The festival is an ambitious attempt to put Macau, a former Portuguese colony, now a Special Administrative Area belonging to China and renown for its casinos, on the cultural map.
Under the artistic direction of Mike Goodridge, a former journalist and film executive, the festival is a carefully-balanced mix of accessible, audience-friendly features along with art-house titles that have stood out on the festival circuit in the last few months. Its modest 48-film selection keeps the event on a human scale and allows guests to quickly mingle.
The ceremony had the great virtue of addressing all the traditional Asian touch points of a festival – prominence for local officials, a formal gong ceremony, and a parade of celebrities – but also keeping things moving swiftly without lengthy speeches. Renner, sporting a radical haircut, was announced as recipient of a prize for East-West Actor of the Year, but the live-screened proceedings did not dwell.
Outside, the city’s concrete Cultural Centre, security was tight, reflecting the visit of a high-ranking member of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Liaison Office. Inside, the atmosphere was brightly-lit, brisk and fun. A tinsel shower drew gasps and applause.
For men the dress code was severe-but-playful suits. For women the fashion was a range of floaty, gauzy, pastel-shaded confections.
Mixing local dignitaries, visitors from neighboring Hong Kong, film-makers with festival-selected films, and producers with projects seeking finance through the IFFAM’s project market and industry hub, the guest list was extensive.
Those treading the deep pile red carpet included “Okja” producer Choi Dooho, Indian film maker and IFFAM returnee Shekhar Kapur, festival juror Joan Chen and French auteur Laurent Cantet, who this week does duty as head of the jury.
The festival selectors included Aseem Chhabra, critic Finn Halligan, Giovanna Fulvi, Violeta Bava, Hiromi Aihara, and Michael Werner.
Other visitors included “Journey’s End” star Asa Butterfield, producers Simon Reade and Guy de Beaujeu, “Borg-McEnroe” producer Frederik Wikstrom and leading Korean director Im Sang-soo. Emperor Group boss Albert Yeung led a large talent contingent from Hong Kong that included Simon Yam, Charlene Choi, Michelle Wai and Kathy Yuen.