Cinema lovers are demanding that the city’s leading organiser of movie festivals clearly state whether its screenings will be in digital or film format before they hand over their cash for tickets.
The row was sparked after the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society used a Blu-ray disc to screen Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line last month at the Hong Kong Arts Centre.
Digital and film provide two different viewing experiences, say disgruntled movie fans, and audiences have a right to know which experience they will get.
Some have questioned if groups who do not provide clear format information could be in breach of the trade descriptions law.
“Films originally shot on film are best presented in the film format,” said critic David Chan. “Take The Godfather for example. If you are watching the movie on film, you would see more details and nuances of colour in many scenes shot in low lighting.”
“The grainy texture of film also gives the movie a sense of life,” Chan added, saying the digital format is bland in comparison.
Over half of the films shown as part of the society’s regular Cinefan retrospective programme are in digital format.
Along with Shu Kei, chair of School of Film and Television at the Academy for Performing Arts, Chan and others have created a petition to the city’s leading film festival organiser demanding explicit format details and refunds if screening formats are changed. By Thursday morning, about 100 people have signed.
Some who signed the petition said format information was added to the Cinefan website after plans for the petition appeared on Facebook.
Lee Cheuk-to, the society’s artistic director, said the format information was left out because it cannot be confirmed for “a significant number of films” even after ticket sales begin.
“It is not unusual for distributors to only inform the organisers of the screening format at a time quite close to the screening dates, or make changes afterwards,” Lee wrote in an e-mail reply.
He defended the use of a Blu-ray disc last month, which he said was the best available format to show the film. “Blu-ray is not an inferior format to be decried but a professional format accepted by many film festivals worldwide,” he wrote.
The Customs and Excise Department said: “Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, traders may run the risk of misleading omissions if they fail to give consumers sufficient information about the product that is necessary for them to make an informed transactional decision.”
The department said it will follow up on the matter if it receives complaints.