Bin Laden is Dead- Tribeca is Alive
By Shen Liberman
The night Osama bin Laden was killed by American military forces and buried at sea, the Tribeca Film Festival was at the midst of its closing night celebration. For most red-carpet reporters, there wasn’t much correlation between the two events; more important matters on the carpet were the list of celebrities who arrived, the dresses they were wearing, and the hands they were holding while posing for the cameras.
What used to be an obvious connection, now needs explanation: Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff founded Tribeca Film Festival, a celebration of film and music, on April 2002, as a reaction to the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center, for which bin Laden was the accused mastermind.
The neighborhood that was most effected by the attacks was Tribeca, home to affluent artists, successful young professionals and Wall-Street executives. The attacks left a big shadow over the neighborhood, causing a decline of its real-estate value, the local businesses revenue, and its residents’ morale. De Niro, who also lives in Tribeca, used his reputation and star-power to revive the “Triangle Below Canal” and according to Tribeca Film Institute, it worked. Ten years after the festival was founded it has generated an estimated $660 million in economic activity for New York City.
“People were really depressed here,” said Jadeep Punjabi, a filmmaker and Tribeca resident, whose movie “The Kite” was screened in the festival this year, “The festival really helped to make Tribeca attractive again.” The 10th edition has drawn about 430,000 attendees, according to the Tribeca Institute count, 20, 000 more visitors than last year. “We are enormously grateful to the filmmakers and the audiences whose support of Tribeca made our 10th Festival so special,” said Rosenthal at the completion of this years’ event. “Tribeca is more than just films and a series of events; it is about the spirit of community, storytelling and the subsequent conversations and initiatives it ignites. That is the legacy of this festival.”
VIDEO: Inspired by the cinematic environment, here’s a film trailer about the difficulties of a journalism student, attempting to cover the festival:
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Although the festival’s origins are based in the community and for the community, it has won international acclaim over its first decade, due to participation of films from around the world. Beginning on April 20 and running through May 1, the Festival hosted this year over 400 screenings and panels, including 93 feature films and 60 short ones, collected from 40 different countries. For many participants, it is not about 9/11 anymore. For some, it never was.
“I didn’t even know that’s why this whole festival started,” said Ami Franzi, a leading TV- commercial director in Israel who came to New York especially for the festival, “I just came to see my friends’ film ‘Rabies’ international premiere, and watch De Niro talk in one of the panel events.” Unfortunately for Franzi, tickets for those discussions were sold out weeks before the festival opened, and instead of seeing De Niro face to face, he was watching the discussion streaming online, on his laptop at a midtown hotel.
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The Online feature offered by the festival provided a Streaming Room of new feature films and short films, with a limited number of “seats” available. Online audiences also had the ability to watch live streams of festival events, and engage with other audience members and onsite participants. “The festival was founded as a mean to revitalize lower-Manhattan after the terrible tragedy of 9/11,” said Tahra Grant, who manages public relations for the festival, “but eventually it became a great platform for film-artists from all around the world and therefore it’s extremely important for us to reach out to all audiences”.
When trying to get a drink in Tribeca, it seems that the neighborhood has got more help than it needed. “Sorry, but this room is reserved for guests of the hotel only,” says Sheli, a waitress at the Greenwich Hotel (owned by De Niro), and offers the disappointed costumers to get a drink at the bar next door. “Hotels in the neighborhood are booked months in advance,” she explains, “And we are trying to give our customers who came especially for the festival the best service there is.”
“The festival week is definitely the busiest week of the year for us,” said Jay Kosmas, owner of Macao Trading Company, a Tribeca hot spot for food and drinks. Located right across from Tribeca Grand Hotel, Macao enjoys the traffic of tourists who are visiting the festival, and of local New Yorkers who are exploring the neighborhood all over again.
“It used to be about the neighborhood and we do work together and hosting festival events,” said Jane Lipkow, hostess at Odeon, a legendry Tribeca steakhouse, “but it has become such an enormous event, so now Tribeca and all Lower Manhattan is helping the festival- not the other way around.”