Hong Kong International Film Festival: week 1


As I’ve mentioned before, the film festival marks the anniversary of my first-ever visit to Hong Kong. What you may not know however, is that my first few friends in this town were film nerds!

Aside from catching the latest movies, part of the fun each year is meeting the assortment of characters who come from around the world to attend the festival. Over the years I’ve made all sorts of film friends. During the fest we get together between screenings and catch up.

Many of the gang have influential websites or blogs devoted to Asian cinema. Through their sites they disseminate information to the rest of the world.

Here’s a taste of some of the characters and their websites:

Ryan – my first friend in Hong Kong and by far the most prolific and important source of information about Asian film. His groundbreaking sites include the Hong Kong Movie Database, the Korean Movie Database, Cinema-Thai, and an uber-popular Sina blog about Hong Kong film.

David Bordwell, the prominent film scholar turned blogger. He’s the guy that first introduced me to the Hong Kong International film festival!

Tim – we met at a King Hu screening my first time in H.K.. Years later he set up his own site, Kowloonside.com.

Grady – one of my partners in founding Subway Cinema in N.Y. He’s the writer of the popular blog Kaiju Shakedown hosted by Variety.

Brian – another one of the founding partners of Subway Cinema. He has a site called Hong Kong Cinema – View from the Brooklyn Bridge. (I heard he sneaked in and out of town this year!).

And finally, Ross – we have dinner once a year, even though we live in the same city – that’s Hong Kong for you! He’s got a great site called Love HK Film.

The 32nd Hong Kong International Film Festival, off to a good start

Many of the screenings I’ve been to this week have had the actors or directors making appearances. On Sunday I attended the premiere of Run Papa Run, a new Hong Kong film by Sylvia Chang starring Louis Koo.


After a press event outside the Cultural Centre featuring the full cast, the main actors and director introduced the film to the audience.


One week into the fest, which runs until April 6th, I’ve picked several standouts. Some of them may play in Hong Kong cinemas at a later time.

Here’s a quick rundown of the films I enjoyed:

Fine, Totally Fine – a hilarious, quirky film from Japan about misfits.
Ploy – an interesting contemporary Thai story, with a charismatic young actress.
Chocolate – an amazing Thai action film along the lines of a Tony Jaa pic, starring a new actress in the lead role.
Old Fish – a dusty detective caper from China with real cops playing cops!

Diversification of Mainland films
One thing that’s really struck me this year is the diversity of films coming out of Mainland China. Where you once only had films coming from urban centers such as Shanghai and Beijing, or perhaps tales told in remote regions, you now have stories coming from so-called second and third-tier cities. These areas are often large by population numbers, but not as massive as the mega-metropolises. I believe this trend is bringing an infusion of variety into the national cinema and is an exciting indication of things to come. (China once had a thriving regional film scene.)

For those of you contemplating attending the festival, it’s on until April 6th. You can check out the website, but I suggest picking up one of the free booklets which lists the synopsis of films and show times. You can grab a copy at City Hall in Central, the Cultural Centre in TST, Grand Cinema in Elements, the Science Museum in TST, Arts Centre in Wanchai, and even Times Square in Causeway Bay.

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