Robert De Niro’s Top Picks for the Tribeca Film Festival

Posted April 19, 2018 5:19 p.m. EDT

Since the first Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, its most famous co-founder, Robert De Niro, has played a part in the annual event. This year, he will be onstage interviewing an actor with whom he has frequently shared screen time of late, Bradley Cooper.

But he’s also a movie fan excited about the lineup.

In a recent interview, De Niro, who has been outspoken in his opposition to the current administration (and recently surprised TV viewers by playing special counsel Robert Mueller on “Saturday Night Live”), shared his picks for movies and events at the festival, along with a few sharply political words.

— ‘Scarface’

When: April 19

Brian De Palma’s update of the 1932 gangster film still has a visceral resonance, thanks in part to a towering performance by Al Pacino. The festival is showing a new restoration in one of its largest sites, the Beacon Theater. After the screening, Pacino will be on hand for a conversation with De Palma and other stars from the film, Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer.

De Niro: I worked with De Palma in our younger days on “The Wedding Party.” Then “Greetings” and “Hi, Mom!” Brian always got a kick out of whatever we tried as actors, whether it was improv or other things, he got great joy out of watching us. I remember when Al was thinking about directors for “Scarface,” telling him, “I hope you do it with De Palma.”

— ‘Bathtubs Over Broadway’

When: April 23, 26, 28

De Niro: “Bathtubs Over Broadway” is about this comedy writer Steve Young, who used to work for David Letterman. In doing research for the show, he found out about these musicals that were done specifically for products like Colgate or General Motors. They would put on these productions they called industrials and do a whole song and dance, if you will. And they were just for the people who worked for the company. So Steve found some albums from the shows and contacted the people involved, some of them well known in the musical world today. They gladly did industrials because you could earn a good living between Broadway jobs.

— ‘United Skates’

When: April 19, 20, 21, 25, 29

De Niro: “United Skates” is about these roller skating rinks around the country where African-Americans would go that became regular gathering places for the community. But they’re closing because a big company, something like a Costco or shopping center, will force them out. So these rinks that have a history are having to shut down. This movie looks at the sadness of that trend.

— ‘The Fourth Estate’

When: April 28

The festival’s closing-night title is a look at the first episode of the forthcoming Showtime series directed by Liz Garbus, about how journalists at The New York Times covered the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. The film’s subjects will discuss the movie with Garbus after the screening. (The Times has no financial ties to the project.)

De Niro: It’s a necessary film to see what people at The Times are doing to cover stories that seem to be changing every minute. They’re trying to get it right and not let the excuse be “fake news” from this monster Trump and his enablers.

— ‘Schindler’s List’

When: April 26

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust drama still stands as one of the director’s most personal and impassioned works. A post-screening discussion will include Spielberg and the film’s stars Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Embeth Davidtz.

De Niro: It’s resonant now because of what’s happening in this country. Madeleine Albright just put out a book called “Fascism: A Warning.” If someone like Trump had his way, he would be at best a dictator. It’s slowly chipping away at democracy. The good thing is that certain parts of the country are pushing back. But this movie’s a good reminder of a nightmare when it happens.

— ‘The Staircase’

When: April 28

The true-crime miniseries “The Staircase” followed the trial of Michael Peterson, who was convicted of killing his wife. First produced in 2004, the project took a number of twists and turns. It’s back with a new episode that will play at the festival.

De Niro: I saw some of these earlier episodes and thought they were great. The father seems like a nice guy. But with the whole thing, you just want to know what happened.