The economy may still be sputtering, but don't expect the recession to take center stage at the Tribeca Film Festival.
There will be no searing indictments of the banking and trading industry unspooling just blocks away from Wall Street this year. But that doesn't mean that stories of financial hardship will be wholly absent, the festival's programming team said at a kick-off breakfast Wednesday at the 92YTribeca.
The 12-day festival of films and shorts opens Wednesday night with "The Five-Year Engagement."
"The economy is there, but it's really in the fabric of these films," Genna Terranova, Tribeca's director of programming, said.
"It's not an agitprop approach ... it's now gone into the background," she added.
Terranova and the rest of the team cited films such as "A Better Life," a French drama about a couple who takes out a risky loan to start a restaurant, as an example of this approach.
She might also have mentioned "Broke," a documentary about pro athletes who go belly-up after their careers are over, or "Downeast," a documentary about a man's struggles to get financing for a lobster processing plate, as other festival films that grapple with the downturn implicitly without explicitly making their subject the financial collapse of 2008.
She argued that the hesitancy to take on the issue more directly might have to do with the fact that the economy is still in the recovery phase.
"We're unsure which way it will go," Terranova said.
Terranova was joined on stage by Nancy Schafer, executive director of the festival; Frédéric Boyer, its artistic director; and Geoffrey Gilmore, chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises. Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, the festival's co-founders, gave brief introductory remarks.
Many of the filmmakers behind the 89 films that were selected from 6,000 submissions for this year's festival were grappling with the downturn on a more personal level.
"Filmmakers are changing, because budgets are different than they were five years ago," Schafer said.
To that end, programmers said that more of their filmmakers are funding their films through crowd-funding and on online fundraising sites like Kickstarter. They did not have statistics readily available about how many of the festival entrants had raised money via the internet, however.
They argued that this kind of community based financing was very much in keeping with the spirit of Tribeca, a festival that was started in 2002 as part of an effort to bring business and culture back to Lower Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Beyond the themes that will be explored in the movies that play in New York City over the next week and a half, Tribeca's programming team argued that in a short period of time the festival had emerged as an essential stop on the filmmaking circuit -- a potent mixture of mainstream studio films like "The Avengers" and low-budget indies.
"We're proud of how far we've come and we're excited about where the next 10 years will bring us," Rosenthal said.