Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum Sets New Projects, Partners With Far East Film Fest

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Hong Kong

Projects based on true events stand out, and women filmmakers shine. The Forum also establishes a strategic partnership with Far East Film Festival to present one selected HAF project at its project market.

Projects presented by renowned Chinese filmmaker Tian Zhuangzhuang and Japanese festival favorite Ryusuke Hamaguchi are among those selected by the 17th Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), set to be held March 18-20.

In a lineup that touches on a number of hot-button political issues, there are films on the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh and the 2010 Manila hostage standoff in which a bus full of Hong Kong tourists were held captive and eight were killed. 

A total of 23 projects are shortlisted from 350 submissions from across Asia for the deal-making and funding platform this year, representing filmmaking veterans, festival darlings, HAF alumni and emerging talents making their debut.

Ranging from $200,000 to $10 million in production budget, the lineup comprises a number of projects that take their cue from real life. They include documentaries Ship of Fools – Pandora’s Box, by China’s Zhao Liang, about post-nuclear disaster areas, and Belonging, by Bangladesh’s Abid Hossain Khan, about the Rohingya people fleeing persecution in Myanmar; based-on-a-true-story dramas Between Sea and Sky, by the Philippines’ Jun Robles Lana, about a fisherman drifting at sea for nearly two months, and The Grandstand, by director Mikhail Red, also from the Philippines, who reenacts the fatal tour bus hijacking that shook Hong Kong and led to a diplomatic impasse between the Philippines, Hong Kong and China; and also biopic Life’s a Struggle, by Taiwan’s Tom Lin Shu-Yu, about the fraternal love and alienation between late Taiwanese rapper Shawn “M80” Sung and his brother Ting, and Shawn's creation of the celebrated song from which the project takes its title.

Female filmmakers also shine at this HAF. China’s Zhao Wenjia explores a mother-daughter relationship in the comedy-drama A Story of Hers; Liu Miaomiao examines the highs and lows of a bipolar disorder sufferer, based on her own experience, in drama 12 x 4, produced by her former classmate, one of China’s most acclaimed art-house directors, Tian Zhuangzhuang; Hong Kong’s Barbara Wong Chun-chun, whose 2014 Girls grossed over $30 million in China, inspects the marital woes of a marriage officiant in romance The Wedding Celebrant; writer-director Luk Yee-sum, also from Hong Kong, follows up her 2015 debut Lazy Hazy Crazy with The Secret Diary of a Mom to Be, about a corporate climber’s unexpected pregnancy; and South Korea’s Jeong Hee-jae, after her first film, 2017's A Haunting Hitchhike, presents her sophomore effort, Living, which centers on a hired hit woman who angers her gangster bosses by choosing to protect her mark’s daughter.

Projects from Japan make a strong showing in the selection this year, including France-set youth romance drama Our Apprenticeship, by Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, whose Asako I & II was in the Cannes In-Competition selection in 2018; as well as fellow countryman Masanao Kawajiri's debut feature, Cherry and Virgin, a multiple-style animated reinterpretation of the Woody Allen classic Annie Hall. Also from Japan is Seeing Nara Again, produced by Japanese auteur and HAF alumni Naomi Kawase and directed by Song Pengfei, the Chinese award winner at the 2017 Nara International Film Festival that was founded by Kawase, which reflects the ambivalent relationship between China and Japan, built upon history and torn apart by war.

This year, HAF is establishing a strategic partnership with the Far East Film Festival (FEFF) in Udine, Italy, the biggest film festival in Europe to showcase popular Asian cinema. One selected HAF project will be presented at Focus Asia, FEFF’s project market dedicated to “films of tomorrow,” to seek opportunities for co-production and co-financing in Europe or Asia. “This new collaboration will strengthen even more the connections between the industries of our two continents. We think that this will be just the beginning of a new fruitful collaboration,” said Sabrina Baracetti, president of the Far East Film Festival.

The Forum is also introducing two new prizes. The HK$150,000 Heaven Pictures Young Director Award is set up to encourage young Hong Kong directors to create local-themed projects that express their distinctive personal style. The Artention-Vanke Film Award, aiming to support the development of film projects that exhibit both commercial and artistic qualities, consists of a cash prize of HK$100,000 and gives the winner free access to a designated space in the Artention-Vanke Creative Arts Incubator in Shenzhen, China.