Hong Kong Film Festival Kicks Off With Renny Harlin's Crime Thriller 'Bodies at Rest'

HKIFF 2019 Red Carpet - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of HKIFF

Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong, Japanese filmmaker Tsukamoto Shinya and Hong Kong superstar Aaron Kwok all walked the red carpet.

Stars from across the Asian film industry firmament descended on the 43rd Hong Kong International Film Festival's red carpet Monday, bringing some glitz and glamour to an otherwise hazy and suitably Blade Runner-esque evening in southern China's greatest skyscraper city.

The opening ceremony began with an interpretative dance performance dedicated to the Hong Kong festival's 2019 theme, "Colors in the Dark." Wilfred Wong, chairman of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society (HKIFF), then took the stage to welcome the international industry dignitaries and assembled global media, noting that the festival would screen 230 films over the coming two weeks, including 64 world premieres. 

"We're very pleased to have Renny Harlin's Bodies at Rest — a film dedicated to the spirit of classic Hong Kong crime cinema — as our opening movie," Wong said. “We have also managed to bring together many distinguished filmmakers from around the world to share their visions and insights with local audience and their peers in the film industry."

Also on hand was Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong, who had won the Asian Film Awards' best director honor the evening prior. He was joined on the red carpet by Japanese filmmaker Tsukamoto Shinya, whose film Killing is showing in the festival. Rising Chinese talent Bai Xue, director of The Crossing, also made an appearance.

Hong Kong superstar Aaron Kwok (The Monkey King, Project Gutenberg), HIFF's 2019 talent ambassador, praised the cultural importance of the event in his hometown, adding that "this year's strong lineup shows that our festival is well respected throughout the world."

Harlan, best known for his 1990s action films like Die Hard 2, but now living and working in China, brought his starring cast — Nick Cheung, Richie Jen, Carlos Chan, Roger Kwok, and Ron Ng — up on stage to introduce their festival opener. Bodies at Rest is set almost entirely within a Hong Kong morgue, where a forensic expert (played by Cheung) and his assistant are accosted by a masked intruder (Jen) and his gang, who demand access to a body containing evidence to a crime. 

"The reason I live here now is because I love working with Hong Kong and mainland Chinese actors and filmmakers — they are the hardest working and most passionate film professionals in the world," Harlin stated shortly before the lights came down for his movie. "I just feel so lucky and happy to be here," he added.