Lean, light Tribeca Film Festival aims to inspire

Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:47am EDT
 
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Tribeca Film Festival opens on Wednesday, dampened by a U.S. recession that cut the movie slate by nearly a third, but organizers chose more upbeat films in a bid to cheer moviegoers.

While the festival in New York City traditionally screens films focusing on difficult global issues, founders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal said a special effort was made to lift the mood.

"In challenging times, people like to go to the movies and we have tried to program lighter fare so people can have a few more laughs," Rosenthal told Reuters in a interview with Oscar-winning actor De Niro before the eighth annual festival.

"There's a balance, but we did look for a few more comedies," she said. "This year, there's a theme that does run through the festival, whether it's comedies or documentaries or shorts or narratives, it's about survival."

The festival faced sponsorship hurdles, losing support from General Motors Corp, which is surviving on billions of dollars in government loans. But it signed a three-year deal with Heineken and gained other sponsors.

"The festival is leaner, it's been difficult," Rosenthal said. "It's definitely been challenging, but I do feel like it will be a great festival because it always forces you to come up with some more creative solutions."

Due to the financial crisis, she said it was more important than ever that the festival stay true to one of its original aims -- bringing as many filmmakers as possible to the widest audience through free events, including outdoor screenings, a street fair and panel discussions.

"We hope that at least through movies we can provide a little inspiration and hope and a few laughs too," said Rosenthal, who founded the event with De Niro and her husband Craig Hatkoff to help rejuvenate downtown Manhattan after the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks.   Continued...

 
<p>Moviegoers wait for it to get dark before the outdoor screening of films from Tropfest, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York April 28, 2006. REUTERS/Chip East BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE</p>