Hong Kong International Film Festival

The buzz

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 March, 2011, 12:00am

This is perhaps the hardest Buzz column I've written yet. The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan last week have left thousands dead and raised the spectre of another nuclear disaster on the scale of Chernobyl, and it seems flippant to talk about entertainment and the arts after such a tragedy.

What makes it even harder is the fact that Japanese artists have an even higher profile than usual around town at the moment, owing to their prominent positions at events such as the ongoing international film, arts and literary festivals, and this alone would make a worthy topic for The Buzz.

As far as we know, all scheduled events involving Japanese cultural figures are still going ahead. Man Asian Literary Prize shortlisted authors Kenzaburo Oe and Yoko Ogawa will not be attending the announcement of the winner at The Peninsula tonight, but organisers say this was known weeks ago and is not connected to the tragedy.

The unfolding disaster is likely to cast a long shadow over many festival events. Still, showing support for these concerts, films, exhibitions and gigs is one way of displaying solidarity with our neighbours to the east - as well as a way to experience the healing power of the arts. To paraphrase Hippocrates: life is short, but art is long.

Arguably the highest-profile events involving Japanese artists taking place in Hong Kong over the coming days are the performances by the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra at Tuen Mun Town Hall tomorrow and at City Hall on Saturday. Arts Festival organisers assure us the shows will go on. The first will feature an interesting combination of Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Cantonese narration by RTHK's Jimmy Shiu.

Japanese filmmakers are always featured prominently in the Hong Kong International Film Festival - and this year is no exception. A programme titled 'Re-Discovered Masters of Japanese Film' focuses on Kihachiro Kawamoto and Minoru Shibuya, two masters whose full impact has only been assessed in recent years.

Kawamoto, who died last year, is renowned in Japan as a master of stop-motion animation. A collection of films spanning his career is being screened during the festival, including a collection of short animated works that display his distinctive style, plus his masterpiece The Book of the Dead, a feature-length film about the pursuit of faith and the power of love.

Shibuya, meanwhile, worked for most of his career at top Japanese film studio Shochiku and was known for his adaptations of major literary works. Unabashedly left-wing, Shibuya's works regularly explored the social problems of his times. Eight of his films will be screened as part of the festival, including Modern People and The Days of Evil Women. Full film festival screening details can be found at

Many exhibitions by Japanese artists are taking place at local galleries, including calligraphic works by the Gen Do Sya group from Nanto at the Hong Kong University art gallery, cinematic installations by media artist/experimental filmmaker Ryusuke Ito at the Arts Centre's Pao Galleries and works combining photography and paper cutting by Shu Ikeda at Blindspot Gallery in Central.

Japanese musicians have had a big impact on jazz, and the New York-based Teriver Cheung Jazz Trio, featuring double bassist Yuka Tadano and drummer Ko Omura, will play several gigs in Hong Kong, including at Backstage Live on March 24 and 29, and the Fringe Club on March 25.

Then there's the big-band and swing session with the Saturday Night Jazz Orchestra, led by Tako Hirohama, at the Fringe Club on March 26 - and we can't think of a better way to put on a brave face and celebrate the resilience of the Land of the Rising Sun.