Posted: 04/21/2009


Tribeca 2009: Lighter, But Stronger Than Ever


by Annie Vinton

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If you’re walking through downtown New York City this week, you may be doing some double-takes, thinking that you’re seeing “stars” in your eyes. And, yes, you would be correct. This is the time of year when folks from the film world descend on the cobblestone streets of Tribeca, like Martians hopping out of a UFO.

The 2009 Tribeca Film Festival opens tomorrow April 22 with the debut of Whatever Works, written and directed by iconic New Yorker Woody Allen. The Festival continues through May 3 and this year’s line-up includes 85 films and 46 short films (fewer than previous years) representing 36 countries. Competitive as ever, this field was narrowed down from 4,720 submissions.

In addition to some great flicks, Tribeca’s programmers, in an effort to satiate the appetite of the whole community and bring neighbors together, are offering three FREE events: the Tribeca Drive-In, the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day and the Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair.

Today I hit the press conference with the excitement of a little kid on the way to a candy store. Featured speakers included founders Jane Rosenthal, Craig Hatkoff and Robert Di Niro; newbie and returning filmmakers; American Express exec Richard Lehrfeld; and actress Uma Thurman who’ll be serving as a juror on the World Narrative Competition. The shutterbugs had a field day when she hit center stage and even more so when she leaned over and whispered something in Di Niro’s ear. No one knows what she said, but it was one of the “money shots” of the day.

Jane Rosenthal, a filmmaker extraordinaire herself, took on the lead role of the conference opening the discussion with a reminder of the purpose and origins of the festival - to bring life back to the downtown neighborhood post 9-11 and calling it the “heartbeat of the community.” She also revealed that the founders and programmers felt that this year in particular “we all need to laugh a little” so there will be more films on the Festival schedule.

Also according to Rosenthal, this year is part “Spikefest.” Newcomer and yes, you read that correctly, newcomer to the Festival, Spike Lee brought some personality to today’s event. Lee has two films premiering this year – Kobe Doin’ Work (featuring NBA’s MVP Kobe Bryant mic’d with 30 camera angles on him in one game) and Passing Strange. When Lee was asked why it took him so long to be a part of this New York event, he responded with some levity in his tone that it was all about timing and well, “you gotta have a film.”

Overall, it was a great to be amongst peers at this “jump-start” to the Festival and Rosenthal and her crew left us with the perfect tease of the key players and films; and equally important a few key messages: (1) The Festival programmers understand we’re in tough times and everyone could use a good laugh, so they made it a point to “lighten” the schedule; (2) Tribeca will continue to be an important platform for filmmakers to showcase their art; and (3) if you’re looking for some FREE and fun things to do with your loved ones (or not so loved ones) check out the community events!

That’s all folks for today, but stop by here all week for My Takes on the day to day action. For all other things Tribeca, like how to purchase tickets, film descriptions and the schedule, go to

Annie Vinton Annie Vinton is a freelance writer and film critic living in NYC. You can read more about her and her writing at or on Facebook.

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