Consent, complexity and consistency defined Hong Kong cinema’s rather interesting start to 2023. First, the local box office continues to see impressive returns, which while still may not be the same as pre-pandemic levels, shows sustained interest from moviegoers. Box-office revenues reached over $50 million over the Lunar New Year, as Variety reported, with A Guilty Conscience, the courtroom drama directed by Wai Lun-Ng becoming the highest-grossing Hong Kong film of all time, earning over HKD 82 million ($10 million). It’s also the awards season, with nominees to the 41st Hong Kong Film Awards announced in early February. One of those nominated for Best Film, the documentary To My Nineteen-Year-Old-Self, withdrew from the race, however, though directors Mabel Cheung and William Kwok Wai-lun are still in the running for best director. It’s also still up for best editing.
The film, which was hailed as last year’s Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards, was also pulled out from cinemas following reports that it did not get the consent of some of those who were featured in the documentary – former students from Ying Wa Girls’ School – to have the film slated for public screening. Following this debacle, known music virtuoso Kajeng Wong, the young pianist who was the subject of the 2009 award-winning documentary “KJ: Music and Life,” also alleged he has also asked the director King-wai Cheung not to include certain scenes in the final cut of the documentary, but they were still reportedly included.
As the discussion on ethics, privacy and consent dominated Hong Kong cinema, acclaimed Hong Kong director and producer Johnnie To headed off to Berlinale, where he spoke of cinema’s ability to “give voice to people,” amid politically turbulent times. To is a member of the international jury and also one of the producers of Mad Fate, which is part of the Berlinale Special Section. Its director Soi Cheang will be honored at the upcoming HK International Film Festival (HKIFF), which will be held from March 30-April 10. Aside from Mad Fate, another film from a Hong Kong director, Kiwi Chow, screened at the European Film Market (EFM) at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival. Screen Daily reported that Say I Do To Me, which is about a Youtuber promoting “solo-gamy” or marrying one’s self to get more views and subscribers, would be presented for buyers at the EFM.
Before HKIFF, the industry’s players particularly in the fields of distribution, production and promotion will gather together for the 26th Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART) from March 13-16. Held virtually in 2022, FILMART attracted 8,000 participants, including exhibitors from South Korea, Philippines, Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and the EU. This year, it will be done in-person simultaneously with the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum or HAF.
HAF connects producers and directors to distribution agents as well as film festival programmers. It also supports films in early stages of production. For 2023, it has selected 28 in-development projects, which include films from Hong Kong, Nepal, India, Japan, Taipei, Mainland China, co-productions from Thailand, Laos, France, US and Iran.