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Conspiracy! Tribeca Film Festival! 9/11!

De Niro and RosenthalPhoto by Getty Images

Did the Tribeca Film Festival's founders use 9/11 to promote their endeavors? An anonymously e-mailed press release is making the rounds today, accusing the Tribeca Film Festival of lying when they claim that Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, and Craig Hatkoff founded the festival in response to the 9/11 attacks. The press release, stored online here and credited to "a concerned citizen," points out that WHOIS registration for tribecafilmfestival.com shows the domain name was purchased in April 2000, well before the tragedy. "If the Tribeca Film Festival was founded 'as a response to the attacks on the World Trade Center,' why would Tribeca Film Center, Inc., have purchased … tribecafilmfestival.com nearly one year and five months before the towers came down?" the press release asks.

We asked Steven Rubenstein, the festival's publicist, for a response. "I've heard the founders talk at press conferences and in interviews for years about how they'd discussed founding a film festival but couldn't decide whether New York needed another one," he said. "It was 9/11 that created an urgency for it — that made them say, 'Let's stop doing our day jobs and make this happen.'"

Now, it's true that there's a difference between discussing the idea of founding a film festival and snapping up the relevant domain name. But given that Rosenthal and De Niro had co-founded the Tribeca Film Center in 1989, it's not unthinkable that someone at the company wanted to lock up a possible Website, just in case.

Whether the Tribeca crew are the "chaotic, arrogant institution" the press release paints them as, there's a certain irony in an unsigned screed sent from an anonymous Gmail address accusing the Tribeca founders of harboring shadowy hidden motives. There's an undercurrent of discomfort with TFF's high profile in New York's indie-film community — the comments on a recent indieWIRE piece about the rising ticket prices at this year's festival provide a bit of a flavor — and it's not hard to imagine that some Tribeca residents are dissatisfied with the rising tide of the cost of living in the neighborhood, and blame the festival for helping to create that situation. Is the e-mail a first salvo in an uprising against Bob De Niro and company? We emailed the Gmail address from which the tip originated, asking for more detail — like a name — but as of yet have received no response.

"A response to the attacks on the World Trade Center?" [Internet Archive]