Dance-themed films centre stage at Hong Kong festival

Jumping Frames festival will see 14 films shown over two weeks in three cinemas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 July, 2015, 11:18pm
UPDATED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 12:47pm

Two weeks, 14 films, one theme: dance. Organised by the City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), this big-screen celebration of the medium offers audiences a window into the ever-evolving world of modern dance.

Curator and producer Raymond Wong Kwok-wai says he had three main criteria when planning for this year's programme: how cinematic language or approaches can enhance dance, documentaries about choreographers and dancers, and films focused purposely on movement. For the first time, feature-length films are being included, which is unusual for a festival that focuses on shorts.

One of these is 3-Iron, a South Korean love story directed by Kim Ki-duk. With few lines spoken by the leading characters, the film utilises ambient sounds and purposeful movement to chronicle a story of forbidden love. "The director takes an approach to communicate and tell a story not just through dialogue," says Wong. "Quite a lot of people don't regard that as a dance film, but for me it's an exploration worth mentioning."

Another feature film will be the company's own commissioned work A Dance Movie: In Search of the Grand View Garden, which is based on its stage adaptation of popular classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber.

"It's really hard for a dance company to produce a film like this," says Wong. "The film attempts to explore how dance can become a major form of communication for interpreting a story, and how to convey a message through dance."

Directed and choreographed by CDCC's founder and artistic director Willy Tsao Sing-yuen, the film shuttles between the past and present with a strong focus on local culture. Featuring 15 CDCC dancers, Tsao interweaves contemporary choreography and pingtan, classical Chinese storytelling, while filming scenes in distinctive Hong Kong locations. This modern-meets-classic concept is seen as early as the opening scene with the dancers on a junk boat performing to traditional Chinese music.

The 74-minute film is one of the largest projects for the CCDC, says Wong and will kick off the festival with its premiere on August 1. The fortnight-long festival will also showcase a series of documentaries and experimental shorts commissioned from various international artists.

A major source for its shorts programme has been Cinedans, one of the world's leading dance film festivals held in Amsterdam. From the life story of a Mexican flamenco dancer and choreographer to a Norwegian CG masterpiece, the films' topics are vast, each representing a unique take on dance film.

By bringing the foreign films to Hong Kong, Wong was also able to convince some of the films' choreographers, dancers and directors to attend the festival. "I would like to have more exchange between artists from Hong Kong to the other side of the world, so this is also a good platform to meet each other," says Wong. "They are also very curious about the dance scene here."

The films will be shown in three different cinemas  - the agnes b. cinema, Broadway Cinematheque and the Hong Kong Film Archive.

"We insist on putting up the festival in a proper cinema, so people will pay more attention to this art form rather than just showing it in a classroom or gallery," says Wong. "The reason is to grab wider audience attention and attract more theatre-goers and to make our local commissioned artists more confident in their work. We require them to make it professionally, so we will show it professionally."

With new funding from the Home Affairs Bureau, Jumping Frames organisers are looking to increase the number of locally commissioned pieces and further expand the festival (in this year's edition CCDC is partnering up with the West Kowloon Cultural District for a series of workshops and a public forum on dance films). The extra income is a response to the large number of attendees the festival has been able to draw, says Wong.

"We have about a thousand very committed audience members," says Wong. "Hong Kong is a good place because we are very small and we can easily spread the news. We also have a base audience because our dance company has a lot of students and loyal audiences who will actually follow our programmes."

Despite the success Jumping Frames has had, Wong says dance films and festivals world wide still have difficulty garnering as large an audience.

"There are thin audiences around the world," says Wong. "Even Amsterdam, for instance, which only has 100 to 200 fans, can only host one event per year. It's a challenge for us as producers and organisers to make the festival and to gather people who are very loyal or very curious about this art form."

For more details, go to jumpingframes.com