FILMART opened in mid-March, one of the opening events of the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo, which closed Monday.
It was a year of anniversaries for Expo events. FILMART celebrated its 20th outing, the festival its 40th. From its inaugural 1997 edition, boasting 75 exhibitors, FILMART has grown into the largest market event in Asia and one of the five largest in the world.
This year FILMART drew over 7.300 buyers for its 800 exhibitors. Both numbers represented records, which were reflected in the general level of activity. In some years the market has been a mostly quiet affair after a busy first day. This year, it was busy through three full days, with no real drop-off in foot traffic until the afternoon of the third day.
While there’s currently no formal NZ presence at FILMART, there’s participation in other ways. NZFC CEO Dave Gibson was in town for the week and able to get a good look at the market and parts of financing forum HAF. Also visiting FILMART was production designer Gary Mackay, who’s recently finished on season two of Marco Polo. Rezal Rahman, CEO of Malaysia’s Pinewood Iskandar Studios where much of Marco Polo is shot was also at FILMART, speaking in the conference programme.
The market’s conference programme was well attended, with the customary sessions on co-production and China’s place in the world of entertainment. Among the most popular speakers were Mad Max producer Doug Mitchell, speaking on a panel discussing franchises, and Gerry Shirren from Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon (TV show Puffin Rock and Oscar-nominated features The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea).
Titles arriving with momentum included UK-New Zealand production 6 Days (pictured, top), about the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London, which had a strong launch in Berlin; and the Finola Dwyer-produced Brooklyn, arriving with a BAFTA and Oscar nominations. Big Screen Symposium presenter Park Chan-wook, whose The Handmaiden (also playing in the HKIFF) became CJ Entertainment’s second-best pre-sold film in Berlin, closing 116 territories at the European Film Market.
Another Korean director, Park Ki-yong, was in Hong Kong for a Hong Kong International Film Festival event. Park spent a couple of years in New Zealand lecturing, and made NZIFF-premiered doco Moving following the Christchurch earthquake in 2011.
Genre titles do good business at FILMART, a fact American exhibitors cottoned on to a few years ago. Tammy Davis’ Born to Dance, in CMG’s bag at FILMART, arrived with good buzz having concluded a number of sales in Berlin. CMG’s Dené Anderberg told SCREENZ that, following sold out screenings at the Berlinale, some of the distributors who’d already bought the title expanded their release plans. Anderberg was taking meetings with distributors for remaining Asian territories at FILMART.
Wrapping up the Entertainment Expo were the awards ceremonies of the Hong Kong International Film Festival and Hong Kong Film Awards. The HKFA ran Sunday night although, unfortunately, the list of award winners had been leaked online a couple of weeks earlier. The HKIFF closed Monday, having handed out its own awards on Saturday night.
FILMART (14 – 17 March), ran as part of the 10-event Hong Kong Entertainment Expo, which also includes film financing forum/project market HAF (14 – 16 March), and the Hong Kong International Film Festival (21 March – 4 April).