In 2002, Robert De Niro, producer Jane Rosenthal and Rosenthal’s husband, real estate developer Craig Hatkoff, started the Tribeca Film Festival with the idea of resuscitating their downtown Manhattan neighborhood after 9-11. Wednesday, the eighth TFF kicks off with Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works,” and during the next 11 days will offer its audiences 86 feature films, a street fair and drive-in movies.
Rosenthal and De Niro recently sat down to talk about their baby.
Robert De Niro's film festival returns for eighth season
Q: Are you happy where you’re at after eight years?
De Niro: It seems OK to me. You always make mistakes and people have criticisms, and that’s good - they teach you what you coulda, shoulda, woulda. Our job is to take some of those criticisms and put them to use. We never knew where the festival would go when we started it, so it seems in not bad shape at this point.
Rosenthal: I’m very happy about where we are. When we look at how many filmmakers are returning to the festival with their second or third film, that makes us very proud. We’ve got Woody Allen and Spike Lee and Steven Soderbergh this year. So it’s exciting.
Q: There seems to have been a bit of drama this year, with personnel changes here, and Geoff Gilmore leaving Sundance for Tribeca after so many years.
Rosenthal: The drama is all the stuff you guys have written. We have had no drama here. It’s really kind of comical.
De Niro: I’ve talked to Gilmore, and I read somewhere that Robert Redford said, “I wish him luck,” and I thought that had it been the other way around, if someone had left us to go where they felt there was a better opportunity, I would wish them well, too.
Q: You’re about to launch a new sister festival in Qatar. Is this part of the Tribeca plan for world domination?
De Niro: Not yet, but we’ll try to get there. First the Middle East ...
Q: Middle East peace?
De Niro: Why not? At this point, everyone else has tried it.
Q: You’re a smaller festival this year. How come?
Rosenthal: We’re leaner, but some of it is based on economics. We’ve lost certain sponsors, like General Motors.
De Niro: Do you know why? (Everyone laughs.)
Rosenthal: But Heineken came in, Snapple came in, DirecTV came in. We were forced to have a slimmer program, but at other times we’ve been accused of being too big, too unwieldy. Hopefully, we’ve found our balance.
TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL
Wednesday through May 3; various Manhattan locations