Hong Kong Film Festival to Open With 'Where the Wind Blows,' 'Septet'

'Where the Wind Blows'
Courtesy of Shaw Organization

'Where the Wind Blows'

Taking place in hybrid online/offline form this year, the city's flagship cinema event also will close with a screening of Ryusuke Hamaguchi's silver bear winner 'Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy' and feature a masterclass with Frederick Wiseman.

The Hong Kong International Film Festival, running April 1-12 this year as joint online/in-person event, will open with the premiere of two high-profile local features: Philip Yung's Where the Wind Blows, starring Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Aaron Kwok, and Septet: The Story of Hong Kong, an omnibus film co-helmed by seven acclaimed Hong Kong directors including Sammo Hung, Ann Hui, Patrick Tam, Yuen Woo-ping, Johnnie To, Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark.

The lineup was unveiled Wednesday in a video presentation by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society's executive director Albert Lee. "For the first time in our history, we will be presenting a hybrid festival consisting of both in-theatre and virtual screenings and events," Lee explained. "While our belief in watching films communally on a big screen is unwavering, recent lockdowns and social distancing measures have accelerated our need to explore uncharted waters by embracing an additional online component."

He added: "The program is well balanced and covers a broad spectrum, from rarely-seen silent classics to contemporary filmmakers’ latest work. I am particularly thrilled to note that the festival will open with two significant Hong Kong films for the first time in recent years. So much for the talks of the demise of Hong Kong cinema!"

Closing the 2021 HKIFF will be Japanese director Hamaguchi Ryusuke's critically acclaimed Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, which won the Belinale's silver bear grand jury prize just last week.

Altogether HKIFF will screen 190 films from 58 countries, including 10 world premieres, 11 international premieres and 43 Asian premieres. Thanks to Hong Kong's increasing control of the COVID-19 pandemic, some 230 screenings will be held in cinemas, while 60 titles will be made available for online streaming.

Veteran Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan is HKIFF's Filmmaker in Focus for 2021. The event will host a retrospective of 13 of his seminal works and a commemorate book covering his career will be published. Kwan also will participate in a "Face to Face" seminar on April 5 to discuss his career, craft and life in the public eye.

Since international travel to Hong Kong is currently impossible, the festival has arranged to hold its usual Master Classes online. This year's participants are master documentarians Frederick Wiseman and Hara Kazuo. Screenings of Wiseman's City Hall and Hara's Reiwa Uprising will be screened followed by discussions with the directors. Various other post-screening talks and seminars with featured filmmakers will be held throughout the HKIFF's 12-day duration.

The festival's 2021 historical sidebars include a collection of Japanese classics — including works by Mizoguchi Kenji, Ozu Yasujiro, Imamura Shohei and Yamada Yoji — celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the great Japanese studio Shochiku. Several recently restored classics, including Godard's Breathless and Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love, will also be shown, as will a new survey titled Iranian New Cinema, which will lead with a restoration of Mohammad Reza Aslani's long-lost censored gem Chess of the Wind.