NEW YORK >> As the curtain goes up on the 17th Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro is using the festival’s megawatt spotlight to direct his considerable ire at President Donald Trump.
De Niro, a co-founder of the annual New York festival, has been among the most vocal and bluntest of Trump’s critics, frequently excoriating the president. He has, for example, previously said he’d like to punch Trump in the face.
At a kickoff luncheon for press today, De Niro referred to Trump as “our Lowlife-in-Chief” and rejected what he referred to as the president’s narrow definition of America.
“The country has had a bad year, and you — the press — have taken a lot of hits,” De Niro told the reporters in attendance. “America is being run by a madman who wouldn’t recognize the truth if it came inside a bucket of his beloved Colonel Sanders Fried Chicken.”
De Niro on Saturday appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a sketch where he gave attorney Michael Cohen (played by Ben Stiller) a lie detector test. This morning on the “Today” show, De Niro said he would like to reprise the part.
“I hope there’s a couple where I interrogate him then I arrest him and then I escort him to jail,” De Niro said, referring to Trump.
Festival organizers said this year’s Tribeca has been programmed with some of De Niro’s pugnacious spirit, in opposition to the president’s policies.
“In the face of this inhumanity, we stand definitely against the forces that are tearing our country apart from the inside,” said Jane Rosenthal, also a founder of the festival. “We stand with Time’s Up, Never Again and Black Lives Matter and underserved voices.”
Tribeca opens today with “Love, Gilda,” Lisa D’Apolito’s documentary about the legendary comedian and “SNL” star. As a fellow New York institution, “Saturday Night Live” has been a regular at Tribeca. In 2015, the “SNL” documentary “Live From New York!” opened the festival.
Other elements of this year’s Tribeca are more pointedly political. The closing night selection is Liz Garbus’ “The Fourth Estate,” an upcoming Showtime documentary series that captures The New York Times reporting on Trump’s first year in office. The Jay-Z produced series “Rest in Power: The Travyon Martin Story” documents the 2012 shooting of the 17-year-old in Florida.
The festival will hold a daylong Time’s Up event on April 28, featuring hours of conversations with the initiative advocating for gender equality. Of the festival’s 99 features, 46 percent are directed by women — the most in Tribeca’s history. Rosenthal has credited that percentage in part with the makeup of Tribeca Enterprises, which she said is 80 percent female.