Event kicks off on April 23

After criticism that last year’s event was overstuffed with pics, the seventh edition of the Tribeca Film Festival has pared its lineup by 20%, with a group of competish titles that tilts toward directorial debuts and pics that explore aspects of youth.

The World Narrative Competition and World Docu Competition feature 12 films each. Notable names here include multihyphenate Nanni Moretti, “This Is England” writer-director Shane Meadows, Irish dramatist Declan Recks, German documentarian Rosa von Praunheim and, as docu subject, art photog Cindy Sherman.

The fest’s noncompetitive Encounters section, unveiled Tuesday, offers 11 narrative pics and 10 docs, including world preems helmed by Melvin Van Peebles and Bill Plympton; features starring Frank Langella, William H. Macy and Sissy Spacek; and docus about John F. Kennedy and the Dalai Lama.

Tribeca kicks off April 23 and runs through May 4 at two hubs in Lower Manhattan, with reduced ticket prices and a more centralized and coherent plan for screenings and events.

The entire lineup consists of 122 feature films, down from last year’s 159 pics. Selections were culled from 2,327 feature submissions.

The slimmed-down lineup comes as a response to critics who carped that the 2007 edition of Tribeca was too dense and sprawling, given the fest’s roots as a downtown event launched as a community rebuilding effort after Sept. 11.Tribeca remains a grab-bag of splashy studio premieres (recent years have brought “Spider-Man 3,” “Mission: Impossible III” and “Poseidon”); community events such as a well-attended family street fair and an outdoor screening series; and a smattering of indie pickups.

Universal’s “Baby Mama” has been set as the fest opener, and other studio titles are expected to be unveiled soon.

Among Tuesday’s announced titles are 55 world preems from 31 countries, and 10 international, 26 North American and eight U.S. preems. Of the 145 directors, 66 are first-timers.

The team making selections is led by artistic director Peter Scarlet, with director of programming David Kwok and senior programmer Genna Terranova.

The feature group includes films about adolescents and the complex relationships within families as teens and parents grapple with coming-of-age issues and a landscape featuring death, sexuality and immigration.

The docu section, which has earned an estimable rep thanks to the preems of prize winners such as “Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Jesus Camp” includes two films about life in Iraq. “Baghdad High” follows four high schoolers given cameras that offer a window into adolescent life during wartime. “War, Love, God & Madness” takes viewers behind the scenes of a challenging and dangerous film shoot in Iraq in 2003 at the outset of the U.S. invasion.

“The digital revolution has spawned far more filmmakers than ever existed before,” Scarlet said. “When you see as many films as we do, you see an awful lot of dreck. … We’ve tried to cull the exciting ones.”

A dozen narrative pics and a dozen docs compete for kudos and $100,000 in total prize money.

Fest planners said a primary goal is attracting filmmakers from around the world to interact with auds and industry. “This year’s festival is a quintessential reflection of our world,” said event co-founder Jane Rosenthal.

Last year’s successful co-venture with ESPN, the Sports Film Festival, will return this year with 11 pics that also are included in the main section but focus on sports or competish. Pics also will screen as part of two “marathon” days when auds can hunker down for back-to-back viewings.

The world narrative feature category includes:

  • “57000 km entre nous” (57,000 Kilometers Between Us), directed by Delphine Kreuter, deals with a teen girl’s online refuge from her complicated relationships with her stepdad and biological father, who has become a transsexual.

  • “Let the Right One In,” based on a bestselling Swedish novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, follows a budding romance between a 12-year-old boy and the girl next door, who happens to be a vampire. (Magnolia Pictures’ Magnet label is releasing the pic Stateside.)

  • “Newcastle,” written and directed by Dan Castle, concerns a 17-year-old surfer who alternates success with self-destruction.

  • “Trucker” stars Michelle Monaghan as a tough-talking truck driver faced with raising her estranged 11-year-old son.

The Encounters picks include:

  • “Bart Got a Room,” helmed by Brian Heckler, which stars Cheryl Hines and Macy as parents of an angst-ridden high schooler on the eve of the prom.

  • “The Caller,” directed by Richard Ledes, which stars Langella and Elliott Gould in a noir about an executive trying to expose his company’s corrupt activities.

  • “Confessions of an Ex-DoofusItchyFooted Mutha,” written and directed by Van Peebles, which follows a semiautobiographical protag whose adventures take him from Harlem to the high seas and back again.

A new program, “Behind the Screens: Films and Conversations About Truth, Clarity and Responsibility,” will offer a series of Q&As and crowd chats with filmmakers and talent.

Ticket prices drop from last year to $15 for evening and weekend screenings and $8 for daytime weekday and latenight screenings.

(Dade Hayes contributed to this report.)

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