41st Hongkong International Film Festival Summarizes Its New Past And Sets Up the Promising Future

in 41st Hong Kong International Film Festival

by Viera Langerova

The oldest Asian film festival, which launched and introduced the famous 5th generation of Chinese filmmakers in 8Os, marked the 20th anniversay of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by special programme including local films drawn from the past two decades. Paradigm Shift Post-97 Hong Kong Cinema programme has selected 20 highly representative films by the most famous film directors Wong Kar Wai, Johnnie To, Fruit Chan, Stanley Kwan, Anne Hui, Pang Ho-cheung, Wilson Yip and the others.

The festival screened 232 films from 65 countries and welcomed European directors Agnieszka Holland, Ildikó Enyedi and Olivier Assayas, who was co-editor of Cahiers do Cinéma  special Made in Hong Kong in 1984 and is an Asian cinema enthusiast. The retrospective, Edward Yang, 10-year Commemoration, reminds us about the significant contribution of Taiwanese film director and his strong affection to Hong Kong cinema.

The face of the festival and its ambassador is a prominent star of HK cinema – actor Louis Koo Tin-lok,  who has performed in films by To and Sylvia Chang.

It is also interesting to mention the author of the festival design, Wong San Mun, whose works include films by Wong Kar Wai  - Happy Together (1997) and 2046 (2004). The festival poster  embodies two themes, the Yang retrospectiove and the anniversary of the takeover marked by Fruit Chang's film Made in Hong Kong (1997). The main festival award, the Firebird, has been redesigned by San Mun and is based on the simplicty of traditional origami and retro-futuristic design underlines the theme of travelling from the past to the future.

The festival programme offered the attentive world cinema selection – The Passion of Latin America Cinema, The Rise of Romanian Cinema, Indie Power, Animation Unlimited, Poetry in Motion and Restored Classics, among others. The retrospective programme was also dedicated to Robert Bresson.

The competition part of the programme comprised  three categories – Young Cinema, Documentary and Short Film.

FIPRESCI jury – Viera Langerová (Slovakia), Steven Tu (Taiwan) and William Lau (Hong Kong) shared the titles of Young Cinema Competition with the main jury headed by Agnieszka Holland.  The winner of the Firebird Award was Georgian/Germany/France coproduction film My Happy Family directed by Nana Ekvtimshvili and Simon Gross. It depits the extended Georgian family living together under  one roof, ruled by elders. The main character, 52-year-old teacher Manana, decides to act independently  and look for her own place in society. Nobody takes seriously her decision to move out and live her separate  life. Finaly she does and opposes all the pressure to come back. It is a story about the urgent need to search for a balance between personal freedom and family bonds. The previous film by these two directors In Bloom (2013) was the winner of 37th HKKIFF.

The second film awarded by Jury Prize was Indian film Newton directed by Amit Nasurkar, already awarded by CICAE Cinema Award, Berlinale. Newton is the choosen name of the governement clerk who knows his duties and is ready to sacrifice everything to complete them. Newton is sent to a jungle village controlled by Maoist guerillas to organise the general election vote. The village is empty, so Newton insists on bringing the voters from the neighbourhood. It is possible only with the help of the army, which guarantees the safety of the election group. It is an ironic satire of  bureaucratic blindeness  embodied by a  sympathetic  hero.

The FIPRESCI jury gave its award to South Korean black comedy Happy Bus Day, directed by debut helmer Lee Seung-won, which had its world premiere at HKKIFF. The scriptwriter, director and actor in one brings the crazy story of the crazy family which has decided to get rid of their monster member, the son of the permanently smoking mother. She is assisted by her children, affected by  spectacular obssesions. The murder comes after the celebration of victim's birthday.  It is a satirical shot amining at Korean tv dramas and all kinds of social pains, starting with domestic violence, finished by the online game craze. Lee is an emerging talent with the noteworthy sense of multilayered genre mixing, the comedian who knows how to handle the social deformations  and  to  place the mirror in the right place.

The next film, worth mentioning is Chinese film The Stonehead, directed by Zhao Xiang. He tells the story of a little boy left by his father, who works in the South. He lives with his uncle and grandmother and fights his little war for the soccer ball. It should be his property, a gift he was given by school inspector. The whole school, including the teacher, is sure it belongs to them all. The film touches the sensible social issue of lonely children whose parents have to look to make a lliving far from them.

Chinese film The Taste of Betel Nut (dir. Hu Jia) displays a triangle of young people plunged to their  mutual and binding sexuality without any limits, reminscent, in a certain sense, of Francois Truffaut's Jules et Jim. The summer love affair is the tragicomedy with the romantic background of Hainan island. The uncanny resemblance of one of the heroes to the actor Leslie Chang (Farewell My Concubine) is the additional asset of this  interesting movie.

Japanese film The Three Lights (dir. Yoshida Kohki)  shows the excellent esthetic skills in depicting the  group of young artists who strive to create their own musical message. It is the third film of talented director who  has a capacity to follow the best tradition of Japanese poetic cinema.

The all films were completed in 2017 and should attract the attention of  film festivals focused to young  emerging filmmakers.

Edited by Amber Wilkinson
© FIPRESCI 2017

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