One of Asia’s oldest international film festival and Hong Kong’s largest cultural event, Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) will be hosting its first hybrid edition from 1 to 12 April 2021, featuring screenings and audience-engagement events simultaneously in physical and online formats, thus pursuing his founding premise of bringing films to local audiences that they might not be aware of. This year, HKIFF will propose 194 films from 58 countries, including 10 world premieres.
Homegrown director Stanley Kwan is the filmmaker in focus, and there is also a 4K restoration of early Wong Kar-wai films (including the underrated gem Fallen Angels). No Cannes titles and Golden Bear winners this year because of the worldwide pandemic. Theatre closures and lockdown-related production delays in 2020 have led to drastic drop in releasing, and to fewer major films for programmers to choose from.
World cinema has been a cornerstone of the Hong Kong International Film Festival since its inception 45 years ago. This year, an exciting selection of newly-restored classics, ranging from a rarely-seen silent crime epic to a long-lost censored Iranian gem, promises to surprise modern audiences with their timeless ingenuity. Renowned for his hugely popular silent era crime serials such as Fantômas (1913-14), Les Vampires (1915), and Judex (1917), pioneering French filmmaker Louis Feuillade extended his successful formula to the 12-episode adventure epic Tih Minh (1918). Newly-restored by Gaumont from a rare print, this cinematic treasure distils a sense of mystery and menace into a rumination of humanitarian crises in the aftermath of the First World War.
Inheriting Feuillade’s thriller techniques while imbuing his expressionist style into social realism, Austrian master filmmaker Fritz Lang elevated his recurring theme of fate and destiny in a superb film noir, You Only Live Once (1937), his second American feature that heralded an early yardstick of the man-on-the-run picture.
Revitalising the spirit of film noir, Jean-Luc Godard stunned the world with Breathless (1960), a startling example of the French New Wave that challenged cinematic conventions. Beautifully restored in 4K for its 60th anniversary, this landmark film is as provocative and original as ever, and its influential experimentation in filmmaking remains a precursor for generations of future filmmakers.
Sharing the non-conformist spirit, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, one of Cuba’s foremost filmmakers, impressed with Death of a Bureaucrat (1966), a black comedy about institutionalised bureaucracy, expressing an outright criticism of Castro’s regime in Buñuelian absurdity.
Two Iranian filmmakers offered allegorical insights into their society before and after the Islamic Revolution. Mohammad Reza Aslani’s Chess of the Wind (1976), banned after one screening and presumed lost for decades, evoked the political and moral deterioration through a gothic family thriller refined by decaying aristocracy and class struggle. The late maestro Abbas Kiarostami transformed a simple case of classroom discipline into an inspiring disclosure on the social dilemmas in First Case, Second Case (1979) as well as two short films, Two Solutions for One Problem (1975) and Tribute to the Teachers (1977).
HKIFF45’s Restored World Classics
1918 Tih Minh by Louis FEUILLADE
1937 You Only Live Once by Fritz LANG
1960 Breathless by Jean-Luc GODARD
1966 Death of a Bureaucrat by Tomás GUTIÉRREZ ALEA
1976 Chess of the Wind by Mohammad Reza ASLANI
1975 Two Solutions for One Problem by Abbas KIAROSTAMI (short)
1977 Tribute to the Teachers by Abbas KIAROSTAMI (short)
1979 First Case, Second Case by Abbas KIAROSTAMI
Tickets are available at www.hkiff.org.hk and URTIX.