The star-studded second annual Tribeca Film Festival begins to hit its stride, despite a few growing pains.

By Nancy MillerMissy Schwartz and Sumeet Bal
Updated May 23, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Film festivals behave a lot like teenagers. They struggle to stand out, struggle to fit in, and hastily cultivate an identity as a means for survival. And this year the second Tribeca Film Festival (May 3 — 11) acted, like, such the total sophomore.

Of course festival cofounder Robert De Niro would prefer that his love child not be compared to older sibs Sundance, Toronto, or Cannes. ”We’re doing our own thing,” he said on May 6 at a press conference steps away from Ground Zero. ”We’re not competing with anyone.” Certainly no other young festival rivals Tribeca for star power. Fans stood along the red carpet (actually, it was pink) ogling Ewan McGregor, Renee Zellweger, Taye Diggs, and Bono at the May 6 world premiere of Down With Love.

”Everybody seems to like this festival, unlike normal film festivals,” noted Albert Brooks at Saturday’s premiere of The In-Laws. ”You see a lot of smiles and a lot of excitement, so I think it’s cool.”

Yet something felt a little, well, sophomoric about the whole thing. Wednesday night’s premiere party for Death of a Dynasty, a satire about journalists and hip-hop culture, unironically mirrored scenes from the movie: In the deepest nook of a bar called the Breakfast Club, Dynasty director/Roc-A-Fella mogul — turned — liquor promoter Damon Dash, below, sprawled like a sweaty sultan on a plush purple lounge, reporters crouched at his feet, as he recalled his own De Niro moment. ”We hung out backstage a little bit,” he recalled of the premiere. ”We haven’t had no real one-on-one quality time, but he’s still my new best friend.”

And at times the festival displayed an organizational philosophy that seemed a bit Kafkaesque. ”We’re sold out,” patrons were told at one screening, ”but you can come down to the box office to buy tickets.” Scores waited as long as an hour outside the United Artists cinema to see films like Evan Oppenheimer’s Justice or Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s It Is Easier for a Camel (which earned the director, left, both a Best Actress award and a Best Emerging Narrative Filmmaker award at the closing ceremonies May 11).

And there’s at least one more way in which the festival could stand to matureas a marketplace. At press time, only one movie (Nola, a first feature by Nolan Hruska) had been purchased (by Fireworks Pictures).