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Tribeca Film Festival: Something for Everyone

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In its effort to bring as many people into the downtown area as possible, the Tribeca Film Festival's presentations this year cross the spectrum in terms of subject, style, and sensibility. Remember, the festival was launched in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the concomitant desolation, loss of tourists, and drop-off in business in the area. Founded by Robert De Niro and his business partner Jane Rosenthal, the festival was largely created to rejuvenate the neighborhood. To that end, it can be argued that the festival is deliberately offering something for everyone. Eclecticism is the festival's hallmark.

The third annual Lower Manhattan festival (running Sat., May 1 through Sun., May 9) will be showing more than 150 feature films and documentaries, including big-budget Hollywood premieres and low-end independents, along with 100 short films. The festival has an international flavor, with more than 40 countries represented, including two films each from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still, the festival is New York-based and to drive that theme home, this year the New York Film Critics Circle will participate, judging two new sections—on feature films and documentaries set in Gotham. One such documentary focuses on the New York City Fire Department and another, Martin Scorsese's "Lady by the Sea," is about the Statue of Liberty. Some of the proceeds from each will raise money for those institutions.

Other festival highlights include panel discussions featuring film experts and stars—Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone, and John Cameron Mitchell among them—and a popular family festival with screenings of "Captain Sabertooth," "The Blue Butterfly," and "New York Minute," starring the hot adolescent twins Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.

Another high point is the planned tribute to veteran television and film director Garry Marshall, who will use the occasion to premiere his latest film, "Raising Helen," starring Kate Hudson, John Corbett, and Joan Cusack. And there is much buzz surrounding "Coffee and Cigarettes," more than ten years in the making, by notable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.

With each year, the festival has grown increasingly high-profile. Consider this: Film submissions this year topped 3,200, a 25% boost over last year. Equally relevant, in 2002 the festival attracted 150,000 visitors and generated $10.4 million for local businesses. Last year, more than 300,000 pounded the streets of Lower Manhattan and infused the downtown economy with nearly $50 million.

Theatre folk will also be in evidence at the proceedings, not simply at the star-studded events but also onscreen. A movie adaptation of the Italian-American Off-Broadway show "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" will make its debut; so will two theatre-based documentaries by D.A. Pennebaker in collaboration with actress Elaine Stritch. These are "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," documenting her Tony Award-winning one-woman show (including backstage footage), and "Original Cast Album: Company," chronicling the original album recording session of the Stephen Sondheim tuner, which also featured Stritch and evidently went on for over 18 hours.

Other theatre notables whose presence will be felt at the festival are "Take Me Out" star Daniel Sunjata (featured in the film "Brother to Brother") and Allison Janney and Anthony LaPaglia—stars of the Broadway revival of "A View From the Bridge"—reunited in the film "Winter Solstice." Janney is best known as the presidential press secretary on the TV program "The West Wing."

Brett C. Leonard, a writer most identified with Off-Broadway's Labyrinth Theater Company, helms a feature film, "Jailbait," starring fellow Lab travelers Stephen Adly Guirgis and Michael Pitt. Guirgis penned the well-received play "Our Lady of 121st Street." Actor Billy Crudup stars in director Richard Eyre's film version of Jeffrey Hatcher's "Compleat Female Stage Beauty," titled "Stage Beauty." Hatcher, Eyre, and Crudup, along with other cast members, will participate in a panel discussion on the play's journey to film, dubbed "Stage to Screen Beauty."

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