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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Tribeca Film Festival Opens with Low Temperatures and High Spirits

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Denis Leary.”

And so began the star-studded night of music, surprises and frigid cold. The Tribeca Film Festival celebrated the kickoff of its 10th year on Wednesday night with the world premiere of “The Union,” Cameron Crowe’s documentary on the collaboration of music legends Leon Russell and Sir Elton John.

First to step onto the stage of the outdoor theater North Cove at the World Financial Center in front of thousands of press members, industry and fans was Denis Leary. The prominent comedian did not begin with cracking jokes, however, but announced that the greatest things about the film festival were the surprises.  With that, he welcomed to the stage the choir of PS 22 and the Bangles.

As the children sang backup to the Bangles’ hit song “Walk Like an Egyptian” (choreography included), the crowd was alive with expressions of “Aw” and “How cute!” while the band’s performance of its own song was somewhat overshadowed. Once the opening act had cleared the stage, Leary returned to crack a few jokes about “a special performance by Meatloaf” as Leary is “working on a documentary about the collaboration between Gary Busey and Meatloaf.”

Putting the jokes aside, Leary introduced co-founder of the festival, Jane Rosenthal, who explained that the festival was started 10 years ago, after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center led to the abandonment of the Tribeca area. The founders felt that they could restore Tribeca to its former glory by bringing the passion of film and a little bit of celebrity power to the neighborhood.

She then thanked the sponsors and introduced who she felt was one of the only real “artists” when it comes to “real directors:” Martin Scorsese.  Scorsese made a few remarks about the festival and how from the beginning he was happy to help Rosenthal and Robert De Niro accomplish their goals. The microphone was handed over to Rosenthal one last time so she could finally introduce the man of the evening, Sir Elton John.  John spoke briefly, thanking Rosenthal and the rest of the festival for choosing “The Union” to open the festival, and about how he was nervous because it had been his first time seeing the film as well.  After saying “See you after the film,” he left the stage and the movie began.

The audience’s reaction to the film was enthusiastic, despite the freezing temperature and winds coming off the Hudson River. John and Russell’s chemistry and banter garnered laughs, positive outbursts and scattered applause from the crowd throughout the showing. A main point that John wanted to make within the film was that Russell should begin to get the recognition he was denied for so long; a wish that came true as just the mention of Russell’s name after the film prompted large amounts of applause and energy.

When the movie was over, Elton John once again took the stage and performed his classic hits “Tiny Dancer” and “Rocket Man” as well as other hits and songs from his latest release “The Union,” the subject and namesake of the film. The crowd was on its feet for the entire performance and gave a well-deserved standing ovation once it was over.

As a whole, the entire opening ceremony achieved Rosenthal’s hopes: restoring faith in human spirit.  From Elton’s final line of the movie “I love you, Leon,” to his performance of their new song “You’re Never Too Old to Hold Someone,” the atmosphere glowed with the message of love and togetherness.  Audience members held hands and linked arms to sway to the music, and when it was time to leave they left as a united people who had just experienced something truly magical.

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