The Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) was cancelled last month following the recent spike in COVID-19 infected cases in Hong Kong. The 14-day cinephile extravaganza was due to start from 18th August.
According to HKIFFS Executive Director Albert Lee, more than 185 titles from 55 countries and regions were selected originally for HKIFF44, including 53 world, international, and Asian premieres. “While we are unable to screen these films publicly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still happy to share our team’s choices and discoveries with our audience,” said Mr Lee.
HKIFF44 covers a broad spectrum of distinguished classics and exciting new works from all over the world. Among this year’s highlights is Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy, a retelling of France’s Dreyfus Affair which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 76th Venice Film Festival. In Voices in the Wind, which received a special mention at Berlinale Generation, promising Japanese actress Serena Motola evokes profound emotions throughout her cathartic journey under Suwa Nobuhiro’s elegant direction.
Christian Petzold’s Undine is a tale of fantasy and humor galvanized by the magnificent performance of Berlinale Best Actress Paula Beer. Her Korean counterpart, Kim Min-hee, also draws us into women’s delicate inner world in The Woman Who Ran, with which Hong Sang-soo was named Best Director at Berlinale. The late Raúl Ruiz’s unfinished debut feature, The Tango of the Widower and Its Distorting Mirror, is rediscovered and completed by his widow and collaborator, Valeria Sarimento, after half a century.
Renowned documentarian Hara Kazuo continues to probe with his two new works: Reiwa Uprising follows the election campaign of a new political party formed by marginalized communities, and Minamata Mandala delves into the lingering pain of residents suffering from mercury poisoning.
In the Fantastic Beats section, Eliza Hittman shows extraordinary sensitivity to young women’s plight in unintended pregnancy in Never Rarely Sometimes Always, the winner of this year’s Berlinale Grand Jury Prize. Likewise, Liu Kuang-Hui boldly explores the forbidden passion of two high school classmates and the persecution they faced in Your Name Engraved Herein.
Equally fascinating from the Midnight Heat section are two hot picks for the young and adventurous audience: First Love, an unconventional yakuza comedy from cult favourite Miike Takashi, and Tezka Macoto’s Tezuka’s Barbara, featuring pop idols Inagaki Goro and Nikaido Fumi as a dangerously sexy couple.
Animation lovers, too, would have much to enjoy: from the enchanting and beautifully hand-painted romance of Bombay Rose to Anca Damian’s playful celebration of the incomparable bond between human and their four-legged friends, Marona’s Fantastic Tale.
Earlier, HKIFF had disclosed the three world premieres – Man Lim-chung’s Keep Rolling, Joseph Hsu’s Little Big Women, and Yukisada Isao’s The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese – which would have bookended this year’s festival. Also announced were four specially-curated programmes, including a tribute honouring Michael Hui, HKIFF44’s Filmmaker in Focus; a full retrospective of Federico Fellini; a celebration of the 30th anniversary of The Film Foundation; and Journey Through Italian Cinema, featuring restored classics from the world-renowned Cineteca di Bologna.
HKIFF44 was slated to run from 18th to 31st August 2020. The original programme can be accessed here