The Tribeca Film Festival is not just a film festival. For one thing it’s no longer just about film. The lines between movies and TV, as well as burgeoning alternative forms of visual storytelling, have started coming down. In addition to several dozen films, this year’s fest, which runs from Apr. 13 through Apr. 24, includes sidebars on television, installations and a new “Virtual Arcade,” devoted to immersive experiences. Film festivals have to change with the times, and Tribeca is doing just that.
For another, the TFF is also about what first inspired it: helping the continued revitalization of not only its home neighborhood but the whole of Lower Manhattan. The festival was founded in 2002 by filmmakers Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro plus real estate maven Craig Hatkoff (and the former’s husband) in part as a response to the attacks of September 11. Rosenthal and De Niro remember the aftermath: streets covered in dust, tanks rolling down Canal Street, sirens blasting. The community came together to rebuild.
“It was like, ‘What do you do as filmmakers?’” Rosenthal recalls thinking. Creating a festival, she says, was a natural instinct.”
Since its first festival in 2003, the TFF has watched as Lower Manhattan has thrived. Since 2011 over 30,000 new residences have been built. Restaurants and bars abound, and even the Financial District, once a ghost town after dark, has started to gain a night life.
The TFF too has changed. “The first festival we were carrying film cans,” Rosenthal remembers. “Now everyone’s streaming. Technology has changed the way we view new content and where we see it. To us, we’re a festival about stories. We’re agnostic, to a certain extent, about what screen size it’s on.”
That’s why a chunk of the festival is devoted to “new media.” Along with the Virtual Arcade — where you can see new immersive and VR work from people who’ve worked for Pixar and Dreamworks Animation — there’s “Storyscapes,” which is devoted to installations. Among these are “Seances,” which includes a nested series of stories by Guy Maddin (“The Forbidden Room”), and “SENS,” which replicates the experience of going blind, thus awakening other senses.
Having a TV section might sound dodgy — a kowtow to how television is now in some ways more powerful than film. But the sidebar is about more than showing off the season finale of “Broad City” or one of the final episodes of “The Good Wife” (along with a discussion with Juliana Marguiles and more).
“You have such fans and such amazing people working in television. Let’s see that in a communal environment,” Rosenthal explains.