Fear not, intrepid filmmakers. Help is at hand. The 15th Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum last week ran its gaze over 33 projects from emerging regional talents, with 14 awards handed out at a special ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on March 15.
Industry professionals from financiers and distributors to sales agents and festival programmers hunkered down for three days of project pitches, seminars and networking events, all with the aim of helping these fledgling filmmakers find their breakthrough moment. Oh, and the prospect of unearthing the next cinematic gem along the way may have added some appeal.
The largest prizes given were the two HAF Awards, presented in conjunction with CreateHK and the Hong Kong Film Development Fund. Hong Kong’s Impossible Split, and Japanese project NARAtive Film 2017-2018 — Yuko each received cash prizes of HK$150,000 (about US$19,000) in recognition of their originality and creativity.
Impossible Split, based on a true story, follows the faltering career of a young bowling champion, and is to be directed by Tommy Tom, already an accomplished visual effects artist. Adam Wong, director of The Way We Dance and She Remembers, He Forgets is on board as a producer.
The curiously titled Japanese project NARAtive Film 2017-2018 – Yuko focuses on prominent female roles in Shakespearean drama and benefits from Cannes darling Naomi Kawase (The Mourning Forest, An) in the producer role, while Iranian-born Ida Panahandeh will direct.
A HK$100,000 Special Award, sponsored by giant Chinese online video platform iQIYI, went to China’s The Patient. IQIYI aims to encourage and support film talent in Chinese-speaking territories. Directed by Yang Long, whose previous film EXIT (2015) featured prominently at a number of international festivals, The Patient explores a shady institution tasked with rehabilitating online addicts.
Other notable awards at the ceremony included the Wouter Barendrecht Award, named after the late founder of Fortissimo Films. The HK$50,000 prize recognizes a project from a filmmaker under the age of 35, who has made no more than three previous films. This year’s winner, La Luna from Singapore, will be directed by accomplished television director M. Raihan Halim, whose debut feature, Banting, screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2014.
La Luna also received one of two White Light Post-Production awards, offering in-kind post-production services valued at US$15,000 at White Light Studio in Bangkok, Thailand. The other award went to Village Rockstars from Indian writer/producer/director Rima Das.
This year, HAF will be collaborating for the first time with the Marché du Film at the Cannes Film Festival, inviting four selected projects to the French riviera for presentation and pitching sessions. This year’s selected projects include Omotenashi (Japan), Third Wife (Vietnam), Echoes (Israel) and the aforementioned Village Rockstars. This heightened level of international exposure should benefit both the projects as well as the forum itself.
Next month’s Hong Kong International Film Festival will showcase a number of previous HAF projects, including Huang Ji and Otsuka Ryuji’s The Foolish Bird, Dechen Roder’s Honeygiver Among the Dogs and Yang Heng’s Ghost in the Mountains, all of which screened earlier this year at the Berlin International Film Festival. Other past successes from HAF include Kim Jee-woon’s South Korean western The Good, The Bad, The Weird, Brillante Mendoza’s grisly Kinatay, which won Best Director at Cannes in 2009 and Philip Yung’s murder mystery Port of Call, winner of 7 Hong Kong Film Awards last year.