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Tribeca to Fete Female Filmers

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When the sixth annual Tribeca Film Festival gets under way in New York City (April 25-May 5), filmgoers scanning onscreen credits will notice that familiar names and faces have stepped behind the camera. Many of the performers who have picked up director and producer titles are women, according to Nancy Schafer, managing director and programmer for the festival. Among actors making the transition to behind-the-scenes duties are Julie Delpy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Eva Mendes, Julia Stiles, TĂŠa Leoni, Anna Paquin, Diego Luna, Kevin Connolly, and James Franco.

Some who have turned to directing and producing also appear in the films they have made — including Delpy (Two Days in Paris) and Franco (Good Time Max). Others, such as Masterson (The Cake Eaters), do not. Many of the first-time directors have taken on full-length features. Stiles, meanwhile, is testing the waters with a short film called Raving, which she also wrote and appears in. "Every year we get a handful of short films by name actors who are, I think, looking to break in," Schafer said. Overall, a large number of directors represented in this year's festival are female, Schafer said, adding that the trend is not something festival organizers orchestrated. "We don't say, 'We need X number of women directors,'" she explained.

On April 27, Mendes, Delpy, Stiles, Masterson, and Rosario Dawson will discuss the challenges of multitasking as directors, producers, and actors in a panel titled "Bringing Home the Bacon," one of 14 "Tribeca Talks" with industry insiders scheduled this year. The April 29 panel "Look Who's Laughing" will feature funny femmes Rachel Dratch, Susie Essman, Debra Messing, and Samantha Bee.

Schafer explained that there are 15 fewer feature films scheduled this year than in 2006 but a larger number of screenings have been slated for each offering. The festival has in recent years grown geographically, bursting the seams of its original downtown Manhattan location. This year, two new screening venues have been added: AMC Loews Kips Bay 15 on Second Avenue and 32nd Street, and AMC Loews 72nd Street 1. In addition, the festival will expand beyond the bounds of Manhattan for the U.S. premiere of Columbia Pictures' Spider-Man 3, directed by Sam Raimi and co-starring Franco. The gala opening is set to take place April 30 at the UA Kaufman Astoria 14 in downtown Astoria, Queens, hometown to Spider-Man's alter ego, Peter Parker. In addition to the Astoria premiere, the fest will host free advance screenings of the film in the other four New York boroughs, as well as a Spider-Man Marathon, screening all three pics May 3.

The festival's opening night gala at BMCC TriPAC (the Borough of Manhattan Community College Tribeca Performing Arts Center) will be hosted by Al Gore, who will help launch the SOS Short Films program, introducing seven shorts on the global climate crisis. Another highlight of this year's festival will be the Tribeca Film Institute's Film Fellows program, in which 20 student filmmakers ages 15-19 from across New York City take part in a mentorship program with more-seasoned filmmakers. Three young Rwandan filmmakers will also participate in the program.

Some events at the festival are free, including the popular Tribeca Drive-In — outdoor screenings held in the World Financial Center Plaza (April 26-28) — and the Family Festival Street Fair, in Greenwich Village (May 5). A new feature is a day of interactive sports-related activities called "Sports Saturday" (May 5), part of the ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 as part of the drive to rebuild lower Manhattan after Sept. 11. To date, the event has generated more than $325 million in economic activity for the city. This year's program features more than 200 films chosen from nearly 4,500 submissions. Films compete in narrative, documentary, and short-subject categories.

For information on tickets and programming, visit www.tribecafilmfestival.org.

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