'Mistaken for Strangers' and the National Rock Out Opening Night at the Tribeca Film Festival

'Mistaken for Strangers' and the National Rock Out Opening Night at the Tribeca Film Festival

Apr 18, 2013


The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival kicked off rock star style last night with the world premiere of music documentary Mistaken for Strangers, followed by a performance from the film's subjects: indie rock band the National.

After walking a winding red carpet, stars packed the Tribeca Performing Arts Center for the screening of director Tom Berninger's film. Richard Belzer ascended the stage to introduce TFF cofounders Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, who gave a few opening remarks before ushering Berninger out to uproarious applause. "It's an incredible honor and I don't know if it's quite sunk in yet," he said, "This movie's a really small little lo-fi thing, but I couldn't have done it without a lot of help." Without further ado, he invited the band and their crew to share the stage with him before the lights dimmed.

PHOTO GALLERY: The National Perform at Opening Night of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Mistaken for Strangers is a funny, poignant and refreshing take on the music documentary - much less about the band itself and more about brotherly dynamics. Berninger - a Cincinnati-based filmmaker - is the younger brother of the National's lead singer, Matt, but the group also happens to be comprised of two pairs of brothers: Bryan and Scott Devendorf and twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner. The film follows Tom as he joins the band for a year-long world tour, a guest of Matt (something no one on the tour seems to let him forget). The two brothers are polar opposites - Matt, focused and confident, struggles to reconcile his younger brother's laid-back demeanor and noncommittal practices.

Conversely, Tom proves to be a riotous force among the group - constantly attempting to infuse situations with fun and frivolity, carrying his video camera with him everywhere, often refusing to turn it off when asked. The documentary quickly becomes about the documentarian, and Tom is flawed and raw and silly and shockingly frank. His access is unprecedented, but he's dually unimpressed - it makes for some really incredible interviews.

Big laughs happen when the band allows him to poke and prod, positioning them in silly takes promising "great intro shots" and asking completely off-the-wall questions like, "So how famous do you think you are?" or "What kind of drugs and how many drugs have you done?" And nine times out of 10, the interview becomes a therapy session regarding the ever-shifting dynamic of Tom and Matt - it's fascinating stuff to watch. It's a bit ironic that Werner Herzog makes a quick appearance in the film - Berninger has followed suit in Herzogian style with his creation.

After the film's screening, guests traveled to the Highline Ballroom, where celebrities like Mira Sorvino, Harvey Weinstein, Josh Lucas, Ari Graynor, Josh Radnor and Paul Haggis mingled among the throngs. Once the National took the stage, the room was completely packed. The group played a few new songs from their upcoming album Trouble Will Find Me, along with hits from both Boxer and High Violet. Berninger hopped out into the audience and perused the room while singing at one point before the group closed with "Fake Empire."

The 2013 Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 17-28.

Follow along with all our Tribeca Film Festival coverage here.

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