Reel life: The more things change…

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In summer 2004, a confused film student – who as fate would have it went on to become a film journalist – came across Ying E Chi, the local organisation that strives to give a lifeline to indie cinema outside the commercial circuit. In the heat of the summer sun, they organised the first Hong Kong Asian Film Festival (HKAFF) at the Broadway Cinematheque (BC), which provided venues and added a couple of high-profile movies to boost the roster. The student was assigned the task of managing the itinerary of visiting Korean film director Kim Hak-soon, and it was fun. The memory stays with the student: it was a summer of love, the pure love for cinema.

Now let us fast-forward four years and rejoin the present. Perhaps as a testimony to how truly independent those film selections were back then, the IMDb filmography of Mr Kim has not lengthened by one line since. Ying E Chi has since moved from their small and shabby office in Wan Chai to their current address, a large and shabby office in Wan Chai. Meanwhile, the HKAFF has reached its fifth year, and for the first time it’s solely presented by BC. Rumours are rife that Ying E Chi – the event’s founding organiser – have been usurped by BC, and have to start all over again with their own ‘HK Asian Independent Film Festival’ in November.

Am I sad? A little bit. Am I concerned? Not at all, so let’s get on with the movies. In this year’s HKAFF, Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time Redux (which will be released locally next year after the film’s international theatrical runs) makes a no-show despite featuring prominently in the event’s early promotional materials. Truth be told, the programme is interesting enough even without Wong’s epic: opening with True Women For Sale (HK director Herman Yau’s latest social commentary) and Miao Miao (a refreshing Taiwanese youth drama in the tradition of 2002’s Blue Gate Crossing), and closing with Claustrophobia (directorial debut by veteran screenwriter Ivy Ho) and Dada’s Dance (by Chinese director Zhang Yuan of Seventeen Years fame), the HKAFF has seemingly stayed true to its original vision of supporting up-and-coming filmmakers with its ‘New Talent Award’ and ‘Chinese Cinema: A New Generation’ categories.

Apart from its fair share of familiar names, ranging from Oshii Mamoru (The Sky Crawlers), Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Tokyo Sonata), Kim Ki-duk (Dream), to Royston Tan (12 Lotus), there’s also some Turkish delights to be found in this year’s programme. Acclaimed director Nuri Bilge Ceylan receives a special programme that will take a comprehensive look at his brief but extremely impressive filmography. From Ceylan’s first short film Cocoon to his latest feature Three Monkeys, which won him the Best Director Award at Cannes earlier this year, the HKAFF is set to bring us the breathtakingly beautiful images of one of cinema’s most distinguished poets in recent times. Edmund Lee

HKAFF runs from Oct 10-26 at BC, Palace IFC and AMC Festival Walk. Visit www.hkaff.asia for full programme details.

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