Earlier today, the Tribeca Film Festival announced the films screening in its competition sections. The festival, which runs April 18 – 29, enters its current edition with a new artistic director, Frederic Boyer, formerly the head of Cannes' Directors Fortnight sidebar. Meanwhile, Genna Terranova has stepped into the role of director of programming, replacing David Kwok, who left the festival last year. Ahead of the recent announcement, Boyer and Terranova spoke to Indiewire about some of the noteworthy films in this year's lineup.
This year, instead of one opening night film, you're showing one film from each competition section.
GENNA TERRANOVA: Yeah, I think we wanted a way to kick off the competition and this year, we just felt that it might be the year to do it. We felt that this was a great year, especially because we had "Yossi." We’ve had three of Eytan [Fox’s] films and this is the third in a trilogy, so we’re really excited about that. I think this exemplifies the relationship we’ve been building over time with filmmakers. As far as documentary goes, we've always have strong documentaries at Tribeca, so why not celebrate them and start it off by having the filmmakers have an opportunity for an opening night? I think it’s a really celebratory idea.
Are there other major changes to the program this year that you wanted to single out?
FREDERIC BOYER: Not really. We have the same number of films.
GT: Yeah, it’s about the same number. There weren’t any changes to the overall strategy. What’s great about this year’s program is that we balance the American independent and the international films a bit better than we have in the past. We do have a good representation from the U.S. in our competition. Almost half the program is documentaries, which we typically do. We have 25%-30% women filmmakers. It tends to happen organically, but we think it’s well balanced this year.
FB: I was surprised, really, because after Sundance, I didn’t imagine it was possible to get a good balance of cinema from the US. And we have. “First Winter” is very good, “The Girl” is very good and “While We Were Here.” The good thing is that in competition, we have four world premieres. For the audience and for you, the journalists, I think it’s stronger to have more world premieres.
When you’re figuring out what you want to put in competition, is there any discussion about finding the balance between discoveries and the name filmmakers?
FB: For me, the most important thing is not just watching, but discussing the film. Programming is like editing a film. You have to compare scene to scene. It’s very diverse, so the idea is to bring different styles of cinema to the competition. In a way, I think it’s current.
GT: It’s diverse, it’s not all dark films. We have a couple lighter options. In documentary, too. "The Girl" happens to have recognizable actors, but if films didn’t have recognizable actors they would still be represented in the competition. "First Winter" is a special movie that is more of a discovery, but it has a unique voice and it's a very strong debut. All those things go into the decision, but having Frederic here helps us get that balance with international films. "Postcards from the Zoo" has a little bit of magic, whimsy and experimentation to it, but it’s a totally different style. We want the jury and our audience to experience as much as they can in those 12 movies.
Frederic, since this is your first year, where would you say your stamp can be found on this lineup?
FB: For me, it’s difficult to separate, but I can recommend this film from Turkey called “Beyond the Hill.” It’s a Turkish Western, a very male kind of thing, and it’s a first feature. We have a lot of first-time filmmakers like “First Winter,” “Grupo 7." Among the documentaries, I can recommend “Wavumba.” And “The Virgin, the Cop and Me” is very funny. Also, “The Flat,” which is a small but beautiful film from Israel. In Viewpoints, maybe you can check the new film “The Fourth Dimension,” which is interesting and I like it a lot.
A lot of festivals have a section like Viewpoints, where they try to put the films that are edgier or outside of mainstream interest. How do you see the section now? How has it evolved since you first started programming it?
GT: Well, it used to be “Discovery” when I first came here. I think it still has that spirit in it as well. But “Viewpoints” is where we can challenge the audience. It’s also where there are new voices. So I think “Viewpoints” is still a very developing section. It changes from year to year, depending on what’s coming out and what voices are being heard. Unlike something like “Spotlight,” where it pretty much has a pop culture tilt to it, “Viewpoints” is evolving as storytelling is evolving. This year, we’ve seen filmmakers who are taking genre elements and injecting them into regular storytelling or drama, like “Resolution.” “Caroline and Jackie” has a little bit of that. Something like “Francophrenia,” where things are being experimented with. There’s something unique to these films, even like “Rubberneck,” Alex Karpovsky’s movie, where Alex is not doing his typical comedy role, but a more serious and dark role. So this is that section where we want to highlight what’s going on with voices in different types of storytelling.
There are a few notable names in the documentary section this year: "Downeast," from "Girl Model" directors Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, and "Off Label," from Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, the guys who made “October Country.”
GT: Documentary’s always hard because Tribeca is sort of known for its strength in documentaries. We have a strong alumni core as well. I think, at the end of day, it’s the films that move you or the films that are really starting a conversation that we haven’t heard, or something like “The Revisionaries” how, in Texas, they decide what goes into textbooks across the country. It’s an amazing portrait of this man where Scott [Thurman’s] not giving you any point of view. You can make up your mind, whether you’re a liberal or conservative.
Tribeca isn't known as a big marketplace, a lot of these films don’t have distribution. Do you expect some big sales this year?
GT: That’s the hope, that films without distribution can find distribution by being seen here. But we really don’t know what the market is going to be like. There’s certainly a lot of films that buyers can have a look at. We strive to do that because you want to give filmmakers an opportunity to show their work. There are some that haven’t had that first time to show their movie and if you’re choosing from movies that have had the pleasure and opportunity to play at a festival and the other hasn’t, we want to try and open that first door for them, if possible.
There are 54 world premieres this year, more than half the lineup of 90 films. How did that affect programming this year?
GT: I have to say, it hasn’t really changed in any year that we’ve done it. Some years, you just happen to do more submissions or world premieres that are available to us.
FB: Sometimes it’s best to program more world premieres, if there’s a higher quality. I wanted to have three or four important films in competition as world premieres.
GT: We even discussed beforehand, going into it, that we wanted to make the strongest program we can. But we got to the end of it and realized, “Wow, we have more world premieres than last year.” I was surprised when I saw the number. I think that helps the programming process, when you’re not concerned about those things.
Last year, "The Bully Project" landed distribution with the Weinstein Company after its Tribeca premiere. Now retitled "Bully," it has been generating a lot press attention ahead of its release. Is there anything this year that you think might have similar breakout potential?
GT: It’s so hard to tell at this point. Honestly, I feel like there are several movies that are really interesting that I think could go somewhere, but I couldn’t highlight just one out of them.
Try six or seven.
GT: I’m happy to say ones that I think are very strong, like “While We Were Here.” Daniel Burman’s new movie [“All In”] is really fun. It’s a lighter take in narrative competition. And “Yossi,” which we’re especially proud of, “The Revisionaries,” and "Fame High." There are some that I know, from being a former buyer, might have the potential to be interesting beyond being really strong festival films, which all of these are. When you’re talking about the American market, you have something like “Francophrenia,” because James Franco is in it. Or “Supporting Characters,” because it’s a great, new director/writing voice. Even someone like Alex Karpovsky, just Alex himself is a highlight because he’s doing this interesting work in his own way. That’s the true spirit of American independent filmmaking.