Summer screen fiesta
By Lau Kit-wai
Film buffs, forget Harry Potter and Transformers for a moment and indulge in a true cinema treat - a film festival specially designed for young audiences starts tomorrow.
Summer IFF is a bonanza of 33 quality movies covering a range of genres, from recent animations to the work of Japanese film masters.
The festival, organised by The Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, runs till September 2.
'The films chosen have an appeal for young audiences,' said festival programme manager Beatrice Chan Ka-wai. 'There are animation films, entertaining feature films and films about young people in love or looking for work.'
Strong interest is expected in the work of Japanese animator Makoto Shinkai, hailed as the new Hayao Miyazaki.
'Shinkai is a passionate animator,' said Ms Chan. 'He spent seven years working on his first short. His drawings are very beautiful and his story ideas are outstanding.'
Shinkai's breakthrough short, Voices of a Distant Star, is a futuristic love story about two teenagers separated by time and space.
It will be screened along with the animator's debut feature film, The Place Promised in Our Early Days.
Shinkai's latest film, 5cm - A Chain of Short Stories About Their Distance, comprising three linked stories, will be screened in a separate programme.
The new animation movie Vexille, which opens in Japan on August 18, looks at a hypothetical Japan of the future that has regressed into an isolationist state after long years of using biotech and robot technology to prolong human lives.
'It's a very Matrix-like film and the story concept is jaw-dropping,' Ms Chan said.
From Europe comes Vitus, Switzerland's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at last year's Oscars. The story is about a musically gifted 12-year-old boy whose parents want him to become a concert pianist. But the boy has own ambitions, encouraged by a grandfather who presents him with a pair of wings.
'It's a very uplifting story about not giving up our dreams and not doing what everyone else is doing,' Ms Chan said.
Tokyo Friends, which is in the same vein as the Nana films says Ms Chan, and stars J-pop stars Ai Otsuka, Yoko Maki and Mao Kobayashi, will also be screened. Another Japanese offering is Udon, a comedy-drama about father-and-son relationship.
Just About Love, directed by Lola Doillion (daughter of acclaimed French director Jacques Doillon), is an exploration of adolescent love. 'The film talks about the attitudes of young people and their views about love and sex,' Ms Chan said.
A film for anyone with an interest in photography is Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens, which covers the life and work of the celebrated American photographer.
'There is a lot of interest in this movie because it features interviews with several pop stars. The film gives you a very good idea of an era, the years when Leibovitz was establishing herself.'
Film lovers who revere old masters will relish the Summer Classics programme, From Shochiku. The famous Japanese entertainment company Shochiku started producing movies in the 1920s. The programme features early films by such renowned directors as Akira Kurosawa (Scandal) and Kenji Mizoguchi (The Loyal 47 Ronin, Parts 1 and 2).
For more information, see www.hkiff.org.hk. Call 2734 9009 for reservations.