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Tribeca Film Festival Forces New Yorkers to Look Themselves in the Mirror in New Empathy Campaign

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This year, the Tribeca Film Festival is making New Yorkers take a good look at themselves in the mirror.

Back in March, a group of actors and performance artists gathered around the famous cube sculpture in New York’s Astor Place, where they were given mirrored cubes to strap over their heads. There were 20 participates in all, and their interactions with New Yorkers formed the foundation of an experimental video titled “See Yourself in Others.”

The phrase, and empathy in general, are a theme this year for the festival. The creative firm m ss ng p eces, along with director Jared Knecht, came up with the idea of conveying the motif through the reflective cubes, which literally force people to see themselves in others.

This project marks the first work from Tribeca Enterprises with DDB New York since announcing their partnership in December and with Noble People, Tribeca’s Media Agency of Record.

“Tribeca exists because storytelling brings people together,” said Andrew Essex, chief executive officer of Tribeca Enterprises, in a statement. “What started as an effort to reinvigorate a community has evolved into one of the premier entertainment festivals in the world. This campaign allows people to experience first-hand the unifying power of not only the festival, but storytelling itself.”

“Stories put us in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations and force us to confront other points of view. Once we’re inside, the universal human truths we find there help us find ourselves — even in faraway places and radically different cultures. More than ever, we need these stories and we need this empathy. Because we need each other,” said Icaro Doria, chief creative officer at DDB New York.

The five-sided reflective cubes were fitted with black fabric around the bottom, so that they could rest snuggly on the wearers’ necks. Inside the cube, a built-in bicycle helmet helped center the cube on the wearers’ head, and the front panel was made out of a two-way mirror so the actors could see in front of them.

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“Most people don’t know I can see out; they’re taking pictures or videos as if I’m not here,” one performer, Linda Delores, told The New York Times of her experience. “It’s the first time I felt that way — that I was somewhere and not there.”

Another actor, Sara Alexander, told the paper, “I love that it’s a reflection; we’re all a reflection of each other. It’s fascinating, and part of the reason I live in this part of town.”

In addition to the performers’ candid interactions, the final video includes staged scenes showing a variety of different people wearing the cubes, including a Muslim and Hasidic Jew, a doorman and a homeless man.

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in the wake of September 11, and this year’s theme of empathy for others was created with the festival’s beginnings in mind.

The festival opens April 19 and will run until April 30.