Manhattan Film Festival files lawsuit against Tribeca Film Festival

MUMBAI: Manhattan Film Festival has filed suit in New York Supreme Court against both the Tribeca Film Festival and the Tribeca Cinemas. The complaint alleges the defendants practiced unfair competition by misappropriating the Manhattan Film Festival’s Virtual Film Festival concept.

In 2010, the Tribeca Film Festival launched Tribeca Film Festival Virtual. The virtual festival included real-time chat with fellow film enthusiasts, live filmmaker Q&A’s, live festival events, and online streaming of a sample of TFF selections. Also included was a web-based competition with the slogan The people have spoken.

The Manhattan Film Festival was originally known as the Independent Features Film Festival. The festival was the first film festival in which film selection is done online via a web-based competition. The festival was the vision of two independent filmmakers and originally housed at the Tribeca Cinemas. In 2008, Philip Nelson, president and founder of the Manhattan Film Festival, envisioned the first and only “Virtual Film Festival.” The lawsuit alleges that personnel of the Tribeca Film Festival and the Tribeca Cinemas were present when Nelson’s groundbreaking vision was laid out point by point at the Tribeca Cinemas as well as by email as part of his business dealings with Tribeca Cinemas.

His vision became a reality at the 2008 Independent Features Film Festival. The festival included live filmmaker Q & A’s, live festivals events such as after-parties and awards show, as always their signature web-based competition which included real-time chat functionality. Housed at the Tribeca Cinemas, a billboard on their venue featured Independent Features’ slogan “The Viewers Have Spoken!”

Upon learning about Tribeca Film Festival Virtual, Nelson said “I was absolutely devastated. We have put our lives into building a platform that will level the playing field for independent filmmakers. We trusted and looked up to Tribeca as a leader in the industry. Never did I think they would use our time, labor, skill, money, effort, and creativity for their gain.”

The Manhattan Film Festival and Independent Features are represented by Oscar Michelen. "Tribeca had no intent, plan or interest in doing a Virtual Film Festival until it heard of the Nelson’s Virtual Film Festival from doing business with him and his companies. We expect a court to agree with us that Manhattan Film Festival is entitled to being compensated for Tribeca’s actions," Michelen added.