Volume 18, Number 50 | April 28 - May 4, 2006

Talking Points

Festival abandons Tribeca with ‘Flight 93’ premiere

By Wickham Boyle

I thought the Tribeca Film Festival was a great idea, five years ago, in the wake of 9/11, which left this Downtown community churning in commotion and temporizing with an uncertain future.

I love the lively arts; most of us Downtown have friends who are both struggling and ascendant artists, so the beef is not with the concept, it is with content. My gripe is that this festival, which so broadly proclaims itself to be Tribeca as if this were a banner to fly of high class and proximity to disaster, no longer has real communication or connection with this neighborhood. The moniker Tribeca is now merely an arbitrary title, with as much connective tissue as the Subaru Tribeca.

I say this because, how could a festival truly feeling the pulse of this Downtown world have chosen “Flight 93” as the cornerstone of the festival? When I first stumbled upon the actuality of this movie, okay I did know it was in the works, but I mean seeing the planes rage with sound delivered at glass rattling decibels, was when I was out with my husband for a silly Saturday date. This is rare for us and I was so excited to see Denzel Washington at my local theater, which in fact, for months was where one could get the best, clearest glimpse of ground zero, as the multiplex was diagonally adjacent, affording a ticket holder a perfect perch to peer into the pit. When the trailer came on for “Flight 93,” my heart raced, my forehead beaded with sweat and I gulped. “I do not want to see this!” But here it was; and in a scant few minutes I was left angry, terrified and I did not want this foisted on me ever, let alone on my “date night.” So when I saw this film, which is already being shown across the country, being touted as an offering for the Tribeca Film Festival, I was mystified.

I have read reviews and many of them proclaim this to be great movie making. My friend, the publicist Mitchell Simmons, says, “Hell I am ready to see this, but I don’t live right there. I believe that you all Downtown will always have a different relationship to anything 9/11. But I am ready to see it.” He may be right; we may not ever be able to parse that day when a portion of our life was vaporized before our eyes. I wondered if this was just my natural state of high dudgeon so I began to query others. In the safe environment of my pottery class a half block from 7 World Trade Center, I talked to Maria Chapman, a Tribeca resident since 1979. Maria is one of the calm pottery goddesses and yet at my question about the festival and this particular movie she became indignant. “The rest of the country may need this, but we don’t need a movie, and what looks like a marketing move in this neighborhood,” she said. “We don’t need anything to remember what happened and shame on them for doing this.”

I asked shopkeepers, neighbors and kids. My own 17-year-old Henry scoffed not only at the offering but also at the very basis of the film. “I’d like to think that people were not so desperate for heroes that they would ignore other facts about the situation surrounding flight 93 and just accept this mediocre story. And if movies were going to be made about this time, I’d like them to be more indie films, not one of these corporate endeavors.”

So maybe the festival has misjudged this burgeoning neighborhood where its founder, Robert DeNiro, used to live. He moved Uptown and perhaps that is the metaphor for his festival as well; it has lost touch with the very roots that spawned it and is now ready to exploit, market and make hay while the sun shines.


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