The 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival rolls in to town for over a fortnight jam-packed with top-quality films. With screens all over the city, it’s going to be a good couple of weeks for
The festival began in 1977 and ran until 2001 as a government operation, until it was passed over to the Hong Kong Arts Development council for a brief stint in the early noughties. Now, in its fourth decade it is run independently by the charitable, non-profit organization the HKIFF Society. The mission is to draw the spotlight onto
Roger Garcia, the festival executive director, joked that the HKIFF is very good at picking winners, and with a glance at the line-up it’s hard to deny. The 2011 Berlin Golden Bear winner Nader and Simin, A Separation looks fantastic. It tells the story of a couple who plane to leave
There are some great documentaries, too. Inside Job that rips into those that brought the world to the brink of financial meltdown. Its clinical approach is more Enron: Smartest People in the Room than Michael Moore’s populism. It took home the Oscar this year, and who wouldn’t want to see some bankers getting their comeuppance right now? Sundance documentary award winner, Wasteland, is a moving piece about the people that work and forage in the world’s biggest landfill site in Rio Di Janeiro. Lucy Walker’s camera follows photographer Vik Muniz as he dives right into to this sub-culture of people subsisting of the waste of others. He uses garbage to create art, which will eventually be sold in auctions around the world, promising to return any profits to his subjects. The Two Escobars, examining the unrelated, but not unlinked, drug-lord Pablo, and Columbian national soccer-player Andres, also looks very interesting.
The breaking of boundaries between audience and film-maker is one of the best things about film festivals and there are plenty of opportunities to do so at HKIFF events this year. A sizable portion of the films will be conducting question and answer sessions after the screenings, an invaluable to chance to pick the creators' brains. There are many free events, available on a first come first serve basis, throughout the festival: Wai Ka-fai will be having a Face to Face discussion on film, art, and creativity, Jia Zhangke is holding a Master Class on film-making, and there will be a series of small group discussions of films shown with leading film critics; to register for any of these have a look at the festival homepage. There are a handful of awards to be handed out as well, of which the centerpiece is the Signis award that looks at films with social and humanitarian themes. Twelve films are in contention for it, Winter’s Bone, Bleak Night, A Screaming Man, and Majority to name a few.
Award-winners aside there are intriguing films all over the schedule hitting
The alluring retrospectives are one of this year’s big draws. Iranian director Abbas Kirostami's new film Certified Copy that garnered Juliette Binoche a best actress award at
Elsewhere there is the recently restored collection of the late, great post-war Japanese director Shibuya Minoru that has done the rounds at
Animation makes up a big part of the roster and there is chance to see the brilliant The Illusionist, from the makers of Belle-Ville Rendezvous. Additionally, Kooky, by Czech Jan Sverak, Little Ghostly Adventures of the Tofu Boy, which looks thrillingly bizarre, A Cat in Paris, getting its Asian premiere, and Piercing I, from Chinese film-maker Liu Jian, a cutting look at
There is so much going on and, recommendations aside, uncovering hidden gems is the highlight of any festival experience. Get yourself a copy of the schedule and start finding time, because there is a lot to cram in.