Fest breaks from gov’t oversight

HKIFF to unspool over 300 films from 40+ countries

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong Arts Development Council is making final edits on its program for the 28th Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival — and at the same time figuring out the fest’s future as a non-government entity.

The fest, which runs April 6-21, will unspool more than 300 films from more than 40 countries.

Highlights include focuses on art director William Chang, Stan Brakhage, Ernst Lubitsch and Shimizu Hiroshi. Fest will also present a 13-film program in honor of the city’s two most important stars, Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui, both of whom died in 2003.

Continuing with its previously announced plan, the fest will be privatized immediately after this year’s event. This change has been a long time coming, says HKIFF director Peter Tsi. The government has wanted to get the festival out of its system, he says, because it’s caused official embarrassment due to its showing of independent films from China. The new non-profit organization is dubbed the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival Society.

The fest will still receive about 70% of its annual funding from the Home Affairs Bureau, totaling about $1 million, Tsi says, adding that the goal is to have half of the costs coming from the government, and the rest from ticket sales and sponsors. While the Hong Kong event doesn’t have the budget to compete with Pusan or Bangkok, it hopes to set itself apart from other festivals as a launching pad for new talent in Asia.

In particular, organizers are hoping to get local studios back on the regional map. To this end, the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum is expected to be on the program for next year under the authority of the Trade Development Council. The conference for new talent had one successful run, but was canceled last year because of the SARS outbreak and this year because of a lack of government funding.

The new society also wants a stronger presence beyond the festival and has plans for year-round screenings. Subjects will include a human rights series, Japanese anime, cult cinema and films of Francois Truffaut. A series is also planned on Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos, whose new film “The Weeping Meadow” will be premiered at the upcoming fest.

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