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Macau international film festival: everything you need to know about the 2017 edition and awards

From award season contender The Florida Project to Portuguese art-house project The Nothing Factory, the event’s new artistic director, Mike Goodridge, has assembled an exciting variety of films that should satisfy all tastes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 8:06pm

When the second edition of the International Film Festival & Awards Macao opens on December 8 with the very charming family comedy Paddington 2, most industry veterans, and probably a few of the more perceptive festival goers, would have noticed a slight change of tone in its programme from last year’s.

If the 2016 edition was marred by the sudden and seemingly acrimonious departure of Marco Mueller as festival director less than a month before it opened, the upcoming programme is certainly characterised by the exciting prospect of starting anew under its incoming artistic director, Mike Goodridge.

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“I’ve known Marco for years, but we haven’t really had the conversation,” he tells the Post with a chuckle. “And frankly, that’s not really my priority or focus. I don’t really know what happened last year … but the way I’m looking at this is: I’m starting [this festival] from scratch. That’s sort of the attraction for me.”

Goodridge had been a film journalist and critic before taking the helm of the London-based production, financing and sales company Protagonist Pictures, where he oversaw hit titles such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Lobster , Lady Macbeth and The Florida Project (which is included in the current Macau programme) over his five-year stint as CEO.

The Macau festival director role is, however, only his first in the capacity. “Protagonist Pictures was very successful, but I was looking to shake myself up a bit. I wanted to combine all the elements of the business side with the appreciation side,” says Goodridge, 48, who made his first trip to Macau in April.

“It’s a real opportunity to create a new festival in a place which I think has so much potential. If you think of Cannes or Venice – these are resort places that have set up film festivals so that people would come to them. I thought Macau is a great place to celebrate cinema,” he adds.

To widen the audience base, Goodridge says he is trying to bring films to Macau that are “more accessible than the more punishing art-house films”. But – as is often the case with film buffs – he also couldn’t resist raving about one of the “hard art-house films” in the programme.

“There’s a Portuguese film called The Nothing Factory, which was in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes,” he says. “It’s a three-hour film that is a sort of fantastic mash-up of social realism and musical, and there’s a long scene about the philosophies of the working class. I mean, it’s incredible.

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“Because there’s a big Portuguese speaking community in Macau, and this is the best Portuguese film of the year, I felt that I could play it. I want to take risks, but I [also] really want to help grow an appetite for cinema that’s not just big Chinese or American movies.”

That is by no means an indication that Goodridge is overlooking the fun-loving crowd. In the genre-based section named “Flying Daggers”, audiences can find such crazy titles as Mom and Dad (a horror comedy in which Nicholas Cage plays a murderous father), Good Manners (a Brazilian werewolf film) and The Outlaws (a star vehicle for Train to Busan star Ma Dong-seok).

The festival is a precious opportunity for the audience to catch up with “classic movies that traditionally don’t show in Macau”, says Goodridge. In the “Crossfire” retrospective section, filmmakers from the East and the West are respectively asked to pick a favourite from the other culture, resulting in screenings of great films that range from Mad Detective (chosen by Guillermo del Toro) to Kind Hearts and Coronets (selected by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang).

As part of his efforts to “create a dialogue between the new filmmakers of the world and the old guard – the people who’ve been doing this for years,” Goodridge has also introduced a competition section that is based around first and second features.

The five-member jury overseeing the competition include Australian filmmaker Jessica Hausner, actress Joan Chen, British novelist Lawrence Osborne (who wrote an acclaimed novel set in Macau, 2014’s The Ballad of a Small Player) and Singaporean filmmaker Royston Tan. The jury president, Laurent Cantet, is also set to present his latest film, The Workshop, at the Macau festival.

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“I think Macau itself is an incredibly young film culture,” Goodridge explains. “A lot of films are shot there, but there’s no sort of an infrastructure – there was no training or film school or film education. It’s actually beginning now. It seems there’s a groundswell of courses and film schools and education that you can get. And I think the festival can really contribute to this.”

Even next to the vibrant film community in Hong Kong, Goodridge believes his festival should pose enough appeal to audiences everywhere. As he rightly points out, the Macau festival features a selection of top titles in world cinema that have either not been released in cinemas in the region, or not even received their Asian premieres at festivals yet.

Award season contenders like The Florida Project and Call Me by Your Name are included in the “Best of Fest Panorama” section, while critical darlings such as The Shape of Water and I, Tonya will be screened as part of the “Hollywood Special Presentation” sidebar.

All in all, it must have felt like a small miracle that Goodridge has put together such a neat line-up since he started his job officially in September. Although he had been watching hundreds of films every year – having programmed a section of the Sarajevo Film Festival since 2011 – his schedule understandably went berserk in August and September with the Venice and Toronto festivals, while having to lock up titles for Macau.

“It’s been a whirlwind this year,” says Goodridge, who has been travelling back and forth between London and Macau. “But next year, I think we want to get much more organisation in place in terms of a year-round schedule.”

While his contract with the festival is only for two years, Goodridge expresses his wishes to be there “for the long term” to watch it grow. “The challenge for me is to really communicate with the local audience. It’s baptism by fire, finding out who our audience could be and how we can get to them and build that audience.

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“And any new festival takes a few years to start building a reputation,” he goes on. “I’m impressed with the Macau tourism board and the people behind the festival – they seem to want to have an authentic film festival; it’s not just talk. So we’ve brought all these amazing films in. Now it’s a question of getting the audience to see [them].”

The second edition of International Film Festival & Awards Macao runs from December 8 to 14 at various venues in Macau. For full programme details, visit the festival website at www.iffamacao.com.

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