On the eve of ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’, De Niro takes on U.S. President

Talking about the coronavirus onslaught in the U.S., the actor said “the situation could’ve been minimised if we had the right team in the White House.”

Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder, actor-filmmaker Robert De Niro was his usual outspoken self in taking on U.S. President Donald Trump in a digital roundtable on the eve of the first edition of We Are One: A Global Film Festival, a unique 10-day digital initiative organised and produced by Tribeca Enterprises and YouTube.

Mr. De Niro appreciated New York governor Andrew Cuomo for doing a good job in the containment of COVID 19 pandemic. “He has been getting us out slowly,” he said, adding, “We could have gotten out of it a lot easier and this whole situation could have been minimized a lot more if we had the right team in the White House. That’s even more distressing.”

Mr. De Niro likened the pandemic to a science fiction movie and said it was lot different from 9/11, when asked to compare it with the other unprecedented human tragedy in recent U.S. history. “We’re in it for we don’t know how long. However we come out of it, it will be in stops and starts and spurts and here and there, until there are definite cures or a vaccine. It’s a whole different thing. It’s like a science-fiction movie. We’ll get through it. We’ll get there. It’s just what it is,” he said.

Organising the first edition of Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, just months after 9/11 was a sign of resilience, said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival’s Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. The challenge in organising We Are One was that the world couldn’t physically come together. The thought of an online festival, hit them on April 9, and the first of its kind film festival took shape in the shortest possible time. “There was little bit of inertia in the light of where we were, where we’d be and how serious the whole outcome would eventually be,” said Mr. De Niro.

YouTube’s Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl confessed of a similar incertitude. Though he could see consumption increase on the platform and could also envisage the larger role in informing, contributing to the well being and entertaining, he was skeptical in the light of the looming uncertainty. “I thought it was probably not happening… [But] it’s incredible for the entire community to have come together for the benefit of creativity,” he said. Ms. Rosenthal pointed out the necessity of creating new experiences and new memories in these mentally stressful times, something she hoped We Are One would be able to do.


The roundtable was also attended by the heads of a few of the 21 partner festivals — Toronto International Film Festival’s Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente, Sarajevo Film Festival’s Jovan Marjanović, Tokyo International Film Festival’s Takeo Hisamatsu and Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival’s Smriti Kiran. They provided insights on the slate of programming, discussed the future of festivals and the importance of providing relief and entertainment for free to audiences around the world in these troubled times.

“Joining the initiative was a no brainer for us,” said Jio MAMI artistic director Smriti Kiran. She said it gave the team a sense of purpose and it was extraordinary to be able to connect at a time when the world is so disconnected and fractured. “Putting together the programme lifted our spirits. Hope it lifts the audience’ spirit as well,” said Jovan Marjanović, head of industry, Sarajevo Film festival.

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“I think we’ve all put aside any competition between festivals. It’s been an incredible time when we’ve been talking to colleagues and sharing information,” said Joana Vicente, executive director and co-head of TIFF.

Authenticity is what defined the choice of films from India, underlined Ms. Smriti. “They reflect the diversity of India, are from second time filmmakers, talk about issues pertinent to India and are strong films,” she said.

The big question discussed was where the film festivals are headed in the pandemic and post pandemic world. “We don’t know when we’re going to gather again... We have found this in-between stage for us to gather together and be able to inspire and instigate imaginations. Hopefully, film festivals will go on again. What date, no one knows. Doing something in the virtual world and in the real world — one doesn’t preclude the other. They can happen in unison,” said Ms. Rosenthal.

Mr. Marjanovic dismissed the idea of going entirely digital but spoke of the digital capabilities growing more robust in the future alongside the physical edition of the festival.

Ms. Smriti said that one arm (digital) cannot substitute another (physical) but said it would be difficult to make predictions about the on-ground film festival in India with cases yet to peak, the epicentre being the film capital Mumbai and a humanitarian, migrant crisis running parallel to the pandemic. “If not this year, we will come back next year,” she said. However, going forward, she said that We Are One should be explored as an annual event.

“As filmmakers, you want your film to be seen by an audience,” said Ms. Rosenthal. YouTube could provide that platform to festival films. “One experience does not take the place of the other. You can watch a film online and watch it in the theatre and have two distinct experiences. Audiences now have more choices,” she said.

She went on to underline that it is important to support artistes. “They reflect on our society and culture,” said Ms. Rosenthal.

We Are One: A Global Film Festival will launch exclusively on YouTube from May 29 - June 7 at It will also enable viewers to be able to support local communities by directly donating to organizations helping the relief efforts for those affected by COVID-19. The festival will benefit the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as local relief partners in each region.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 8:56:28 AM |

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