The Hong Kong International Film Festival slid neatly into the Monday night slot vacated by the Asian Film Awards (AFA), splitting its opening events across venues on either side of the harbour.
It was a brave move, as to mount any red-carpet event on a night that has become synonymous with the AFA would inevitably draw some comparisons.
The response, from the public and the local media, suggested that recent calls in NZ (not only from Equity) to develop a “star system” might not be a bad idea.
In Hong Kong, the star system is alive and well. Actor, festival ambassador and heart-throb Louis Koo arrived at the premiere for festival opening film Aberdeen to be greeted by hordes of teenage girls screaming and chanting his name. It seemed not to phase Koo’s wife and young daughter, who were accompanying him.
Such as they were, the stars turning out for the Entertainent Expo and HKIFF grand openings were local, and mostly plucked from the Hong Kong A list. Many names would be known to anyone with a passing familiarity with Hong Kong film. Directors Derek Kwok and Wong Jing, directors of the opening night films Pang Ho-cheung and Fruit Chan plus a good selection of local acting talent including Simon Yam and Pang regulars Ronald Cheng, Shawn Yue and the ubiquitous Chapman To.
To keep the men interested, there was Chrissie Chau, the girl who will one day be a Bauhinia Heroine, Elanne Kong (Love Lifting, seen here in the 2013 Hong Kong Festival) and – for those who know their Hong Kong films beyond Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Infernal Affairs – multiple award-winning actress Kara Hui (At The End of Daybreak, Wu Xia) and one of Pang’s favoured actresses, Miriam Yeung (Love in a Puff, Love in the Buff, Hi Fidelity).
Having spent the day wearing her director’s hat at HAF, seeking sales for her fully-funded project Angel Whispers, actress Carrie Ng (Hi, Fidelity; Naked Killer; City on Fire) turned out to support festival opener Aberdeen, in which she also appears.
One of few Aberdeen cast members not walking the red carpet was actress Dada Chan, whose very public meltdown last year is still sufficiently in fans’ minds for her presence to have been distracting. Normally, of course, Chan is not remotely distracting.
As stand-ins for the now absent Asian Film Awards, the opening night celebrations for the opening of the Hong Kong IFF don’t really stack up as a replacement. As an event viewed on its own merits, it kicked off the festival and made plenty of the right sort of noise doing so.