Brian Williams and Bryan Cranston will be there. And Eva Longoria. And Michael Douglas. And Robin Roberts, Aaron Sorkin, Morgan Spurlock and Ron Howard. And Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, probably in neutral corners. And thousands and thousands of New York-area moviegoers, who are seldom neutral about anything.
There will certainly be some stargazing once the 13th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival opens Wednesday night, promising much discussion about individual movies, the future of cinema and life as we know it. But while hot and cold running celebrities have always been among Tribeca's accessories (the stars mentioned above are involved in various "Tribeca Talks"), it's also a festival for civilians: Unlike Cannes or Sundance, it isn't a festival primarily for industry or press, but for people who arrive by subway, get excited about new movies, actually buy tickets, wait on lines, often enough in a cold spring rain.
What they'll see when they get inside? A total of 89 features, 58 shorts, 55 world premieres, galas and sports programs. Those who don't want to leave their car can go to the Tribeca Drive-In. Those who don't want to leave their couch can go to the Tribeca Online Festival.
Either way, the films are not only being shown locally, but in many cases were made locally: The opening night feature, "Time Is Illmatic" -- a documentary by multimedia artist One9 about the making of the 1994 Nas album, "Illmatic" -- was shot largely in Queens. The crime drama "Every Secret Thing," the much-anticipated feature debut of Amy Berg -- whose acclaimed documentaries have included "West of Memphis" and "Deliver Us From Evil" -- was shot in Oceanside. On Fire Island, director Adam Rapp found locations for "Loitering With Intent," his dramedy with Sam Rockwell and Marisa Tomei. Sag Harbor and Riverhead provide the backdrop for director Lou Howe's "Gabriel," starring Rory Culkin.
Never heard of these movies? Well, that's something most of the 167 directors involved in this year's Tribeca are hoping to change. There's never a shortage of well-known names involved in the festival or the offspring of same -- Chelsea Clinton produced the documentary "Of Many," about the relationship between two NYU chaplains, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Imam Khalid Latif, and the fraught relationship between Jewish and Muslim students on university campuses. "About Alex" is directed by Jess Zwick, son of producer Ed ("thirtysomething," "The Last Samurai"), and features, among others, Jason Ritter, son of actor John, and Max Minghella, son of director Anthony. (The cast also includes Max Greenfield of TV's "New Girl" and Aubrey Plaza of "Parks and Recreation.")
Elsewhere, Gillian Greene, daughter of old TV star Lorne Greene, has directed "Murder of a Cat," which may not be drawing the PETA crowd but has what sounds like a crack cast in Fran Kranz, Nikki Reed, J.K. Simmons, Blythe Danner, Leo Nam and Greg Kinnear. It's also executive produced by Greene's husband, cult director Sam Raimi ("Spider-Man," "The Evil Dead").
But lots of unknowns make their way to the festival, which takes place in various venues in Manhattan and continues through April 27. Those filmmakers come from far and wide.
Helsinki-based Bulgarian director Tonislav Hristov will bring New York "Love & Engineering," in which "four desperate geeks around 30 looking for analog love" subject themselves to an experiment that attempts to find a digital solution to the intractable problems of romance.
In "Zero Motivation," Israeli director Talya Lavie presents a dark comedy about female soldiers fulfilling their national military service, and wishing they were somewhere else -- TriBeCa, maybe, where their film will be helping keep the movie action hot and heavy, especially over the next two weeks.
Tribeca Film Festival
WHEN | WHERE Wednesday through April 27 at various Manhattan venues
TICKETING BY PHONE Local: 646-502-5296; toll-free: 866-941-3378
ONLINE TICKETING tribecafilm.com/festival/tickets