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Hong Kong FilMart, the largest film rights market in Asia, and the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) have given up on plans to be held in physical form this year. Instead, both will hold virtual, online editions in August.

FilMart will migrate to a virtual platform, FILMART Online, running Aug. 26-29, 2020. HAF will go virtual and take place Aug. 26-28 August.

Organizers said that FilMart’s virtual format will allow: the showcasing of titles and productions; personalized connections between buyers and sellers through a virtual meeting room; encrypted streaming of trailers and videos; and the ability to join seminars, content showcases, business dialogues and events.

HAF will partner with FilMart Online to facilitate virtual meetings for filmmakers. It had previously shortlisted 32 projects for this year’s HAF, including projects from 11 first-time directors. It will announce an additional 22 work-in-progress projects shortly.

FilMart had originally envisaged a four-day market in March. That was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, and a three-day market in August proposed instead. The ongoing health crisis has now meant a further reshaping of plans.

“Since the pandemic has resulted in some cities being put on lockdown, and travelling among countries is still mostly restricted, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has decided to migrate the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART) to a virtual platform, FILMART Online, from 26-29 August,” said FilMart organizer, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council on Thursday.

“Under such circumstances, going virtual is an appropriate way forward as the safety and well-being of our guests and filmmakers are of utmost importance,” said Jacob Wong, HAF director.

The moves appear to have little to do with the current state of virus control in Hong Kong itself – the city is currently relaxing many of its social distancing rules and the same day has seen the reopening of Hong Kong Disneyland. Rather, the issue is travel in and out of the city and around the Asia region.

Hong Kong is beginning to crack open its borders to elite business travelers from China and to school students crossing to and from Shenzhen. But virus control measures remain on entry and there is currently no guarantee when quarantine requirements will be dropped. Other Asian territories offer a similarly mixed or still more restricted picture.

Many countries have yet to open their borders and require all arrivals to agree to 14-day quarantines, something that would make a three-day trip to Hong Kong an ordeal of 17 days or more. In recent days, mainland China has also shown the continuing danger of reinfection in places assumed to be clean. Beijing has recently recorded over 100 new coronavirus infections.