Tribeca 2020 to Offer Select Online Programming, but Still Hopes for a Live Festival

Festival director Cara Cusumano tells IndieWire why the festival is uniquely suited for virtual enjoyment, while still pulling for a live event in the coming months.
Tribeca Film Festival at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.'It Takes A Lunatic' film premiere, Tribeca Film Festival, New York, USA - 03 May 2019
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

Postponed just weeks before it was set to roll out in New York City, the Tribeca Film Festival has announced plans to offer select programming from its 19th annual festival to be presented online. Festival director Cara Cusumano told IndieWire that the new initiative is just one new facet of a rapidly changing landscape, though the hope still remains to hold a traditional festival in the coming months.

“There’s still very much the momentum for the physical, in-person festival experience once we’re able to lift the gathering ban and the cinemas are open again,” Cusumano said, referencing the statewide ban on all nonessential gatherings. “It’s so hard to predict, since everything is changing day to day. I definitely feel like this is the first announcement, this is not the announcement. We’re excited to get this out so quickly and then keep the conversation going and keep an eye on what’s going on.”

With just a month left before it was set to celebrate its 19th edition, the festival was forced to postpone its mid-April dates when Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a ban on all gatherings of more than 500 people. The announcement didn’t just postpone Tribeca, but also pushed the temporary closure of all Broadway performances and most cultural instituions, from the Met to Carnegie Hall.

“It all happened really fast, and then very quickly afterward, it was, ‘What’s next? What does postponed mean? What does that look like and what can we start to do right away?,’” Cusumano said. “We just felt a lot of pressure to deliver for these filmmakers. I think sending an email to everyone saying that we weren’t going to be able to proceed with the festival was devastating, and all I could think about was the next email that was going to be able to offer them something that was that was going to start to help them.”

In the coming days, the festival will make available “a mix of programming online that celebrates and promotes creators,” including a selection of projects from the Tribeca Immersive Cinema360 VR programming, N.O.W. Creators Market, the Industry Extranet Resource Hub, and the brand storytelling Tribeca X Awards. As Cusumano explained, these forward-thinking sections, which have always relied on evolving technology, were uniquely suited for a pivot to the online and virtual space.

I think everything is on the table and it’s kind of an exciting time in a way to be innovative, because I feel like filmmakers and industry and audiences are receptive to things that maybe were different than what we’re all used to,” Cusumano said. “We have these programs that we’ve been developing for years, so it just felt really natural and organic for them to evolve into these versions of themselves.”

Cusumano also pointed to Tribeca’s unique roots — it was first founded by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal in 2002 in response to the September 11 attacks as an antidote for a grieving community — as part and parcel of its ability to pivot in changing times. “We are the festival that emerged out of a community in crisis and is about the value of storytelling and film to bring it all together,” she said. “Now we’re in this very different crisis moment and we can’t do the festival the way that we did back then, but we can we can do it in a different way.

Tribeca will also also still hand out its annual Jury and Art Awards, and while some of those competing films are likely to be made available to accredited members of the press and industry through the festival’s dedicated Tribeca Extranet (solely at the discretion of their filmmakers), they will not be a part of the public virtual initiative.

Still, Cusumano said that filmmaker response has been positive, and that nearly all of the shorts will be available online  to accredited press and industry, with nearly twice as many feature filmmakers signing on than have in previous years. The response has been even more robust for filmmakers in competition, and while the choice to allow juries to view films online only was one left to filmmakers, over 90 percent of the competition filmmakers have opted in so far. (SXSW, canceled just a week before Tribeca and launched a similar plan that Cusumano said inspired Tribeca’s own strategy.)

Whatever we decide to do in the future, the competition that we put together feels done, we know what the films are,” Cusumano said, as the lineup was announced in early March. “Everyone is really onboard to do this because it was something that we could do and those jurors could do to support the filmmakers. We know how valuable those laurels can be for them as they plan their next steps. Why withhold that from them if we didn’t have to?”

The juried awards for feature and shorts categories will be presented by a variety of star-studded juries, all of which will select the winners to be announced on the official Tribeca website within the window of the original festival dates (April 15 — 26). The jury includes leaders of the creative community including ​Danny Boyle​,​ Aparna Nancherla​,​ Regina Hall​,​ Yance Ford​,​ Lucas Hedges​,​ Pamela Adlon,​ ​Marti Noxon​,​ Asia Kate Dillon, ​and​ Sheila Nevins​.

Specific dates for all of the new digital programming offerings are provided below, along with details for each program, as provided by the festival.


Tribeca Extranet, the festival’s online resource hub for industry, will launch as planned, providing accredited industry with resources on the 2020 program including rights availabilities, delegate directory, and sales contacts.

The Extranet will also host an online screening library of select Tribeca 2020 projects. Work from the feature and short films programs, Tribeca N.O.W., and pilot season can opt to make their pieces available to accredited press and industry during the window of April 15 – May 15. The films may be securely streamed on personal computers or tablets.


Tribeca is moving forward with announcing the 2020 jury members who will select the winners in the film competition sections for the 2020 program. The jurors will award work in nine different categories and honor new voices and prominent members of the creative community with unique art ​awards​. More than 30 industry leaders were selected to honor feature length and short film categories, comprising narratives and documentary films.

Jurors will also present the Tribeca X Award, celebrating excellence in branded storytelling at the intersection of advertising and entertainment. The winning films, projects, filmmakers, actors, and storytellers in each category will be announced on​ during the original Festival dates, April 15 – 26.


2020 U.S. Narrative Feature Competition Jury – awarding Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature​, ​Best Actor,​ ​Best Actress​,​ Best Screenplay​, ​and Best Cinematography​: Cherien Dabis, Terry Kinney, Lucas Hedges

2020 International Narrative Competition Jury – awarding Best International Narrative Feature​,​ Best Actor​, ​Best Actress​,​ Best Screenplay​,​ Best Cinematography​: Sabine Hoffman, Judith Godrèche, Danny Boyle, William Hurt, Demian Bichir

2020 Documentary Feature Competition Jury – awarding Best Documentary Feature​,​ Best Editing​,​ Best Cinematography​: Yance Ford, Regina Scully, Ryan Fleck, Chris Pine, Peter Deming

2020 Best New Narrative Director Competition Jury​: Lukas Haas, Juno Temple, Nat Wolff, Grace Van Patten, James Ponsoldt

2020 Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director​ ​Jury​: Erin Lee Carr, Stacey Reiss, Josh Hutcherson, Joel McHale, Gretchen Mol

2020 Nora Ephron Award Jurors​: Gina Rodriguez, Lizzy Caplan​, ​Aparna Nancherla​, ​Anna Baryshnikov​, ​Regina Hall

2020 Narrative/Animation Short Competition Jury​: Kasi Lemmons​, ​Pamela Adlon​, K​erry Bishe​, ​Taylor Hackford, Marshall Curry

2020 Short Documentary and Student Visionary Competitions Jury​: Asia Kate Dillon​, ​Marti Noxon​, ​Sheila Nevins

2020 Tribeca X Jury: Stefon Bristol, ​Taylor Johns, ​David Lee, ​Matt MacDonald, ​Bonnie Siegler


Tribeca Immersive, the incubator for innovation in storytelling, will move forward with the first edition of Cinema360 programming to be offered remotely. In partnership with industry pioneer Facebook’s Oculus, Cinema360 will feature 15 VR films, curated into four 30-40 minute programs. Films are viewable from April 17 — 25 in Oculus TV, available for Oculus Go or Oculus Quest headsets.

Featuring eye-popping visuals and compelling storytelling, this year’s Cinema360 selections include everything from science fiction and horror, to romance and comedy, proving that there’s truly something for everyone. Additionally, 10 of the 15 creators make their global premiere at Tribeca Film Festival.

Cinema360 Program 1: Dreams to Remember

These dreamlike experiences are journeys of adventure, from an immigrant worker’s poetic and alienating vision of his new home country, to the seemingly impossible first mission to an unexplored moon.

“1st Step​” (International Premiere) — Germany
Project Creators: Joerg Courtial, Maria Courtial
“1st Step”​ is equal parts documentary and fairy tale, telling the magical story of a dream come true: the Apollo missions. Follow the missions from launch all the way through to return, and find yourself gazing at lunar panoramas re-created from NASA’s archival photos.

“Dear Lizzy”​ (World Premiere) — USA
Project Creator: Within & Fivehundred
Key Collaborator: Deborah’s Child
Lizzy​ ​takes a walk as she reads a letter from a long lost friend. The road is long and there are many strange and beautiful things to see along the way. Yet Lizzy keeps walking. What is she searching for?

“Forgotten Kiss”​ (World Premiere) — Finland
Project Creator: Oleg Nikolaenko
Key Collaborator: Daniil Bakalin
Based on the story “​Forgotten Kiss”​ by Russian writer Alexander Kuprin, this film tells the beautiful legend of a royal prince, who was kissed by the magic Fairy of the Spring Night. As the prince grew up he kept looking for something incomprehensible, something completely forgotten: the forgotten kiss of the fairy.

“Rain Fruits​” (World Premiere) — South Korea
Project Creators: Youngyoon Song, Sngmoo Lee
Key Collaborators: Sergio Bromberg, Hyejin Jeon, Jinhyung Kim, Hwaeun Kim
Tharu comes to Korea from Myanmar in hopes of becoming a trained engineer. After a series of experiences as an alien worker in this capitalist country, he realizes that one’s dream cannot be found anywhere in the world but where his heart is: his homeland.

Cinema360 Program 2: Seventeen Plus

Future classics in search of cults, this collection of mind-bending narrative experiences is designed for more mature audiences.

“A Safe Guide to Dying” ​(World Premiere) — USA
Project Creator: Dimitris Tsilifonis
Key Collaborator: Froso Tsipopoulou
Linus is on a journey to find painless ways to die inside a video game simulation that emulates sensory experiences. While experimenting with different suicide methods, he realizes he cannot log out. Trapped in a digital abyss, a force is set in motion to reconnect Linus with his offline self.

“Black Bag”​ (North American Premiere) — China
Project Creator: Shao Qing
Ex-military security guard, Mr. S works for a bank and leads the life of a normal working-class man. He fantasizes about a major heist, a dream that becomes reality. This VR film uses abstract metaphor combined with a unique hand-painted art style to create an intense thriller.

“The Pantheon of Queer Mythology​” (World Premiere) — Spain
Project Creator: Enrique Agudo
Key Collaborator: Tim Deluxe
“The Pantheon of Queer Mythology”​ is a window into the world of a collective of Deities that present a way to question, empathize, celebrate, repent, resist, consume, abstract, identify, regenerate, and love in complex times. Step in, dare to learn, be inspired to grow, and enjoy the queerness.

“Saturnism​” (World Premiere) — France
Project Creator: Mihai Grecu
Step inside one of the darkest paintings in the history of art: Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. You will find yourself alone with mad Saturn himself in the cold and gloomy landscape.​ ​Saturnism ​is a visceral and primitive 360 experience.

Cinema360 Program 3: Kinfolk

Three stories of homes and families.

“Ferenj: A Graphic Memoir In VR” ​(World Premiere) — USA, Ethiopia
Project Creator: Ainslee A. Robson
Key Collaborator: Liam Young
“Ferenj​” is a visual dialogue between memory, reality, and the digital in an immersive memoir about Ethiopian-American mixed-race identity.

“Inhabited House, The” ​(North American Premiere) — Argentina
Project Creator: Diego Kompel
Creator Diego Kompel resurrects fond memories of his grandparents house in this inventive non-fiction work. Compositing 360 footage of the house with actual home movies that help bring the past to life, this experience is an exercise in formalism that draws on the power of remembrance, reverence, and family.

“Home” ​(International Premiere) — Taiwan ROC
Project Creator: HSU Chih-Yen
Key Collaborators: Kaohsiung Film Archive, Hsu Chih Yen Director Studios, Funique VR Studio
In this beautifully poignant experience, a family gathers at their old house on a summer afternoon. They surround grandma, though she’s no longer able to move, react, or hear clearly. As people come and go, the day stretches on—leading to the inevitable end of the gathering.

Cinema360 Program 4: Pure Imagination

Stories of innovation and illusion, with a healthy dose of inspiration.

“Lutaw​” (World Premiere) — USA, Philippines
Project Creator: Samantha Quick
Key Collaborator: Michaela Holland
Like so many others in her remote area of the Philippines, Geramy must swim between the small islands in order to travel to the nearest school. But she’s determined to find a better way to commute. This 3D animated experience is made in partnership with Oculus VR for Good and Yellow Boat of Hope.

“Attack on Daddy​” (North American Premiere) — South Korea
Project Creator: Sung Sihup
It’s Sunday afternoon and an exhausted daddy lies on the couch. Annoyed with his daughter’s pestering pleas to play, he falls asleep and wakes up to find her missing. Sensing something awry, daddy quickly realizes that the answer to the mystery lies in her seemingly abandoned dollhouse.

“Tale of the Tibetan Nomad”​ (World Premiere) — USA
Project Creator: Carol Liu
Key Collaborator: Stan Lai
A newlywed nomad and his wife bask in the flush of new love. He falls asleep then awakens to discover his wife has disappeared. Embarking on a quest to find her, he’s led into a life he never dreamed of—one that soon slips beyond his control.

“Upstander​” (World Premiere) — USA
Project Creator: Van Phan
Key Collaborator: Oculus VR for Good
“Upstander” ​is a 360 animated experience about bullying and how we, as bystanders, can make a difference. Immersing the audience in a world adjacent to our own, you are challenged to think and take action. How can we be part of the solution and not be part of the problem?


The N.O.W. (New Online Work) section, sponsored by HBO, will host its fifth annual private industry market that brings together leading online, episodic and immersive storytellers (2020 N.O.W. Showcase creators, 2020 TribecaTV Pilot Season creators and an additional curated group of online, indie episodic and VR writers/performers/influencers) to pitch new projects to a wide-range of industry, including distributors, production companies, streamers, and online platforms.

The N.O.W. Creators Market will take place virtually April 21 and 22, 2020, setting up hundreds of 20-minute, video pitch meetings between Creators and Industry looking to collaborate on future projects.


Tribeca’s New Online Work​ (​N.O.W.) section highlights independent filmmakers who create original, short form and episodic work specifically for the online exhibition space. The following group of filmmakers participating in the virtual N.O.W. Creators Market were to debut their work as part of the 2020 Tribeca New Online Work Showcase:

Mike Bender and Doug Chernack ​(​Awkward Family Photos)​

Tomas Gomez Bustillo ​(​Museum of Fleeting Wonders​)

Lance Edmands ​(​The Seeker)​

​Curtis Essel​ (​Allumuah​)

Keylee Koop-Sudduth and Micah Sudduth ​(​Backsliders​)

​Britt Lower and Alex Knell ​(​Circus Person​)

​Héctor Silva Núñez & Lu Urdaneta ​(​Home)​

​Alden Nusser and Ben Fries​ (​Dying Business​)

Ava Warbick​ (​Bobbie Blood)​


Tribeca continued its tradition of opening submissions to independently produced TV pilots in 2020. ​The following group of filmmakers participating in the virtual N.O.W. Creators Market were to debut their pilots as part of the 2020 Tribeca TV Pilot Season program:

Shelby Bartelstein​ (​Pretty People)​

Che Grayson ​(​Magic Hour)

Emily Kron and Kate Hopkins ​(​Deceased Ones​)

Scott Turner Schofield ​(​Becoming a Man in 127 EASY Steps: But What About The Children​)

Mike Ott ​(​Unemployable)​


Amir Admoni and Fabito Rychter

Enrique Agudo

Nitzan Bartov and Char Simpson

Anna Bierhaus

Common Table Creative ​(Oliver English, Simon English and Jamer Bellis)

Bianca Cristovao

Nicole Dawson

Stanley Erhart

Matthew K. Esolda & Brian Goodheart

Valeria Forster & Mercedes Cordova

Léa Furnion

Malerie Grady & James Mackenzie

Caleb Hearon

Sami Kriegstein Jacobson

Jennifer Levinson

Jonathan Lewis

Bunny Michael & Omega

Raqi Syed & Areito Echevarria

Adam Waheed

Micah Ariel Watson

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