At a reception earlier this week, several industry insiders were debating Howard Feinstein's initial report on Tribeca for indieWIRE. Did the seasoned journalist/programmer go too far in his criticism? Was calling De Niro, Rosenthal, and Hatkoff, "three overly visible founders, more Patrick McMullenites than cinephiles" rude or right on? What about referring to most of the programming as "pablum"? One colleague called Feinstein tactless, with a lack of regard for the hard work it takes to mount a festival. Others found his candor refreshing.
Feinstein wrote, "We are fortunate to have so many choices in the Big Apple, so why settle for mediocrity? (According to one Tribeca insider, there is a push from above to have more English-language fare--here!) Isn't the idea to raise spectators up, to trust them rather than talking down to them?"
Meanwhile, from the previous week, Stephen Holden's coverage in the New York Times (which Feinstein mentioned obliquely) was full of positivity. Holden wrote, "....the festival is finally settling into its own identity and establishing itself as a major international showcase" and "As American audiences for non-English-language art films dwindle, and the marketing and distribution costs for such films increasingly prohibit their purchase by adventurous releasing companies, Tribeca has become an indispensable bulwark against the isolationist mentality of the moviegoing public."
I asked Peter Scarlet about all this as his Stella Artois was being poured. He told me he doesn't read about the festival during the festival, so he was not familiar with either piece. About a push to prioritize English-language fare, he said if I had something to say about that, I should write about it. So here it is: I believe that if Tribeca wants to maintain the respect of the film community, to hold an essential spot on the industry calendar, it must participate in the global film dialogue by prioritizing top foreign films as well as world class American selections. What do you think?