Previewing the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

New York's other film festival -- the one named after the fashionable Tribeca nabe, but actually unfolds all over Lower Manhattan -- returns for its 12th edition tonight, opening with the rock doc Mistaken For Strangers, a portrait of The National directed by the roadie brother of the band's lead singer. The subsequent eleven days of screenings, events and panel discussions will be just as eclectic, as Tribeca continues its mission to serve as the funky, cool little sibling to the older and more respectable New York Film Festival that unspools every year at the uptown (and upscale) Film Society of Lincoln Center. For the full schedule, visit the festival's online headquarters. In the meantime, here are some of the trends to watch for at this year's TFF.

See Your Small Screen Favorites on the Big Screen
Melissa McCarthy is arguably the only TV star to achieve honest-to-God George Clooney movie stardom in recent years, but plenty of notable television faces have found steady employment in movies, particularly in the indie realm where Tribeca directs much of its focus. Writer/director Lance Edmands's Bluebird, for example, casts both Mad Men's John Slattery and Girls' Adam Driver (now there's a pairing for you) in a small-town drama about a bus driver whose momentary dereliction of her duties results in a community-shaking tragedy. And if you need an extra shot of Peter Dinklage in between Game of Thrones episodes, he's appearing in the hipster rom-com A Case of You written by New Girl guest star Justin Long and starring Evan Rachel Wood as an adorkable barista who falls for a guy with a practically creative Internet dating profile. Other familiar TV faces at Tribeca include Penn Badgley, late of Gossip Girl, headlining the Jeff Buckley biopic Greetings From Tim Buckley; New Girl's Jake Johnson in The Pretty One alongside boho goddess Zoe Kazan; and Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat in the comedy short, Setup, Punch. Think of Tribeca as a way to watch TV without having to find your damn remote.

Revisit a Few Returning Champs
Tribeca is still a comparatively young film festival, but it has already developed a strong recurring cast of favorite directors. Take Irish filmmaker Neil Jordon, who brought his Colin Farrell feature Ondine to Tribeca a few years ago and is now back with his latest, Byzantium, starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a pair of 200-year-old lady vampires who take up residence in a rundown seaside hotel where bloodsucking naturally ensues. Documentarian Eric Steel, who premiered his non-fiction debut The Bridge -- which documented the rash of suicide cases along the Golden Gate Bridge -- at Tribeca in 2006 is also returning and bringing along Kiss the Water, the considerably lighter life story of one of the world's leading flyfishers, Eric Steel. And after winning the award for Best Narrative Short at the festival's 2008 edition, Steph Green chose Tribeca as the place to premiere her first feature Run and Jump, starring Will Forte in his first dramatic role... not counting MacGruber, of course.

Stay Up Real Late
Whereas the New York Film Festival tends to shut down by 10 PM to accommodate its aged attendees (not to mention the sleepy Upper West Side area), Tribeca has regular late night (and midnight) screenings dominated by an extensive catalogue of horror titles. This year's big scary movie acquisition is V/H/S 2, the sequel to last year's found footage anthology that I, for one, really loved. The line-up of contributors to this second installment includes Hobo with a Shotgun's Jason Eisener, The Raid: Redemption's Gareth Evans and, going old school, The Blair Witch Project's Eduardo Sánchez. There's also Raze, starring Tarantino favorite Zoe Bell in a bloody-prison-movie-meets-Street Fighter II scenario; Mr. Jones, about an artist whose work contains multiple layers of horror; and Dark Touch, about a girl whose family has been murdered... by their own house.

Learn About the Real World
Tribeca's typically robust documentary slate leads off with Gasland Part II, Josh Fox's follow-up to his controversial, muckraking anti-frakking documentary, Gasland. Or you may prefer to watch the fancy footwork of the dance crews at the center of Flex is Kings, which explores the latest dance craze to sweep Brooklyn, the Flex. Project Runway devotees will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of Gucci via The Director a profile of one of its top executives, Frida Giannini. (James Franco is among the movie's producers, but probably not one of the male models.) And after screening the Joan Rivers movie, A Piece of Work, in 2010, this year Tribeca is debuting a doc about another veteran performer, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, about the Tony Award winner and former 30 Rock guest star.

See Before Midnight Before Anyone Else
Richard Linklater's highly-anticipated (by us, anyway) third installment in his Jesse and Celine series will screen twice at Tribeca in advance of its Memorial Day theatrical opening. And in the time it took you to read that sentence, both screenings probably sold out...

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