Local fare opens H.K. fest

Event to celebrate its 30th year, unspool about 400 pix

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival is starting things off with two of its own.

Opening the April 4-19 event will be Johnnie To’s Triad pic “Election 2” — its world premiere — and Pang Ho-cheung’s “Isabella,” which won a music award at Berlin.

There had been some buzz over where “Election 2” would land this year after “Election” competed at Cannes last year.

Closing films are Australia’s “Candy,” helmed by Neil Armfield and starring Heath Ledger and Geoffrey Rush, and “Snow Cake,” from the U.K./Canada and directed by Marc Evans. Drama “Snow Cake,” starring Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Carrie-Anne Moss, was the opening film at Berlin.

Other films included in the program hail from Berlin, including: “The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros,” “In Between Days” and “Little Red Flowers,” all of which won awards.

Despite increasing budget cuts, the fest, celebrating its 30th year, will have about 400 screenings of an estimated 250 pics from 42 countries and regions.

“Compared with other festivals in this part of the world, we operate on a very minuscule budget,” Wong said.

However, Wong isn’t complaining too much. For cultural events, you need an urge to go out on your own and survive, he said. “Life is boring when you’re not in trouble.”

Fest also will include a tribute to action choreographers with 20 films from different periods; an action-themed dinner; and a seminar and catalog with interviews, essays and historical accounts from those working on action pics.

“This is something we’ve always wanted to do — it’s an area that’s been overlooked,” Wong said. “It’s a very local thing.”

Public seminars and forums will include a look at the first decade of To’s Milkyway and “Master of Genres: Nakagawa Nobuo.”