Hong Kong International film festival 2015

Posted on April 22, 2015 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

While in Hong Kong, two major culture festivals were taking place, so I took the opportunity to attend the Hong Kong Arts Festival, where I saw a China and Hong Kong collaborative play 'The Crowd' and listened to traditional Korean music reinterpreted by contemporary groups Jeong Ga Ak Hoe & Su:m.

However, as I am a foreign documentary and film buff, my favourite annual festival is no doubt the Hong Kong International film festival. Since the ticket prices at this festival were much cheaper than the one in London (about 1/2 the price), I could easily watch a bundle without breaking the bank, though my only limitation was time!

Here are the ones I saw at the festival:

A Pigeon sat on a branch reflecting on existence (Sweden/Norway/France/Germany) Directed by Roy Andersson (2014)

Eccentric Swedish director Roy Andersson's latest film is the final one of his Living Trilogy; and it is bizarre, beguiling, dark and fun. There are multiple stories (and layers), and nothing is what it appears on the surface. It is impossible to write about it nor even make much sense out of it, but the experience is utterly mesmorising.


A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Trailer) from Roy Andersson 


Borderless (Iran) - directed by Amir Hossein Asgari (2014)

This film won the 'Best Asian Future Film Award' at Tokyo International Film Festival, and it was one of my favourites at the festival. The film is gripping, powerful and it is accompanied by outstanding (and non self-conscious) acting. The young boy (central character) effortlessly steals the show. At the Q & A, the director mentioned that he shot the film without the kids realising it, hence he was able to capture the kids' most natural state. This is a tremendous triumph for the director as it is his first feature length film.


Borderless Trailer from TaaT Films


Ixcanul Volcano (Guatemala/France) - directed by Jayro Bustamante (2015)

One of the reasons why I love foreign cinema is because it can broaden my horizon and enable me to understand different cultures around the globe. This simple fable-like story on a young teenage girl is set in the the Guatemalan highlands near the volcano; it is low-key, refreshing and eye-opening esp. regarding the superstitions and rituals of the Indigenous culture. This film also won the 'Alfred Bauer Award' at the Berlin International film festival.


Ixcanul Film Trailer from Archipel Productions


Sworn Virgin (Italy/Albania) - Directed by Laura Bispuri (2015)

Another intriguing story (based on a novel of the same name) about a woman from the highlands, and this time, she is a 'sworn virgin' from Albania. Played by well-known Italian actress, Alba Rohrwacher (who somehow resembles Tilda Swinton), the film is a sensitive study of her self discovery. The actress' subdued acting is convincing despite her feminine facial features. Nonetheless, it is the subject matter that really fascinates me esp. after finding out that there are only around 100 sworn virgins left in the world now!


Sworn virgin trailer from ERAFILM ALBANIA


ATA (China) - Directed by Chakme Rinpoche (2014)

The sole reason that I picked this film was because it was directed by a Tibetian lama Chakme Rinpoche, who is also the ninth incarnation of Gyalwa Cho Yang. The title ATA comes from Sanskrit, which means "to heal the pain". The film is about a blind boy and his single mother's dream for him to become a ping-pong champion. And it is only until the boy vanishes one day that the mother begins to understand his world.

The film is beautifully shot with an emphasis on lighting. The message of the film is subtle and yet insightful; however, it did not touch me on the same level as the other films did at the festival. I found it hard to develop strong empathy for the mother, and I felt quite detached throughout the film. Despite the good intention and effort, I was slightly disappointed with the director's first feature film.



The look of silence (Denmark/Indonesia) - directed by Joshua Oppenheimer (2014)

American director Joshua Oppenheimer's 'Act of killing' is one of the most powerful and harrowing documentaries that I have seen in recent years. This second companion piece is equally haunting, and again it probes the nature, conscience and morality of human beings. In human history, there had been numerous genocides that took place, some were commemorated, while others were forgotten. In Indonesia, most of the government officials and perpetrators would use propanganda to make the public forget. It is horrific that all the these perpetrators dismissed past events, and insisted on looking to the future!

Both Oppenheimer's documentaries are important not only for the relatives of victims, but they also act as reminders that by choosing not to confront history or our past actions, they will continue to haunt us (even on a subconscious level) and history may repeat itself unless we are conscious of our actions and behaviour.


The Look Of Silence / Teaser from Intermission Film


Jia Zhangke: A guy from Fenyang (France) - Directed by Walter Salles (2015)

Jia Zhangke is regarded as the leading figure of the 'Sixth Generation' movement of Chinese cinema. My initial encounter with the director's work was 'Still life' in 2006, and have watched several others since then. This documentary made by Brazilian director Walter Salles is warm, captivating and it reveals Jia's struggle as an uncompromising director working in China today. Jia comes across as mild, down to earth and introverted, yet he is also an artist who is passionate about storytelling and documenting social issues that affect his country today. Not only I have great respect for the director, and I am eager to watch his earlier works like 'Platform' and 'Unknown pleasures' if I can get hold of them.


I am the people/ Je suis le peuple (France) - Directed by Anna Roussillion (2014)

An intelligent and insightful documentary on Egypt's political changes in past few years, seen from the perspective of villagers from a rural countryside. Despite all the turmoil taking place in the country, life goes on as usual for these poor villagers. It is fascinating and compelling. This film also won the documentary award at the film festival.


This post was posted in Hong Kong, Travel, Films & documentaries and was tagged with Hong Kong, documentaries, films, Film festival