New York Post - 12 May 2003
Lou Lumenick

The Real Deal - Tribeca Film Fest Nails it 2nd Time

EVEN if Robert De Niro weren't such a scary fellow on screen, nobody would disagree with his succinct summary of his second Tribeca Film Festival, which ended last night. "It turned out to be great," the actor, sporting a goatee for a movie role, said during closing ceremonies at Stuyvesant HS. "Better than last year."

De Niro and co-founder Jane Rosenthal realized that the festival needed to grow and become more artistically credible - they couldn't just rely on the wave of good will that fueled the inaugural edition, which was put together in a remarkable four months to help revitalize downtown businesses devastated by 9/11.

And so it did, under its new program director Peter Scarlet - going from 150 to 200 titles from around the world while maintaining its mission to offer films that would appeal to the widest possible range of New Yorkers.

The wildly popular family street festival expanded from one weekend to two, and free tickets were available for an outdoor sing- along screening of "Grease" at Battery Park City.

Meanwhile, joyous audiences were thronging 14 screens at the United Artists Battery Park multiplex - and several other venues - to watch a smorgasbord of world cinema.

The incredible variety was reflected in the festival's globe- spanning awards, with the top prize, for best narrative feature, going to director Li Yang to "Blind Shaft," a Chinese crime drama about mine workers.

The best documentary award was captured by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Hugo Berkeley's "A Normal Life," about displaced children in Kosovo, while an award for a documentary directed by a more experienced director went to Moslem Mansouri's "Trial," depicting amateur filmmakers in Iran who defy government bans on their activities.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, from France, won both the best actress award and the award for an emerging filmmaker for her debut feature, "It is Easier for a Camel," a drama about an unhappy heiress.

The best actor prize was split between Ohad Knoller, who plays a gay soldier in the Israeli army in "Yossi and Jagger," and Igor Bares in the Czech road movie "Some Secrets."

The audience award was also split, between Chen Kaige's father- son tearjerker "Together" from China and "Keeping Time: The Life, Music & Photographs of Milton Hilton," a documentary about an American renaissance man directed by David G. Berger, Holly Maxson and Kate Hirson.

Controversial filmmaker Michael Moore, who presented the documentary award got the evening's biggest applause - and laughs when he told Nick Broomfield, who won an honorable mention for a documentary on Florida's death row and criticized Gov. Jeb Bush in his acceptance speech, "that'll get you on the Fox News Channel."

More seriously, De Niro said, "We are still young and I know this is all going to lead to something terrific. It already has"

No argument, Mr. De Niro. Bravo.

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