Due to the curious calculus of cultural anniversaries, the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival occurred a full five months before the 10-year marker for its impetus, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. So that means this year’s festival, which begins today and runs through April 29, will be the 11th time Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro have lured the stars of Hollywood present and future to Lower Manhattan for a celebration of film and the Big Apple. We spoke with the festival co-founders (one primarily through non-verbal auditory cues) about what they are most looking forward to this year, how Tribeca has changed, and what the pair’s working relationship is like after 23 years together. Click below:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is your 11th festival, how have things changed?
JANE ROSENTHAL: We know what we’re doing better. It’s not like starting from scratch.
How many movies do you two screen before the festival starts?
JR: I’m probably into my 30th film, but I’m doing more of our shorts program this year. There’s a short called Asad by Bryan Buckley, about Somalia and this story of a young boy and a fisherman. It’s just beautiful. We don’t watch all of them ahead of time. Sometimes it’s nice to just watch the movies as an audience member.
Do you get to do that a lot?
JR: A couple of times.
ROBERT DE NIRO: [Affirmative grunt]
What do you think separates the Tribeca Film Festival from other festivals?
JR: We continue to be a festival that was created because of an extreme act of violence on our city, so we come to it from a very passionate place of creative response to a situation because we didn’t know what else to do. I think that’s infused throughout our festival as we celebrate the lives that were lost and the extraordinary hard work that the millions of people who have worked on the [Ground Zero] site, so we always have a nod to that in our DNA.
RD: She just said it better than I could.
Any particular entries you’re excited for this year?
JR: There’s a wonderful film called Una Noche, and the director actually won the Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Award in 2010. There are also some great documentaries, like The Revisionaries, about what’s gone on in the Texas school board and how that affects our entire political agenda. That’s a very thought-provoking film. Another documentary called Sexy Baby is about how young women start to look at themselves. It’s provocative and highly disturbing. Then we have some great entertainment, like The Five Year Engagement, and a lot of very strong American and world narratives.
If you could change one thing about the festival with a snap of your fingers, what would it be?
JR: I’d like our own building that we could have everything in, that would have great cinemas, and where we wouldn’t constantly have to reinvent the wheel in terms of all the theaters we have to organize. So if I could snap my fingers and have a home base for the festival, that would be great.
RD: [Ambivalent grunt]
Are there any plans for that?
RD: Obviously we would still have to use theaters in the neighborhood, because we couldn’t have all the theaters in one building like some super-multiplex.
JR: Well, he was asking…
RD: I know, I know. But that’s part of engaging the community, using theaters that are around. That’s all I was saying. I know Jane meant something else.
How about you two, how has the dynamic changed over the more than two decades you have worked together?
JR: How has any relationship changed over 23 years? You argue, you have a good time…
RD: We’re still here.
Thank you guys so much for talking to me.
JR: More than happy to.
RD: [Grunt of farewell]