Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tentacles of Tribeca Reach Doha and Beyond

A "Say No to Plastics" parade at Patna, India in a scene from "Climate of Change." Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.

A group of 13-year-olds in India on a hate campaign against plastic and a man in Togo, West Africa with a love jones for solar power are proof that little guys can make a difference. Can we talk? Joan Rivers is a piece of work. So is, for instance, naming a child – a costly decision in more ways than one.

These are not just non sequiturs, but partial synopses of “Climate of Change” from the folks behind “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Joan Rivers – A Piece of Work” and “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Exposes the Hidden Side of Everything,” three of the 132 films to be shown at the ninth Tribeca Film Festival through 2 May. TFF opens today with “Shrek Forever After,” the fourth and alleged final installment of the popular franchise in its world premiere.

TFF closes with “Freakonomics,” which appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for an eternity, a fact to which Yours Truly can attest because as an editor in the paper’s news service once upon a time before she was laid off, it was often my job to “cross” the i’s and “dot” the t’s before the list was sent to clients the world over. I often wondered whether “Freakonomics,” served up by the talent behind “Super Size Me,” would appear in other iterations, and here it is at TFF.

The humble little film festival that Robert De Niro&Company created in 2001 after the attacks on the World Trade Center to revitalize a devastated Lower Manhattan boasts some interesting vital stats. Eighty-five feature films, 38 countries, 44 world premieres, seven international premieres, 15 North American premieres, six U.S. premieres and 12 New York City premieres, as well as panel discussions, press conferences, awards and so forth. On the roster, too, are 47 short films including two that on paper have captured my imagination. “Out of Infamy: Michi Nishiura Weglyn recounts the fascinating story of the Japanese-American farm girl/costume designer/Civil Rights activist-author. And in “A .45 at 50th” actor James Cromwell waxes gleeful about his encounter with the Black Panther Party.

The festival broadens its reach this year with two additions. The Doha Tribeca Film Festival, which was launched in October and showcases international film with a focus on Arab issues. It is co-hosting with TFF the “Shrek” premiere and several other events during the festival. The second newbie is TFF Virtual. Through this portal anybody anywhere in the world with an Internet connection can follow the festival online.

New York-based film buffs will discover that many TFF events require a badge, pass or special invitation. And the film screenings are not for the faint of wallet at $16 for evening and weekend screenings and $8 for those weekdays during the day. But community-minded TFF has come through with some pretty good freebies. The Tribeca Drive-In will be open for a movie an evening from 22-24 April, including Tom Hanks’ “Big” smash (Friday).

On 1 May is the Family Festival Street Fair, featuring the usual eye candy but a few surprises, too, including the red carpet at BMCC Tribeca PAC. Strollers on the red plank can be photographed with famous personnages from Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Another first is a free screening of a TFF featured film, “The Snowmen,” a coming-of-age-tale concerning a gaggle of outcast boys. Also on 1 May for good sports is Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day. Expect games, competitions and stars, as well as a BMX Jams Tour, weather permitting. Rounding out the freebies are two series of panel discussions about screenwriting and the business/technology of moviemaking under the banners, Tribeca Talks: Pen to Paper and Tribeca Talks: Industry, respectively.

Stay connected here for comments and reviews throughout the festival.

Visit for all Tribeca Film Festival information.

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