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DeNiro Launches Film Festival to Revitalize Manhattan - 2002-05-09


The lower Manhattan section of New York was devastated by the September 11 terrorist attacks, and its many neighborhoods are still struggling to recover. A new film festival aimed at speeding up the revitalization process and showcasing more than 150 films opened Wednesday.

It typically takes 18 months to put an event like the Tribeca Film Festival together. Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal, together with legendary screen actor Robert DeNiro, did it in less than four months. She says they were driven by both a sense of loss, and a sense of duty.

"There was a hole in the skyline and a hole in your heart," she said. "And that just propelled us to move faster and to try to get the festival done and put on the best show we know how."

The five day festival will feature 155 films, special concerts, a street fair and parties. But city and state officials are excited about the economic impact the festival is likely to make on the badly scarred Tribeca neighborhood. The Empire State Development Corporation estimates that the Festival will bring 30 to 50,000 visitors to the downtown Tribeca area, fill as many as 10,000 hotel rooms, and sell more than 30,000 meals.

Co-founder Robert DeNiro, says the festival is, as he puts it, "the least he could do" for the city he loves, and the neighborhood in which he lives.

"We've always thought of doing it, then this seemed like the time to do it," he said. "Because Lower Manhattan needed help, and…that was that simple."

The first annual Tribeca Film Festival is off to a roaring start. Mr. DeNiro's enthusiastic support and enormous reputation in the film industry has helped attract a host of celebrities: Hugh Grant, Whoopie Goldberg, Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Kevin Bacon. As well as dignitaries, including former South African President, Nelson Mandela.

The festival will host four premieres, including the eagerly-awaited new Star Wars film, Episode 2: Attack of the Clones. Another film debuting at the Festival, Insomnia, stars Academy Award winners Al Pacino and Hilary Swank. She expects this to be the first of many Tribeca Film Festivals.

"I think the festival's going to be huge. I know so many people wanting to get tickets to movies in general down there," she said. "And I think Robert DeNiro is a very smart man. I think we can use another festival here, to be quite honest. You can never honor movies enough, I don't think. Especially good movies."

The opening of the Tribeca Film Festival coincides with another landmark in Lower Manhattan's revitalization. The first signs of rebuilding at the site of the former World Trade Center have appeared: a construction fence has been erected around the area of 7 World Trade Center, and a groundbreaking is scheduled for June. The building collapsed on the evening of September 11 as a result of the terrorist attacks.

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