SARS mars H.K. fest

Disease fears keep o'seas participants away

HONG KONG — Fears about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and World Health Organization travel advisories kept some industryites away from the prize-giving at the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival Thursday and scuppered hopes of giving the event more appeal outside the country.

Local replacements were found for overseas jurors who could not attend, and HKIFF director Peter Tsi accepted awards on behalf of directors who weren’t present, although most directors from China made it.

The ceremony included the annual Intl. Film Critics Federation (Fipresci) Award for young Asian Cinema, which went to Chinese helmer Meng Jinghui’s “Chicken Poets,” lauded for its sharp satire on the plight of the poet/artist. A special mention went to Thai film “Mehkong Full Moon Party” by Jira Maligool.

The fest featured three new international competitions: the Firebird Awards for Young Cinema, which screened 11 first or second productions by new directors; the Asian DV Competition, which included eight digital films by young directors; and the Humanitarian Awards for Documentaries, which considered 12 docs.

“Hukkle,” by Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi, took the top Golden Firebird. Jurors lauded the film for using only sound and visuals — no dialogue — to tell a social parable. “Blind Shaft” by Chinese director Li Yang took the Silver Firebird Award.

Special mentions went to Japan’s “Hotel Hibiscus” by Nakae Yuji and Chad/France’s “Our Father” by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.

Hong Kong/Macau teen drama “Love Is Not a Sin” by Doug Chan walked away with the Golden DV Award. “Welcome to Destination Shanghai” by China’s Andrew Cheng won the Silver DV Award.

The Humanitarian Award for documentary went to “Clown in Kabul” by Italians Enzo Balestrieri and Stefano Moser, which followed a group of clown/doctors who try to bring comic relief to places like hospitals and refugee camps.

The Humanitarian Award for outstanding doc went to British production “The Day I will Never Forget” by Kim Longinotto. Special mention went to China’s “This Happy Life” by Jiang Yue.

Fest wraps April 23.

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