Tribeca film festival: celebrating originality

James Tallman, Staff Writer

     Film festivals rule the world of independent filmmakers, offering them the highest platform to showcase their work, get rewarded, and most importantly, to be found by a distributor. Tribeca film festival offers all of these opportunities and much more, being an atmosphere for an up and coming film festival. It is challenging the likes of Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance for the most successful film festival in the continent of North America.

     Tribeca, a neighborhood in lower Manhattan, has held this film festival every year since 2002. The film festival was founded, shortly after the tragedy of 9/11, to promote community and togetherness in the wake of the horrific event. The first year event was planned in only 120 days, with more than a thousand volunteers. It was a shocking success, with 150,000 people coming to the festival.

     Today, the event draws more than three million people yearly and generates sums greater than six million dollars annually. However, it is neither the founding of the event, nor the number of people that make the event special. It is the films which are showcased in the festival, which spans two weeks in late April and early may.

     The awards are split into two parts during the festival. First comes the judges’ awards, from a select panel which reviews all the films and selects best ones from each category. The categories include best narrative feature, best documentary, best performance by a leading actress and actor, and so on. These awards are similar to those of more popular events like the Oscars, but lack focus on technical depth as they delve into criteria such as “best developing voice.”

     This year’s winner for the best narrative feature was a film called Burning Cane. This award was given by founders of the program, Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal on behalf of the judges. Phillip Youmans establishes his voice in this film about a mother struggling between her faith and her love of her troubled son, set in the cane fields of the south. This award is associated with a cash prize of $20,000.

     The audience awards, selected by a popular vote of the attendees of the festival (an interesting dynamic of film festivals) mainly highlights one documentary feature and one narrative feature. Awards include a $10,000 cash prize.

     The audience awarded narrative feature to a film called Plus One. This film features Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid, and details a story centered on longtime single friends who attend other’s weddings as each other’s plus ones.

     The winner for documentary feature was a film called Gay Chorus Deep South. Directed by David Charles Rodrigues, this film follows a bus tour of a San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus as they go on a titular bus trip to the deep south. This film discusses the themes of music and intolerance, and features the coming out stories of these men.

Overall, these stories moved and intrigued the festival goers. A common theme of the event was the importance of relationships and family, especially families outside of birth. Many of these films were selected by distributors, and will come to theaters shortly. This is one of the most profitable aspects of the festival.

     Film festivals have a profound impact on their viewers. Sarah Stovicek ’21 said “I think that film festivals are a great way to have independent and art films get a chance of being as seen as big Hollywood blockbusters. Movies like Shoplifters are absolutely beautiful pieces of art that would not be as well known if they weren’t in festivals. I think that movies not attached to big studios and companies should be shown rather than the ones that every average American is going to go see. I definitely think festival awards are more serious than Oscars or Emmys because they look at more serious films and understand a great film from a mass produced movie like any star wars or avengers flick. Also, even though there are lots of great movies getting famous because of festivals, there are always gems that fly under the radar.” Festivals are a great way to experience film as the medium is meant to be enjoyed. Tribeca harnesses that sense and showcases enlightening and profound films.