Alvin Tse: On the Hong Kong International Film Festival

REEL TIME. 

Wading through the hundreds of entries at the 40th Hong Kong International Film Festival could make anyone’s head spin. We ask programme manager Alvin Tse to give us the lowdown.

The 40th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) opens with Yang Qing’s Chongqing Hot Pot (world premiere) and Hong Kong thriller Trivisa (Asian premiere). Produced by Johnnie To and directed by a trio of up-and-comers – Frank Hui, Jevons Au and Vicky Wong – Trivisa spins a heart-pumping tale about three real-life criminals. Japanese auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy closes the festival on April 4. After flirting with psychological dramas for the past decade, Kurosawa’s latest feature-length film marks, as noted by HKIFF programme manager Alvin Tse, a return to his classic horror style.

While last year was one for the Germans, the 2016 edition of the festival zooms in (pun intended) on Latin American cinema, with 11 films falling under a specially dedicated section. “We’ve seen some really strong movies coming out of the region,” Tse says, giving top billing to From Afar, Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas’ film debut – and Golden Lion-winning feature – about a slowly blossoming relationship between a middle-aged loner and a teenage gang leader, and Embrace of the Serpent, a harrowing black-and-white account of the destructive powers of colonialism by Ciro Guerra.

In the Hachimiri Madness – Japanese Indies from the Punk Years section, cinemagoers will be treated to recently restored films made in Japan during the wild ’80s – an era, Tse says, of “intense freedom and experimentation”. Jointly curated by HKIFF’s Jacob Wong, PIA Tokyo’s Keiko Araki and Berlinale’s Christoph Terhechte, highlights include The Adventure of Denchu Kozo, A Man’s Flower Road and Isolation of 1/880000.

The I See It My Way section gathers “films that, while catering to a younger crowd, will find fans across all demographics”. Documentary of NMB 48 follows the members of a popular Japanese girl group as they navigate the trials (“Who gets to be in the front row of a performance when there are 48 of them?” as Tse puts it ever so succinctly) and tribulations of J-pop stardom. Getting the animation treatment, The Case of Hana & Alice is, as its title suggests, a prequel to the popular 2004 film Hana & Alice.

Back on home turf, four Bruce Lee films have been restored in detail-packed 4K glory – The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon and The Game of Death. Meanwhile, Hong Kong films making their debut at the festival include Herman Yau’s Nessun Dorma and The Mobfathers (so expect plenty of Hong Kong-style action); The Taste of Youth, lensed by award-winning documentary director Cheung King-wai; Robbery, Fire Lee’s feature debut; and Weeds of Fire, helmed by Chan Chi-fat and one of three films to win CreateHK’s First Film Feature Initiative award in 2015.


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