Toddling into its third year, the Tribeca Film Festival has unleashed a flurry of nearly 250 films. But competitive cineasts wonder whether Tribeca ever will be able to compete with its long-established uptown cousin, the New York Film Festival. Kate Hudson fans watching her giggle in the new comedy Raising Helen may not care, but if you really want to know whether this kid has steady legs, there’s only one way to find out—consult our cheat sheet, buy your tickets now—and take your chances. (May 1 through 9; see tribecafilmfestival.org or call 212-941-1515 for more information; $10-$25)
The festival launches two star-studded premieres: Garry Marshall’s glossy romantic comedy Raising Helen (with Kate Hudson) and the film we’re dying to see, Stage Beauty. London theatrical eminence Richard Eyre directs Billy Crudup as a Victorian actor who specializes in female roles—until his understudy (Claire Danes) torpedoes his career. In competition, 27 features range wildly in quality—but we can vouch for NYU film grad Josh Sternfeld’s Winter Solstice.
Appropriately enough, Brotherhood, an admiring documentary about New York firefighters, will get the gala treatment near ground zero, but there’s also an eclectic slate of documentaries in competition—from the local post-punk Kill Your iDols to Beauty Academy of Kabul, a record of the Western beauticians who took their curling irons (and New Age meditation) to Afghanistan.
The entries in the “Showcases” and “Spotlight” series may not be competing for anything but your attention, but you can see them here before they come barreling into movie houses and movie channels after the fest. Catch early glimpses of Mario Van Peebles’s tribute to his father, Baadasssss!; David Duchovny’s directorial debut, House of D; Kyra Sedgwick starring in an adaptation of Dorothy Allison’s Cavedweller; Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes; and Takeshi Kitano’s samurai film Zatoichi.
The Noho Star
“When I started film school at NYU, the truth was I didn’t really have a preconceived notion of the kind of films I wanted to make,” says the talented 32-year-old writer-director Josh Sternfeld, who makes his feature-film debut at the Tribeca Film Festival with Winter Solstice. “It was just what came out, and it never occurred to me to stop and develop a writing style that wasn’t just organic.” The best description of his approach that Sternfeld can offer is simply “being very attentive to emotional realism at all times”—and that rings true. There’s a sweet authenticity to his quiet film about a bereaved father (Anthony LaPaglia, pictured, in an excellent performance) and the stunted relationship he has with his two sons (Aaron Stanford and Mark Webber). Sternfeld’s film possesses a kind of awkward, shambling integrity, eschewing genre gimmickry for the honest feel of a first novel—though, like most first novels, it has its rough edges when it comes to things like continuity. “I don’t make excuses,” admits Sternfeld, a New York native. “I still have a ton to learn—and I definitely learned that when you’re a director on a tight schedule, you usually have five or six problems before the first cup of coffee.” (Screens May 3 to May 8)