We‚Äôre still several hours away from Tribeca‚Äôs opening-night screening of Time is Illmatic, but the festival officially kicked-off earlier this afternoon. Co-founders Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro hosted an Opening Lunch around the corner from Tribeca headquarters, at the restaurant Thalassa on Franklin Street. Organizers, press, and the worker ants of showbiz, PR reps, networked while noshing on salmon, arugula, chicken and feta cheese, ravioli, beef‚Ä¶ and matzo bread, for those celebrating the Passover holiday. The restaurant‚Äôs high ceilings and typical Manhattanite wooden floors made for strained hearing conditions at times ‚Äì too many film recommendations, speculation, and Cannes chatter (Tribeca has barely begun and already we‚Äôre looking ahead to the next event; yes, typical Manhattanite) rose in waves and crashed about accordingly. The centerpieces were appropriately lovely, perhaps small terrariums or else they were overlarge paperweights, with flowers and rocks inside, and tea candles (which also lined the stairs leading to the dining room, becoming the unfortunate victims of one man‚Äôs imbalance when he bumped into a framed photograph on the wall and sent it and its neighbor crashing down the steps) floating on top. The vodka, grapefruit juice and rosemary cocktails were delicious.
De Niro of course was the first to speak, providing the succinct opening remarks that did not include the phrase, ‚Äúgood food, good meat, good God, let‚Äôs eat!‚Äù but that captured its essence. Jane Rosenthal rose next (‚ÄúCan I sit now?‚Äù asked De Niro) and addressed the excitement and growing pains attenuate with leading an event now entering its 13th, or official teenage years. Like all teenagers, we‚Äôre curious and we question, she said, before introducing a film reel of innovative Tribeca highlights. Docs Mala Mala, 1971, and Tomorrow We Disappear; dramas such as X/Y, Palo Alto and Starred Up; genre-benders like Glass Chin; and comedies including Intramural, and A Brony Tale, which, to be accurate, is a documentary about male fans of My Little Pony and not a comedy, but which nonetheless provided the afternoon‚Äôs most frequented punchline, were all on display, among others.
I was fortunate to be seated next to Tribeca Artistic Director Frederic Boyer, an amiable Parisian with rumpled curly hair who worked at Cannes prior to joining Tribeca. It is Boyer who is responsible for selecting Tribeca‚Äôs film slate. This seemed to me a Sisyphean or at the very least Herculean task, but Boyer said the key is to maintain your enthusiasm. When asked how many movies he views during the selection process, he waved his hand as if to indicate the silly futility of trying to keep track. He must watch seven or eight-hundred, he said airily. But you have to approach each one as if you‚Äôre waiting to be surprised. He said, You can‚Äôt treat it like a job. Essentially, you have to leave yourself open, even expect to be moved. I was left with an expectant sense of what he has chosen, what is to come.
The documentaries Ne Me Quitte Pas and Five Star, and the drama Starred Up, were among the films he singled out for emphasis. Boyer also agreed with the German journalist at our table that the German film Der Samurai was worth a look.
Guests started to file out after the meal, and maybe half, maybe less, stayed for coffee and a dessert of macaroons and finger pastries. It was a pleasant afternoon that set the stage nicely for the next 10 days. When the different factions began to wave their colors and some festival organizers and journalists peeled off for interviews, the message was clear: And now on to the show.