HAF Awards boost new Asian films

Kit Hung's "Mama Eva" wins inaugural Barendrecht Award

HONG KONG -- Five Asian filmmakers with movies in the works took home prizes worth HK$595,000 ($76,280) from the eighth Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum on Wednesday, the closing day of Filmart, the territory's annual cinema trade show.

A teary-eyed Kit Hung, director of the lighthearted semi-autobiographical musical "Mama Eva," accepted the inaugural Wouter Barendrecht prize of HK$50,000 established in memory of the co-founder of both HAF and sales company Fortissimo Films.

"Kit's film would have been very close to Wouter's heart," said Nelleke Driessen, Fortissimo managing director and one of five board members of the Wouter Barendrecht Film Foundation. "The film's combination of music with a story about a gay boy's relationship with his mother would have given Wouter a lot to like."

The five HAF winners were chosen from 25 projects from 17 different territories.

The HAF Award for a film project originating in Hong Kong went to "The Enchanter," a film about the rush to embrace materialism at the expense of happiness and spirituality by director Kwok Tsz-kin and veteran local producer Teddy Chen.

The HAF Award for a project from outside Hong Kong went to Sherad Anthony Sanchez for "Twins," a film about a girl who cannot accept the disappearance of her sister.  Producer Ronald Arguelles accepted the award on behalf of Sanchez who could not attend HAF because his own sister was ill.

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Reached over the phone in Mindanao, where his sister's health had improved, Sanchez said of the award: "It was totally unexpected because I was not there. I'm not sure if my materials were sufficient, but I am so happy that despite everything it worked out. Now I have to go out and raise even more funds."

The HAF awards to Sanchez and Kwok were HK$150,000 each.

The Technicolor Asia Award was given to Chinese director Sheng Zhimin for his French co-production "Cosplay," the dramatic story of a spoiled boy suddenly burdened with responsibilities. Presented by Technicolor Bangkok Managing Director Paul Stambaugh, the prize  awards postproduction services in worth $25,000 (about HK$195,000).

Jacob Wong, director of the annual event held during the Filmart and the Hong Kong International Film Festival (ongoing until April 6), said this year's crop was exceptionally difficult to weed through.

Past HAF award winners did very well at this year's Asian Film Awards on Monday, with "Mother" from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho winning best film and China's Lu Chuan  taking home the prize for best director, to name but two of the 2010 AFA winners with roots at HAF.

Many of HAF's completed projects have gone on to screen at the world's most prestigious film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto, Locarno, Deauville and Pusan.

HAF 2010 saw a 10% rise in the number of film financiers from China who registered to participate.  The three day forum helped arrange 500 private meetings between producers and directors and would-be co-production partners, up about 10% from the 468 meetings taken in 2009, organizers said.

Finally, the Paris Project Award was presented to "I Love You So Much" by Leon Dai from Taiwan. The film won an award of €5,000 (HK$50,000), which included one round-trip ticket and hotel accommodation to participate in Paris Project 2010 at the Paris Cinema International Film Festival.
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