By Michael Avila
Special to DNAinfo
MANHATTAN — This year's Tribeca Film Festival features a lineup as diverse as ever, with 38 countries, including Iceland and Vietnam, represented among the 132 films and shorts. But, as in years past, the festival's hometown takes center stage beginning Wednesday night.
TriBeCa resident and festival regular Ed Burns premieres his fifth festival feature “Nice Guy Johnny,” a relationship drama about the lives of well-off but emotionally empty New Yorkers trying to navigate their way back on course.
His wife and model Christy Turlington makes her directorial debut at the festival in "No Woman, No Cry," a gripping documentary about four pregnant woman in four countries.
Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt portray a quintessential only-in-New York tale in “Please Give,” about a couple who can’t wait for their neighbor to die so they can get her Greenwich Village apartment.
Other films use the city as a backdrop, like “Monogamy,” a voyeuristic thriller starring Rashida Jones and Chris Messina as a couple at odds over the latter’s affinity for taking steamy photos.
James Franco ventures into the city’s darker side as a criminal in lower Manhattan trying to reunite with the woman he loves in “William Vincent.”
“The Space Between” features Melissa Leo in a cross-country journey from Texas to Manhattan, immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Tribeca also collected a powerhouse line up of documentaries, including perhaps the hottest ticket at the festival, director Alex Gibney's “Untitled Eliot Spitzer Film,” about the former governor's scandalous fall from grace.
Gibney, who won an Oscar for the 2007 documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” (which premiered at Tribeca), is certainly the MVP of the festival, with three projects, including a role in the festival's closing night movie “Freakonomics,” based on the best-selling book.
He also directed “My Trip to Al-Qaeda,” based on Lawrence Wright’s one-man play about the radical beliefs that led to the September 11th attacks. The film has special resonance at the festival, which was created by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro to help revitalize lower Manhattan after 9/11.
Other documentaries with New York flavor include “The Lottery,” which tracks four families trying to beat the odds to gain entrance into one of the city’s most successful schools, and “Arias With a Twist: The Docufantasy,” which chronicles the eclectic downtown New York art scene using footage of visionaries such as Andy Warhol, Jim Henson and Grace Jones.
Mets fans will find nostalgic comfort in “Last Play at Shea,” documenting Shea Stadium’s swan song through the soundtrack of the ballpark’s final performer, Billy Joel.
The festival is also embracing the online and on-demand platforms for the first time. The Tribeca Film Festival Virtual will give people who can’t make it to screenings the chance to buy a ticket to see eight festival features and 18 shorts, in their own homes. Burns’ “Nice Guy Johnny” kicks off the virtual festival on April 23.
The festival kicks off Wednesday night with Tribeca’s first-ever 3-D movie, “Shrek Forever After.” Other notable premieres include “Get Low” with Bill Murray and Robert Duvall; “Ondine” from director Neil Jordan and starring Colin Farrell; and Michael Winterbottom’s “The Killer Inside Me” starring Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba.