Nine years after inception, InDPanda chugs Along
Festival's short history grows longer
Festival co-founder Jonathan Hung Ping-man, who is also its manager, distributor and public relations person, says the constant responsibilities - on top of his day job as a film critic - had put too much weight on his shoulders.
"I was simply too tired," says the 46-year-old, as he recalls juggling what was essentially two full-time jobs.
Hung had planned to make this year's festival the last. But on the opening night of the festival on August 2, he was rejuvenated and re-energised by the event's fans.
"I felt very happy to see a lot of new and old faces," says Hung. "They still want to make independent films, still want to watch, and they enjoy the whole process. Whenever we see the audience and filmmakers, we don't want to quit any more."
Hung co-founded InDPanda with Henry Chan to bring more independent films to cinema-goers in the city.
For the past nine years, Hung has programmed a variety of festivals under his non-profit organisation InDBlue: InDPanda for the short film festival, InDBear for the feature film festival, and InDPolar for the animation festival.
He decided to combine the three festivals into one large event for InDPanda's 10th anniversary in an attempt to rebrand the festival and coincidentally increased available programmes.
Two additional segments have been added to the line-up this year: The InDTeddy, which features LGBT films, and the InDBlackBear, offering documentaries.
"This was something we wanted to do two or three years ago when we had the InDPolar festival," says Hung. "We wanted to do a three-month festival; audiences needs time to digest all the programmes."
Hung also explains that the addition of InDTeddy was in response to festival attendees' favourite genre.
This year's screenings will be held at four cinemas: MCL Telford, MCL Telford, Star Cinema and The Metroplex. The festival isn't working with previous partner Broadway Cinematheque this year because, according to Hung, the venue wanted to increase ticket prices beyond the HK$65 currently charged.
"We have a lot of support from the cinema companies," says Hung. "I feel like they have similar intentions; like they're trying to treat the festival like something of their own."
Hung says he's extremely grateful for the support, especially from participating cinemas. As a festival without any public or private funding, showcasing larger films has been extremely difficult. He thanked a few benevolent film distributors for cutting costs and supporting Hong Kong's local arts. "Sometimes they wouldn't even charge us at all," says Hung.
Through this support, InDPanda has secured films this year that star the likes of Martin Freeman ( ) and James McAvoy ( ).
Despite the changes and new additions, tickets have not been selling as well as in past years, Hung says. "The new venues we're using are also running other festivals, so it takes time for audiences to adapt to these new venues."
But Hung says they still have many loyal festival-goers who have attended regularly over the past 10 years.
"We are daring enough to try something risky, put ourselves in deficit. I think that's why we have a lot of long-time supporters. Even without any funding, we insist on continuing this film festival every year," says Hung. "Next year, InDPanda won't just happen in cinemas."
What does he mean? Hung's tone hints at a more digital-driven festival, but he remains mum on the subject. We'll just have to wait to find out.