Today marks the official opening of the 17th annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The festival was co-founded by Robert De Niro (“You talkin’ to me?”), Jane Rosenthal and her husband Craig Hatkoff in response to the tragedy of 9/11. This star studded event highlights everything film, television, technology, and philanthropy related. It is an opportunity to peer into the future of cinema and allow industry leaders to give back to their community. I was able to briefly speak with De Niro who was gleaming with the confidence of a proud father over the success of Tribeca. It’s his hope that the festival will become a permanent part of the fabric of New York for years to come.

Prior to opening day, the festival allows press the opportunity to pre-screen various films. As a self-proclaimed cinefile, I was thrilled at the opportunity to get a feel for this year’s selections. Documentaries, female and cultural narratives, and female directors (almost 50%!!!!) are shaking up and saturating this year’s events. Move over boys club! The film industry is reborn. I can’t tell you (as a fellow female writer and filmmaker) how ecstatic I am to be covering the festival. I feel like a character from Glee singing melodies of change, and I’m not even into musicals! Nothing makes me happier than witnessing female and POC voices being heard and stories being told.

The first red carpet philanthropic event I had the pleasure of covering was Untold Stories. For the second year in a row, AT&T and Tribeca teamed up and created an inclusive film program to support filmmakers that are underrepresented in the industry. Emerging filmmakers compete for a $1 million grant towards bringing their story to life. I had to opportunity to speak with last year’s winner, Faraday Okoro, who’s film Nigerian Prince will be premiering April 24th at Tribeca. It was Okoro’s mission to show people this part of the world he because it has so much to offer and is rarely portrayed in western culture.

Opening night kicks off with the premiere of the feature documentary Love, Gilda, an intimate memorial of the acclaimed Saturday Night Live icon Gilda Radner. The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 18-29th.