May 19, 2002
At the TriBeCa Grand Hotel, filmgoers shed tears yesterday during a documentary screening about a 7-year-old boy who lost his mother on Sept. 11.

A few blocks away on Greenwich Street, families laughed and munched on popcorn as they browsed local vendors' tables and watched street performers make music.

At the Tribeca Film Festival, the moods in the neighborhood that, once upon a time, stood in the shadow of the World Trade Center shifted, changed, wafted on a spring breeze of renewal.

The festival - chaired by actor Robert De Niro and his partner, Jane Rosenthal, and director Martin Scorsese - appeared to be living up to its purpose of reviving the downtown scene.

Throngs crowded the streets in numbers unseen in the eight painful months since the collapse of the Twin Towers. Along Greenwich Street, which served as the unofficial heart of the first-time event, a long line of potential viewers snaked outside the box office, hoping for the chance to land tickets to a movie, a panel discussion, anything...At the TriBeCa Grand...people watched a screening of the documentary "Telling Nicholas."

The impetus for the film, narrated by the director, James Ronald Whitney, stemmed from a flier of a missing Staten Island woman who worked at the World Trade Center. Filmed in the days after Sept. 11, the documentary tells of a father who waited 10 days before telling his son, Nicholas, that his mother was dead. The documentary premieres on HBO tonight, Mother's Day.

"It was incredibly moving," said Rebekah Lee, who lives in TriBeCa. "It shows the devastation of the families, and that's something that I think people forget."

Whitney, the director, agreed.

"The film has to do with the loss of a parent and how a child copes with that and how a family copes with that," Whitney said.

"You can rebuild the skyline. But you can't rebuild the infrastructure of the family," he said.

Jamie Moore, 38, drove from the Catskills into Manhattan hoping to see powerful documentaries such as "Telling Nicholas" and maybe a few independent films. By midafternoon, there were no more film tickets.
- Margaret Ramirez

DIRECTOR'S FILMS: GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: New York, GAMES PEOPLE PLAY: Hollywood, Telling Nicholas, Just, Melvin,
Find out more about James Ronald Whitney's Productions at the Fire Island Films website
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© 2003 James Ronald Whitney