Tribeca fest transplanted to Beijing

New York event gets offshoot in gallery district

BEIJING -- A mini version of the Tribeca Film Festival will launch in China in July in a factory compound-turned-modern art gallery district reminiscent of the New York neighborhood where Robert De Niro began his annual cinema fundraiser in 2002.

The two-day Tribeca 798 Film Festival Beijing, which runs July 10-11, will open with free screenings of the 2007 break-dancing documentary "Planet B-Boy" by Benson Lee.

The event was organized "out of a common interest to bring a film event to Beijing that embraces local audiences and the Chinese filmmaking community," according to a statement from Tribeca Enterprises, WMA and the China Interactive Media Group.

Beijing lacks an independent film festival, and theatrical distribution in China is controlled by Communist censors who regularly bar anything that might be perceived as harmful the image of the party or the nation.

"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help create a platform for independent film in China and to further the deep ties between the Chinese film community and the Tribeca Film Festival," Tribeca Enterprises COO Jon Patricof said.

The Beijing event, named for the 798 neighborhood where Huang Hung, CIMG founder and publisher of weekly entertainment magazine "Time Out" in China, has her headquarters.

Hung, a Beijing native who went to grade school in Lower Manhattan as one of Communist China's first overseas exchange students, is a well-known on-air personality and the author of one of China's most popular blogs.

Since its founding, the Tribeca Film Festival has screened 18 features and shorts by Chinese filmmakers, four of which won awards: "Green Hat" by Liu Fendou (2004); "Stolen Life" by Li Shaohong (2005); "Together" by Chen Kaige (2003); and "Blind Shaft" by Li Yang (2003).

Grace Chen, managing director of William Morris China, called the event a "cultural exchange about community, family, and film that links the creative center of China to the vibrant city of New York."

Beijing's 798 gallery district has evolved from its origins as a machine parts factory built by former Soviet-influenced architects from East Germany into one of China's most vibrant artist communities. It has nonetheless also experienced police raids and temporary shutdowns over the years.