Tribeca Film Festival Boasts Star Power, Free Music

The 10th annual Tribeca Film Festival kicks off tonight with a free screening and concert, before unspooling another 93 features and 60 shorts from 40 countries, with work from the likes of Keira Knightley, Alex Gibney, Taylor Kitsch, Jeremy Piven, Will Ferrell and Adrien Brody.

The first film of the fest will be “The Union,” a documentary about the collaboration between Elton John and legendary pianist Leon Russell that produced as album of the same name. John is, obviously, well known around the world, but Russell is a greatly under-appreciated talent who’s played with everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Rolling Stones. The film was directed by Cameron Crowe, whose love of rock music drove him make films like “Singles” and “Almost Famous.” And as an added bonus, the free screening on Wednesday will be followed by a performance by Sir Elton.

But it’s on Thursday when the movie watching begins in earnest, when screenings of films like “The Trip,” starring British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as pseudo-fictional versions of themselves on a restaurant tour of northern England (you've likely already seen their "Dueling Michael Caines" video on YouTube); “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” about 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono and the dedication required for his Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant to earn three Michelin stars; and “The Bang Bang Club,” a tense, nerve-wracking drama about a real-life group of photographers who chronicled the bloody civil unrest that spilled blood across the streets of South Africa during the waning days of  Apartheid.

“The Bang Bang Club” (with its cast of young stars like Kitsch, Malin Akerman, and Ryan Phillippe) is also part of Tribeca’s continue efforts to expand into distribution, along with “Last Night,” starring Sam Worthington and Keira Knightley as a young married couple who during an evening apart each find themselves tempted to stray; and “Janie Jones,” starring Abigail Breslin as a young girl left to be raised by her father, a struggling musician who didn’t even know he had a daughter.

Among the directors returning to Tribeca is Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, who this year comes to unveil “Catching Hell,” which looks at sports scapegoats like Steve Bartman and Bill Buckner, examining the ways in which one individual comes to be blamed for an entire team’s collapse. There are also docs about A Tribe Called Quest, bullying, a Koran-recitation contest, war and alcoholism.

The closing night of the festival features a gala premiere of Ed Burns’ “Newlyweds,” which was shot almost entirely in and around the neighborhood of Tribeca over 12 days, with a budget of roughly $9,000.

As is often the custom among film festivals, Tribeca announced two late additions to its slate, "Detachment" and "Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon." The former stars Adrien Brody as a substitute teacher in a film about the decline of the American Public school system, and marks what promises to be the first feature film release from writer-director Tony Kaye since his remarkable debut, "American History X."

Founded in an effort to help the city rebound from the tragic events of 9/11, Tribeca is the brainchild of actor Robert De Niro and his longtime collaborator, producer Jane Rosenthal. Over the past decade, the fest has grown from five days that attracted 150,000 attendees to a 12 cinematic orgy that draws more than 400,000 annually.

And don’t sweat it if you can’t make it to New York City, as 2011 finds Tribeca increasing its footprint in cyberspace, as well, as they’ve made a number of films available for viewing in their Festival Screening Room, an online forum for watching features and shorts of from this year and last.

Check out our complete coverage of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, including reviews, interviews and trailers here.


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