Lainey messaged me and asked if I wanted to address the inclusion of Twilight’s Kellan Lutz and…um…something’s Camilla Belle in the Tribeca Film Festival’s jury lineup. My response? “Oh yeah, sure, I was just telling someone how that’s not a real festival anyway.”

Tribeca was founded by Robert DeNiro. It is his baby. I can’t fault anyone who loves movies so much they would throw their own cash and time into launching a festival (indeed, I know a dude who has spent the last several years working to get a new festival off the ground and it is a thankless and grueling job). But Tribeca has not become the beacon of film that DeNiro hoped for. I think he was dreaming of a kind of “Sundance of the east”, but what he’s got is a cut-rate festival that seems to get more and more bargain bin each year. And this year, Kellan Lutz and Camilla Belle—who at this point is obviously not happening—are on the Best New Narrative Director jury. Kellan “reads in a tree” Lutz is going to tell us who’s a good director. Let that sink in.

Here’s the problem Tribeca faces: They struggle to book the kinds of films and premieres that are going to set Tribeca apart from all the other film festivals in North America, but North America has two of the three most important film festivals in the world. That’s a tall order. If you want to compete with Sundance and TIFF, you really have to land some impressive titles, and also guarantee the kind of celebrity presence that draws press. Celebrity judges is a way to guarantee that presence all week, not just for one red carpet. But then your festival isn’t Sundance or TIFF, so you can’t quite get that top-tier talent to give up a week and front for your fest, so you start working down the ladder until you reach the people who are not only willing but available to adjudicate your fest. In this case, Tribeca has had to go all the way down to Kellan Lutz and Camilla Belle.

And so the snake eats it tail.

How can Tribeca improve its reputation when their celebrity jury includes the sixth lead from Twilight and an actress who has done nothing of note? They can’t, not really. The lineup is not without some promise (and it does include retrospective screenings of The Goonies AND The Never-Ending Story, which is awesome), but there are no real stakes. They’re not going to herald new talent like Sundance or usher in award bait like TIFF. Some of the most interesting films of the festival premiered at earlier fests like Sundance and Berlin, or are even from 2011. Really, if it weren’t for DeNiro propping it up both with is reputation and money, I wonder if Tribeca wouldn’t have folded years ago. And this may explain his involvement with dreck like New Year’s Eve. I would be really interested to know if his paycheck consisted of basically just a donation to the fest.

You have to wonder what this does to DeNiro’s ego. Tribeca is supposed to be the realization of his clout as one of America’s most eminent actors, but he’s booking Kellan Lutz and Camilla Belle as judges. When you consider how his career has gone over the last decade, though, it’s kind of fitting, isn’t it?


Attached - Kellan Lutz at Coachella.