The 15th Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) unveiled recently its lineup of 25 outstanding film projects to be presented from 13 to 15 March 2017. The projects were selected out of over 350 submissions from 14 different countries and regions, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Germany, China Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan.
This year’s selections include projects by young directors developing their first feature films, with an unprecedented increase in the number of women filmmakers. Most of the films are family-driven projects that touch on contemporary social issues, while others explore topics such as non-traditional families, marriages in upheaval, and the complexities of parent-child relationships. Shortlisted projects this year also include two genres not usually seen at HAF: science fiction and gothic thriller.
As one of the most recognized film-financing platforms in Asia, HAF continues its role in connecting filmmakers and their upcoming film projects with internationally prominent film financiers, producers, bankers, distributors, buyers, and funders for potential co-production ventures.
Five Hong Kong Projects to Be Presented
This year, the shortlisted projects include five from Hong Kong: veteran filmmaker Derek CHIU Sung-kee’s “No.1 Chung Ying Street”, a drama that examines the 1967 riots in Hong Kong; Sunny CHAN’s “Man on the Dragon”, a comedy-drama about five middle-age men who compete in a dragon boat championship to regain the braveness and passion of lives; “Impossible Split”, from TOM Chung-sing, which tells the inspiring story of bowling athlete WU Siu-hong, who achieved world championship status despite being haunted by a fatal disease. The film is produced by award-winning director Adam WONG, whose films “The Way We Dance” and “She Remembers, He Forgets” both received critical acclaim, and whose project “Trains in the Night” was presented at last year’s HAF.
“The Goddess”, from Sobel CHAN Ka-lok, pays homage to classic 1930s Chinese films and focuses on the issues of Hong Kong’s public-education system, the lives of Mainland immigrants and conflicts between mother and daughter. CHAN’s “League of HK Movie Heroes” was selected as one of the five finalists of the HAF/FOX Chinese Film Development Award at the 11th HAF in 2013. Completing the lineup of Hong Kong projects is “Forget You, Still Love You?”, about a couple whose troubled marriage finds focus again after a husband is diagnosed with a devastating illness, from co-directors Kenneth LAI Siu-Kwan and Paul SZE Pak-Lam, both of whom participated in last year’s HAF with the thriller “Hypnotize the Jury”.
Speaking on behalf of HAF, Mr. Jacob WONG, Curator of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society and Director of the HAF commented, “We are thrilled to receive HAF submissions worldwide with extremely high quality, offering distinct perspectives on a diversity of vibrant topics. The review process is, as expected, arduous yet exhilarating, and we are very proud of the dedication and persistence of our creative film talents.”
Women Directors Shining at the 15th HAF
Nearly half of the 25 selections consist of projects from female directors, including “Femme Fatale”, a dark comedy about two women whose parallel lives touch and collide, the first feature from Japanese documentary filmmaker MIYAKE Kyoko; and “Made in Bangladesh”, the first-ever HAF project from Bangladesh, about garment workers’ rights, from Rubaiyat HOSSAIN.
Other projects include “Pawns With No Return”, a touching story about fate bringing together an old man and a young boy, from CHEN Yi-Jung of Taiwan; “I AM A BANANA!”, an East-meets-West cross-cultural romantic comedy, from Honey B SINGH; and “Rainbow Mountain”, the second feature from Degena Yun of China, a drama about two Mongolian women from different generations whose lives cross paths throughout time and history. Degena’s critically acclaimed first feature, “A Simple Goodbye”, was presented at the 13th HAF and awarded The Spirit of Asia Award in Tokyo International Film Festival 2015.
Two more documentaries from women directors include “The Grassland of Narangerel”, which examines environmental challenges in Inner Mongolia, from YING Weiwei of China; and the Israeli-German co-production “Leftover Women”, from co-directors Shosh SHLAM and Hilla MEDALIA.
Exploring Family Dynamics and Science Fiction Genres
Family dynamics come into focus for several projects this year, including “Ten Thousand Happiness” from Chinese director Johnny MA, in which the sudden divorce of grandfather from an elite family in China sets off a chain of reaction, forcing each member to evaluate their own relationships with love and happiness; Indian filmmaker Shashwati TALUKDAR’s “The New Wife”, a Himalayan gothic thriller tale about a young bride’s discovery of the secrets harboured by her respectable new family.
“The Asadas”, the third feature from NAKANO Ryota of Japan, a drama with humor based on an original story inspired by the photographer Masashi Asada; and “Chantou”, Australian director Grant SCICLUNA’s gay-family drama about a couple who discover that their adopted Cambodian daughter is a victim of human trafficking.
Other projects include “Restore Point” from Robert HLOZ, a science-fiction murder mystery set in the future. It is the first sole Czech-Republic project feature to be presented at HAF. Also, an as-yet-untitled project commissioned by the Nara International Film Festival in Japan from director Ida PANAHANDEH and Japanese producer KAWASE Naomi, will be a free modern adaptation of a work by Shakespeare.
The HAF/FOX Project Award Presented to “Drifting Lives”
Sharing the same vision to encourage quality Chinese-language projects, HAF is pleased to continue its collaboration with FOX International Productions (FIP) and FOX Networks Group (FNG) Asia to present the “HAF/FOX Project Award” to suspense murder-mystery. “Drifting Lives”, from first-time director Danlly LI of China. The project will receive a cash award of US$10,000 (approx. HK$78,000) and a Development Contract with FOX. The award has established since 2012 to develop Chinese feature films with regional appeal, through providing support and nurture for promising scripts.
Ms. Cora YIM, SVP, Head of Chinese Entertainment and Territory Head of Hong Kong, FOX Networks Group Asia said, “With the support of HAF, we have the privilege to work with up-and-coming creative talent and being introduced to a new generation of emerging talent. We are absolutely thrilled to identify the potential cinematic storytellers who offer unique perspectives of Chinese-language cinema.” As one of the judges, Ms. Xian LI, Director of Production, Creative Development and Global Production of FOX International Productions also said that Asian cinema, especially Chinese-language cinema is one of the most significant markets for FOX. “We look forward to working with more talented filmmakers in this region to create exciting high-quality films.”
Extending Awards and New Partnerships
The 15th HAF will present a total of ten awards, amounting to HK$1,372,000 (approx. US$176,700) in cash and value in-kind. HAF is also proud to announce our new sponsor, mm2 Asia Limited to present an award to encourage and support Chinese-language film projects with a cash prize of HK$100,000 (approx. US$12,900).
“mm2 excavates stories in various Chinese speaking territories, turns them into movies with both artistic and commercial sense,” Mr. Melvin ANG, Chairman of mm2 Asia Limited said. “Through collaborating with HAF, the leading film platform in Asia, we are able to meet and support new pioneers in the Asian film industry.”
HAF is also delighted to extend collaboration with iQIYI for the third year with an award to encourage and support young film talents from Chinese-speaking territories. One cash award of HK$100,000 (approx. US$12,900) will be presented to an outstanding Chinese-language feature film project with commercial qualities. Other award sponsors include Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, China Film Foundation — Wutianming Fund For Young Talents, G2D Co. Ltd., Paris Coproduction Village, White Light Studio and Wouter Barendrecht Film Foundation.
Work in Progress Laboratory
In addition, HAF creates the “Work in Progress Laboratory” as a significant new initiative to help directors and producers securing post-production funds through meetings with distribution agents and film festival programmers. Representatives from shortlisted projects will be invited to present their work at HAF. The WIP Lab will assist interested industry professionals to set up individual meetings with them to obtain further collaboration details. The shortlisted projects will be announced very soon.