This year's Tribeca, which opens Wednesday with Jon M. Chu's adaption of the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical"From the Heights," is going to be dispersed across all five boroughs of New York using a mix of on site and virtual screenings, finally culminating in a full-capacity premiere at a recently reopened Radio City Music Hall. For a festival founded in the aftermath of 9/11, coaxing New York back to life is a comfortable role.
"Our heritage assignment felt more troubling, more important than ever," Jane Rosenthal, who started the festival with Robert De Niro, said in a recent interview. "That original mission of this festival was to use the power of film and storytelling not merely to entertain but to rebuild our town -- mentally over anything else."
Tribeca, which this year is being held two weeks later than normal, will be one of the biggest film festivals yet this season to go forward with a mostly in-person event. But rather than the typical theaters which are home to the festival, its primary venues this season will be outdoor screenings dispersed around the city. There is still a digital element of the festival but the emphasis will be the energy created by perhaps the largest cultural event held in New York in over a year.
"Now that we're coming from it, I talk to a lot of men and women that are in some ways struggling to come out. It's been interesting the psychological toll this has taken on a lot of us, and of course that the families that lost loved ones and all the front-line employees"
Tribeca is part of a wider effort to revive New York's cultural life. Rosenthal has helped lead Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's"NY PopsUp" program, a series of complimentary pop up performances running through Labor Day. In just the past week, Bruce Springsteen explained that he'll reopen his Broadway series later this month. A massive summer concert in Central Park was announced. And on June 20, the Foo Fighters will reopen Madison Square Garden to concerts after a 15-month shutdown.
But Tribeca, that comprises 56 world premieres and programming across tv, videogames, podcasts and virtual reality, had to begin planning its 2021 incarnation -- its 20th season -- last August. Permits necessary to be registered. Selections necessary to be made. Organizers had to attempt to guess how health restrictions and vaccinations would evolve as they put the festival together. The principles of the road, as Rosenthal states, kept changing. Finally, they gambled that an in-person festival could be possible.
"We stated the only way to make confident our festival is happening would be to pursue what in parallel -- to examine outdoor screenings, to look at indoor screenings and also to have a look at a digital platform," says Cara Cusumano, festival director. "Then as we keep getting nearer, we'll understand which of them we will need to turn the volume down and up on. The outside screenings ended up being the centerpiece."
Movies are going to have fewer showings compared to usual. On Wednesday, Morgan Neville, manager of the anticipated "Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain," was relieved to realize that the prediction had brightened for Friday, the day his film debuts.
Fewer seats mean the Tribeca Festival, that has fallen the"movie" from its title this season due to its multimedia app, will hope to sell more tickets that are virtual, in addition to all-access moves starting at $999. That includes anniversary screenings of"Fargo,""The Royal Tenenbaums,""The Five Heartbeats" and Charlie Chaplin's"The Kid." Steven Soderbergh's"No Sudden Move" will premiere because the festival's centerpiece, playing outdoors in the Battery. Tribeca will also feature programming to Juneteenth, and hand an award to Georgia governmental power Stacey Abrams.
"In the Heights," one of the summer's most anticipated movies, was to premiere Wednesday at the United Palace in Washington Heights, as well as in the other boroughs. Although the film has already premiered in Los Angeles and opens in theatres Friday, its arrival in its namesake neighborhood should be a special event.
"It's going to be quite another thing to see it on 175th St.," says Miranda. "There are community screenings the following day. I plan to be at those, too, because I want to soak up every bit of it. The whole show is really a love letter to this neighborhood and all I want is to allow them to feel proud."
Running through June 20, Tribeca will conclude with an untitled Dave Chappelle documentary by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, makers of the Oscar-winning"American Factory." It'll be the first time Radio City Music Hall opens its doors since the pandemic began. The historical Art Deco hallway in midtown is going to be filled to capacity with vaccinated attendees, and with no masks demanded.
It is possible that in the 12 days of this festival, New York will develop a little more comfy gathering again -- which only between opening night and closing night, the city will be a little brighter and little livelier.
"There is a small bit of a come-on-this-adventure with us," states Cusumano. "We can not control the weather. We expect that everyone has that spirit of enthusiasm that we went into it This is simply exciting this is happening and that there are movies again."