Tribeca Festival opens in New York: five Middle East-focused films to be shown

Event includes 66 submissions from 81 filmmakers from 23 countries

The annual Tribeca Festival in New York has begun.

Now in its 20th year and dropping "film" from its title, the event features films, shorts, TV series, podcasts and games.

It's billed as the first major in-person film festival to take place in the US since the start of the pandemic.

This year, the Features programme will include 66 productions from 81 filmmakers from 23 countries, as well as 56 world premieres. This includes Jon M Chu’s Lin-Manuel Miranda adaptation of In the Heights, which opened the festival on Wednesday. The film follows three days in the lives of characters who reside in the New York City neighbourhood of Washington Heights.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, actor and co-producer of the movie "In the Heights," left, and his father Luis A. Miranda, Jr. pose for photographs ahead of a screening of "In the Heights" at the Tribeca Film Festival outside the United Palace Theater in New York, U.S., on Wednesday. June 9, 2021. Taking place across outdoor venues in the five boroughs of New York City, the event will celebrate its 20th anniversary with screenings of features, shorts, TV series, podcasts and games. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg
Lin-Manuel Miranda, actor and co-producer of 'In the Heights', left, and his father Luis A Miranda Jr ahead of a screening of the film at the Tribeca Festival. Bloomberg

With reduced capacity, social distancing and use of masks when necessary, the stars arrived at the red carpet at the United Palace Theatre in New York for the film's premiere.

While there was initial worry that submissions for this year's Tribeca would be on the lower side because of the pandemic, festival director Cara Cusumano said it’s had an opposite effect.

“We didn’t know what to expect, submissions wise,” she told Variety magazine. “I had heard from colleagues that festivals had been seeing fewer submissions this year, which makes sense, but our submissions actually did go up. We had over 10,000 in total, across all of our sections.”

Middle East films and themes at Tribeca Festival

Out of those submissions, there will also be a few regional films shown during the festival in various categories.

Peace by Chocolate, the debut feature from Canadian director Jonathan Keijser, will be shown as part of the Tribeca Online Premieres category. It is a heartfelt refugee drama that stars Syrian actor Hatem Ali in his final role before his death last December.

The film is based on the true story of the Hadhad family who rebuilt their business in Canada after their factory was bombed in Syria.

Next up is Egyptian writer-director Ayten Amin's Souad, which will be screened in the International Narrative category. In the film, Amin chronicles the lives of young women in modern Egypt and addresses how social media has influenced them.

The film was one of the 56 chosen as part of the “official selections” to the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, which was cancelled.

Another one to watch is No Longer Suitable for Us by Julian Joslin. The 21-minute film will compete in the Shorts category and follows a Syrian FBI informant and single father who gets the opportunity to potentially end deportation proceedings threatening to separate him and his son by telling a lie. It stars British-Syrian actor Laith Nakli.

Academy Award-winner Megan Mylan's Simple as Water takes a look at Syrian families that have been pulled apart by war. Competing in the Features category, the film has themes of love, displacement and fractured familial relations as it takes place between Turkey, Greece, Germany and the US.

Iranian drama Ballad of a White Cow, directed by Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moqadam, will be shown during Tribeca Critics’ Week. The film centres on Mina, a woman whose life is turned upside down when she learns that her husband is innocent after he's been executed for a crime. Soon after, she goes on a quiet quest for justice. This will be the film's North American premiere.

Tribeca Festival runs until Sunday, June 20

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Read more:

Cannes Film Festival 2021: the official selection has been revealed

Two Arab films announced on International Critics' Week line-up

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Updated: June 10, 2021 05:07 PM

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