Hong Kong cinema gets HKIFF spotlight

Local filmmakers front and center; Polanski film set for bow

HONG KONG – Hong Kong cinema shines at the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival, with 10 new films from local directors making their world premieres at the event, organized by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society to be held March 21 to April 6.
Hong Kong female directors are in the spotlight, as writer-director Ivy Ho’s “Crossing Hennessy,” starring Tang Wei and Jacky Cheung, and Clara Law’s “Like a Dream," starring Daniel Wu, will open the festival, along with 25-year-old Heiward Mak’s sophomore feature “Ex” as closing film. Pang Ho-cheung’s “Love in a Puff” and Dante Lam’s “Fire of Conscience” will also host gala premieres at the festival.
Eleven more new and recent features and three short films from Hong Kong directors are showcased under the “Hong Kong Panorama” sidebar, including: “37” by director Dennis Chan and starring legendary Chinese actress Liu Xiaoqing, and Gallants” (formerly titled “Fists of Dignity”) directed by Derek Kwok and starring a cast of 1970s Hong Kong Shaw Brothers kung fu actors. “La Comedie Humaine” directed by Chan Hing-kai and Janet Chun, and director Kenneth Bi’s “Girl$” will have world premieres at the fest. In conjunction with the focus on Hong Kong cinema, a symposium titled “Hong Kong Cinema – Beyond Co-production” will be held on March 25.
“We’ve decided to showcase Hong Kong cinema this year, as there’s a spike of productions locally as well as co-productions with China, especially those on the lower end of the budget scale, which are the bread and butter of the local film industry,” HKIFF curator Jacob Wong told the Hollywood Reporter. “Hong Kong studios are more willing to invest in lower budget projects of around HK$10 million (US$1.29 million) with good directors and scripts attached, ones that can recoup their cost in the local market and make a profit in the Southeast Asian and Chinese market. That’s the way to sustain the industry,” Wong said.
The festival is also dedicating a special retrospective to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s birth, featuring nine of the late Hong Kong martial arts superstar’s work, from “The Kid," when a 10-year-old Lee made his screen debut, to “The Game of Death," the final film he worked on when he died, which was first released posthumously in 1978. A retrospective of Greek master Theo Angeliopoulos, highlighting containing 12 films of his work, will also be showcased, to be attended by the 75-year-old filmmaker in Hong Kong.
Young filmmakers from China and Taiwan are also highlighted in two sections that feature 10 films, including the world premiere of Zhang Jiarui’s “Distant Thunder," and the Asian premiere of  Berlin Silver Bear winner “Apart Together” by Wang Quan'an.
A total of 23 films will make their world premiere at the festival, while 38 films will make their Asian debuts at the festival, including Roman Polanski’s “Ghostwriter." Over 240 films from more than 50 countries will be screened during the event, which saw an increase of 34% in sponsorship this year, according to HKIFFS executive director Soo-wei Shaw.

The festival also received an HK$11 million government subsidy, or 60% of the budget, according to HKIFFS chairman Wilfred Wong, who said the Hong Kong government is holding decision on further subsidies for a planned long-term screening venue for the HKIFF to release its selections, a partnership with a local exhibitor that will commence operation in mid-2010 the earliest.