Before the end of the month the festival will feature more than 150 films chosen from the more than 6,000 that were submitted.
The TriBeCa Film Festival has often celebrated the marriage between movies and music but the choice of a new hip hop documentary as the opening film this year is a departure from the glitzy premieres - that drew big stars from the very beginning.
"When he phones, you answer the call," said Kevin Spacey.
Conceived by Robert De Niro and his business partner Jane Rosenthal during the city's darkest days.
"To revitalize our neighborhood that was devastated on Sept. 11th, TriBeCa came back and so did the city," said De Niro.
The festival has long staged various events for local residents but previous openings were by invitation only.
"The public's gonna have more opportunity to see more films at TriBeCa. For instance our opening night film this year "Time ill-Matic" about Nas," adds Rosenthal.
The event will be held at the Beacon Theater uptown from TriBeCa.
Owned by MSG and part of a new deal that saw the owners of Madison
Square Garden buy into this festival so it can continue to grow.
De Niro said he tries never to walk out of movies even if they're bad, but likes to wait before watching himself in a movie: sometimes waiting until many years later to watch one of his performances.