The Tenth Annual Tribeca Film Festival was approaching and my anticipation was steadily rising. I had attended this festival a few times as an audience member and also a volunteer, but this was the year I’d be going as a member of the press. Being in a city during a film festival is thrilling, but being able to participate in such an event is truly exhilarating. When I volunteered a few years ago I was mainly helping press and industry members figure out where they had to go for their screenings. The streets of New York City can be very confusing and the festival was spread out in various areas of the city, so I was happy to be of help. This year I found myself asking volunteers the same questions people had asked me a couple years before. I did have a slight advantage, however, since I do live in New York and have had almost four years to figure things out. Even so, I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town a few weeks before the festival even started.
I found myself wandering the streets of an area in downtown Manhattan called Tribeca. I was there because I got the opportunity to attend a part of the festival that not many get to enjoy: the pre-festival screenings. These select screenings were held a couple of weeks before the start of the festival in the area that gives the festival its name. It makes you appreciate what the founders were originally trying to do: bring life back into an area of Manhattan that was associated with tragedy in the aftermath of 9/11.
As I arrived in Tribeca on a nice warm spring night I noticed that the street was bustling with people. There was a young boy carelessly riding his scooter through the masses, people were scurrying in and out of taxis and elegantly dressed women were unsuccessfully trying to walk on the cobblestone in heals. It felt like New York. It felt like the streets had been magically restored to their former glory and everyone wanted in on the excitement. The street seemed to almost sense the festival presence. Banners announcing the arrival of the 10th Annual Tribeca Film Festival were proudly hung on lampposts and I figured I was in the right place. So I went and found the theater where the screenings were to take place and checked in.
The theater was not very big, but had large and comfortable seats. As I settled into my chair I glanced around the room, I found the atmosphere to be very intimate and congenial. Press members were talking amongst themselves; others were fussing with their smart phones or reading the production notes we were handed at the check-in desk. The film began on time and with no announcement. When it concluded you had the option of staying for the second film or leaving to go home. It was as simple as that.
I enjoyed the pre-screenings greatly, because it was well-organized but still exciting. Every time I walked back to the subway after the five films I was able to see during the pre-screenings, I couldn’t help feeling privileged. I had witnessed a way of seeing films not many people have the option of doing. They were simply shown to us as they were and we were left to decide for ourselves what we thought of it. It was a very effortless way of seeing a piece of art and I felt like I could appreciate the true nature of the films I saw, even if they weren’t quite to my liking. There’s also something amusing about participating in an event that almost 8 million people don’t even know about; as if the pre-screenings were an exclusive club that only a few hopefuls could get in to. This year I was proud to be one of them.