The epicenter of the festival, co-founded by Robert De Niro to help revive Lower Manhattan after Sept. 11, is just blocks away from ground zero for the current economic crisis: Wall St. Several of the films at Tribeca portray or examine the current economy, including the sub-prime mortgage documentary "American Casino" and Steven Soderbergh's ultra-current "The Girlfriend Experience."
The festival, which begins Wednesday, has shrunk to 85 films, down from a high of 157 in 2007. A leaner fest may be a positive for Tribeca, which some have in the past called unwieldy. Sponsorships also are down.
But belt-tightening has been going on for a year or more across independent film, whose own crisis has been exacerbated by the economic collapse. Studios have contracted their output and indie labels, like Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse, have shuttered.
Locally, the landscape of New York's influential independent film is also in flux. The older, prestigious, uptown Film Society of Lincoln Center is in the middle of a shake-up following the arrival of new executive director Mara Manus. The vital indie distributor New Yorker Films closed shop in February.
After 19 years as the director of the Sundance Film Festival, Geoff Gilmore left earlier this year to join Tribeca Enterprises—the parent company of the New York festival—as chief creative officer. Longtime Tribeca artistic director Peter Scarlet left shortly thereafter to become the executive director of Abu Dhabi's Middle East Film Festival.