Gov’t to let go of Hong Kong fest

Event to be privatized after April

HONG KONG — As the Hong Kong Arts Development Council gears up for this April’s Intl. Film Festival, it looks like this will be the last of the event — at least, as we know it.

After talks that started more that a year ago, the HKIFF will be spun off from the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, and privatized as soon as possible after the close of this April’s festival.

The fest is part of a trend in Hong Kong government for the past number of years towards privatization, which has included art groups such as the Chinese Orchestra, Harmonic Orchestra, and the repertory theater.

The new “film society” will be controlled by an 11-member board, which includes at least four professionals in the film industry.

According to HKIFF director Peter Tsi, the government’s Home Affairs Bureau will continue to provide 80% of the funding for the next four years and the government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department, will continue to sponsor the venue rental for the next two years.

There will be immediate changes, however. Under the current arrangement the fest was not encouraged to get close to the industry; something Tsi says hindered its growth and potential. “There has to be more interactions and synergy with Hong Kong’s vibrant film industry,” says Tsi. “The film festival is as important an industry event as it is a cultural event.”

Additionally, the organization, once under a different roof, will offer more screenings year round. New programs, including a humanitarian film festival and an animation film festival, are slated for this summer.

Tsi says negotiations and compromises have made the transition a “painful process,” but an important one. “We always perceived that the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival could bring Asian film and new talent into the international arena,” says Tsi. “This improvement moves us forward more aggressively.”