For years, Hong Kong film fans have complained about the lousy selection of movies available in local cinemas. In an average month, the city gets a dozen or so Hollywood blockbusters, most of which are available on DVD. For less-standard fare, there is the Broadway Cinematheque in Kowloon or the Hong Kong Arts Centre in Wan Chai, but that is hardly a feast of film. April is different. It marks the one time when Hong Kong people get the chance to see the real capabilities of the industry. The Hong Kong International Film Festival, celebrating its 25th anniversary, brings in about 200 movies from 45 countries. In its first year, more than 16,000 people attended the screenings. By last year, the figure had reached 145,000. The festival opens on Friday with the premier of Yonfan's Peony Pavilion and closes on April 21 with Taiwanese movie One and a Two (Yi Yi), which won the Director's Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival last year. At the festival's official Web site ( www.hkiff.org.hk ), you can browse through the movies, read the brief reviews, book tickets and vote for your favourite film. The leading movie so far seems to be the excellent Days of Being Wild, with more than 43,000 votes. The fact that visitors can vote as many times as they like might account for the apparently high turnout. For many people, the highlight of this year's festival will be the century of Chinese cinema retrospective, staged by the new Hong Kong Film Archive. Though the archive is careful not to label them the 25 best Chinese films, nearly every one is a classic, including Chen Kaige's Yellow Earth, Gong Li in Red Sorghum, and local hits like The Days of Being Wild. Crouching Tiger seems an odd choice for such a tiny screen, considering the movie has only just closed. The Film Archive's Web site, at the memorable address of www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/HKFA is an attractive, but none-too-useful destination. Here you can read basic details of the archive's background and purpose, browse, but not buy, its publications and read the newsletter. You can't even buy tickets. Besides the movies themselves, the festival also includes a three-day conference on Chinese movies at the Baptist University, exhibitions and seminars across Hong Kong and The International Film Critics Federation awards. Go to www.fipresci.org for details on the awards. The arts centre has also organised The Age of Independents New Asian Film and Video. The organisation is dedicated to promoting Asia's independent film scene, though its arty and confusing Web site at www.aoihk.org does little more than point to the official page. Despite early controversies, such as the withdrawal of the Braemar Hill murder movie From the Queen to the Chief Executive ( www.hermanyau.com/efromQtoCE.htm ), the event's greatest shame is its brevity. Just 16 days, with most movies given a single showing is not enough time to give audiences a chance. Many of the showings already are sold out, and the lack of real-time booking on the creaking and inefficient Urbtix online booking system ( www.ticketnet.com.hk ) means a walk down to the box office may be your only chance of getting a seat.