Tribeca still unpredictable

Talk of calendar move, jury on eve of festival

NEW YORK -- Toppers at the Tribeca Film Festival kicked off the springtime rite Tuesday with a news conference that featured a little De Niro, a little Spike -- and at least the possibility that down the road, all this might happen at another time of year.

In the most newsworthy moment at the morning session, fest co-founder Jane Rosenthal did not bat down a rumor that Tribeca, which has been held in the spring since its inception in 2002, could move to the fall.

Responding to a reporter's question about whether she could categorically deny a change of season, Rosenthal said, "I can't categorically state what I'm having for lunch today," then added coyly, "I've been hearing the same rumor as you have. That's all I can tell you."

The news conference set the stage for the unspooling of 85 features over the coming 12 days, with about half of those world premieres. Co-founders Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff joined fest director Nancy Schaefer among the Tribeca execs on the podium.

In showcasing only those personalities, Tribeca continues to strike a careful tone in how it represents its most boldfaced hire, former Sundance director Geoff Gilmore, who recently was brought on to helm Tribeca Enterprises but is not directly involved with this year's festival. The fest veteran attended the news conference but sat in the audience.

On the film side, the fest has taken pride in two movies that broke out after last year's festival: the Swedish vampire movie "Let the Right One In" and the Philippe Petit tightrope-walker doc "Man on Wire," though the latter actually premiered and began building buzz at Sundance.

On Tuesday, organizers unveiled clips from a number of this year's movies that they feel are noteworthy, including Jac Schaeffer's whimsical romance "TiMER," Spike Lee's doc "Kobe Doin' Work," Marshall Curry's go-kart pic "Racing Dreams" and Amir Naderi's feature drama "Vegas: Based on a True Story."

Lee, who is making his first Tribeca appearance this year (he also will screen his filmed version of the stage play "Passing Strange"), said he was participating because he finally had a movie ready in the spring instead of right before the fall festivals.

Tribeca also announced its typically eclectic jury: Actors Uma Thurman, Mary-Kate Olsen and James Franco, news anchors Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams and TV hostess Rachael Ray will serve on various juries.

Since its post-9/11 origins, Tribeca has served as a barometer of sorts for the financial and emotional state of the New York film world. Rosenthal said she thought that this year the recession would prompt people to come out to see films at the fest, particularly lighter ones, while Hatkoff noted that though the recession meant fewer movies will be screened, a higher percentage of tickets had been sold compared with previous years. "People want to see movies right now," he said.

Organizers also noted the foot traffic the fest brings to Tribeca and downtown Manhattan, though for the second year in a row, most screenings will actually be concentrated a little further uptown in the Union Square area.

Asked about the direction of the ever-evolving festival, De Niro said, "It will wind up in a good place," adding, "Sometimes you can't predict where things go."
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