Crucially, "The Avengers" arrives at the end of the festival but does not define it. With a program large enough to represent a vast range of international cinemas, the festival evades an issue facing the European festival circuit, where many large festivals must include a certain number of national films. At least on paper, Tribeca contains a very diverse program, even if the lineup has yet to garner significant respect within the industry. Yesterday's awards ceremony illustrated that it's largely not the new movies that dominate the festival. "War Witch," Kim Nguyen's intense, thoroughly engrossing African drama about a teen bride pursued by insurgents, premiered in February in Berlin, as did "Una Noche," the acclaimed Cuban drama that nabbed Tribeca's acting prizes.
But that's an issue pertaining to the quality of the lineup, not the special events, which usually generate more talk than any of the world premieres (nobody remembers that awful Cameron Crowe documentary about Elton John from last year's opening night, but many fondly recall John's lovely performance after the screening). "The Avengers" belongs at Tribeca because the festival's strongest suit is its ability to throw a big bash, which is not a pithy achievement and could actually help more movies. "The Avengers" doesn't need the help, but I'll gladly play devil's advocate on this one: If Tribeca can do this for "The Avengers," it can do it for anyone.
An experienced colleague from the festival world recently suggested to me that Tribeca may want to drop the "film festival" label altogether and embrace its existing strengths. Call a spade a spade -- or maybe call it a "celebration of film." No longer facing insurmountable expectations, Tribeca could effectively remove itself from a supremely competitive, premiere-oriented world in which every lineup is held hostage by the calendar. By those standards, "The Avengers" (which actually premiered last week in Los Angeles) doesn't only fit in at Tribeca; it epitomizes one part of the festival that works as well as the commercial feat behind the movie's existence.