At last year’s inaugural Tribeca Film Festival, the damaged buildings near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York, U.S., received equal billing with the films being screened, as people attended in part to help revive the neighborhoods that lie in their shadows. Nearby buildings still stand ominously shrouded in black netting, a gloomy reminder of the tragedy, but the city has licked its wounds and shifted its focus, and so has the Tribeca event. This year, under the guidance of new executive director Peter Scarlet, the films were what people talked about.
Attendance reached 72,000 for the screenings and panels held from May 3 to 11. And, despite stiff competition from celebrity-driven fare, many of those people were at the documentary screenings. The Saturday afternoon showing of Spanish director Dominique Abel’s doc Seville, Southside – about the role of flamenco in Spanish Gypsy culture – was oversold. People sat on the stairs or stood for the duration of the film, refusing to leave the theater.
Audiences were also patient with organizational glitches. Like many other screenings, Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill’s showing of Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer started 30 minutes late. But, the full theater simply munched popcorn and waited. Chinese director Ying Li, at Tribeca with Dream Cuisine, noted that the festival’s relationship to the 9/11 attack made it fitting for docs, explaining that the tragedy awakened a hunger for reality fare.
Chai Vasarhelyi and Hugo Berkeley won best doc feature for a normal life, Moslem Mansouri’s Trial earned best ‘documentary >2′ (for directors who have completed more than two feature films), and Mohamed Zran won emerging documentary feature filmmaker for Song of the Millennium.