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Tribeca Film Festival: Why It’s Worth Checking Out

The 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival kicks off on Thursday and Downtown Manhattan is preparing to once again host the festival’s stars, filmmakers and their fans.

But with mega films like The Avengers closing the ten-day event, Tribeca has come a long way since its original goal of helping to re-vitalize lower Manhattan since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

"We think of film festivals as these places where you have small independent films from small independent filmmakers,” said CNN-International film reviewer and Editor of Box Office Guru, Gitesh Pandya, who has attended the festival since its inception. “But in fact the big studios use them all the time as leverage to get press and a lot of public attention. And Tribeca has joined the ranks in the last few years and is getting big studio pictures.”

While some critics argue that the Tribeca Film Festival has gotten too big and is too commercial, Pandya says it still has a wide variety of screenings. 

"The key to its success is mixing it up, which also delivers the smaller and medium films, high-quality artwork from veteran- and up-and-coming filmmakers,” Pandya said. “And I think it does that."

Pandya adds that film festivals like Tribeca are still relevant – even at a time when a filmmaker can become an overnight success on YouTube and when consumers are increasingly streaming movies at home with Netflix and iTunes .

"It's nice to get out of the house and see new films and do it with a sense of community, with other people,” he said, “the way films were originally meant to be seen on a big screen, sitting next to hundreds of other human beings and experiencing the thrills, the laughs, the tears all together."

The festival is worth attending, according to Pandya, even if not ever film is going to be a winner.

”Part of the charm of a film festival is to test and experiment and try something new, that's part of the excitement," Pandya said. 

A festival highlight, he says, is Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey, a film directed by Ramona S. Diaz that is the story of Filipino Arnel Pineda. He was discovered on YouTube after an exhausting search to be the new lead singer in the legendary group, Journey.

"Here's an amazing story, you've got a band which I've listened to for decades and they found a man in Manila in the Philippines off of YouTube,” said Pandya.  “He got to be the lead singer of the group touring the world. He can sing all of these songs the way the fans remember them.  You've got a band which is older now whose members can't run around the stage as much anymore with a much younger singer who can run around the stage and he's from the streets of Manila.  I want to find out that backstory."

Watch the trailer for Don’t Stop Believin’ below.

"2 Days in New York," directed by and starring Julie Delpy, is a followup to "2 Days in Paris" and is another one of Pandya's Tribeca Film Festival picks.

Pandya says he's excited to see a mostly comedic actor, Chris Rock, play a leading man in a foreign style film set in New York. Watch a trailer for "2 Days in New York" below.

Click here to see the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival schedule.