Leading into the 2014 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, some things are notably different than they were during its first year in 2002.
“People are prepared for the festival and know the festival exists versus 12 years ago,” co-founder Jane Rosenthal joked during a sit-down with The Hollywood Reporter last week.
But in all seriousness, Rosenthal thinks this year’s program is the festival’s best ever.
“We have a lot of returning filmmakers, and I think overall we just have a much stronger program than we’ve ever had,” she said. “Particularly, our competition films are very strong this year.”
One other thing that’s changed for the festival, now in its 13th year, is the existence of a deal with the Madison Square Garden Co., which recently took a 50 percent stake in the company that runs the festival.
Rosenthal said that the deal has already helped in enabling Tribeca to have its opening night at the Beacon Theatre and sell tickets for that screening, and will continue to pay off in terms of sponsorship, marketing and event planning.
“As a festival here in New York City, we don’t have our own home, we have to reinvent the wheel every year, so to have the support from MSG, which in a way is its own iconic brand, to be able to have ticketing sponsorship, marketing and event planning, to have their expertise is going to help the stability and the growth of the festival,” Rosenthal explained.
Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro is also looking forward to the opening night screening of the Nas documentary Time is Illmatic, he told THR, along with the rapper’s performance after the film. De Niro also said he’s anticipating the screening of Alex Gibney‘s work-in-progress, an untitled James Brown documentary set for the festival’s final day.
Rosenthal mentioned the many music documentaries and the awarding of this year’s Nora Ephron prize to one of the festival’s 23 female filmmakers as potential highlights for her.
Although De Niro admits he and Rosenthal didn’t know how long the festival would last when it was first founded as part of the effort to revive lower Manhattan, they hope it will continue to be a part of the city.
“We had no idea how long it would last, and we were happily surprised that it was received well and people enjoyed coming,” De Niro said. “We would like to be part of the cultural fabric of New York for years to come.”
Watch De Niro and Rosenthal’s full interview above.