'Boy' to open fest which features 'Earnest,' 'Paradiso'

Banners bearing a simple but slick Tribeca Film Festival logo hang on street lamps on nearly every corner in lower Manhattan.

Foot traffic hasn’t noticeably increased, but wait until Thursday, say fest organizers.

The inaugural Tribeca Film Festival, running May 8-12, kicks off today at City Hall, where fest organizers Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro will be joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Martin Scorsese and various other celebs and politicians.

Opening-night screening, to be held at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, is Universal Pictures’ “About a Boy,” with stars Hugh Grant, Rachel Weisz and Toni Collette set to attend alongside fest jurors Whoopi Goldberg, Helen Hunt, Frances McDormand, Kevin Spacey and Barry Levinson. An after-party will be held at the Regent Wall Street hotel.

Among Gothamites expected to make their presence felt during the festival is Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, who with brother Bob was one of Rosenthal’s and De Niro’s first tenants at the Tribeca Film Center more than a decade ago.

‘Earnest’ sneak preview

Miramax will unveil Giuseppe Tornatore’s director’s cut of “Cinema Paradiso” at the fest and sneak-preview the studio’s upcoming release “The Importance of Being Earnest,” based on the Oscar Wilde play.

“It’s an extraordinary accomplishment by Jane, Bob and their entire team,” Weinstein told Daily Variety. “This festival highlights their unwavering commitment to their neighborhood, local businesses and the local film industry. The support they have received from Gov. (George) Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg and sponsors like American Express is already energizing Tribeca. Thanks to them, there’s even more reason to be optimistic about a quick and successful rebound.”

On the eve of the kickoff, Eamonn Bowles, programmer of the fest’s international showcase, said, “It’s kind of mind-boggling, the scale of the production of this festival that’s been undertaken.

Continued Bowles: “I think it speaks to the incredible goodwill there was for the festival — the creative community, the government, the corporate entities and the people involved in it. Most of these things sometimes take years to get going, particularly on the corporate front, where in our case everything happened almost at once.”

Helmers’ brunch set

In addition to the massive array of parties and screenings listed on the fest’s Web site (tribecafilmfestival.org), the Sundance Channel has come aboard to host a filmmakers brunch for all directors participating in the fest, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the City Hall Restaurant.

“The revitalization and ongoing health of lower Manhattan and the New York City film and television community is of great personal importance to those who work at Sundance Channel,” said Kirk Iwanowski, senior veep of marketing at the cabler. “Supporting independent artists is our mission, and we’re proud that we can help play host to native and visiting filmmakers in our hometown.”

Among the organizations finding a way to express solidarity with New York and the TFF is Boston U., whose 40,000 Gotham-area alums held a fundraising event Tuesday at the Tribeca Grill. Event co-chair Stewart Lane, a two-time Tony-winning producer whose current show is top nominee “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” said: “Like many institutions around the country, Boston University lost alumni and members of its extended community during the Sept. 11 attacks. By lending our support to the Tribeca Film Festival, we hope to aid in the effort to re-energize the culture and economy of lower Manhattan.”

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