Beijing Beijing's growing reputation as a filmmaking centre was boosted this month by the arrival of the Tribeca Film Festival in the capital's 798 Art District, bringing breakdancing and New York-style block parties to a former munitions factory. Founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro and the husband and wife team of producer Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff (as a response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and an effort to energise New York's lower Manhattan), Tribeca has developed a niche in the film festival circuit. The organisers hoped to bring elements of that to Beijing, where the film business is growing strongly, although the capital still needs to expand its international dimension. Independent film festivals on the mainland are rare due to censorship and bureaucracy. Recently, edgy film festival YunFest in the Yunnan capital Kunming was reportedly cancelled because of plans to screen Though I Am Gone by documentary maker Hu Jie. The film is about a schoolteacher who's beaten to death by her pupils during the Cultural Revolution. Beijing's first independent film-related event started with just one movie, an outdoor screening of breakdancing hit Planet B-Boy. Public seating for 200 quickly overflowed and organisers got cushions for hundreds more eager to see the documentary by Benson Lee, which premiered at Tribeca in April. The after-screening party was an American-style block party, an outdoor event attended by film stars and locals. The atmosphere was light-hearted, with quite a few attempting breakdancing. 'We wanted to bring the Tribeca brand to China, but the question was how to do that,' says Grace Chen, managing director of William Morris Agency China, which organised the event with Tribeca Enterprises and China Interactive Media Group (CIMG). 'We thought about the Shanghai Film Festival, but in the end decided Beijing was closer to what we were thinking. 'It was about the 600 people who came out with their families and pillows and blankets and watched a movie for an hour and a half,' says Shanghai-based Chen. 'We need something more grass roots [than Shanghai], plus Beijing is the cultural centre of China. It became very apparent that there was nothing like this. The taste and the feel of it was accessibility and family.' To further cement their local credentials, the Tribeca organisers named Wang Zhonglei of Huayi Brothers production company as a juror for next year's Tribeca festival in New York. Huang Hong of CIMG, which publishes the Beijing edition of Time Out, has been appointed cultural ambassador for the festival. Chinese films have always done well at Tribeca. In the six years since its inception, the festival has screened 18 Chinese movies, with four winning awards. Holding this event in 798, a hip neighbourhood of converted factories that has much in common with Tribeca's past as an artistic hub, was a good fit. 'People found their inner B-boy at this experience,' says festival co-founder Hatkoff. 'You have to mentally find a way in and the best way for these things to evolve is organically. This is the cultural capital. Tribeca is a neighbourhood; 798 is a neighbourhood. It just fitted.' Patty Newburger, executive vice president of Tribeca Enterprises, stresses the community element of the festival. 'There was extraordinary kismet here,' she says. 'A natural experience that felt right and that emerged from a common interest to bring a film event to Beijing that embraces local audiences and the Chinese filmmaking community. 'The idea was to not just show a film but to create an event for the community in Beijing. The important thing was for us to extend our brand of what we do in New York cross-culturally.' Lee says the screening felt like a huge breakdancing event. 'Having it in that particular area was amazing,' says the director of Planet B-Boy. 'That whole area was a place of change. This is really where art is making major strides in China, so it couldn't have been in a better place for me symbolically and politically.' Getting permission to show foreign movies isn't easy on the mainland and festival organisers opted to show just one film, rather than try to get permission for a dozen or more. 'This was an experiment to get a foothold, so we didn't blow it out to 10 or 15 films,' says Chen. 'Doing something in China is difficult.' Organising even a small festival has been a major task. 'By design and by accident it worked out,' says Chen. 'One film accomplished everything - more so than if we'd done 15 films throughout various cinemas. For us, it's about building cultural platforms. We don't just want to come here to represent talent. If we find the next Jackie Chan, that's fantastic, but the opportunity is far greater than that.'