Hong Kong Asian Film Festival to Feature Superheroes, Taiwan Cinema

The autumn festival -- which runs Oct. 18 through Nov. 8 -- opens and closes with Hong Kong films by Johnnie To and Wong Jing-po.

HONG KONG – Taiwan shows box office clout, China guts, and superheroes spring up across Asia at the 8th Asian Film Festival. Chinese directors Wang Xiaoshuai and Lou Ye are named the Directors in Focus, and selections from Taiwan reflect the revival of the Taiwan film industry.

The festival opens and closes with Hong Kong productions: Johnnie To’s Life Without Principle, and Wong Jing-po’s Let’s Go, the latter making its world premiere at the HKAFF, to be held from Oct. 18 through Nov. 8.

Organized by the Asian Film Festival Society and Edko Films subsidiary Broadway Cinematheque, the festival will dedicate a key section titled “China in Transformation” to the sixth generation Chinese directors, showcasing the retrospectives of Wang’s and Lou’s work including their respective latest, Wang’s 11 Flowers and Lou’s Love and Bruises.

Wang is also a jury member of the New Talent Award competition at the festival.

The directors were honored for their willingness to tackle issues in contemporary Chinese society that few filmmakers dare address, such as divorce, mistresses/concubines, homosexuality, and politically sensitive topics including the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest and the Cultural Revolution, organizer Broadway Cinematheque director Gary Mak told The Hollywood Reporter.

The selection this year also signals the resurgence of Taiwanese cinema, which includes the Wei Te-Sheng blockbuster Seediq Bale: Warrior of the Rainbow, which had reaped TWD 290million ($9.5 million) in Taiwan in two weeks, and the hit You Are the Apple of My Eye, the debut directorial feature of writer Giddens Ko. Also showing is Jump, Ashin, directed by Lin Yu-Hsien, Blowfish by Lee Chi Y., and Starry Starry Night by Tom Lin (Winds of September) adapted from famed illustrator Jimmy’s graphic novel of the same name.

“Taiwan cinema really stands out among Asian films this year,” noted Mak. “Taiwanese films are making a killing at their local box office. It’s very likely that the proportion of local films at the year-end box office in Taiwan will be the highest in recent decades. While Korean cinema had its heyday, the Taiwanese cinema is making a comeback.  We hope to reflect this trend in our festival, to choose films for their artistic merit as well as box office clout.”

Nevertheless, it is safe to say that no other genre has the same clout as superheroes in the international market, filmmakers across Asia are also bringing their own homespun masked vigilante to the big screen. Led by closing film, Hong Kong’s Let’s Go directed by Wong Jing-po and starring Juno Mak, the festival sidebar “Asian Superheroes” features Japan’s Karate Robot Zaborgar, Indonesia’s Madame X, Thailand’s Red Eagle, and Korea’s Invasion of Alien Bikini.

“The superheroes genre has always existed in other media in Asia, for example, Red Eagle was adapted from a 1960s newspaper serial, while the superheroes took the form of martial arts masters in China and Hong Kong, which performed the same function,” said Mak. “It’s a happy coincidence that a number of filmmakers across Asia are taking note this year of the Hollywood superhero trend. It reminds us that we too have a superhero tradition that local audiences can identify with.”

The festival will also pay tribute to the longest-running studio in Japan with its “Nikkatsu Cinema: Youth, Action and Pink” section, highlighting ten features released from the 1950s to 1970s showing the diversity of the studio’s production line, including Pigs and Battleships by Shohei Imamura, Kanto Wanderer by Seijun Suzuki, Lovers Are Wet by Tatsuro Kumashiro, and the self-explanatory Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter by Yasuharu Hasebe.