SEE/HEAR

View pointers: Our must-sees from HK Asian Film Festival programme

The Hong Kong Asian Film Festival has been celebrating cinema from the region for a decade, Edmund Lee picks his 10 to watch from this year's typically eclectic showcase

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 10:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 11:47pm

The annual Hong Kong Asian Film Festival returns for its 10th edition with almost 60 titles from across the region.

It opens with Benny Chan's latest action thriller, The White Storm, which is having its world premiere, while the well-received feature debuts of Flora Lau (Bends) and Juno Mak (Rigor Mortis) are both included in the New Talent Award section.

Here's our list of the 10 films you shouldn't miss.

 

1  Like Father, Like Son (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
October 26 and 27
Kore-eda is at the top of his game with his latest family drama. While long-time viewers will notice the more relaxed cinematography here (Kore-eda is working without his regular director of photography Yutaka Yamazaki), the casting of superstar Masaharu Fukuyama also brings about a level of mainstream attention that has often eluded this exemplary director. Don't wait for the American remake - this heartwarming film about two babies swapped at birth is almost perfect.

 

2  The Fake (Yeon Sang-ho)
October 26, November 6
Yeon's full-length directorial debut, The King of Pigs, is a disturbing tale of teen violence and school bullying. The provocative South Korean animator has gone on to even murkier territory with his sophomore feature. A scathing critique of organised religion, this film charts the immoral plans of a con man turned church minister to defraud his followers of their resettlement compensation, when their rural village is to be flooded - biblical allusion or otherwise - for a new dam.

 

3  Moebius (Kim Ki-duk)
October 26, November 8
It's all in the family for Kim's latest oddity on adultery, rape and sexual perversion. A year after he won the Golden Lion at Venice with the twisted maternal drama P ieta, the South Korean provocateur has returned with another incest story: after the adolescent son is castrated by his mother in a fit of anger, he is offered a genital transplant by his father - only to find that he ends up sexually attracted to his mother. The dialogue-free film is so repulsive that it's actually comical.

 

4  Comrade Kim Goes Flying (Kim Gwang-hun, Nicholas Bonner, Anja Daelemans)
November 1, 2 and 12
What's not to like about a glossy romantic comedy co-produced by Britain, Belgium and North Korea? A cheery story on girl power despite being shot in the Stalinist state, the film follows a coal miner as she goes into the city to chase her childhood dream of becoming a circus trapeze artist. A dreary Pyongyang propaganda it most probably isn't, though this colourfully old-fashioned film's unreserved celebration of the working class should speak to audiences from all backgrounds.

 

Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang)
November 2, 3 and 7
Tsai announced himself as the new poster boy of the Slow Cinema movement with his Golden Lion-winning second feature Vive L'Amour (1994), and his signature expression of urban alienation has only grown more extreme with each new film. In Stray Dogs - reportedly the Malaysian-born Taiwanese auteur's final feature - recurring leading man Lee Kang-sheng goes from standing in the wind to staring at the walls in what turns out to be a slow-burning and surprisingly emotional family portrait.

 

6  Omar (Hany Abu-Assad)
November 2 and 5
Eight years after offering the first Palestinian entry for best foreign language film at the Oscars (Paradise Now in 2005), the director is finally making another film in his home country with this engrossing tale of love, friendship and betrayal. The titular hero, Omar, is a West Bank freedom fighter who must negotiate between his dream of a tranquil life with his one great love and his determination to fight a seemingly endless battle with the Israeli occupiers.

 

The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh)
November 4 and 9
A shockingly distressing reconstruction of the plight in Pol Pot's Cambodia through the use of clay figurines and archive footage. Rithy Panh - the festival's director-in-focus - delves into his own family's harrowing history in the mid- to late-'70s. Having spent the past two decades of his career reflecting on the national trauma brought about by the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian filmmaker's autobiographical account is essential viewing.

 

Solitary Joy (Wang Yen-ni)
November 9 and 12
Aficionados of Taiwan's arts heritage - and fans of The Inspired Island documentary series from 2011 on six eminent writers - are at their own risk to miss out on this intellectually assembled account of the life and work of the prominent calligrapher, Tong Yang-tze. Through interviews with a wide range of luminaries in the creative industry, as well as Tong's own reflections, this brisk yet encompassing documentary reveals the master's musings and the cultural landscape she has excelled in.

 

Juvenile Offender (Kang Yi-kwan)
November 17 and 18
After learning of his grandfather's death upon being released on probation from a detention centre, a 16-year-old burglar (Seo Young-joo) is forced to start a new life with his immature mother (Lee Jung-hyun), whom he has long thought dead. This naturalistic second film by South Korea's Kang takes a humanistic stance on various social issues that are often overlooked.

 

10  Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho)
November 19
With a vastly inventive oeuvre (Memories of Murder, The Host, Mother) under his belt, the maverick director from South Korea takes a giant leap towards worldwide recognition with this English- and Korean-language sci-fi epic. Visually impressive and ambitious in narrative, this adaptation of the cult French graphic novel Le Transperceneige revolves around the last human survivors living in a luxury train during a second Ice Age on earth. A thoughtful, dystopian masterpiece.

 

For the full programme, go to hkaff.asia