Five Hong Kong film festivals to get excited about in September
Hongkongers can choose from the best of Sundance, the Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, the Jumping Frames International Dance Video Festival, the Human Rights Documentary Film Festival and Cine Italiano
As the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off this week and with the Venice film festival wrapping up this weekend, Hong Kong cinephiles would be forgiven for feeling a little envious of all the glamorous cinematic goings on.
But while you may not be on the Lido in Venice or at the Lightbox in Toronto, there are still plenty of cinematic delights to explore in the city. September promises a wide and eclectic range of film-related festivities championing everything from independents and documentaries to auteur classics and pulse-pounding micro shorts to service every taste and demographic.
September’s flagship event is undoubtedly the 2017 Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong , which runs from September 21 to October 1 at The Metroplex, in Kowloon Bay. Now in its fourth edition, the programme offers a unique showcase of a dozen feature and documentary highlights from this year’s festival, in many cases giving local audiences their only chance to watch these films on the big screen.
This year’s selection includes several award winners: Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats, which chronicles the pivotal summer of a young man in Brooklyn as he explores his sexual identity; Gook, a hot-blooded drama about two Korean American brothers growing up during the LA riots of 1992; and the documentary STEP, that won a special jury award and follows three dance students from a Baltimore school that has pledged to secure a college place for every one of its girls.
The highlight of this year’s selection is A Ghost Story, in which writer-director David Lowery (Ain’t Those Bodies Saints) reunites Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara for a poetically melancholic rumination on memory and mortality – already notorious as the film in which Affleck performs under a bedsheet.
Lowery will be in attendance to share his views on the afterlife and inexpensive costume choices, as well as take part in a panel discussion on “The Art of Screenwriting” alongside fellow writer-directors Brett Haley (The Hero), Matt Spicer (Ingrid Goes West) and Jeff Baena (The Little Hours), whose new films are also playing at the festival.
In addition, winners of the second Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong Short Film Competition will be selected by a panel of US and Hong Kong-based jurors, and a selection of this year’s entries will be screened during the festival.
Diversity is king at the 28th Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay Film Festival , one of the longest running queer film events in Asia. Running from September 9 to 24 at venues across town, the HKLGFF has always grabbed the spotlight with its wide and eclectic selection of independent voices from across the region.
The 2017 programme proves no exception, with a line-up of 55 films, Trans, Queer and Girl Short film programmes – including a handful of shorts from Hong Kong filmmakers – as well as a crop representing the Asia Pacific Queer Film Festival Alliance.
The festival will open with Cannes Grand Prix and Queer Palm winner 120 Beats Per Minute, Robin Campillo’s heartbreaking story of the Act Up activist group, fighting for Aids awareness in ’90s Paris. Also screening on opening night is French comedy Kiss Me!, directed by and starring Oceane Rose Marie, who will be in attendance.
Another pair of films close out the festival: lesbian sex comedy The Feels, starring outspoken Taiwanese American actress Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat), and Trudie Styler’s Freak Show, about a flamboyant young gay man adjusting to life in the conservative American South.
Asian features from Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan and Thailand join an impressive slate of independent voices from Europe, the US and even South America in a two-week celebration championing stories that still fall outside the remit of commercial entertainment all too often.
For those looking even further outside the mainstream, the Jumping Frames International Dance Video Festival , presented by the City Contemporary Dance Company, has curated a great selection of films, videos, documentaries and performance pieces celebrating the human body and its relationship to music and the world around us.
Screening from September 7 to 17 at Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei, this year’s line-up includes new works from local artist Stanley Wong Ping-pui, as well as Rita Hui Nga-shu, whose film features music from Wong Hin-yan, composer for the award-winning Hong Kong film Mad World .
Strike a Pose, a revealing documentary about the original backing dancers from Madonna’s 1990 Blonde Ambition tour – that spawned the controversial film In Bed with Madonna – will be screened, with dancer Carlton Wilborn in attendance; he will also be conducting a special “Danceformation” workshop for performers in Hong Kong.
Broadway Cinematheque also plays host to the 7th Human Rights Documentary Film Festival on September 22 to 28, initiated by Amnesty International and featuring true stories about the “Fight for Human Rights” at home and around the world.
Opening night hosts a charity screening of Black Code, which explores the cyberworld of keyboard warriors, who risk their lives and freedom to speak out against online surveillance, while instructing the public how we can better protect our privacy in the digital realm.
Closing film Against the Law marks the 50th anniversary of Britain’s decriminalisation of homosexuality, examines how those reforms affected Hongkongers, and the current situation today.
The films cover a fascinating range of topics and themes, with a varied geographical and cultural focus. As a helpful touch, the festival booklet includes a fun little questionnaire for “those who have difficulties in picking films” to determine which films will interest different viewers. Once the festival ends, a roadshow version will screen a number of different, yet equally conscientious documentaries at free screenings in public spaces around town.
As if this wasn’t enough to subdue the most voracious appetites of the film-going public, the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society collaborates once again with Istituto Luce Cinecittà and the Consulate General of Italy in Hong Kong for the sixth edition of Cine Italiano! . The most celebrated Italian films from the past year will be screening at The Grand Cinema, in West Kowloon, from September 20 to 24.
Standing out from the programme is the chilling Sicilian Ghost Story, based on a true story of a mafia abduction, which premiered at Cannes Critics’ Week. In addition to these treats there’s the opportunity to revisit Roberto Benigni’s beloved Oscar winner, Life is Beautiful, on the big screen.
Not to be outdone, the HKIFFS’s own Cine Fan programme continues to set the standard for repertory cinema in Hong Kong, and September’s line-up is no exception.
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution with classics like Sergei Eisenstein’s October and Dziga Vertov’s Kino Eye. British working-class hero Ken Loach gets a generous retrospective, with kitchen sink favourites Kes, Raining Stones and Riff-Raff playing alongside Land and Freedom and Palme d’Or winner The Wind That Shakes the Barley.
Genre fans can delight in a celebration of deranged genius H. R. Giger’s work, curated by the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur. A special collection of Giger’s short films will be shown, as well as the documentary Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World. Fans can also admire his seminal creation – the xenomorph – in restored versions of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece Alien and an extended edition of James Cameron’s gung-ho sequel, Aliens.
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