This week, the Tribeca Film Festival kicks off its 12th year. With a shorter history than Sundance or Cannes — the two major festivals that flank it on the calendar — Tribeca has grown in fits and starts since its 2002 launch as an effort to revitalize Lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Today, Tribeca has carved out an identity as an international festival supporting both established and first-time filmmakers — and, not coincidentally, showcasing New York as a filmmaking hub.
This year's slate of 89 feature films is a diverse, well-curated bunch, featuring well-known directors like Richard Linklater (reuniting with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight) and Mira Nair (adapting Mohsin Hamid's novel of a Pakistani man's romance and disillusionment with America in The Reluctant Fundamentalist) as well as emerging artists: Shawn Efran documents a paramilitary group of mercenaries hunting Somali pirates in The Project, and Tom Berninger presents a tour doc with a personal angle when he goes on the road to follow his brother Matt, lead singer of The National, in Mistaken for Strangers.
Other documentaries profile figures like Gore Vidal, Moms Mabley and Elaine Stritch, or consider topics as varied as fracking (Gasland Part II), the negative effects of sports celebrity for high school athletes (Lenny Cooke) and reindeer herding in Finland's Arctic Circle (Aatsinki).
An array of actors straddling the line between Hollywood and the independent world pops up in narrative titles likely to be seen in limited release in the near future. There are promising dramas featuring Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo and Zac Efron; comedies starring the likes of Julianne Moore, Stanley Tucci and Paul Rudd (he's in a couple, actually) also pique interest.
The festival runs until April 28. Check back for updates on these and whatever small percentage of a dizzying number of films this critic can see.