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Hong Kong Filmart 2010: big

Built off British governance, Chinese labour and international capital, Hong Kong has long prided itself on its forward-looking nature. When the old airport (the only international gateway in the world for which pilots could not train on a simulator) was deemed no longer sufficient the territory, not exactly overly burdened with spare space, extended an island to house the new airport.

Coming in from the airport on the train, Invest Hong Hong stickers on every seat back reminded of the territory’s thirst for international capital, while the volume controls for each individual seat let travellers select how loud they wanted to play the adverts for Filmart, the Film Festival, Asia Film Awards. To make the less arty feel at home, the stations were plastered with adverts for the Hong Kong Sevens.

Out the window, the view resembled parts of New Zealand at 6am: mist-shrouded volcanic cones running down to grey waters. However, during the twenty minute journey into the city, the train probably passed more people than there are in NZ.

Hong Kong is proud of its Entertainment Expo, the bringing together in time and space of nine film, TV and music events in the course of a month. Welcoming journalists (a mere two hours after this one’s plane landed), the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s Assistant Executive Director, Raymond Yip, spoke warmly of the scope and scale of the coming day’s events.

The territory is rightfully proud of having built a 3,000-company industry, employing over 20,000 people – all of whom could fit comfortably inside the HK Conference and Exhibition Centre – and having successfully exported a number of its talents and ideas, such as the Oscar-winning The Departed, based on HK’s Infernal Affairs.

But we were here for the future, not the past, and for the next four days will attend Filmart, the inaugural edition of Asian Side of the Doc (ASD), HAF (the financing forum), DELF (the digital entertainment leader’s forum) and the Asia Film Awards.

Four of those events kicked off on the first day, so – on little sleep – this writer set to spreading himself rapidly if a little thinly around as much of the proceedings as possible. The record 540 exhibitors at Filmart proved a bridge too far, without even thinking about attending any of the 260 screenings on offer.

We did, however, do some Kiwi-spotting, finding the Film New Zealand stand – run by the shortly-departing Sue Thompson and Film Wellington’s Delia Shanly, along with Images & Sound’s Grant Baker and Steve Finnigan meeting and greeting a good number of visitors. It was far too early to tell how many if any of the enquiries were serious.

Curious Film’s Michael Wrenn was also attending HAF. Michael Stephens and Richard Taylor both appeared for the evening’s official events. Taylor will give the keynote address at DELF tomorrow morning.

The only problem of the opening day was with the sound mix at one of the events – the TV World session. The session was being translated simultaneously via headsets into any two of Cantonese, Mandarin and English, depending on what language any speaker was using. Unfortunately the PA volume in the room was so loud that it was impossible to hear the translations.

At ASD, we ran into Al Jazeera’s Fiona Lawson-Baker, Shirley Cheng from LIC and Simon Ho from GZDOC, all of whom were speakers at the recent Documentary Edge Forum, along with the ubiquitous Pat Ferns, without whose presence a Doco conference seems lacking.

The afternoon ASD session was a pitching session, a successful part of so many conferences these days, with five projects all with their hands out for dollars, pounds, Euros or yen – whatever was on offer really. Twenty five projects from around the globe will pitch over the three days of ASD.

82 organisations registered for ASD. NZ didn’t have any rep’s in attendance – or at least none that we could find – but Australia had a few participants, on both side of the pitching competition.

The evening was largely taken up with the Asia Film Awards, at which Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan received a lifetime achievement award and Zhang Yimou an award for outstanding achievement. The full list of winners is here.

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