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10 years ago, in response to the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center that left lower Manhattan changed forever, a new film festival was created in what would have been the shadow of the Twin Towers. On Wednesday, April 18, 2012 the Tribeca Film Festival opened on a lighter note, showing Judd Apatow’s new film “The Five Year Engagement.” The next day I had the pleasure of attending a talk with both Mr. Apatow and one of Tribeca’s co-founders and Tribeca stalwart, the one and only Robert De Niro.
The talk, billed as “Universal Celebrates 100 Years of Cinema,” was held at the Borough of Manhattan Community College campus. A red carpet faced the West River Highway and the Hudson River beyond it. Inside, the COO of Universal Studios, Ron Meyer, started things off with an at times heart-pounding and others heart-wrenching 6-minute montage of scenes from Universal’s grand library. We were reminded that Universal is indeed the oldest of the “Bigs,” opening in 1912. Back to the Future, Apollo 13, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, American Graffiti, Knocked Up, Harvey, Dracula, American Pie, and To Kill a Mockingbird are just a sample of the films that were showcased. As the images flowed across the screen I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the quality of both the sound and image. It was by far the best experience I’d ever had at in a college theater. When I found out that Dolby was in charge of all the audio for the festival I wasn’t surprised, and the sound didn’t disappoint.
The packed house loved the video, but were dying to see the two people who followed, Judd Apatow and Robert De Niro. Despite De Niro’s recent penchant for comedy, I wasn’t sure how they’d play off of each other. Apatow entertained with plenty of dry wit, being self-deprecating when referring to his own films and allowing De Niro to field most of the more “serious” questions. The discussion began with questions from social media, eventually leading someone from the audience to call out, ”I have a question!” Apatow responded “Oh, a real human being!” An interesting part of the questioning was in reference to the technological shifts in movie-watching, specifically in regards to watching on smaller screens. Apatow was thrilled with the idea of anything that allowed him to watch movies on the toilet. De Niro, while unfazed, was more guarded in his praise of the new tech. But he did agree that it seems inevitable that we will be watching on smaller screens more often from here on out.
To start off the Tribeca Festival with one of it’s cofounders, Robert De Niro, was a dream come true. I look forward to bringing you more as I continue my experience over the next few days. You can check out the online component of the festival here.
Eamon Banta is a film fan living in Brooklyn. When he’s not soaking up Dolby surround sound at a New York theater, he’s probably watching soccer, or catching up on a stack of Japanese language Blu-rays.