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For 27-year-old filmmaker David Gelb, the Tribeca Film Festival will be a homecoming of sorts — and a celebration. That’s because it was announced Wednesday that Magnolia Pictures has acquired North American rights to his documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The deal was the first sale of this year’s festival. Gelb, a native New Yorker who now resides in Los Angeles, will get to show off his documentary to friends and family from home when it premieres Thursday in the festival’s World Documentary Competition section.
The film traces the life and work of 85-year-old master sushi chef Jiro Ono, who presides over Sukiyabashi Jiro, the renowned Michelin-starred Tokyo sushi eatery. The well-reviewed film, which had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, had its international rights in territories including France, Israel and Singapore acquired last month.
Gelb, who directed and produced Jiro, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about selling the film, his next project, and his dining plans while in New York.
The Hollywood Reporter: How does it feel to have the film’s North American rights acquired just before its Tribeca premiere?
David Gelb: I’m just incredibly excited. It’s a huge relief to have both our foreign and domestic sales locked down. It’s always been my goal for the film to be in movie theaters and Magnolia has just given us a great opportunity to share it with moviegoers. Also, I hope the film will help proliferate good sushi throughout the United States.
THR: I understand Jiro will be competing against a film by one of your friends.
Gelb: I do have some friends who have movies here. My friend, Alma Har’el, has another movie in the World Documentary Competition called Bombay Beach. I used to work with her a while ago so it’s very cool to have somebody you known in the same category.
THR: Tell me about your previous experience at Tribeca.
Gelb: In 2006 I had a short film that I co-directed with my good friend, Max Winkler, called King of Cental Park — It was in the New York shorts program. So it’s great to be coming back. Max’s feature film [the recently released Ceremony] is with Magnolia, so it’s kind of cool that Magnolia likes us.
THR: As a New Yorker, does the festival have special resonance for you?
Gelb: What’s so great about it is my entire family will be able to come and see what I am working on. I felt very removed from my friends and family, which is entirely in New York, because I’ve been in L.A. for eight years now. It feels like a homecoming to me.
THR: As a sushi connoisseur, while you are in New York do you have any special dining plans?
Gelb: I will be hitting up Sushi Yasuda, which is my favorite sushi restaurant in New York. I am also going to get to try a new sushi restaurant, Niko. The chef there, Hiro Sawatari, used to be at Yasuda.
THR: Can you share what your next film will be?
Gelb: I have a few different ideas, but nothing I am committed to. I am looking at doing something scripted.
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