On the big screen

Frédéric Boyer on the 20th anniversary Tribeca line-up and cinema on the big screen

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Tribeca Film Festival’s Artistic Director Frédéric Boyer (in Paris) with Anne-Katrin Titze (in New York) agrees with Frances McDormand’s Oscar speech: “We have to teach a young generation to see a film on a big screen.”
Tribeca Film Festival’s Artistic Director Frédéric Boyer (in Paris) with Anne-Katrin Titze (in New York) agrees with Frances McDormand’s Oscar speech: “We have to teach a young generation to see a film on a big screen.”

Tribeca Film Festival’s Artistic Director Frédéric Boyer is always a good person to talk cinema. We covered in our conversation the Opening Night selection, Jon M Chu’s adaption of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights; Mariem Pérez Riera’s Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It; Pan Nalin’s Last Film Show; Andrew Gaynord’s All My Friends Hate Me with Tom Stourton; Thomas Robsahm and Aslaug Holm’s A-ha the Movie; Thomas Daneskov’s Wild Men; Shariff Korver’s Do Not Hesitate; Adam Leon’s Italian Studies, starring Vanessa Kirby; Morgan Neville’s Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain; Warwick Ross and Robert Coe’s Blind Ambition, and Andreas Koefoed’s The Lost Leonardo.

Opening Night selection, Jon M Chu’s adaption of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights
Opening Night selection, Jon M Chu’s adaption of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

We also made a Georgian film New York festival connection to Levan Koguashvili’s Brighton 4th (Tribeca Film Festival), Juja Dobrachkous’ À Mon Seul Désir (New Directors/New Films), and Dea Kulumbegashvili’s Beginning (New York Film Festival). In addition, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, starring Jackie Coogan will have a 100th anniversary screening on Sunday, June 20 at 2:00pm on Pier 76 in Hudson River Park.

From Paris, Frédéric Boyer joined me on Zoom for an in-depth conversation on the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Hello!

Frédéric Boyer: Anne-Katrin bonjour!

AKT: How are you?

FB: Good, good to see you, it’s been a long time!

AKT: Yes it has. Are you still in Paris?

FB: You can see my ceiling? I’m in Le Marais, in my place, still in Paris. I don’t know, with the Schengen territory, maybe it’s going to be difficult for me to come in June. All our guests have issues to come, even members of the jury. I’m not sure about May.

Warwick Ross co-directed Blind Ambition and Frédéric Boyer says: “Seriously, it’s super good.”
Warwick Ross co-directed Blind Ambition and Frédéric Boyer says: “Seriously, it’s super good.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: When was the last time you were here?

FB: June last year. I did the first lockdown until June, I went back to France and we had lockdowns. I went to Venice and that’s it.

AKT: It’s crazy.

FB: Yes, and now we have another picture when you’re looking at what happens in India. We are tied to India, in terms of, if India collapses. It’s very important because they don’t know what to do now.

AKT: We are still in the middle of it.

FB: Yeah, we are still in the middle.

AKT: Let’s talk about Tribeca and your selection. This is the 20th anniversary. I think I have been to events and films every year since it started. You have 54 world premieres this year?

FB: Yes, 54 world premieres, 66 films. Normally we are playing 125 films or 130, it depends. I think we, Tribeca and I, we all want to play it a little bit modest, because of course what we love is afterparties but we don’t even know what we can use at the last minute. So we’re always thinking of plan B. Finally it was better to play only around sixty films because otherwise we couldn’t play them. We will play all the films online. But one good thing is, if you push the button, you have to see the film. You cannot see it again. It’s like going to see a film. Otherwise people are stopping, like Netflix.

Oscar winner Morgan Neville has Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain in Tribeca
Oscar winner Morgan Neville has Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain in Tribeca Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

We will also play a lot of films from last year. They will play on a big screen, because it’s their premiere. Many filmmakers are coming for the press and we are also playing these films online. So let’s see what happens. The venues are great. In terms of selecting the films, many festivals, and probably I would say Cannes, think about it as the beginning, let’s say, maybe the beginning of the end of something and the beginning of something else.

Now the vaccine is here, so we see a little bit the end of the tunnel. We wanted to have films which are, I would not say joyful, but that are not dark films in terms of light. Because it’s going to be outdoors, so we need something with closeups that people can understand on a big screen. By the way, most of the films are going to play during daylight with LED huge things. It’s like watching soccer, it’s going to be different. But it’s going to be on a big screen.

AKT: We missed that so much.

FB: Yes, and it’s the reason why I really appreciated Chloé Zhao, no, it was Frances McDormand at the Oscars saying see the film on a big screen! [“Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible …”] I personally think, I’ll get back to Tribeca in one minute, we have to teach a young generation to see a film on a big screen.

Frédéric Boyer with Anne-Katrin Titze on watching films on the big screen: “You, me, people from any generation who are working on festivals or are journalists are really important in that.”
Frédéric Boyer with Anne-Katrin Titze on watching films on the big screen: “You, me, people from any generation who are working on festivals or are journalists are really important in that.” Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

That’s a reason why festivals are important. Because if we don’t do it, of course they lose the idea of watching a film on the big screen. It will disappear. You, me, people from any generation who are working on festivals or are journalists are really important in that.

AKT: Apropos Oscars, before I forget, I can send you the link to Colette, the one I got from the filmmakers, without commercial interruptions.

FB: Yes, please do. I liked the story and I really want to see this film.

AKT: I have seen one of the films in the Tribeca line-up. The one on Rita Moreno.

FB: Oh yes, superb!

AKT: I loved it!

FB: It’s fantastic. It’s so joyful, and by the way, we are also doing something because of the Puerto Rican Parade. I think she is Puerto Rican, yes, I love it. It’s so joyful, yes, I really liked this one, too.

AKT: It’s meaningful, because she is so honest. It has everything you miss in so many documentaries. The truthfulness with which she recounts her experiences, about Hollywood, about the way she was treated.

Frédéric Boyer on Samay (Bhavin Rabari) with Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali): “Last Film Show, it’s a film by Pan Nalin, the guy who did Samsara. It’s really extraordinary.”
Frédéric Boyer on Samay (Bhavin Rabari) with Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali): “Last Film Show, it’s a film by Pan Nalin, the guy who did Samsara. It’s really extraordinary.” Photo: Navjot Singh

FB: Exactly! And what is good in the film, if you told someone about Rita Moreno, they might think it’s dated, but when you see the film it’s not dated.

AKT: And it goes super well with your Opening Night selection, In the Heights.

FB: Exactly. We have another one that’s just for fun, but super-well done, it’s A-ha the Movie. You know, the Norwegian band who sold 30 million of this song [Frédéric starts singing to me]?

AKT: No, I don’t. I’m sorry.

FB: I didn’t either, but when I listened and saw the film, I thought, okay, this is a film about this song! Everybody knows it. Even you know! By the way, for the cinephile, the Berlinale was good. Of course it was not the red carpet thing, but the selection was interesting. Several filmmakers and productions didn’t want to play online. They said, okay, let’s go to New York, which is probably going to be one of the first festivals reopening the cinema.

So in terms of symbol, particularly thinking about the Last Film Show, it’s a film by Pan Nalin, the guy who did Samsara. It’s really extraordinary. He’s an Indian filmmaker. The story is about this little boy, he came from a very poor family, it is really a biopic but it is really so beautiful. It’s not a nostalgic film, but this little boy is visiting a projection booth and all the cinemas are destroyed now in India. The mood is good, the light is good, it’s sincere, it’s an homage to filmmakers from Méliès to Chris Marker.

Frédéric Boyer on Aslaug Holm’s A-ha The Movie: “We have another one that’s just for fun, but super-well done"
Frédéric Boyer on Aslaug Holm’s A-ha The Movie: “We have another one that’s just for fun, but super-well done" Photo: Tribeca Film Festival

I highly recommend this one. It’s opening our Spotlight Narrative. I did the Q&A with Pan the other day, we are pre-recording the Q&As, and I was so happy because at the end he’s naming all the filmmakers he loves from Fellini to Kurosawa. So, yeah, you know what? It is the 100 anniversary of [Charlie Chaplin’s] The Kid. So we are playing the restored version of The Kid. He was so happy we are playing his film and The Kid in the same festival.

AKT: And Fellini’s centenary was last year. I had a conversation with Guy Maddin about his little dreamy short which has Isabella Rossellini play both Fellini and Giulietta Masina.

FB: I don’t know this one!

AKT: It’s a short, another thing I can send you.

FB: She’s so funny. And she loves animals. And I also love animals.

AKT: Some of the films I’m looking forward to - Morgan Neville is always interesting. His Anthony Bourdain film is in the festival.

FB: There’s a lot. You did something on Blind Ambition, the Australian film?

Warwick Ross and Robert Coe’s Blind Ambition
Warwick Ross and Robert Coe’s Blind Ambition Photo: Tribeca Film Festival

AKT: No, no, I haven’t seen it yet, I wrote you that it was one I was looking forward to seeing.

FB: Ah, yes, it’s super good. Seriously, it’s super good. These guys, they are from Zimbabwe, training to compete in the Olympics for wine tasting. They start. They trained with a French guy, he’s a caricature of the French, he’s from Burgundy. The first year, they arrived in the end, they were the worst. But the second year, they beat the Italians. It’s really fun and it’s respectful to the winemakers. I love wine, so I think it’s pretty smart. It’s a good one.

AKT: I noticed the film because Warwick Ross, one of the directors, is someone I met at Tribeca a few years back. They had a film called Red Obsession in the festival.

FB: You have a good memory! That’s right.

AKT: I like when it connects.

FB: I will say exactly the same thing each year, but I believe it in a different way each year. I think the line-up is good and I told one of the programmers, maybe it’s good because we have only 66 films. Of course it’s a little bit more selected. And there are several very interesting debuts. One is called All My Friends Hate Me.

Frédéric Boyer: “We will also play a lot of films from last year. They will play on a big screen, because it’s their premiere.”
Frédéric Boyer: “We will also play a lot of films from last year. They will play on a big screen, because it’s their premiere.”

The guy who wrote this film, he is also the main actor. His name is Tom Stourton and it’s a film about paranoia, it’s a dark comedy. I would say even like Aronofsky's Mother! but not so trash. It’s really interesting. Wild Men, this Danish film is also interesting, and Do Not Hesitate. These are really interesting débuts. I’d say, okay, if you start making films like this! It’s a pretty good year. People are still making films.

AKT: Great, thank you for all these! Good to catch up with you again!

FB: Thank you! Yes, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you, because you know Fellini, Antonioni. You know Dino Risi, you know Carlos Saura, you know Eisenstein. You know everything. And you are really a movie lover. It’s always great. I remember we met for a drink for Frammartino, a long time ago.

AKT: Oh, yes at MoMA PS1.

FB: Immediately the questions were really interesting and you are doing a job you love. Anne-Katrin, à bientôt, see you soon. Please let me know if you need any help, any tip, even if you need nothing.

AKT: I will, bye-bye! See you soon.

Coming up - Frédéric Boyer on Georgian films - Levan Koguashvili’s Brighton 4th, Juja Dobrachkous’ À Mon Seul Désir, and Dea Kulumbegashvili’s Beginning, Do Not Hesitate, Italian Studies, The Lost Leonardo, and more.

This year's Tribeca Film Festival has moved from its regular spring dates in response to the pandemic and will run from June 9 to 20. There will be in-person and drive-in events and, for the first time, the festival will have venues across the city's five boroughs.

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