Scarlet Fever

Tribeca's behind-the-scenes architect explains why bigger is better

I grew up in New York, as part of the film-buff world, and it's interesting to see in certain ways it hasn't changed. If you go to the National Film Theater in London or to MOMA here, you see some of the people you saw 40 years ago. Which I think poses a danger to that world. Those of us who care about film—and about different kinds of films—we've got to play every game in the book to try to get younger people hooked.

Do you see Tribeca playing a role in that regard?

We've done a number of experimental programs with [archivist and programmer] John Gartenberg, and the audience is not the one that sees these films traditionally in New York. Many of them have not heard of Stan Brakhage or Ken Jacobs, and that to me is educational, but without the capital E.

photo: Nicholas Burnham

Your programs have had a strong emphasis on films from the Middle East and the Muslim world—maybe even more so this year.

My first year, I had two films from Afghanistan in competition. At our press conference the following year, there was a guy who, unforgettably, stood up and said, "Last year, you showed a lot of films by the people who brought us 9-11. Do you intend to do that again?" And I said, "Well if you mean, do we show a lot of films from the Middle East? Yes I think it's the job of the festival." Even in as cosmopolitan a city as New York, most people don't know what's happening in the rest of the world and film is the best way to understand. Even flawed documentaries have the potential to communicate more about what's happening in Iraq or Afghanistan than newspapers or television.

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