×
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

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Burning Image Debate Ad

    ABC Runs Debate Ad Showing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Burning Image

    ABC aired an ad during Thursday’s Democratic debate that depicted a burning image of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and likened her politics to those that caused the Cambodian genocide. New Faces GOP funded the ad, which features Elizabeth Heng, a Republican who lost a bid for a Fresno-area congressional seat last year. Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter, [...]

  • Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris.

    ABC News' Democratic Debate Lacked Energy and Purpose

    At long last, former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren were on the same stage. And the result was a long and fairly dull evening. After two Democratic Party debate stages in which the field of candidates had been bifurcated — splitting, in both cases, the perceived frontrunners from the establishment and insurgent [...]

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden responds

    Protesters Interrupt Joe Biden During Democratic Debate

    Protesters interrupted presidential candidate Joe Biden during Thursday’s democratic debate. The chants came nearly two and a half hours in as moderator George Stephanopoulos asked the former vice president about any professional setbacks he’s faced and how he recovered from them. “We’re going to clear the protesters,” Stephanopoulos said as the chants began. “We’re sorry.” [...]

  • Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren,

    Dems Debate in Houston: Moderates Push Back on Medicare for All

    The third Democratic debate on Thursday was billed as the first showdown between the top contenders: Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden did challenge the liberal senators on health care early in the debate, which was broadcast on ABC. He asked repeatedly how they would pay for their multi-trillion [...]

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    How to Watch the Third Democratic Primary Debate

    The leading Democratic candidates will once again go head to head tonight in Houston, Tex. for the party’s third debate ahead of the primaries. The anticipated debate, which will include the 10 Democratic candidates currently leading in the polls, will kick off at 8 p.m. ET and will broadcast live on ABC and Univision. ABC [...]

  • Gen Z Climate Activism

    How Generation Z Is Embracing Bold Action in the Face of Climate Crisis

    Of all the dire forecasts she’s heard about the climate crisis, there is one that Arielle Martinez Cohen can’t get out of her mind. The report, from an Australian think tank, projected that if nothing is done, civilization could collapse by 2050. “I will be 49 in that year,” says the 17-year-old activist. “It makes [...]

  • Edward Norton Climate Change

    'Vote the Environment': Edward Norton on How to Be an Effective Climate Activist

    Edward Norton found activism at an early age. He also directs and stars in detective story “Motherless Brooklyn,” opening Nov. 1. Variety caught up with him as he prepared to hit the festival circuit with the adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel. Where did your interest in environmental issues spring from? All of the roots [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content