The Tribeca Film Festival was founded to help New York bounce back after the deadly attacks of Sept. 11th. That was all well and good, except for the fact that the fest never managed to turn a profit, much to the chagrin of the festival's founders, Jane Rosenthal, Craig Hatkoff and Robert De Niro, who had established the annual event as a moneymaking enterprise, not as a not-for-profit like, say, Sundance or the Toronto Film Festival. Last year, the trio raised ticket prices and trimmed the lineup, an effort designed to stem the flow of red ink. But it seems the three have figured out a new way to boost the fest's fortunes: They're taking the franchise to the Middle East.
Last week, the trio gathered in the sunny Gulf state of Qatar to celebrate the announcement that a Mideast iteration of Tribeca will debut November 2009 at the new I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art. Some 40 films will be screened in the Qatari capital of Doha next year, each of which will "showcase the very best works by Arab filmmakers."
This is, of course, hardly the first De Niro-related project in the Gulf. The Nobu at the Atlantis officially opened its doors last week, and De Niro's sprawling sushi chain announced plans to open a branch in Doha last month. The idea of transporting De Niro's festival to the Gulf? That was the work of Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the daugher of Qatar's emir, who worked as an intern for the festival in the summer of 2006, a job, she says, that consisted of "picking up breakfast pastries." And you thought interns were useless!