Pang Ho-cheung's 'Aberdeen' to Open Hong Kong Film Fest

"The Midnight After"

Fruit Chan's "The Midnight After" will be the second opening film, while Iran's Asghar Farhadi, French actress Isabelle Huppert, fashion designer Agnès B, and China's Jiang Wen will get special showcases.

HONG KONG – Director Pang Ho-cheung's Aberdeen and director Fruit Chan's The Midnight After will open the 38th Hong Kong International Film Festival.

Aberdeen, starring Louis Koo (The White Storm), Gigi Leung (The Monkey King), Eric Tsang (Infernal Affairs), and Miriam Yeung (Love in the Buff), will hold its world premiere at 8pm on the festival's opening night on March 24. The film sees Pang (Vulgaria) explore the difficulties faced by three generations of a Hong Kong family.

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"We choose Aberdeen because it's a film by Pang Ho-cheung, whom we like," Hong Kong International Film Festival Society executive director Roger Garcia told The Hollywood Reporter. "We've shown a few films of him before, and we've opened the festival with a couple of his films like Love in the Buff."

"And of course he's a 100 percent Hong Kong filmmaker, even though he works in China as well," Garcia added. 

The second opening film, The Midnight After, will screen at 9.30pm the same night. Chan's thriller premiered at the Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival in early February. Adapted from an internet novel, it's about the spooky misadventures suffered by the passengers of a minivan.

"Once again, Fruit Chan is a Hong Kong filmmaker who we have a relationship with, and we'd like to support Hong Kong filmmakers in that way, to show Hong Kong filmmaking is still alive," said Garcia.

Organized by the International Film Festival Society, the festival will be closed by That Demon Within, a cop drama by Dante Lam (Unbeatable). Starring Daniel Wu (Overheard 3), Nick Cheung (Unbeatable), and Andy On (Special ID), the film centers on a guilt-ridden cop's plan to dismantle a gang, whose leader's life he unknowingly saved, which indirectly led to the violent crime spree he tries to stop.

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Among the 300 films showing from 56 countries and regions, there will be 88 world, international, and Asian premieres.

The omnibus film Beautiful 2014, a follow-up to last year's Beautiful 2013 and produced by China's video sharing site, will be presented in a gala world premiere. The film is made up of four short films directed by China's Zhang Yuan, South Korea's Kang Je-kyu, Hong Kong's Christopher Doyle, and Hong Kong's Shu Kei.

The festival also worked with Fushan Features to produce Three Charmed Lives, an omnibus of shorts by three actor-turned-directors: Chang Chen from Taiwan, Jung Woo-Sung from South Korea, and Francis Ng from Hong Kong.

"The general idea is to build on our success of these omnibus films," said Garcia about Three Charmed Lives. "We did Quattro (HKIFF 2012) early on with the Hong Kong government, and then we have an ongoing project with Youku. We had a relationship with Fushan, and the project that came about was to ask actors to make short films."

The festival is dedicating a section to the films of the Philippines, with titles such as Barber's Tales by Jun Robles Lana and Sapi by Brillante Mendoza. March 30 will be designated "The Philippines Day" in tribute to the victims of Typhoons Haiyan and Yolanda. For the occasion, the festival will present On the Job (Cannes 2013 Directors' Fortnight) by Erik Matti, and Kimmy Dora: Ang Kiyemeng Prequel by Chris Martinez. A portion of the ticket sales will be donated for the relief of typhoon victims.

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"I think it's a good thing to do, because if we're doing a country in focus and that country is the Philippines, and we totally ignore the disaster that happened to that country last year, that wouldn't be very responsible. We should do something that is useful," said Garcia.

Black Coal, Thin Ice, the winner of the Golden Bear award at the recent Berlin International Film Festival, will headline the gala presentations, which also includes Ning Hao's No Man's Land – also premiered in Berlin – Australian short-film omnibus The Turning, Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, and Ralph Fiennes's The Invisible Woman. The Hong Kong International Film Festival Society will also hold a special screening of the uncut original version of Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac.

Hong Kong columnist and broadcaster Chip Tsao's directorial debut Enthralled will have its world premiere at the Hong Kong Panorama section, alongside Dot 2 Dot by director Amos Why, Matthew Torne's documentary on Hong Kong youth dissidents Lessons in Dissent, and Ferris Lin's Boundless, a documentary on the acclaimed auteur Johnnie To.

The festival will showcase a section dedicated to the work of French acting legend Isabelle Huppert, showing her films Abuse of Weakness, The Piano Teacher, Story of Women, and The Lacemaker. Huppert will attend the festival in Hong Kong on March 26 for a masterclass.

Also in attendance will be French designer and filmmaker Agnès B, who will present her directorial debut My Name is Hmmm… She will give a masterclass on March 29.

A section will also be devoted to Chinese actor-director Jiang Wen, which will include the newly restored version of his directorial work Devils on the DoorstepThe Sun Also Rises, plus Chinese blockbuster Let the Bullets Fly. Another section will be devoted to Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, with screenings of his Beautiful City, Dancing in the Dust, and the 2011 best foreign language film Oscar winner, A Separation.

The Hong Kong International Film Festival Society has also appointed internationally acclaimed director Johnnie To as vice chairman and a member of its board of directors.