October 18th to November 18th.
The 8th Hong Kong Asian Film Festival is another superb participant in the city’s vibrant film festival calendar. There are a whopping 65 films in the line-up from all over
The festival opens with local royalty Johnny To’s latest film, Life Without Principle, that sets a slow-burning heist movie to the backdrop of the global recession. More than just a plot device, his film looks extensively at investment banking in an interesting spin on the genre. The films multi-strand narrative dumps a police inspector (Richie Jen, a To regular), his wife (Myolie Wu), and a banker (pop star Denise Ho) into the mixer. It looks perhaps a little slower than what fans of To have come to expect, but is definitely a film which is seeking to place itself right in the now. For the closing film fellow Hong Konger Wong Ching-Po’s live action adaptation of a Japanese anime series Let’s Go takes centre stage. The film is loosely inspired by the cult Space Emperor God Sigma about enormous robots in 2050, not, confusingly from the Japanese manga Lets and Go, . Nevertheless, it seems to be an entertaining opera of sci-fi violence. If the style and verve of Wong Ching-Po’s most recent film, Revenge: A Love Story, have made their way into this effort, fans of this kind of thing should be very excited. The gala presentation of the escapist Starry Starry Night, which premiered at the Busan International Film Festival, is another notable landmark on the calendar. It is based on the illustrated book by Jimmy Liao about two teenage outsiders who are immediately drawn to each other.
Making up part of the Cineaste section, Naomi Kawase’s Hanezu is a fantastic little film, which was in competition in Cannes this year. Set in Japan’s Asuka region, close to the city of Nara, it taps into the serenity of the countryside to tell the story of a complicated romance that forces those involved to reassess their lives. Like her previous film, the grand prix winning Mogari no Mori, it looks beautiful. Another intriguing Japanese film being screened is Himizu, an adaptation of a hugely popular teen manga. The intrigue is in the circumstances surrounding it. The film was written and about to go into production in
A retrospective of two Chinese directors whose careers have intertwined also stands out. Wang Xioashuai and Lou Ye marked a movement away from the conservative cinema of the fifth generation to make films that were more in touch with modern
The up and comers of the New Talent Award section of any festival is always worth checking out and HKAFF will not disappoint with a varied collection of great new directors. The stunningly animated King of Pigs from
The special sections are what really mark out HKAFF. The Taiwanese collection represents an industry in the midst of a boom. It consists of 15 films from this year or last with some quality pictures. The main attraction is epic Warriors of the Rainbow, the dramatization of aboriginal Taiwanese standing up to Japanese rule at the 1930 Wushe incident. It was the most expensive film in Taiwanese history at 25 million US dollars. Squished into one film when screened in the Venice film festival, it arrives here in all its two part glory. The Killer Who Never Kills is another one to look out for.. The quirky narrative centres on an assassin who never kills anyone. He befriends his targets and sets them up with alternative identities before claiming the money. However, love gets in the way in this romantic, indie comedy. Two documentaries, Cherish, on a scavenger who creates art from recycled objects, and Children From the Distant Planet, a touching piece on raising autistic children, both look like gems.
The classic Nikkatsu retrospective also looks brilliant. The great Japanese film director Seijun Suzuki worked extensively for the studio between 1956 and 1967, producing a prolific 40 films in eleven years. He became famous for surreal, peculiar yakuza films like
Sci-fi fans and geeks of
The lengthy running time of the event from October 18th to November 18th gives festival-goers ample opportunity to take advantage of the great movies being shown. Tickets range from 60-75 dollars and are generally screened twice during the festival. The beauty of this festival is its variety. There’s an awful lot to get interested in this year, so go forth and watch.