Famously launched in the wake of 9/11 to boost business in Lower Manhattan, six years later the Tribeca Film Festival has clearly turned a corner with its sights set on bigger issues and a larger spotlight. The event has grown considerably in recent years and even ruffled a few feathers along the way among rival events resentful of its swagger. Sensitive to the criticism, festival insiders point to the large industry presence and big crowds the festival draws and they also reiterate that the event will always have Tribeca at its core even as it grows. The shift at the Tribeca Film Festival has become more and more apparent to fest watchers of late. Last year the event opened with an emotional screening of Paul Greengrass‘ “United 93” honoring families of the victims of the September 11th attack, while this year a film and music event aimed at raising awareness about global warming kicked off the festival.
“The festival’s initial goal was to help bring people back to the streets of Lower Manhattan,” Rosenthal said on Wednesday morning, “Now our goal is to help bring people back to their senses.” Reiterating the point, she promised, “conservation through conversation.”
“Film is about culture and filmmakers can be agents of cultural change,” she Rosenthald, kicking off the festival at a press conference alongside former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, director Rob Reiner and Kevin Wall, producer of the Live Earth global concert series set for 07/07/07 in various cities worldwide. Along with the concerts, some 60 filmmakers have been commissioned to make short movies to raise awareness about the climate crisis, dubbed “SOS Films.”
Nine of the SOS shorts that will screen at the international concert on July 7th were unveield at a film and music event that opened the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival on Wednesday night at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Films were screened amidst a mix of celebrity appearances by Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, Jimmy Fallon, and Diego Luna, as well as musical performances by Jon Bon Jovi and the Children of Agape from the festival doc, “We Are Together.”
“For me whats so wonderful about the SOS films is that they can show us everyday gestures that can help change the world,” explained Jane Rosenthal at Wednesday’s press conference.
Unveiled at the opening night event were Chel White‘s “The Wind,” Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady‘s “One Less Car,” Malcolm Venville‘s “Global Warming,” Matt Mahurin‘s “H2 Uh-O,” D-Fuse‘s “Deforestation,” Sophie Muller‘s “Sunny Day,” Marcos Prado‘s “Waste,” The Foster Brothers‘ “Africa, Speaking wth Earth and Sky,” and Rob Reiner‘s “Spinal Tap,” revisting the lads from “This Is Spinal Tap.” Among the other filmmakers set to participate in the SOS series of short films are Jonathan Glazer, Kevin MacDonald, Abel Ferrara, Amy Berg, Ari Sandel and British production company Aardman Animation.
“Somehow, we do have to penetrate that shell of denial,” Gore said Wednesday night, capping the opening night event with a speech. Throughout the day, he and other speakers noted that awareness of the global climate crisis will soon reach a “tipping point,” leading to widespread support for measures to halt global warming.
Tribeca’s move to join the push for awareness of global warming comes as New York’s Mayor Bloomberg touts a controversial new plan unveiled just days ago during an Earth Day address considering the future of the city. The Mayor is advocating for a number of significant measures aimed at creating “the world’s first environmentally sustainably city.” Gore praised the decision on Wednesday, publicly backing Bloomberg’s goal of charging many motorists $8 to drive throughout Manhattan.
Late in Wednesday’s press conference, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Gregg Goldstein asked Al Gore whether the growing attention being given to global warming might result in a backlash against the famous people lending their support to the cause. Gore, Bloomberg and Reiner all weighed in to counter such a notion.
iW Video Link: On the opening day of Tribeca: Al Gore, Mayor Bloomberg, Rob Reiner and others talk about global warming and address the issue of a potential backlash against artists who support global warming awareness programs like Live Earth and SOS. Clips from Wednesday’s press conference are available on an iW Video segment (via YouTube).
“This is important enough for people to stand up and express themselves regardless of the consequences,” Gore said, “More and more people are going to applaud and reward artists who put themselves out there.”
The backlash question clearly resonated with Al Gore who referenced it once again during remarks at the Wednesday night festival opening film and music event, saying that when he heard the question he thought of musician Jon Bon Jovi, whom he introduced for a three-song set. Gore praised Bon Jovi for fearlessly taking a stand on issues. After performing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” his own “Living On a Prayer,” and The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” Bon Jovi also referenced the question about a backlash, saying, “We people have the power to make a difference. End of story.”