The Tribeca Film Festival's fourth Tribeca All Access programme closed Saturday night with awards (including cash prizes) presented to Ben Rekhi's Waste (narrative prize), Dee Rees' Eventual Salvation (documentary prize) and Marilyn Fu's The Sisterhood Of Night (screenwriting prize).

The TAA programme, which seeks to connect industry experts with narrative and documentary film-makers from under-represented communities, selected 32 projects this year from more than 300 submissions. Participants had more than 400 one-on-one meetings during this year's five-day event with financiers, development executives, producers and agents.

Honourable mentions went to Jae-Ho Chand and Tara Autovino for Ultimate Christian Wrestling (documentary) and Roberto Marinas for Last Road Home (screenwriting). Cherien Dabis won the L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Vision Award for her screenplay Amreeka.

The initiative started when Tribeca programmers including David Kwok noticed several years ago that the faces on the film festival circuit looked too homogenous. 'I don't think it's that the industry isn't open to discovering new talent, but everyone's so busy, that All Access can just be useful in making introductions,' said
TAA director Beth Janson, who has been with TAA since its launch. 'The way it's grown has been organic, we're responsive to whatever film-makers have needed.'

She noted that the films being pitched were very diverse. 'We're trying to support all kinds of stories,' she said. 'We don't have a political agenda. Some of these films don't have people of colour on screen.'

Anna Margarita Albelo said she had a very positive experience with meetings for The Papaya Factory, a Miami-set teen comedy that she likened as a 'Cuban Sixteen Candles.' Her producer Jamin O'Brien said that TAA offered 'a great cross-section of buyers, financiers, other producers and talent agents.'

Albelo met with companies including CAA, Fox, and Sony Classics. Increasingly powerful minority industry veterans -- such as Don Cheadle, Salma Hayek, Danny Glover and John Leguizamo -- also sent representatives to look at new projects.

'When you're making your first film, this provides amazing contacts,' Albelo said. 'This is the best debutante ball for independent film-makers.'

Of being put in an initiative open only to minority film-makers, Albelo said she didn't think in any way that the films were being ghetto-ised. 'I don't see it as being put aside, on the contrary I feel privileged more than under-privileged.'

Priyanka Kumar, pitching her drama The Flicker's Dance, said she also was impressed with the calibre of industry meetings that had been arranged for her during TAA. She had about 18 formal meetings in total, looking for co-producers and financing. Kumar is already an established documentary film-maker with The Song Of The Little Road, and she has attached Joe Mantenga, Ione Skye and William Mapother to her first fictional feature.

Film-makers said one key aspect of the TAA meetings was that industry experts had looked at the pool of projects and chosen the film-makers they wanted to meet with, not the other way around. 'It's great when the partner asks you to dance,' Albelo said.

Janson said that looking ahead to the fifth TAA her goals include getting more international industry experts to attend, and making the programme have more year-round support. 'There is a perception problem in the industry that these stories won't resonate in international markets,' Janson explained. 'These are universal stories, some aren't even set in the US.'

Dee Rees and her producer Nekisa Cooper were having meetings for completion funding of their winning documentary Eventual Salvation, about Rees' 80-year-old grandmother's complicated but hopeful return to her home in Liberia after the civil war.

While meeting about the documentary, they were also able to network for their next fiction project, Pariah.

Cooper said: 'At the end of the day it's all about connections.' Rees also was grateful for the opportunity to connect with 'fellow film-makers and like-minded industry executives.'

Janson said the programme continued to be a good fit with the larger TFF. 'The Tribeca Film Festival is good about thinking beyond the traditional borders of a film festival.' Indeed, festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal has been a solid backer of TTA. 'With all the craziness that goes on [in the larger festival], this event centers me and reminds me why we do this,' Rosenthal said at the awards.

Participating film-makers could also take inspiration from screenings of completed features including Benson Lee's Planet B-Boy and Jeffrey Morgan's Lillie & Leander, which played in this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Both pitched the projects during the 2005 TAA programme.

The sixth-annual Tribeca Film Festival continues through May 6.