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    New York: Tribeca Film Festival 2018 /Link

    Known for its cutting-edge demonstrations of new story telling technologies and an outstanding selection of feature length productions in which documentaries often prevail, the 2018 edition of the Tribeca film festival was held from April 18 – 29.  It has greatly expanded its program with new innovative segments since its founding in 2002. In the first edition 1,300 productions were submitted of which 116 films and 36 short films were featured in the program. In 2018 there were 8,791 submissions.  Among the final selections were 99 feature films, 55 short films, 35 productions from Tribeca’s immersive VR  program and Tribeca N.O.W, a  showcase of 12 independent creators new online work.  Most productions originated in the USA, but 29 feature films, 22 shorts, and 23 productions in other sections represented 45 other countries, thus confirming the international face of Tribeca.

    In addition, television productions were presented in 21 projects. Tribeca has also started its own television festival with its second edition scheduled for this September. Prior editions of the fest included television programs. In 2018 there were retrospectives, honoring Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg, more than 20 professional talks and masterclasses, the Tribeca Games section, as well as public events.   Though the festival has always expanded into new areas from its inception, films and visual story telling have remained the fundament core of the festival. Like Berlin, Sundance and other fests the Tribeca program included productions supported by the festival; seven features and one immersive project.

    Questions can be raised about the selections for the final program which resulted in a 2% acceptance rate of the 8,791 submissions. For the outsider it is difficult to ascertain how such a large number of films can be evaluated. Dieter Kosslick, director of the Berlinale, whose festival has to cope with even more submissions acknowledged this problem. Some noteworthy productions can fall through the cracks. Tribeca representatives argue that a large number of reviewers and screeners with a professional background who are paid for their contributions assure that no significant errors are made.  There is a core team working year-round, film programmers, film makers and specialists from the newer sections of the festival such as immersive programs.  According to Frederick Boyer, the artistic director of the festival, all films are watched from beginning to end by at least one person and those identified as relevant reviewed by several core members of the team.  They have their personal preferences but there is no thematic preconception about the orientation of the festival. Whatever themes prevail in the final selection arise from the films which were reviewed.

    The same question holds for the Sundance film festival which had this year 13,468 submissions including 3,901 feature and 8,740 short films. The proportion of short films is much higher for Sundance than Tribeca and given the growth of Tribeca one can assume that in future editions more feature-length films will be shown by the Tribeca film festival than by Sundance.  Overall, Tribeca seems to be better positioned in the rapidly changing visual media market than Sundance.  For once, 76 of its 99 feature films were world premieres as were 18 of the 21 television productions and 11 of the dozen Tribeca N.O.W. works.  Whereas it is difficult to establish how many of the films entering Sundance without distribution find placement, Tribeca reports an increase of film sales and acquisition each year. Cara Cusamo, Tribeca’s Director of Programming also suggested that “Typically about two thirds of the feature films that are available are acquired within a year and find distribution. “ Tribeca also appears to be responding to the expansion of college trained filmmakers and their mass of productions for which there is simply no market or commercial demand.  They can participate in the growing number of film festivals catering to them, show their work on YouTube or streaming platforms, pay submission fees and fund consultants, but hardly generate enough income to pay their rent.  Rejection 98% of all submitted content as Tribeca has provides a lesson as much as the pragmatic help for those who were accepted.

     In the Tribeca TV section all programs including several premieres held after screening discussions with directors and production executives.  Among TV productions shown were Bobby Kennedy for President (Netflix), Enhanced (ESPN), Genius Picasso (National Geographic), Picnic at Hanging Rock (Amazon Prime), Westworld (HBO), and Freaks and Geeks (WP).   For Tribeca’s on-line producers the New Online Work Creators Market, a one day private industry market event, created a pitching platform for the producer to generate interest in their work by including dozens of industry companies and online networks. Another market oriented aspect of the festival started in 2017 was the inclusion of five independently produced TV pilot programs searching for distribution.

    Tribeca’s expansion into television and related online screening platforms makes perfect business sense. With theatrical distribution of demanding feature films declining, network television exposure narrowing and some well-known directors migrating to television, most specifically with streaming platforms, television content has become an indispensable part of the media market.  Foreign and independent productions will hardly survive outside the screening platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and numerous others which are constantly emerging, appealing to an audience ranging from those interested in international television series to those with a preference for production made in Israel.   The second edition of the Tribeca Television Festival will reflect its role as a gate keeper, curating and narrowing down the best new pilot programs and gaining access to material not ready for its film festival.

    Among Tribeca’s outstanding programs several deserve special attention. There are innovative interactive storytelling programs for which the festival has been a leading force for decade. The Virtual Arcade premiered 21 VR / AR exhibits and the Tribeca360 VR theatre had four curated screening programs. The virtual reality offerings included  33 exhibitions featuring renown creators  like Jeremy Bailson, Eugene Y  K Chung , Sasckka Unseld, Lindsay Branham as well as emerging artists. In Cinema360 four immersive screening productions were presented.   As stated by the programmer Loren Hammonds what connects all of the immersive programs is the context of “cultural crossroads.  In times of crisis and contemplation… the creators are using technology and storytelling to tackle subjects such as the danger of nuclear weapons, racial and religious discrimination and the real face of climate change”


    In our period of rapidly changing scientific and technological innovations that seem to outpace our response and coping ability Tribeca’s annual Disruptive  Innovation Awards  celebrated in its ninth year individual and institutions which have developed pragmatic and effective solutions to the problems our societies are facing.  Covering virtually all areas of human endeavors and conflict creations the answers provided knew no frontiers and tended to reflect reasoning and approaches which are developed outside standard thinking.  To provide some examples from this year’s 21 selections:  Michiko Kakutani received the “Disruptor Award Book of the Year” for her demonstration in “The Death of the Truth” that truth had become an endangered species before the ascent of Donald Trump. Etty Ausch as depicted in the Netflix documentary One of Us   left her ultraorthodox Hasidic community to develop her own self and now helps others from similar groups to overcome the bondage they were immured in.  The 2017 Nobel Price was granted to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for which Beatrice Fihn played an essential role as an Executive Director. She helped to mobilize the public and policy makers to have the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons passed. Dr. Waleed Hassanein established TransMedics and developed the revolutionary “living organ preservation” field that keeps human organs functioning outside the human body. Probably no other individual had as much impact on the transformation of documentaries as Sheila Nevins who was in charge of HBO documentary films, supervising in her long service for HBO the completion of more than 1500 documentaries, receiving 109 prestigious awards in addition to 26 academy awards. Under her guidance documentary filmmakers produced outstanding programs and she opened with her work many new thematic and frequently controversial fields for a discerning public.  


    Claus Mueller   [email protected]



    (@)Claus Mueller

    Published on 17 May 2018 at 06:06PM

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