NEW YORK – Tribeca Film Festival co-founders Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff announced March 5 that the blockbuster festival will once again return to downtown, bringing a broad array of gala premieres, independent films, compelling panels, and a reprise of the highly successful Family Festival.

Highlights of the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival, slated to take place the first two weekends in May, will include the first look at DreamWorks’ “Shark Tale,” the New York premiere of the long awaited comedy “Coffee & Cigarettes” directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Bill Murray, Steve Buscemi, and Cate Blanchett, as well as panels by industry leaders such as Martin Scorsese and Oscar winning composer for “The Lord of The Rings” Howard Shore.

This year the festival will hold a special celebration in honor of the 10-year anniversary of democracy in South Africa. The partnership with South Africa will continue throughout the year, in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Institute, in an ongoing cultural exchange program featuring films, art and exhibitions from South Africa.

“The people of South Africa are deeply honored to continue this journey,” said South African Tourism President Prudence Solomon. “President Nelson Mandela was extremely proud to be part of the festival’s inaugural because South Africa is a ‘miracle’ – as is the momentous contributions the Tribeca Film Festival has made to New York – and it is in this spirit that South Africa joins the Tribeca Film Festival family.”

The festival will also spotlight great Latin American filmmakers such as Academy Award nominated director Hector Babenco. Babenco’s film “Carandiru,” is based on the real life experiences of a doctor inside Brazil’s dreadful state penitentiary named Carandiru.

This year the Tribeca Film Institute will also undertake a collaboration with the Norman Lear Center, a research institute studying the social, political and economic impact of entertainment. The Lear Center will work with the Tribeca Film Institute to produce a series of panel discussions and a live poetry slam at the festival.

The festival’s program consists of more than 150 features, documentaries and shorts, screened alongside gala premieres of major studio releases. For more information go to www.tribecafilmfestival.org or call (866) 941-FEST (3378).

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by De Niro, Rosenthal and Hatkoff to celebrate New York City as a major filmmaking capital and to contribute to the long-term recovery of lower Manhattan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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