The festival which Robert de Niro and Jane Rosenthal launched to help revive the namesake neighborhood after the September 11th attacks is 8 years young this year (the Tribeca Film Center had been founded by them in 1989). I remember attending the inaugural concert in Hudson River Park in 2002, at which De Niro gave his impassioned speech and lighted paper balloons floated above us. The Tribeca Film Festival has kept the same vitality since, giving emerging filmmakers a chance to be seen and heard and for world cinema to take center stage (because while American films figure predominantly on the screenings roster, TFF ’09 also features films from Iran, Nepal, Honduras, and Israel, to name a few).
This year TFF ’09 also enhanced their press and publicity outfits considerably, featuring a shiny new press hub christened the DIRECTV Tribeca Press Center, where I sit now, typing on one of many brand glistening new Mac workstations (the screens are huge) with the extra thin keyboards which make typing a breeze (my Dell laptop seems antediluvian by comparison). Only last year, the press room looked makeshift with stacks of boxes setting the theme of the room. Today the posh DIRECTV press center looks the part: an appropriately modern press and business hub which doubles as interview studios. The publicity staff behind the desk gave me a welcome and an introduction to the various materials strewn on tables around the room, as well as refreshments, screening guide, etc.
In addition to the three previously named films, I also name “Shadow Billionaire,” “Blank City,” and “Entre Nos” as part of this year’s TFF ’09 MUST-SEES (see sidebar for the complete list). Alexis Manya Spraic’s “Shadow Billionaire,” presented in the world documentary competition, about Larry Hillblom, the enigmatic and reclusive (aren’t they always reclusive?) billionaire and founder of DHL who disappeared after crashing his WWII seaplane in the South Pacific. The film centers on the epic battle that took place after his disappearance to divvy up his estate among a cast of relatives and characters which includes teenage prostitutes from Saipan.