On Sunday night glitz and glam were on display as the red carpet unrolled for the 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival, where 306 feature-length and short films will screen and stars from around the region will rub elbows until April 2nd.
Ip Man: The Final Fight, starring Anthony Wong and directed by Herman Yau, started things out in Hong Kong – the fifth film in recent years concerning Bruce Lee’s legendary teacher of the art he became famous for exporting to the West. Just last month Wong Kar Wai’s highly stylized take on Ip Man – The Grandmaster starring Tony Leung – had its global premier at the Berlin Film Festival.
Michelle Yeow will also be honored with the Excellence in Asian Cinema Award on Monday night at the Asian Film Awards for her performances in films from the Academy Award-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, directed by Ang Lee, to her performance as Burmese icon Aung San Suu Kyi in The Lady.
But as the Los Angeles Times noted, some of the themes covered in the independent films screening at the event are decidedly more controversial than the wuxia (martial hero) epics traditionally associated with the occasion. The films set to show at the festival address thorny subjects ranging from China’s one-child policy and sterilization to its turbulent relationship with Japan, with about half of the films made in Asia coming from China.
The festival’s organizer Richard Garcia explained that the growth of independent cinema in the Mainland stems from several key shifts sweeping through Chinese society, namely, the ubiquity of Internet streaming, the explosion of screens across the nation and the rapid urbanization of the country’s second- and third-tier cities.
In many ways, as the Los Angeles Times article suggests, film festivals outside the Mainland provide an ideal outlet for Chinese directors who want to push boundaries, including national ones.
The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute between China and Japan, which has become heated in recent months, is explored in Trace, a documentary film made by husband-and-wife filmmaking team Huang Ji (Chinese) and her Japanese husband Otsuka Ryuji. The duo explores the two nations’ ongoing clash over the potentially resource-rich island chain by filming a trip to Huang’s hometown of Qinglang with their baby daughter.
"Because the Chinese and Japanese relationship is very bad, we worry about our daughter in the future," Otsuka said. "We thought we must make this video for our daughter."