by Patrick Fuller ’21
Like music, cinema has gradually divided itself over time. On one hand, the film industry produces blockbusters that pack the theaters with families eager to witness the newest mainstream success. On the other hand, a vault filled with independent films lies locked away, waiting to be uncovered and appreciated.
The 17th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, held from April 18-29 in New York is to celebrate this underground stash of pictures in a lineup of epic proportions.
According to the festival’s website, the program features 96 movies from 103 filmmakers, 46 percent of which are directed by women, the highest percentage in the festival’s history. Coming off a year in film plagued by controversy and scandal, the festival hopes to highlight the brighter portions of American culture.
Paula Weinstein, executive vice president of Tribeca Enterprises, confidently stated, “We are proud to present a lineup that celebrates American diversity and welcomes new international voices in a time of cultural and social activism.” Cara Cusumano, Tribeca’s director of programming, said, “In a year that has reminded us more often of our divisions than our connections, this Festival’s program embraces film’s unique power to overcome differences—that connecting with stories not our own is the road into our deeply programmed human capacity for empathy and understanding.”
While audiences have certainly seen this theme throughout the year in hits like Get Out and The Shape of Water, Tribeca promises to curate a canon of films which weave together a fabric of unity and toleration.
Yet beyond celebrating American culture and diversity, the Festival simply promises to premiere brilliant material. The lineup includes 74 world premieres, six international premieres, nine North American premieres, three U.S. premieres, and four New York premieres from 30 countries. Veteran and novice filmmakers are all represented, with 46 first time filmmakers and 18 returning directors participating.
Main attractions include the closing ceremony, which hopes to showcase the world premiere of The Fourth Estate, a story about The New York Times’ coverage of the Trump administration in its first year, by Oscar-nominated director Liz Garbus. Meanwhile, the sci-fi romance Zoe, featuring Ewan McGregor, Léa Seydoux, Rashida Jones, and Theo James, takes center stage.
However, the festival also functions as a competition. One major award is the Tribeca X Award for “storytelling supported by a brand recognizing the intersection of advertising and entertainment.” Other categories includes feature films, short films, Tribeca: TV, immersive, and Tribeca N.O.W. which “discovers, highlights, and celebrates New Online Work from storytellers who choose to create and share their work specifically for the online space.”
Winners will receive $165,000 as well as artwork from the Artists Awards program. The sixth annual Nora Ephron Award presented by CHANEL will award a $25,000 prize to a woman who “embodies the spirit and boldness of the late filmmaker.”
Ben Kenigsberg, a film critic for The New York Times notes the time and effort necessary to discover good movies at the lengthy festival. Nevertheless, he recommends putting All About Nina, Bathtubs Over Broadway, Diane, and Nigerian Price on one’s watchlist.
If you cannot make it to New York, enjoy the Tribeca Film Festival via the livestream on the organization’s Facebook page. Although the entire lineup will not be available, livestreamed events include interviews and conversations with celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and John Legend, among others.
A full calendar of events is available on Entertainment Weekly’s website. Make sure to tune in at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday to catch the discussion with members of The New York Times and White House Correspondents after the world premiere of The Fourth Estate.
The Tribeca Film Festival provides us all with an opportunity to step back from the commercial big screen and pay respect to aspiring filmmakers trying to express themselves in a changing world. Watching independent films is not just entertaining, but also serves as a window into the cultural issues wracking the world today.