At this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival, which ended this month, I again had the pleasure of viewing films from a variety of territories - and also catching up with old friends who were visiting from as far away as North America. Many have attended this bumper event for years; some as film festival programmers or scholars, but others just as film fans in their leisure time.
Years ago, when I lived in Malaysia, I would fly to Hong Kong to attend this event which, ironically, many local residents don't bother to check out. Even further back in time, when I was based in Philadelphia, I shocked some of my friends by travelling to other cities just to enjoy a particular film in a theatrical setting rather than on home video.
These days, I am still willing to travel to view films on big screens. Having said that, I am grateful I live only a few MTR stops away from a number of cinemas and screening venues, such as the Film Archive and the Hong Kong Arts Centre.
I sympathise with Hongkongers who live far from such screens, such as those on the outlying islands of Cheung Chau, Lamma and Peng Chau. And since the Fan Ling Theatre in Luen Wo Hui closed in January 2010, residents in the New Territories north of Sha Tin have been similarly deprived of a cinema nearby.
Cheung Chau was once home to a cinema that was actually depicted as a centre of island life in Riley Ip Kam-hung's 2002 coming-of-age movie, Just One Look. In August that year, the South China Morning Post reported that, ahead of the filming of that movie, the island's residents held hopes that their cinema, which had closed in 1994, would reopen when they saw renovation work being carried out. But their hopes were dashed when they discovered the building was merely being spruced up for use as a film set.
With a population of some 23,000, you'd think there would be enough film buffs there to sustain a cinema on the island. As it stands, however, there is not one there. And the same goes for Lamma, the island that spawned one of Hong Kong's biggest ever movie stars - Chow Yun-fat."