HKIFF45 to Showcase Ten Pioneering Restored Classics

The 45th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF45) will present ten restored Chinese-language classics to celebrate the filmmakers’ creativity that remains influential to this day.

Spanning from the silent era to Hong Kong’s New Wave, this selection represents a cross-section of some of the most iconic work by generations of forward-thinking Chinese filmmakers who were never afraid to challenge the conventions.

Demonstrating cinematic artistry in startling modernity, WU Yonggang’s The Goddess (1934) is a silent masterpiece that immortalised Chinese cinema’s goddess, RUAN Lingyu, who embodied the dichotomy of women’s roles in her exquisitely crafted performance.  Funded by the KT Wong Foundation, this newly-restored version also features a sweeping orchestral score with Shanghainese folk music.  Celebrated filmmaker SANG Hu heralded China’s first colour feature with New Year’s Sacrifice (1956), transforming literary giant LU Xun’s sardonic tale into a cinematic triumph of socialist realism.  Shanghai International Film Festival contributed to the restoration of this rarely-seen masterpiece.

TSUI Hark and Allen FONG, two leading figures of the Hong Kong New Wave movement, championed bold experimentation in different cinematic languages.  The Butterfly Murders, TSUI’s directorial debut in 1979, reinvented a wuxia story as a murder mystery with modernist aesthetics that transcends the martial arts genre.  Ah Ying (1983), named Best Film at the 3rd Hong Kong Film Awards, epitomises FONG’s signature vibe of depicting a real-life story in a documentary-like style, reflecting the tensions and contradictions besetting the city.

Acclaimed for her nuanced portrayal of Hong Kong-Chinese migrants, Clara LAW laid down her marker in Australian cinema with Floating Life (1996), a poignant exploration of home and identity which transmigrates into a vision of our city today.  Meanwhile, the audience could trace the elegant charm and exquisite composition shown in YONFAN’s Venice award-winning No.7 Cherry Lane (2019) to Peony Pavilion (2001), a dazzling evocation of the decadent splendour of early 20th century China.

Completing the selection are the world premieres of four newly-restored classics by Stanley KWAN, HKIFF45’s Filmmaker in Focus, namely Love Unto Waste (1986), Rouge (1987), Center Stage (Director’s Cut) (1992), and Lan Yu (2001). 

HKIFF45 will adopt a new hybrid format for the first time, featuring screenings and audience-engagement events simultaneously in-theatre and online.  The festival will unveil its full programme on 9 March.  The public can purchase tickets online ( http://www.hkiff.org.hk/ ) and through all URBTIX outlets from 18 March.

Six Chinese-language Restored Classics

1934     The Goddess

1956     New Year’s Sacrifice

1979     The Butterfly Murders

1983     Ah Ying

1996     Floating Life

2001     Peony Pavilion

Four Restored Classics by Stanley KWAN

1986     Love Unto Waste

1987     Rouge

1992     Center Stage (Director’s Cut)

2001     Lan Yu

HKIFF45 Honours Stanley Kwan as Filmmaker-in-Focus

The 45th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF45) will honour Stanley KWAN as this year’s Filmmaker-in-Focus.

Scheduled to take place from 1 to 12 April, HKIFF45 will celebrate KWAN’s remarkable career with a retrospective of 13 of his seminal works to coincide with a commemorative book’s publication. KWAN will also attend a Face-to-Face session on 5 April to share his insights on films, art, and life with the public.

“Stanley is an auteur, and we are proud to acknowledge his unique and indelible contributions towards Hong Kong cinema,” enthused Hong Kong International Film Festival Society Executive Director Albert LEE. “He has developed a highly personal aesthetic style in his portray of the female psyche while capturing the nuanced transformation of the city and the era. Stanley has set benchmarks for LGBTQ films in Chinese-language cinema with his exploration of gender and sexuality issues.”    

In a distinguished career spanning more than 40 years, KWAN has crafted numerous classics and is best known for making films with feminine sensibilities.

KWAN began his career in 1979 as assistant director for some of Hong Kong’s emerging New Wave directors, including Peter YUNG, Patrick TAM, and Ann HUI.  He made his directorial debut in 1985 with Women (1985), followed by Love Unto Waste (1986), and quickly anchored his status as a prominent filmmaker in his own right.

KWAN scaled the height of his creativeness in the late 1980s with some of his most renowned works.  Alongside the award-winning Full Moon in New York (1989) and Red Rose White Rose (1994), KWAN produced two signature works that confirmed his place in the pantheon of Hong Kong cinema: Rouge (1987), featuring the legendary collaboration of Anita MUI and Leslie CHEUNG, and Center Stage (1992), with which Maggie CHEUNG became the first Chinese actor to win a Best Actress Award at Berlinale.       

Through Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema (1996), a documentary commissioned by the BFI to commemorate the centenary of cinema, Still Love You After All These (1997), and Lan Yu (2001), KWAN demonstrated how Chinese-language cinema could challenge gender norms and reconstruct its own texts while revealing his own thoughts and sexuality.  He began his long-time partnership with celebrated screenwriter Jimmy NGAI with Hold You Tight (1998), followed by The Island Tales (2000).  These two atypical dramas capture the people’s emotional turbulence in tumultuous eras.      

In the new Millennium, KWAN continues to observe and comment on Hong Kong’s dismal state through a subtle resonance in the Shanghai-set Everlasting Regret (2005).  In 2018, he made a nostalgic cinematic return to his home city with First Night Nerves.    

Beyond directing and producing, KWAN’s oeuvre extends to theatres, TV dramas and short films while also serving as an adjunct professor at a local university.  

HKIFF45 will take a new hybrid format for the first time, featuring screenings and audience-engagement events simultaneously in-theatre and online. The festival will reveal this year’s programme, including admission details for Stanley KWAN’s Face-to-Face session, on 9 March. The public can purchase tickets online (www.hkiff.org.hk) and through all URBTIX outlets from 18 March.

HKIFF45 is also delighted to announce the collaboration with Moleskine, the festival’s long-term partner, in creating a special edition notebook celebrating the director’s remarkable achievements in filmmaking.

Stanley KWAN’s Retrospective to feature:

1985     Women

1986     Love Unto Waste

1987     Rouge

1989     Full Moon in New York

1992     Center Stage (Director’s Cut)

1994     Red Rose White Rose

1996     Yang ± Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema

1997     Still Love You After All These

1998     Hold You Tight

2000     The Island Tales

2001     Lan Yu

2005     Everlasting Regret

2018     First Night Nerves

The Hong Kong Film Festival 2021

The Hong Kong International Film Festival today confirms the return of multi-talented actor Aaron KWOK as its ambassador for the third consecutive year and unveils a new key art to mark its 45th anniversary.

Scheduled between 1 and 12 April for 12 days, HKIFF45 will be the first hybrid edition in the festival’s history, featuring screenings and audience-engagement events simultaneously in physical and online formats.

Aaron KWOK, a Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor nominee last year for I’m Livin’ It and a past winner, is one of Asia’s premier artists. He recently won plaudits for staging a free live-streamed concert to support dancers struggling for work under the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While taking part in an HKIFF45 photoshoot, KWOK reflects on what has been a challenging year for everyone and hopes that film production could soon resume. 

“I am privileged to be making some contributions towards the embattled entertainment industry,” KWOK said. “Given what we have gone through last year, I am hopeful that audiences would be keen to return to the cinema, with the hybrid HKIFF45 providing the perfect platform. I am pleased to lend my support once again to promote the Hong Kong International Film Festival as its ambassador.”

Well-known fashion photographer KAON was behind the camera for this year’s shoot. A regular collaborator, KAON has worked with KWOK on his 2016 concert poster and many fashion editorials and magazine cover photo shoots.

HKIFF45’s key art is by the acclaimed local graphic designer Frank CHAN, who has previously created key arts for films by Johnnie TO, TSUI Hark, JIANG Wen, Wilson YIP and the late Benny CHAN. It features two distinctive design elements: a barn swallow and a boom microphone – often associated with filmmaking – slanted at a 45-degree angle.

“Barn swallows are common in Hong Kong and migrational by nature. After spending the winter in the southern hemisphere, they would always return in March and April to breed,” explained CHAN. “I hope the key art would convey an uplifting message that, like the homing birds, film lovers in Hong Kong would return to the cinema with a renewed sense of hope after a year of loss and desperation. It is very much their homecoming.”

Film Review – ‘Night On Earth’

Night on earth is a classic cult comedy / drama where the small dramas of everyday life make for great film making and viewing. The film was directed the acclaimed auteur, Jim Jarmusch. 

The beauty of this film is that it is set across the world on one night and is five separate stories involving five separate taxis in five separate cities, in obviously, five separate countries. The cities, Los Angeles, New York, Paris Rome and Helsinki.

This influential film is a classic because it inspired a sort of new wave of films which were in kind, collective short stories. Here, the short stories are all the same; each story has a Taxi driver dealing with a different assortment of passengers. 

The first story is set in LA, where the cabbie ‘Corky’, Winona Ryder, picks up an Hollywood executive, played by Gena Rowlands. During the entire ride, Rowland’s character tries to convince ‘Corky’ to be an actress though to not much success; Corky  is very happy and content doing what she does! Being a taxi driver and interacting with her passengers.

Another story is set in Rome, Italy, where has the famous Italian actor, Roberto Benigni, picks up a priest, and basically the priest confesses all of his sins and all the wrongdoings that he has done in his life with Roberto trying to become a sympathetic ear. 

Another story is set in Helsinki, Finland, where it’s snowing and the driver, Mika, picks up three factory workers who seem to be telling tales of woe and sadness and Mika ends up trumping all their tales with his own sad story. 

Another story is one from New York where the story focuses on an immigrant from East Germany who struggles understand the chaotic nature of the passengers who come into his taxi. 

There is also a story in Paris where basically, two or three passengers, seem to underestimate their driver who is wiser than he seems.

The beauty of the film is that it shows that, all around the world, people are going through the same struggles for the same things. The film is enjoyable as it has a sense of empathy and pathos running throughout the entire film. 

Snowtown (2011) – The Dark Side of Down Under…..

Another film dealing with the concept of misplaced loyalty which created a huge buzz is “Snowtown”. Based on a true story, this Australian Independent piece has garnered critical acclaim all around the world through word of mouth and its gritty dark nature and subject.

“Snowtown” deals with the true story of one of Australia’s most horrific crimes which occurred partly in the small town of “Snowtown.” Such was the nature of the crime that Snowtown is synonymous with its dark history and the community have even considered changing the name of the town to move on. The “cut off” nature of the community will definitely add to the sense of claustrophobia and the terrifying fact that, unspeakable and random crimes can occur in the middle of nowhere; where nothing happens………

Sometimes “horror” does not have to lie in the crimes themselves but in urban isolation and the mundanity of dead end lives……….

Littlerock – Lost in Translation (And Love) in Reverse……

Directed by Mike Ott, “Littlerock” tells of cross cultural confusion, isolation and how simply someone can quickly come into your life and just as fast disappear yet leave a huge impact. The simple story tells of (Rintaro Sawamoto) and Atsuko (Atsuko Okatsuka), a brother and sister combination traveling across the United States and end up in Nowheresville, USA, namely Littlerock. A small dead-end town with little to nothing to keep the people who live there entertained.

The two Japanese visitors end up staying for a few days as their car has broken down. They slowly befriend the townspeople and become good friends with one of the local slackers Cory (Cory Zacharia). Stuck with nowhere to go, the two tourists adapt to the local lifestyle, hanging out, slacking and more hanging out.

Rintaro can speak basic english while his sister cannot speak nor understand but her good looks make her the object of attention.Rintaro decides to move on but Atsuko stays on due to a growing affection for the small town, slow paced lifestyle and some of the migrant workers she meets. The film focuses on relationships in a cross-cultural sense whereby even a language barrier does not prevent people from falling in love; it also shows how some people feel trapped and limited  by small town life but are sometimes fearful to leave their small communities behind.A nice understated piece about the underlying human desire people have to connect.

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) – “Nature versus Nurture”

One of the most talked about films of the past two decades, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” has finally been released to great acclaim and buzz around the world. Based on the hit book by Lionel Shriver, the film features one mother’s torment and guilt when her son commits an awful crime beyond the boundaries of normalcy and what begins as a routine family drama descends into a psychological thriller / horror.


The film stars Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly as the parents, whom it slowly dawns upon, that regardless of nurture or nature, some people are simply born with evil intent. Told in flash-backs, it shows the remnants of a once happy life and the impact and repercussions one person’s actions can have on everyone around them.


“We Need to Talk about Kevin” first featured at Cannes and has so far won great accolades including taking home the top prize at the “London Film Festival 2011″.
Looks fascinating………

Senna – No Fear. No Limits. No Equal – A Documentary on a Great Man…….

“SENNA” is the long-awaited biography / documentary on the fast life and times of F1 legend Aryton Senna; the Brazilian who lit up the racing world with his courage and bravery.  Shot with archive footage from his go-karting days right till that fateful weekend in Imola in 1994, this piece tells his life story with old footage and does not feature present day interviews from those who knew him; so in a sense Senna’s life story is told from his own perspective…..

I barely follow F1 these days; but back in the day, I did watch the races and the names Senna, Prost, Hill, Mansell and many more featured regularly but Senna was always the star attraction….he constantly brought glory to his nation and himself and courted controversy…….

F1 drivers face their own mortality when they strap up to race, every second counts, any mistake can be fatal….Senna knew these risks yet faced them head on with full conviction…….

A fantastic documentary .

‘Les Misérables’ (2019) – Tension in the Banlieues

‘Les Misérables’ is a 2019 documentary like urban contemporary drama set in the heart of the beating pulse of Paris. The film was directed by Ladj Ly and is a searing observation of racism, class and social division.

The story is based on a real life incident and is set after the 2018 World Cup final. It follows the story of several teenagers who are living in the suburbs – Banlieues. The story is set in Montfermeil and shows the ethnic diversity of the area; this is also where Victor Hugo wrote his famous novel .

The film follows several officers as they go about their routine visits to the area and shows their relationship with the inhabitants of the area.

The film, basically shows the general tension between the police and the inhabitants of the area and it takes one or two minor events which explode into major one for the entire area and suburb to explode. It is shot as a searing documentary style film, which shows the simmering tensions which underlie French society, and specifically Paris.

There are no right or wrongs and the protagonists are trying to do their best in what are difficult circumstances to survive. The film is filled with misunderstandings and missed opportunities for reconciliation before the explosive ending.

The Films of Terrence Malick ….

Terrence Malick is a cinematic genius and here are some of his most famous films from the last few decade. His latest film is the World War 2 film, “A Hidden Life” which tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II.

A Hidden Life

The film has been hailed as one of his best in recent years. With Malik’s latest release, this is a great time to reflect on his past films which stretch back over a few decades and come from the vivid imagination of this reclusive genius

‘THE TREE OF LIFE’

Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Jessica Chastain, and Tye Sheridan

“The Tree of Life” with heavyweights Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. From what I know the film tells of a boy’s relationship with his parents from birth all the way to death. His mother nurtures him to be forgiving and full of grace while he suffers from a fraught and sometimes strained relationship with his father who teaches him the ways of the world. Quintessentially, everyone in life is influenced and affected by people around them, for better or for worse, everyone has choices and the film seeks to explore the interconnections of people, their strengths and of course, their flaws……

A simple enough story but Malick is a modern day artist whom normally weaves intricate storylines blended into stunning visuals. Malick normally takes his viewers into another world with his vivid imagination and the viewer for one will forever be grateful to have experienced such beautiful imagery…….

The Tree of Life has been in production for nearly ten years and it is a testament to the respect that Malick can garner that both Penn and Pitt signed on for this film. In a future post, I will comment on his past films such as the Thin Red Line, The New World and Days of Heaven…..

THE THIN RED LINE ‘

Starring Jim Cavizel, Ben Chaplin, Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, John Cusack, Jared Leto, John Savage and John Travolta.

“There’s only a thin red line between the sane and the mad.’

Tag Line “Everyman fights his own war…..” 

The Thin Red Line is as far away from your average war film that you can imagine. Terrance Mallick took the famous semi-biographical book by James Jones and used it as a sweeping canvas for his vision of men at conflict with not just their percieved enemy but their own souls. TTRL is a stunningly poignant and moving poetic condemnation of the recklessness and insanity of war.

The film is set during the battle of Guadacanal during WW2 and the principal characters are Witt (Jim Caviezel) and Welsh (Sean Penn). The former views the world as a spirtual place and the island is a type of eden while the latter sees the world with cynical and worldly eyes. Even with all the death and destruction around him, Witt still desperately tries to hold onto his beliefs as his comrades become shells of their former selves due to some of the terrible things they have witnessed. For others like Welsh, war and killing is part of human nature, has been and always will be; a cycle of violence that can never truly end. The native Pacific islanders are tragically simply caught up in the fighting and their simple way of life is altered forever…….

The film presents the natural beauty of the island in stark contrast to all the chaos that is engulfing the tropical paradise with the men slowly realising their own mortality in what could essentially be their final resting place. TTRL focuses on the nature of mankind in an unspoiled natural ‘heaven’ on earth; where contemporary society itself comes to a percieved island paradise so must the worse manifestations of mankind.  


The TTRl was Mallick’s first film after about twenty years and a whos who of Hollywood stars were literally falling over themselves to be involved. The stellar cast reflects the respect and esteem that is held for Mallick.There is actually a six hour cut which where people like Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Viggo Mortensen and Billy Bob Thorton are supposedly supposed to be in.  


The film was unfortunately released at around the same time as “Saving Private Ryan” and was somewhat overshadowed by the latter. TTRL went onto to recieve several oscar nominations and took home top prize at the Berlin film festival.


‘DAYS OF HEAVEN’

Starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard and Linda Manz

Days of Heaven, a poignant love story, is one of the most beautiful films ever made. The scenery is simply stunning and cinematography will stay with you forever. I wish I saw this in the cinema…but I wasn’t born yet. This is one of Richard Gere’s first performances and how ironic it remains one of this best.  

The simple story tells of a love triangle between Bill (Gere), Abby (Brooke Adams) and a richer farmer (Sam Shephard). Bill and Abby are lovers, at the turn of the twentieth century, who flee from Chicago and the midwest to build a better life. They find work on a farm where they pretend to be brother and sister; the rich farm owner soon meets abby and falls in love with her; soon they find out that the farm owner is dying and wishes to marry Abby before it is too late. Abby and Bill hope to eventually claim the dead farmers fortune; unfortunately circumstances change and a tragic love triangle ensues. A simple story but the canvas on which it plays out is simply beautiful and a sense of melancholy lingers throughout the entire film.  

THE NEW WORLD

Starring Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christopher Plummer and Christian Bale

A reinterpretation of the love story between Pocahantas and Captain John Smith and is a stunning visual feast for the eyes.