing together people in lower Manhattan with a celebratory, reflective and fun event. The festival was established following the 9/11 attacks.
Rosenthal in her speech thanked New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, filmmakers and others creatives and sponsors, which this year include such media companies as ESPN and AOL.
She also said she was glad that it wasn’t raining, as had been the case here in recent days. “The spirits of downtown have looked down on us today,” she said.
Scorsese, introduced by Rosenthal as “a national treasure,” talked about Crowe, telling the audience that “I have always been envious of Cameron’s teenage years” when he ran away with a band.
Calling The Union “a wonderful picture,” Scorsese said he shares one key thing with Crowe: “For me, movies and music have been inseparable.”
Scorsese was also involved in the inaugural festival, but not at the opening-day event or opening-night film.
Crowe wasn’t in attendance, because he is currently working on a Pearl Jam documentary and another movie, We Bought a Zoo, Scorsese explained before introducing a video message from Crowe and his team. Russell also sent a brief video message.
John was welcomed with much applause. “I haven’t seen the movie,” he admitted in his remarks, calling Russell his Idol.
“We just wanted to document a special occasion,” he said in explaining the genesis of the film. “We really started doing it only for our own use.” But he said he was honored to be able to open the anniversary edition of the festival, which has become a New York mainstay.
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