Typically Tribeca Film Festival press luncheons preview their annual lineup, with a reminder of the event’s social and economic impact to downtown New York in the years post-9/11. However, Tribeca co-boss and two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro kicked off this year’s 17th annual event at Thalassa Restaurant by jabbing at his favorite punching bag: President Donald Trump.
“Look at all the Fake News writers here today,” joked Robert De Niro to several laughs.
“The country has had a bad year, and you — the press – have taken a lot of hits. America is being run by a madman who wouldn’t recognize the truth if it came inside a bucket of his beloved Colonel Sanders Fried Chicken,” exclaimed De Niro.
“When he doesn’t like what he hears, he dismisses it by saying it’s un-American and damning it as ‘fake news’. But we know the truth. All thinking people do”
“Your job is difficult enough without being attacked by our Lowlife-in-Chief. The press has done an admirable job this past year. We’re looking at journalists as our saviors, in the same way we used to look at our political leaders.”
But if there is a theme for this year’s Tribeca, it’s the festival’s celebration of diversity, as emphasized by co-founder Jane Rosenthal when she took over the podium.
“It’s a cruel irony that today’s leaders are deaf to our message. When we work to break down barriers, they’re working to erect exclusionary walls. While we open our arms to artist and thinkers from all over the world, they’re narrowing the definition of America,” said De Niro’s longtime producing partner.
“While we see exciting, rich creative opportunities in our rich melting pot, their greed and arrogant self interest blinds them to the essential benefits of diversity,” Rosenthal added.
“In the face of this inhumanity, we stand definitely against the forces that are tearing our country apart from the inside. We stand with Time’s Up, Never Again and Black Lives Matter and underserved voices.”
Rosenthal beamed about Tribeca’s success in the current Time’s Up era: Women make up 80% of Tribeca Enterprises and also directed half of this year’s feature films. Of note is tonight’s opener Love, Gilda helmed by Lisa Dapolito and the closing title The Fourth Estate from Liz Garbus and Jenny Carchman about how the New York Times covered Trump’s first year in office.
Said Rosenthal, “That’s the highest percentage of feature films directed by women at a major festival. I look forward to the rest of the world catching up to us and also look forward to a time that I don’t have to brag about coming so close to equality.”