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Tribeca Film Festival engenders empathy among New Yorkers with new short film

“See Yourself in Others” will screen as part of the 16th annual film festival

Courtesy Tribeca Film Festival

Back in March, a group of actors gathered near the Astor Place Cube to take part in a film project—not an unusual occurrence for the area, which is close to some of the more artsy enclaves in the city. But these people all had one very strange thing in common: they wore mirrored cubes that obscured their heads entirely, inviting curious passers-by to stop and see what was going on. (And, inevitably, take selfies with the mirror-clad actors.)

But the stunt wasn’t for a student film; it was part of lead-up to the 16th annual Tribeca Film Festival, and part of a larger concept for a short film called “See Yourself in Others,” directed by Jared Knecht of the creative firm m ss ng p eces.

For its 16th iteration, the festival—founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in the wake of 9/11—has taken a cue from the hostility that’s seemingly ever-present in the world around us, and is trying to flip the script. Instead, the festival organizers are hoping to emphasize the power of film to engender empathy, and show that “great storytelling allows us to see ourselves in others.”

In the short film, which is premiering exclusively here on Curbed, the blockhead-wearers wandered around the city, with cameras capturing the reactions of New Yorkers as they encountered the slightly spooky actors. Some people stopped to talk; others, being New Yorkers, simply passed by; and even more stopped to take photos and selfies. (“Most people are disconnected,” one of the actors told the New York Times.)

The purpose of the mirrors was twofold; not only could passers-by see their reactions to the piece (literally “seeing themselves in others”), but they also couldn’t see the person wearing the cubes—which made for some interesting interactions, as documented in the film.

In a statement, Icaro Doria, the chief creative officer of DBB New York (which conceptualized the film along with Tribeca), said that “Stories put us in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations and force us to confront other points of view.… More than ever, we need these stories and we need this empathy. Because we need each other.”

“See Yourself In Others” will screen before certain films during the festival, as well as online.