Film studies: Brought to book

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 June, 2008, 12:00am

The sparsely decorated booth in the basement of Cannes' Palais des Festivals building has one of the few counters assured of brisk business during the French city's annual film festival. Its trade is not in production credits or distribution rights: it's the shopfront of an international courier company, busy helping industry workers and journalists send home heavy cases of film paraphernalia.

That the counter is constantly surrounded by piles of packages and suitcases explains why those in the festival's film market produce thousands of publications every year. Though it's easy to find film-related trivia on the internet, printed programmes and brochures remain a vital source of information for many in the industry.

It's especially true for national film councils eager to provide visitors from all over the world not only with information on the films being screened at Cannes, but also a catalogue of what their domestic cinemas have accomplished during the past year. And there are enough technical details to appease rich acquisition managers and critical essays to whet the appetites of curious film critics and journalists.

Take Mexican Film Institute's catalogue: described on its back cover as 'a reference tool that will prove useful to distributors and exhibitors, as well as festival and film cycle programmers, film critics and researchers', an extensive list of finished and in-production features, documentaries and short films is supplemented by pages of information on funding for the country's productions as well as attendance totals. There's also an extensive list of Mexican film companies, with their contact details by mail or internet.

The Korean Film Council has continued its remarkable promotional work by offering plenty of publications about the spate of films being offered and showcased, including a Korean film guide detailing finished and upcoming projects. Also available are copies of the Korean Film Directors Series, each of these books featuring essays and interviews on one particular Korean director.

The Hong Kong Film Development Council has yet to produce similar publications. Unlike South Korea's national pavilion at the film market, the Hong Kong pavilion - which is operated by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, rather than the Film Development Council or the Hong Kong Film Services Office, the two bodies which jointly promote Hong Kong's film industry - only offers production booklets and flyers of films being marketed by the film companies at Cannes. This just repeats the work the companies are doing themselves in their marketing booths inside the Palais.

A Film Services Office spokeswoman won't say whether there are plans to issue publications which could promote Hong Kong's other work to international observers; the spokeswoman pointed to the Film Development Council's website, which has a Hong Kong Film Zone section 'introducing new film release [sic]', as an example of how the council is promoting Hong Kong cinema worldwide. For an annual summary of the industry's endeavours, she suggests reading the Hong Kong Yearbook, a hardcover publication produced by the Information Services Department, for statistics and, among others, 'number of film awards won by Hong Kong films or Hong Kong film talents'.

Ironically, the book was not available at Cannes - which was all very well, given coverage of the film industry took up only two pages in the latest edition of the 500-page tome (current edition: Hong Kong 2006), a page less than the space dedicated to Hong Kong's postal services. That provides plenty of food for thought about how Hong Kong cinema can compete with its counterparts in terms of broadening its appeal internationally.