×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Robert De Niro Slams Trump Administration at Tribeca Opening Night

The 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival opened with Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo” at the iconic uptown venue which performers and Harlem community members call “home.”

“You can feel the history, the echo of the entertainers,” Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro said in a speech before the film. “In this administration, during these disturbing times of promoting racism, tonight, we reject it. No you don’t, not here, not on this stage.”

In “The Apollo” documentary, an HBO production, Williams chronicles the venue’s 85-year-history, moving between historic and present-day footage to show how far the country has come in terms of celebrating diversity, while reminding viewers how far America still has to go. In the past, The Apollo was the only venue in New York City to allow black performers. That’s no longer the case, of course, but Williams’ film argues that times are still hard. Williams put this message in perspective through behind-the-scenes content following a stage adaptation of Ta Nehisi-Coates’ book “Between the World and Me,” written as a father-to-son letter about how to live as a black man in a climate of police brutality and discrimination.

The film includes interviews with cultural icons such as Smokey Robinson, Pharrell Williams, and Patti LaBelle, and also features live footage of concerts from artists such as Billie Holiday, Public Enemy, and Lauryn Hill.

“The Apollo is home and it’s not only home to Harlem residents, it’s a home and a place of planting seeds for great talent that has gone on to influence the world and shape minds and hearts through the art that’s been created here,” said one of the film’s producers, Lisa Cortés. “Oftentimes it’s come out of pain, but that pain has been used to elevate and to use in the best way to change minds and spirits about the human potential. It’s a temple of black genius.”

During the film, cheers and applause could be heard throughout the audience, especially during a scene where Barack Obama visits the Apollo. The film sparked laughter during live footage of performances from Richard Pryor and Chris Rock and was followed by a powerful cinematic moment where Rock describes how African-Americans “make jokes out of struggling.”

“The Apollo is about community, this is the town hall, the Apollo is a church,” said director Roger Ross Williams. “It’s the story of black people in America, it’s 85 years of history from Ella Fitzgerald to all of the artists who grace this stage.”

Central Park’s Tavern on the Green hosted the after party, where artists and moviegoers alike dined on New York Strips, drank cocktails, and mingled. Lily Rabe (“American Horror Story”) and Hamish Linklater (“Fargo”) chatted over martinis while Tribeca judge Angela Bassett (“9-1-1”, “Black Panther”) made an appearance and Executive Vice President of Tribeca Paula Weinstein posed for photos.

Popular on Variety

More Politics

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court Justice

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg Treated for Pancreatic Cancer

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been cleared “definitively” of pancreatic cancer after spending three weeks undergoing treatment in New York City for the illness. The Supreme Court issued a statement on Friday saying that the Justice responded well to radiation treatment. In early July, Ginsberg underwent a regular blood test that came back abnormal, and [...]

  • Taylor SwiftTeen Choice Awards, Arrivals, Los

    Taylor Swift Says She's 'Remorseful' For Not Getting Involved in 2016 Election

    Taylor Swift says she feels “really remorseful for not saying anything” during Trump’s run for presidency in 2016, per an interview with the Guardian published today. The singer points to her negative public image during the time of the election as one reason she stayed uninvolved, but explained that she would’ve endorsed Hillary Clinton for [...]

  • US President Donald J. Trump speaks

    Apple Stock Down 4.6% After Trump ‘Orders’ Companies to Leave China

    Apple’s share price was down around 4.6% Friday at the close of the market, to $202.64 per share, after President Trump took to Twitter to “order” U.S. companies to leave China. The slide came amid a market-wide sell-off, with the NASDAQ sliding 3%, and the Dow dropping 623 points. Trump’s edict was a response to [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

  • Pod Save America Hosts on Trump

    'Pod Save America' Hosts on Trump, the Democratic Primary and What's Wrong With Cable News

    Like many Democrats, Tanya Somanader was blindsided by the 2016 presidential election. A veteran of the Obama White House and a former speechwriter and digital specialist for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Somanader was gearing up for a Hillary Clinton administration. Instead, she had to grapple with the reality of a Donald Trump presidency. “A lot [...]

  • Sean Spicer Dancing With the Stars

    Sean Spicer Hopes 'Dancing With the Stars' Gig Will 'Move the Country Forward'

    In the face of a swift backlash, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he hoped his role as a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” can help “move the country forward in a positive way.” Spicer told CNN on Thursday that his “DWTS” posting was about entertainment, not politics. ABC revealed Spicer [...]

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a

    Bolsonaro LGBTQI Outburst, Subsidy Freeze, Stirs Outrage

    Ramping up the drive into censorship in Brazil, its Minister of Citizenship, Omar Terra, has suspended a call for applications for governmental TV funding – until new criteria are established for its application. The country’s secretary for culture, Henrique Pires, who reports to Terra, has resigned in protest of the incentive freeze. The suspension, for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content