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Whoopi, Scorsese’s Restored at 12th Tribeca Film Festival

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April 17 (Bloomberg) -- The 12th Tribeca Film Festival, which opens Wednesday and continues through April 28, may not be the biggest edition ever mounted. Yet it’s still enormous enough to be overwhelming, with 89 feature films, 60 shorts and five interactive projects from 37 countries.

They range from the obscure and experimental to such high-profile entries as “Before Midnight,” the third in director Richard Linklater’s series that began with “Before Sunrise” (1995) and continued with “Before Sunset” (2004). Starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, this may be the finest -- and the most devastating -- of the three. The director and actors will be speaking to a festival audience on April 22 about his much-loved movies.

Neil Jordan, who directed “Interview with the Vampire” in 1994, has a new picture, the blood-soaked “Byzantium,” about troubled young (or at least, at 200 years old, young-looking) vampires.

Other star directors include Neil LaBute, with “Some Velvet Morning,” a relationship drama starring Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve, and Mira Nair, whose “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is based on Mohsin Hamid’s post-Sept. 11 novel.

Elizabeth Taylor

The Oscar-winning team of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman will premiere their 40-minute documentary “The Battle of AMFAR,” which chronicles the crucial juncture when Elizabeth Taylor and Mathilde Krim joined forces to launch the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Krim will be at the festival to take part in a discussion moderated by AMFAR’s chairman, Kenneth Cole.

Among a dozen documentary profiles, Whoopi Goldberg makes her directorial debut with the meditation on the career of the pioneering black comic Moms Mabley, “I Got Somethin’ to Tell You.” Goldberg will be on hand to talk about the film. So will the great Elaine Stritch, still a show-business force at 88 and now the subject of “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.”

Draft Dodger

Other profiles include the premieres of “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” in which the acerbic writer, who died last year, does his best to give his conservative critics heartburn; “Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic,” on the life of the supremely talented and troubled comedian; and “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” which recounts the boxer’s legal battle with the U.S. government after he refused to serve in Vietnam.

“Red Obsession” is a riveting look at China’s sudden addiction to Bordeaux first growth wines -- and what the Chinese willingness to pay almost any price for the top five labels has done to the wine market. “Teenage” examines the very 20th-century phenomenon of teenage culture.

Director Paul Verhoeven (“RoboCop,” “Basic Instinct”) has finished a tricky-sounding project to make a film with a crowd-sourced script; he supplied the first four minutes. He’ll present and discuss the experiment, “Tricked.”

Eastwood Directs

Critic Richard Schickel has made “Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story,” a tribute to the movies directed by Clint Eastwood, including interviews with Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep and Morgan Freeman. After the film’s premiere, director Darren Aronofsky will interview Eastwood.

Then there’s the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. Kevin Connolly’s “Big Shot” addresses the now notorious hoax that allowed John Spano to take control of the New York Islanders hockey team in 1997. “McConkey” covers the heart-in-the-throat feats of the daredevil skier Shane McConkey.

“Lenny Cooke” is about a basketball player who was a high-school phenomenon and was ranked as a top talent in 2001 but never lived up to his promise. “Let Them Wear Towels” follows the controversy that exploded after Sports Illustrated reporter Melissa Ludtke was barred from players’ locker rooms during the 1977 World Series.

Hitchcock’s Birds

The festival continues its free “Tribeca Drive-In” series with three movies: Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” celebrating its 50th anniversary; Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice,” celebrating its 25th; and the new “Lil Bub & Friendz,” starring the most famous cat (or at least that’s the claim) on the Internet.

The programmers have chosen Tom Berninger’s “Mistaken for Strangers” as the opening selection. The movie scrutinizes -- with a good deal of humor -- an American rock band on tour. The band happens to be his brother Matt Berninger’s group, The National, which is also performing at the invitation-only opening-night gala.

The festival closes with another film celebrating a significant anniversary: a restored version of Martin Scorsese’s “King of Comedy,” which turns 30 this year. That movie introduced the world to the completely demented talk-show-host-wannabe Rupert Pupkin, who was played by a mustached Robert De Niro. No doubt it’s a coincidence that De Niro is also one of the festival’s founders.

The Tribeca Film Festival continues through April 28. Bloomberg is one of its Signature Sponsors. For information about tickets, venues and special festival events, visit http://tribecafilm.com/festival.

(Craig Seligman is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Ryan Sutton on dining and Jeremy Gerard on theater.

To contact the writer of this column: cseligman@mindspring.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.