Tribeca announces competition lineup

Conor McPherson, Polish brothers premieres on tap

The Tribeca Film Festival has unveiled its competition and discovery sections, revealing a streamlined but nonetheless eclectic list for its eighth annual edition.

The festival has announced it will screen just 86 films this year, a reduction from the 140-150 range of previous years. Tribeca has pared down its overall selections in recent years, responding to attendees who noted it was too sprawling. But this year's slate marks a significant reduction, with nearly one-third fewer films than last year.

Tribeca is also bracing for a potential reduction in corporate sponsorship, a trend that has affected most U.S. and global festivals.

In its competition section, the springtime fest will see a host of noted filmmakers mix with newer talents. Acclaimed playwright Conor McPherson will world premiere "The Eclipse," a drama about a widower prone to supernatural visions that stars Aidan Quinn, while indie stalwarts the Polish brothers will debut "Stay Cool," their high-school reunion dramedy that stars Winona Ryder.

Meanwhile, indie faves like Amir Naderi will return with dramas like "Vegas: Based on a True Story," while emerging Norweigan director Rune Denstad Langlo will mark the North American premiere at the fest of his "North," a comedy about a former ski champion who endures a mental breakdown.

"We think this slate plays to the strengths of the festival, which is a mix of foreign films and more recreational fare and a blend of seasoned and new talent," director of programming David Kwok said.

That ethos also will be reflected in the star-driven competition films, which will see a slew of emerging and established stars.

"Accidents Happen," a family drama starring Geena Davis, will make its world premiere at the fest. Up-and-comer Zoe Kazan stars in Bradley Rust Gray's relationship drama "The Exploding Girl," which will make its North American debut at the fest, while Campbell Scott, whose "Roger Dodger" broke out at the fest in 2002, toplines Bette Gordon's friendship drama "Handsome Harry." (More star-heavy films will be revealed in other sections.)

On the doc side, established filmmakers like Kirby Dick ("This Film Is Not Yet Rated") will debut films. Dick will show his gay-themed political doc “Outrage,” and Oscar nominee Marshall Curry will showcase Go-Kart doc "Racing Dreams."

Meanwhile, newcomers like Yoav Shamir will world premiere his anti-semitism doc "Defamation," while Brit Ian Olds will unspool "Fixer," about the dangerous world of those who help Western journalists get the news in hotspots like Afghanistan.

One high-profile feature helmer also will be making his doc debut. Jose Padilha, the Golden Bear winner who recently signed on to direct "The Sigma Protocol" for Universal, will at the fest mark the North American premiere of "Garapa," his nonfiction investigation into hunger in Brazil.

In the discovery section, whose movies are aimed at slightly younger festgoers, Tribeca will screen political journalist Leslie Cockburn's "American Casino," which looks at the current financial crisis from the perspective of both perpetrators and victims; Julian Kemp's adaptation of Alain de Botton's best seller "On Love" (titled "My Last Five Girlfriends"); the Swedish male-synchronized swimming farce "The Swimsuit Issue"; and the Spanish-language single-mother drama "Entre Nos," among others.

Local themes will be explored at the fest as well via movies like Mandy Stein's "Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB," a world premiere about the legendary New York punk-rock club.

The Robert DeNiro-Jane Rosenthal fest previously announced that Woody Allen's "Whatever Works," the Larry David-toplined comedy, will open the fest April 22. The centerpiece and closing-night films, both of which have historically been A-list Hollywood productions, have yet to be revealed.

Tribeca also may screen Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience," a digitally shot production about a call girl and her various relationships that was seen in preliminary form at Sundance, though it has made no official announcement yet.

And the fest also will offer the spectacle of Kevin Kline in a French-language pic when Caroline Bottaro's "Queen to Play" makes its world premiere; the movie is a story of love and chess that will mark Kline's first appearance in a Gallic pic since his ignoble "French Kiss" more than a decade ago.

With its place on the calendar between Berlin and Cannes, Tribeca has sometimes struggled to attract world premieres. But fest reps said that this year nearly 50 of the 86 films will fit that bill.

The fest has pared down its overall selections in recent years, responding to attendees who noted it was too sprawling. It also has tried to satisfy the twin requirements of public and industry interest, screening films with acquisition potential while also going for broader commercial plays.

"We concentrate on putting out the movies that are going to interest the largest number of people," senior programmer Genna Terranova said. "We want to serve a general audience and an industry audience."

Last year saw several acquisitions emerge from the fest, including the William H. Macy comedy "Bart Got a Room," a Plum Pictures title that went to Anchor Bay.

And Tribeca will have an added level of intrigue this year after a raft of recent personnel moves. Artistic director Peter Scarlet two weeks ago left the fest, while former Sundance topper Geoff Gilmore takes on the role of chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises.