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Tribeca Film Festival: Wide Range Is the Rage

Tribeca’s scope has grown at a dizzying pace, but organizers says it’s integrated

Welcome to the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival ­— now what do you want to do first? Watch a demo of a vidgame starring Ellen Page? Check out the family-friendly activities at the street fair? Explore the slate of interactive transmedia projects? Participate in some football agility drills?

Heck, you could even go to a movie.

This year’s Tribeca festival, which kicks off April 17, arrives again surrounded by an array of complementary activities that can seem dizzying in the breadth of its industry-focused and community-facing events, screenings, panels and shindigs.

But Tribeca organizers roll their eyes every time the fest gets tagged with the word “sprawling.” That’s because despite the robust agenda of ancillary fare, the actual slate of films has in the past few years evened out to a relatively manageable 85-90 features.

“It’s not sprawling, in terms of the program,” insists Geoff Gilmore, the Sundance veteran who became creative director of Tribeca Enterprises in 2009. “But it’s because we’re doing so much. We don’t silo certain things. We try to integrate it all.”

The broad scope points back to Tribeca’s long-standing commitment to reach beyond the film industry to include the downtown community that the fest was founded in 2002 to help revitalize after 9/11.

“It goes into the whole idea that we are an event,” says programming director Genna Terranova. “We know what position we’re in and we want to create events that lure people out of their homes and away from their screens.”

Some observers might argue all the hubbub distracts from the movies ­— and from the film sales that dominate the industry news coming out of other festivals. Tribeca organizers counter that the marketplace takes care of itself, noting that last year 37 of the 60 titles up for grabs managed to secure distribution.

Besides, related events — such as a Gloria Steinem panel paired with a fest screening of “Wadjda,” Haifaa al-Mansour’s story about a young Saudi girl’s efforts to buy a bicycle — can add value to fest screenings.
“These events fit in a way they didn’t used to at Tribeca,” says Tom Barker of Sony Pictures Classics, which is handling “Wadjda” along with two other fest offerings: “At Any Price” and “Before Midnight.” “Before the festival felt a little rudderless, but I think Geoff has helped give it a focus. It’s really taken a turn this year and come into its own.”

The Steinem panel, Barker reasons, will help place “Wadjda” in a firm political and critical context ahead of a U.S. release planned for later in the year.

The wealth of activity can also make Tribeca more filmmaker-friendly.

“All these events definitely help a filmmaker’s experience,” said Keith Kjarval, a producer of this year’s “Trust Me” and “A Single Shot.” “The festival experience can be a really daunting one, but not at Tribeca.

It’s almost like they put you on this cart and roll you around to this diverse array of events and experiences.”

Although the sheer number of offerings could prove intimidating to a casual moviegoer flipping through the festival guide, most in the industry agree it won’t take away from the marketplace.

“It doesn’t distract,” says Andrew Herwitz of Film Sales Co., hawking Tribeca titles including the Melissa Leo drama “Bottled Up” and the 1980s Philly-set doc “Let the Fire Burn.” “Buyers are there to go to movies.”

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