The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

April 17, 2013 1:06 pm Last Updated: April 17, 2013 1:06 pm

It is easy to forget how downbeat and dispirited lower Manhattan was in the months following the evil terrorist atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001. The Tribeca Film Festival has become a magnet for film premieres and distribution deal-making, but revitalizing the hard-hit neighborhoods south of Canal was part of its founding impetus.

The festival quickly expanded to venues in the East Village and Chelsea, but community involvement remains a priority. Once again, the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival has programmed a full roster of free screenings and community events.

Of course, Tribeca is about movies first and foremost, so fans will be happy to see the return of the Tribeca Drive-In at the World Financial Plaza. The series kicks off April 18 with a true classic, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

Movie fans should be particularly primed to revisit the Tippi Hedren-Rod Taylor thriller, considering that its production was the subject of HBO’s “The Girl” and that Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” slyly references the film in its clever denouement.

The Drive-In continues on Friday April 19 with Tim Burton’s career-defining “Beetlejuice,” starring Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, and Alec Baldwin pretty much at the peak of their careers.

The series concludes with a premiere, “Lil Bub & Friendz,” a documentary profile of a feline that became an Internet sensation.

Doors open each night at 6:00, with activities like trivia and spooky costume contests taking place before the screenings commence at dusk (roughly 8:15, give or take). Seating is free on a first-come, first-served basis.

Maintaining the outreach tradition, Tribeca will again mount the Tribeca Family Festival Street Fair on the following Saturday, April 27. Many of the events will replicate the motion picture production experience for young viewers, with programs co-produced with the Museum of the Moving Image.

There will also be live performances from the casts of current or upcoming Broadway shows, including “Wicked,” “Annie,” “Cinderella,” and “Motown.”

The free screenings continue with “The Smurfs.” It’s not exactly a classic, but it features the animated voice of the great Jonathan Winters, whom we sadly lost just last week.

The audience at BMCC will also get a sneak peak at “The Smurfs 2” as a bonus. Lines will form 30 minutes before showtime, also on a first-come, first-served basis. For those who cannot get in, there will be plenty of food, crafts, and games at the fair.

Also on Saturday the 27th, Tribeca will mount the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Day. Packed with games and skill-building exercises, this year’s edition will feature Mets ticket giveaways, a New York Rangers interactive program, onsite lessons from the New York Red Bulls, and a special appearance from Staten Island Yankees mascot Scooter the Holy Cow.

Tribeca also has an impressively diverse menu of events, including special screenings of the StoryCorps and GE Focus Forward short-film projects.

It is worth spending some quality time with the Tribeca schedule to find all the events that might appeal to your family without breaking the budget. Of course, there will be no shortage of ticketed festival screenings. Look for individual film reviews to start here soon.

Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, please visit