Conceived in the shadow of no towers, the Tribeca Film Festival was the first 9-11 memorial, and surely the most upbeat. The fifth edition acknowledges its roots—opening with the movie everyone I know is afraid to see, the quasi-real-time United 93. At least two documentaries evoke that epoch-defining day, and there are many more on the Bush wars, not to mention the fictional disaster movie Poseidon and the presumably mega-violent secret-agent flick Mission: Impossible III.
What have Robert De Niro and his producer Jane Rosenthal wrought? From the perspective of its founders, Tribeca has been a mild boon to neighborhood restaurants and magnificent advertisement for American Express. The festival is a triumph of branding, but has it found its niche? Like the city it celebrates, Tribeca has proven resilient, but like New York, it’s far too sprawling and abrasive to ever attain the grooviness of SXSW or the exclusivity of Telluride. Marketing—yes. Market—we’ll see. Tribeca is very far from rivaling Sundance (or Toronto) as the place at which to sell or launch a movie. True, Oscar nominee Transamerica did have its premiere at the last festival—but only God and Harvey Weinstein know if the Weinstein brothers weren’t already planning to make that acquisition. (Other recent releases that found distributors at Tribeca include 4 and Ushpizin; The Power of Nightmares, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, and Night Watch were local premieres.)