Tribeca gets good reviews

Breakouts, buzz help solidify belief that fest 'figured it out this year'

The Tribeca Film Festival closed Sunday with traits that have marked it pretty much since it opened: unlikely bursts of media and industry activity.

Favorable reviews and media accounts continued to come in, and sales negotiations, as they had throughout the 12-day event, continued to heat up.

By the time the fest wound down, three movies had emerged as breakouts: Conor McPherson's supernatural character drama "The Eclipse," Raymond De Felitta's offbeat family story "City Island" and Marshall Curry's Go-Kart documentary "Racing Dreams."

"Eclipse," which reunites Ciaran Hinds with his Broadway director McPherson, examines a widower (Hinds) in a Gothic Irish town who sees ghosts and a love triangle he gets caught up in with two visiting writers (Iben Hjejle and Aidan Quinn).

After a week of negotiating with specialty distributors including Lionsgate, Miramax and Sony Pictures Classics, filmmaker rep Submarine Entertainment on Friday sold worldwide rights to the pic to Magnolia. The company paid low- to mid-six figures for the Treasure Entertainment-produced film, marking the first theatrical buy at the festival itself in four years.

"Island," described as a New York "Little Miss Sunshine," stars Julianna Margulies and Andy Garcia (who also produced) as the mother and father of a quirky family.

New York banner Lucky Monkey produced the pic, which on Saturday was given the Heineken Audience Award. Paradigm was on the verge of selling U.S. rights Sunday afternoon.

"Dreams," repped by Cinetic Media, had not found a buyer as the fest wound down. But Curry's movie was poised to break out after proving a double-barreled hit, winning the world jury prize for documentary and finishing second in audience-award voting.

Several docs did find homes, albeit TV ones, out of the festival: Ian Olds' Afghanistan wartime examination "Fixer" went to HBO, Cuban baseball tale "The Lost Son of Havana" went to ESPN and Barry Levinson's Hollywood-politics exploration "Poliwood" was on the cusp of selling to a network.

Much like last year, when a Sundance pic, "Man on Wire," used Tribeca to solidify its status as an indie favorite, IFC Films' political satire "In the Loop" picked up buzz at the New York festival. And a Berlin award-winner, the Iranian mystery-drama "About Elly," gained needed exposure when it won the world narrative prize.

But unlike recent years, the fest finally proved able to launch movies that had no traction from a previous festival. "Eclipse," "Island" and Dreams" were world premieres.

To some, those breakouts heralded that Tribeca's moment has arrived.

"I don't want to jinx it because we've said this before, but it seemed Tribeca has finally figured it out this year," an industry veteran said. (partialdiff)