Citing a ‘panorama’ of generational US independent film-makers and a strong international contingent in the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival’s world narrative and documentarycompetition strands, director of programming David Kwok struck a defiant note in the face of budget cuts inflicted by the recession.

As they unveiled the 24 competition entries today [March 9], a line-up that includes world premieres from Michael and Mark Polish and Kirby Dick, Kwok and senior programmer Genna Terranova insisted that morale was high heading into the event, which runs from April 22-May 3.

‘We feel good about how strong the slate is this year,’ Kwok said, adding that the number of overall features had dropped from 119 in 2008 to 86 this year. ‘Obviously it’s leaner and that puts a little pressure on us to deliver, but we’re confident because the tighter slate gives people a chance to focus on the films.’

It’s been a tumultuous couple of months for the lower Manhattan festival, now in its eighth year. Faced with the departure of key sponsor General Motors as well as Target and Budweiser (but encouraged by the arrival of Heineken and Direct TV) and a 50% cut in seasonal staff, Kwok, Terranova and executive director Nancy Schafer have assumed joint oversight of the festival programme in the wake of Peter Scarlet’s departure as artistic director.

Scarlet’s resignation itself followed the recent announcement that former Sundance festival director Geoff Gilmore was assuming the role of chief creative officer. ‘Internally we’ve been trudging on,’ Kwok said. ‘We’ll see how it goes without Peter and it’s too soon to say how Geoff will impact things because he hasn’t been a part of next month’s festival.’

Turning to the line-up, Kwok and Terranova were enthusiastic about the pictures. ‘There’s this panorama of US independent scene spanning several generations,’ Kwok said. ‘We’ve got Bette Gordon, who rose to prominence in the 80s and is back with a new movie [Handsome Harry]. The Polish Brothers started out in the 90s and are here with Stay Cool, and then there are people like Bradley Rust Gray [whose character study The Exploding Girl gets its North American premiere] from this new independent film group that’s emerging.’

Twelve pictures from the world narrative and documentary programme and a further 14 Discovery titles from emerging film-makers take their place among an overall roster of 86 features and 46 shorts. The remainder of the line-up will be announced on Wednesday [March 11].

The 24 world narrative and documentary entries will vie for combined unrestricted cash prizes totalling $100,000, which includes $50,000 in prizes from founding sponsor American Express for the best new narrative and documentary film-makers.

There are world premieres in the world narrative feature competition for: the Polish Brothers’ high school reunion comedy Stay Cool starring Mark Polish, Winona Ryder and Hilary Duff; Andrew Lancaster’s Australian family drama Accidents Happen starring Geena Davis; and Conor McPherson’s Irish drama The Eclipse starring Ciaran Hinds as a troubled widower who has a transformative experience at a literary festival.

The other world premieres in the category are: Bette Gordon’s US drama Handsome Harry, which stars Aidan Quinn, John Savage, and Campbell Scott in the story of a former sailor forced to confront painful memories; Darko Lungulov’s Serbian romance Here And There (Tamo I Ovde); and Caroline Bottaro’s feel-good Franco-German drama Queen To Play (Joueuse), about a hotel maid who learns to play chess. Sandrine Bonnaire, Jennifer Beals and Kevin Kline star.

The world documentary feature competition world premieres are: Kirby Dick’s US entry Outrage, which turns the spotlight on closeted politicians who campaign against the LGBT community; Danae Elon’s Canadian picture Partly Private about male circumcision; and Marshall Curry’s US title Racing Dreams about aspiring NASCAR drivers that also screens in the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Also getting their first public screening are: Alexis Manya Spraic’s US picture Shadow Billionaire, charting the bizarre circumstances that followed the death in a 1995 plane crash of DHL founder Larry Hillblom; Liz Mermin’s UK picture Team Qatar, which also plays in the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival and follows the first Qatari debate team as they prepare for the world championships; and Barry Ptolemy’s US entry Transcendent Man, exploring the philosophy of futurologist and inventor Ray Kurzweil and his belief that humans will fuse with machines within 30 years.

World premieres in the Discovery section includes seven US documentaries: Leslie Cockburn’s American Casino exploring the sub-prime mortgage debacle; Mandy Stein’s Burning Down the House: The Story Of CBGB about the legendary New York nightclub; Nicole Opper’s Off And Running charting an adopted Brooklyn teenager’s quest for her biological parents; Michael Sladek’s Con Artist about the 1980s art scene icon Mark Kostabi; Gabriel Noble’s P-Star Rising about a broke rapper who sees a shot at redemption through his daughter’s talents; Rebecca Cammisa’s transamerican odyssey Which Way Home; and Libby Spears’ child sex trade story Playground executive produced by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Steven Soderbergh.

Also getting their first public screening are: Gloria La Morte and Paola Mendoza’s US-Colombian narrative Entre Nos Centres stars Mendoza and newcomers Sebastian Villada and Laura Montana as Colombian immigrants struggling to survive their first summer in the US; Damien Chazelle’s US relationship drama Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench; and Erez Tadmor and Sharon Maymon’s Israeli comedy A Matter Of Size about aspiring sumo wrestlers that also plays in the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Other Discovery world premieres include Julian Kemp’s UK romantic comedy My Last Five Girlfriends starring Brendan Patricks; Alexander Brondsted and Antonio Tublen’s Danish drama Original about a lovable loser; and Jac Schaeffer’s futuristic romantic comedy TiMER starring Emma Caulfield.

Juried awards in the world narrative and documentary competitions will be presented for best narrative feature, new narrative film-maker for a first or second-time feature director, actress in a narrative film, actor in a narrative film, documentary feature, and new documentary film-maker for a first or second time feature director.

In addition, films predominantly shot in New York and/or produced by a New York-based company will be eligible for best New York narrative and New York documentary. Additional Festival awards include the Heineken Audience Award, the audience choice for best feature film, narrative short, documentary short and the Student Visionary Award, sponsored by Apple.

Entries in the World Narrative Competition, World Documentary Competition, Encounters, Discovery, Midnight, Spotlight or Showcase sections are eligible for the Audience Award.

The 2009 features were chosen from a total of 2,254 feature submissions. For the full list of entries announced today visit