Hong Kong International Film Festival

Bigger and better

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2007, 12:00am

This year's Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF), which kicks off on Tuesday, boasts the highest ever number of screenings - about 300 films - and plenty of star-studded gala premieres. But does that mean more young people are going to the movies?

On paper, the answer is yes. Tickets for popular films such as the Korean romance I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK sold out quickly. The eagerly awaited presence of superstars such as K-pop singer Rain and Japanese actress Ryoko Hirosue also aroused public interest.

Programmes such as Animation Unlimited and Animation for All, which both feature animations from around the world, and I See It My Way, which showcases Japanese, Korean, mainland and local films featuring Asian stars, also appeal to young audiences.

'Our audiences are younger than before. We conducted research at the screening venues last year, and we found that the number of student audiences had increased by about 40 to 50 per cent [compared with recent years]. This is because our audience pool has grown larger,' said Beatrice Chan Ka-wai, the programme manager of HKIFF.

Fewer young people are now interested in going to the movies as they prefer to watch films at home.

This is why broadening young people's movie-going experience is a major goal for the HKIFF.

'You'll miss a lot of a film's details [if you watch it on TV or DVD]. Watching a movie is not just about the story,' said Ms Chan.

Exposing young people to world cinema is another goal, as few interesting international films have come to Hong Kong recently.

'For example, there weren't a lot of interesting movies for us to watch during the Lunar New Year period.

'The market is becoming narrower. As film distributors are not willing to pick these movies [for release], audiences now have fewer choices.'

Ms Chan said she hoped young people would develop an interest in all kinds of movies - not just Hollywood or mainstream features.

'The situation is grim. A few years ago when I was a film student, there were still an average of two to three students in every class who were crazy about going to the movies,' said Ms Chan.

'The situation is now worse than before. Some film students haven't even watched The Godfather. Now they may only go to certain local or mainstream films.'

Here are the HKIFF organisers' top picks for SYP readers:

Animax Theatre: The programme offers three Japanese anime: Fate/Stay Night, The Legend of Glass Fleet and Bincho-tan.

The first feature is adapted from a popular PC Game, while the second is a Sci-fi action adventure. Bincho-tan is about a little girl who lives alone in the forest and finds happiness in a simple life.

World Animation for All: A crash course in animation, the screening comprises almost every element and style - from hand-drawn to 3D, from comedy to classic fairytale - of the art.

All the shorts except one - Disney's retelling of The Little Match Girl - are independent productions. This is a must-see for animation fans.

The Italian: A story about a six-year-old boy from a run-down Russian orphanage, who is about to be adopted by an Italian couple, and his search for his mother.

It is a modern Oliver Twist tale that reflects the miserable state of rural Russia.

Child actor Kolya Spiridonov's performance is unbelievably touching and mature.

Dear Earth...: The new HKIFF programme comprises three films: Who Killed the Electric Car, The Great Warming and An Inconvenient Truth.

Each documentary offers a painful truth about global warming that will inspire you and your parents to rethink our planet's future.

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man: Walker inspired Blur, Sting, David Bowie and Brian Eno.

As the lead singer of The Walker Brothers - a band which would have rivalled The Beatles if they hadn't disbanded at the height of its popularity - rock music's most enigmatic figure was perfect material for a rock documentary.