Mixed Company

Broadway, Woody Allen, Taliban abductions and indie distribution -- all highlights at this year's TFF

Tribeca Film Festival programmers encourage newcomers to head directly for the event's competition sections, but they decline to play favorites by naming their picks. We're under no such constraints, so here are some of most highly anticipated happenings during the coming 12 days.

"Passing Strange"
"Whatever Works" and "Passing Strange"
Quintessential New York filmmakers Woody Allen ("Whatever Works") and Spike Lee ("Passing Strange") have looked outside the boroughs for inspiration in recent years -- but have come home with their latest efforts. "Whatever" pairs kvetches Allen (director) and Larry David (star) and opens the fest April 22 at the Ziegfeld Theatre. "Passing" captures some of the final nights of the Tony-nominated play/musical. It has a single screening May 2 at the DGA Theater, followed by a panel discussion with Lee and creators Stew and Heidi Rodewald. (Lee's "Kobe Doin' Work" also will world premiere at the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival gala April 25 at BMCC.)

Fellow filmmakers and insiders alike are looking forward to Kirby Dick's follow-up to the 2006 rabble-rouser "This Film Is Not Yet Rated." His latest documentary goes behind the scenes with closeted politicians and looks at how the media selectively reveals their secrets. Following the film's DGA Theater screening May 1, activist Rodger McFarlane moderates a Tribeca Talks conversation with Dick, ex-New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey and radio host Michelangelo Signoreli.

"Serious Moonlight"
"Serious Moonlight"
Producer Andy Ostroy insists that the title of this script -- written by his late wife, actress Adrienne Shelly -- has no David Bowie connection. Instead, it has Cheryl Hines directing (who appeared with Shelly in 2006's well-received "Waitress") "a marital story about a husband and a wife who have issues and the fun that it takes them to resolve them," deadpans Ostroy. Shelly's light-yet-realistic touch made "Waitress" a winner, and should frame the excellent cast of Timothy Hutton, Meg Ryan, Kristen Bell and Justin Long.

"Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi"
"Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi"

The festival isn't all comedies, musicals and whimsical indie -- there's plenty of room for docs like "Fixer," in which an Afghani translating for foreign journalists is kidnapped. Director Ian Olds participates in a panel discussion after the April 26 screening at the SVA Theater with former fixer Naqueeb Sherzad and Nation reporter Christian Parenti.

"Tools of the Trade: Alternative Distribution, Marketing 2.0 and Beyond"
Panelists Sara Pollack (YouTube), filmmaker Jon Reiss and publicist Cynthia Swartz are moderated by THR's Steven Zeitchik on April 28 at the SVA Theater as they discuss the new and emerging avenues for filmmakers to distribute and market their product.