It’s no great secret that the Tribeca Film Festival has, over its brief life span, undergone a number of identity shifts — those less generous might call them crises. But this year, we’re optimistic, and with good reason. The festival screens a less forbidding number of features (about 120, down from more than 160 in recent years), many of the films are actually pretty good (see our picks here) and the whole thing has contracted in size. (Let’s face it, going to the Upper West Side to attend the Tribeca Film Festival just felt kinda stupid.) But with the indie-film world itself in the midst of some soul searching, where does Tribeca stand with the industry as it unveils its seventh iteration? As you may imagine, opinions diverge, from the cautiously optimistic to the downright gloomy. The predictions from the industry, and our translations, after the jump.
"I think it's always interesting to just see some of those movies that for whatever reason didn't appear at Sundance," Miramax prexy Daniel Battsek says. "We definitely cover it to see some of those movies."
Translation: You’re showing a lot of great films that we’ve already seen at other festivals. We want to know about your world premieres: Are they better this year? While Tribeca premieres a number of very good films every year — some have even gone on to win Oscars — those films have had a tendency to get lost amid the sheer volume of output at the festival in past years. By reducing the total number of films, Scarlet & Co. are finally giving their top-shelf product a fighting chance.
Cinetic Media partner John Sloss heralded organizers’ decision to frontload the weekend with eligible candidates, but echoing the comments of several sellers, he said: "The specialty market is in flux; people are still sorting through what happened in Sundance."
Translation: If something important doesn’t happen very soon, we’re bailing. Tribeca will always have an advantage in that it’s in New York, where much of the indie-film community lives and works. So the industry can’t ignore it. But we need to see some deals or hear some deafening buzz very quickly.
It is [fest co-founder Jane] Rosenthal’s job to figure out the balance of maintaining the festival’s founding spirit (free events like street fairs and the outdoor screening series “Tribeca Drive-In”) and growing its appeal as a film market.
Translation: Are you making money yet, Tribeca? The festival is a for-profit venture, and last year, Rosenthal, responding to criticisms about the festival’s controversial ticket hike to $18 (it has since come back down), admitted they were in the red.
The image of the French daredevil Philippe Petit, dancing across a high wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in James Marsh’s exhilarating documentary Man on Wire is as rich a metaphor for the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival as you could imagine … Peter Scarlet, the Tribeca festival’s artistic director, describes Mr. Petit’s feat as epitomizing the festival’s precarious "balancing of art and commerce.”
Translation: Good luck, kids. If the festival fails, everyone will see it tumble.