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HKIFF: good relations

The full programme for this year`s Hong Kong festival reveals a couple of Kiwi titles, plus plenty of evidence of the very strong relationships the festival has built across the region.

The direct NZ interest comes in two titles. A little over a year on from a Sundance debut Jane Campion`s Top of the Lake is surely reaching the end of its festival run, and appears here in two parts.

In the festival`s international short film competition Leo Woodhead`s Venice-premiered Cold Snap flies the flag for NZ. Cold Snap was funded under the NZFC`s Premiere Shorts scheme. Last year Zia Mandviwalla`s Night Shift won the competition in Hong Kong.

Cold Snap Trailer

Ahead of Thursday`s full programme launch HKIFF`s early announcements celebrated a strong selection of the Asian winners from February`s Berlinale. They included DIAO Yinan`s Best Film & Best Actor winner Black Coal, Thin Ice; YAMADA Yoji`s Best Actress-winningThe Little House; LOU Ye`s Blind Massage (Outstanding Artistic Contribution); and SAKAMOTO Ayumi`s FIPRESCI Prize-winner, Forma.

Hong Kong`s festival has plenty of programme strands but, beyond the crops of current festival favourites (new and restored) and a broader Global Vision strand, two overarching strands are in play.

One, naturally, is Hong Kong`s own output – the festival`s annual snapshot of the health of the local industry.

This year two long-time friends of the festival, Pang Ho-cheung and Fruit Chan, provide the opening night films (Aberdeen and The Midnight After) while another local, Dante Lam, closes out the festival with That Demon Within.

In between, there are student short film programmes, encore viewings of some strong local titles from 2013, Lee Kung-lok`s 3D Naked Ambition and a selection of feature length tales from Hong Kong`s long-running anti-corruption TV series, from The Quiet Revolution to ICAC Investigators.

The second strand is the Hong Kong festival`s extended family – filmmakers from Hong Kong and beyond with whom either the festival or its partner project market HAF has relationships. Pang Ho-cheung`s Aberdeen opens this year`s festival while Jason Kwan`s A Nail Clipper Romance, produced by Pang, is selected for HAF.

Filipino director Jun Robles Lana goes one better and manages a hat-trick this year, with 2013 HAF project Barber`s Tales in this year`s festival and nominated for Asian Film Awards (AFA) gongs. Lana also has a new project in HAF this year.

Robles is joined at HAF and in the festival programme by Brillante Mendoza, whose Sapi plays in the `Glories of Filipino Cinema` strand. Mendoza does double duty at HAF, with both drama The Embroiderer and doco The Gay Messiah selected.

Having endured a somewhat longer gestation, a 2010 HAF project from Thai director Lee Chatametikool, the Busan-premiered Concrete Clouds, also makes the trip to the festival. Chatametikool is a previous AFA winner, as the editor of Chan Fui Chong`s Malaysian drama Karaoke.

Elsewhere in the festival programme are some returning titles with strong AFA histories, including Mother, which won Best Film, Screenplay and Actress at the 2010 AFA. Writer and director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) will present a black and white director`s cut.

By the numbers, the 2014 festival has programmed 300 titles from 56 countries and territories. 88 are world, international or Asian premieres. The HKIFF opens 24 March and runs until 7 April.

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