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Yvonne Teh, Film Editor


When people talk about cinema they often mean films with fictional rather than non-fictional subjects. And it's true that many of the movies we go to see in cinemas bear the standard disclaimer: "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblances to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

But in recent years, a smattering of documentaries have been screened in Hong Kong, penetrating multiplexes as well as art house venues. And I don't just mean historical dramas or films based on real life-events such as this year's best picture Oscar winner, Argo, either.

Among the more memorable of these non-fiction offerings have been Inside Job, Charles Ferguson's 2010 Academy Award-winning documentary, which examines what caused the financial meltdown in 2008, and Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul's similarly Academy Award-winning - but considerably more "feel-good" - offering about a talented American musician who, for decades, was appreciated far more in South Africa than anywhere else in the world.

A number of documentaries were screened as part of the Hong Kong International Film Festival this year. Of these, the lengthiest by far was Shoah, Claude Lanzmann's powerful work chronicling the horror of the Holocaust.

With a runtime of 9½ hours, the 1985 film (its title is the Hebrew word for annihilation) had been pared down from the 350 hours of footage, including interviews with eyewitnesses to the Final Solution that Lanzmann had amassed over 11 years.

As it happens, the HKIFF Cine Fan Programme's first two offerings this June are also documentary works. Beijing-born and raised Carma Hinton and her husband Richard Gordon's 189-minute-long The Gate of Heavenly Peace chronicles the six weeks in the 1989 student democracy movement in China that led to the Tiananmen Square massacre, while Shu Kei's Sunless Days takes viewers on a personal journey from Hong Kong to Australia, Canada, Britain and elsewhere in the aftermath of the summer 1989 events at Tiananmen Square.

There will be a Q&A session with the film's director after both screenings of Sunless Days on June 2 and 7.



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