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Tribeca Festival Taps First Round of Titles

Naomi Watts in "Sunlight Jr.," Michael Haneke documentary named for competitive sections

The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival has rounded up a roster of competition features and documentaries that includes the world premieres of Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon drama “Sunlight Jr.” and a doc about “Amour” helmer Michael Haneke, “Michael H. Profession: Director.”

Fest leadership has so far tapped 46 titles for the fest – including 12 each in the world narrative and doc competitive categories – with the rest of the 89-feature slate to be outlined later this week. Also on the list are 22 films in the non-competitive Viewpoints section, including bows of Jane Weinstock’s drama “The Moment,” starring Jennifer Jason Leigh as an unstable photojourno, and Rob Meyer’s “A Birder’s Guide to Everything,” a bird-watcher roadtrip story with a cast that includes Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Kingsley.

With only a few films on the announced slate already picked up by a distributor, the roster could prove a varied selection of wares for buyers. Last year the fest had a solid track record with acquisitions, with Tribeca Film, the distributor loosely affiliated with the fest, snagging several titles including “Struck by Lightning” and “War Witch.”

Sony Pictures Classics has two pics in the Viewpoints section, Haifaa Al Mansour’s Saudi Arabian outing “Wadjda” and Atiq Rahimi’s Afghan film “The Patience Stone,” while Radius had previously nabbed doc “Cutie and the Boxer.” Tribeca Film has already snagged Lenny Abrahamson’s Dublin teen tale “What Richard Did.”

All three of the 2013 fest’s announced categories have designated opening films, with Lance Edwards’ “Bluebird,” in which legit regular Amy Morton stars as a bus driver, opening the narrative competish. Kickoff for the doc segment is “Big Men,” helmer Rachel Boynton’s (“Our Brand is Crisis”) look at American corporations and the African oil industry, while another doc, Deidre Schoo and Michael Nichols’ competitive street dance story “Flex is Kings,” launches the Viewpoints seg.

“What we were struck by this year is the number of films that really moved us, these films that start from a very personal place and then build to broader resonance,” said Geoff Gilmore, the Tribeca Enterprises chief creative exec who is part of a programming team that also includes fest artistic director Frederic Boyer and director of programming Genna Terranova. Programmers cited “Just a Sigh,” Jerome Bonnell’s Paris-set story starring Gabriel Byrne and Emmanuelle Devos, as one example.

Like “Just a Sigh,” Watts topliner “Sunlight Jr.” is one of the entries in the world narrative competish, with the actress starring as a Quickie Mart employee in love with a paraplegic (Dillon) in a drama directed by Laurie Collyer. In the doc section, Yves Montmayeur’s “Michael H.” looks at Haneke’s long career making movies, incorporating interviews with the helmer as well as thesps Haneke has worked with including Emmanuelle Riva and Isabelle Huppert.

Sandwiched between Sundance and Cannes and jostling with SXSW for springtime industry attention, the Tribeca fest struggled in its early years to establish an identity for itself. More recent editions have seen the fest embrace an eclectic slate of titles while catering to an aud that’s as much made up of Gotham moviegoers as it is industry types.

This year’s edition runs April 17 to 28.

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