Volume 18 • Issue 49 | April 21 - 27, 2006

Special section

Family Festival
Films, April 25 – May 7
Street Fair, May 6, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Greenwich St., between Hubert and Duane Streets

Odyssey Entertainment

Charles Sturridge’s “Lassie,” staring Peter O’Toole, is one of the 15 feature-length films highlighted in this year’s Family Festival.

All in the family: Tribeca Film Fest reaches out to community

By Steven Snyder

The Tribeca Film Festival is where many communities within the film industry, from producers to screenwriters to directors, come to meet. But for Peter Downing, the festival’s creative director, one of the key missions of the event since its inception has been pulling together the Tribeca residential community as well.

“The family festival is our attempt to connect this festival with the surrounding community,” Downing said. “It’s really the community umbrella of the event. I like to describe it as the bridge between the film festival and the families that live in the Tribeca area.”

More resources have gone into building that bridge this year than ever before. Consisting of a wide range of programs, including a mix of films made by, made for and made about children and teenagers, the Family Festival is also featuring its annual street fair, four short film series, red carpet premieres and a special reporting opportunity for young journalists.

Tribeca Film Festival
An art board decorated by area youth at last year’s Family Festival.
Downing said the chief goal of the Family Festival is to create a welcoming series of films and events for every member of the family.

“I’m a parent myself, and this is a program that’s been made for parents and children to share together,” Downing said. “We say ‘family films,’ but the best family film has enough of a story to hold everybody, and enough humor and insights to keep parents interested, as well as their children.”

This year, the Family Festival runs the full length of the Tribeca Film Festival, from April 25 to May 7, and consists of 15 feature length films, many of them premieres. The new DreamWorks animated comedy “Over The Hedge”; the live-action feature “Elephant Tales,” about two elephant brothers trekking across the African plain; a modern retelling of “Lassie” featuring Peter O’Toole and Samantha Morton; and “R.V.,” the new Robin Williams comedy directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (“Men in Black”) are all included in the schedule.

In addition to these high-profile American titles, the Family Festival will also shine a light on a number of foreign films, as well as a new section dubbed “T4Teens,” which highlights features and shorts made specifically with young adults in mind. Some of the international entries include “Laura’s Star” from Germany, “Peace Tree” from Canada, “Zaina, Rider of the Atlas” from France and “Beauty and the Bastard,” from Finland.

“It’s our opportunity, and our obligation, to put more diverse and interesting films out there,” Downing said. “Take our Finnish film about two teenagers coming of age — I don’t know where else you are going to see a Finnish film, but definitely not at your neighborhood theater.

“Some kids may never want to see Finland again, but some might start wondering, ‘Mom, what’s Finland all about anyway?’”

The Family Festival’s several shorts programs are curated according to age group. The “Just Like You” series focuses on children ages 8 and up, and features stories about kids from around the world. The “Weston Woods/Scholastic’s” animated shorts program offers children ages 3 and up an array of films based on award-winning and best-selling books. “Just So You Know” films highlight the struggles of being a teenager and “I Am You Are” is a series of short documentaries made by Palestinian and Israeli youth.

“The trickiest part of producing or offering an event for younger audiences is making sure you’re hitting all the right notes,” Downing said. “That’s why this year we’re gearing things at certain age groups.”

The cornerstone of the Family Festival is again the annual street fair, which this year kicks off at 10 a.m. May 6, on Greenwich Street between Hubert and Duane. Free and open to the public, Downing said this year’s street fair is home to a wide mix of attractions, including 30 family-friendly vendor booths, more than 50 schools that will participate in the festivities, special performances from an array of groups such as the Manhattan Children’s Theater and Broadway’s Anthony Rapp, and even a 20th-anniversary celebration of “The Magic School Bus,” complete with a life-size Magic School Bus kids can board.

“This is for and about Tribeca,” Downing said. “The heart and the soul of the street fair are all those people from the neighborhood. Some of my proudest moments are when parents told me that, ‘This was the first time my kids picked up a stick of chalk and drew on the sidewalk,’ or ‘This was the first time they flew a kite.’”

Beyond the films and the fair, the Family Festival also gives children a chance to put on their reporting caps, through the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. A team of children, ages 10 to 14, will be covering the film festival – including red carpet premieres – for the Scholastic web site.

The festival also crosses over into the classroom through the “Downtown Youth Behind the Camera” initiative, which will be highlighting a number of short films created by students participating in film programs through area elementary and middle schools. Downing said the Tribeca Film Institute has launched a number of film programs in hopes of reaching area high school students. Some of those students are chosen as Tribeca Film Fellows, and invited to attend the full run of the festival.

“Greatness begins with a spark and the sparks begin at this age,” Downing said. “We just want to bring them together and give them a chance to share their work with each other.

“For me, one of the most remarkable moments happened in this program three years ago, when all these teachers trying to do the same thing said ‘Thank you for bringing us together with these other people we never knew existed.”

A special Tribeca Family Film Pass is available for families to purchase. It costs $60 for adults and $30 for children (ages 14 and under), and secures unlimited access to all Family Festival screenings, as well as red carpet gala premieres.


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