27th SGIFF Gathers Stellar Ensemble For Silver Screen Awards

  • SGIFF announces its jury panel for the Silver Screen Awards.
  • SGIFF will present the Honorary Award to Hong Kong Film Director Fruit Chan.
  • Some of these filmmakers will also be part of the masterclasses, talks and In Conversation sessions organised by SGIFF.
SGIFF Jury Panel for Silver Screen Awards: (Clockwise from Top): Naomi Kawase, Herman Yau, Mira Lesmana, Sunny Pang, Jocelyne Saab, Bertrand Lee and Anderson Le

Singapore, 18 October 2016 – Film lovers, rejoice! The 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), the leading festival in Southeast Asia for independent cinema, will welcome a stellar ensemble of filmmakers and professionals to Singapore to share their expertise and lend clout to the yearly silver screen affair. They will form the jury panel of its much-anticipated Silver Screen Awards at Marina Bay Sands, receive recognition from the SGIFF, and engage festival goers during masterclasses, forums, talks and In Conversation sessions.

Jury Panel of the Silver Screen Awards

First introduced in 1991, the Silver Screen Awards marks the first Asian film competition in the international film festival circuit, and aims to create awareness of the rich filmmaking talents in Asia. The Awards includes two main categories – Asian Feature Film Competition and Southeast Asian Short Film Competition, and will take place on 3 December 2016 at Marina Bay Sands.

This year, the jury panel of the Asian Feature Film Competition will be led by Japanese director and Cannes Film Festival regular Naomi Kawase, with support from veteran Hong Kong director of the well-received film Ip Man, Herman Yau, Lebanese director and the organiser of the Cultural Resistance International Film Festival, Jocelyne Saab, and versatile Singaporean actor Sunny Pang. They will be judging four categories – Best Film, Best Director, Best Performance and Special Mention. 

Indonesian producer Mira Lesmana who revitalised the country’s film industry in the early 2000s will lead the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition jury panel this year. She will be joined by Programming Director of the Hawaii International Film Festival, Anderson Le and Singapore filmmaker, Bertrand Lee in judging four categories – Best Southeast Asian Short Film, Best Singapore Short Film, Best Director and Special Mention.

In selecting these talents as the jury panel of this year’s Silver Screen Awards, SGIFF Executive Director Yuni Hadi said, “Our competition section highlights Asian features and Southeast Asian short films from filmmakers who are bold and are unafraid to show themselves through their art. Likewise our jury members are film professionals who have consistently led their careers with the kind of passion that inspires. They will bring to the festival their expertise and critical eye. We look forward to a lively discussion and long term friendship with these dynamic individuals.”

Spotlight on Two Established Asian Filmmakers at the 27th SGIFF

In addition to recognising Kawase’s flair in cinema by appointing her as jury head of the Asian Feature Film Competition, the SGIFF will also cast a spotlight on some of her filmography, characterised by its poetic introspection, and celebration of humanity and nature. Five of her films, including her first fiction feature Suzaku (1997) which won the Camera d’Or prize for Best New Director at the Cannes Film Festival and also Best Actress Award at the SGIFF in 1997, and The Mourning Forest (2007) that won the Grand Prix at Cannes, will be screened under a special programme Focus: Naomi Kawase.

The SGIFF will also recognise Hong Kong film director Fruit Chan for his tenacious dedication and passion in portraying Hong Kong and its colloquial culture authentically in his films by presenting him with the Honorary Award this year. The Honorary Award recognises individuals who have made exceptional and enduring contributions to Asian cinema, especially within their own country, and will be presented during the Silver Screen Awards.

Since his first film Made in Hong Kong, Chan has continually demonstrated his ability to employ new innovative styles in his films that are characterised by potent social and political overtones, and feature individuals on the edge of Hong Kong’s society. From the urban underclass in the city obsessed with business in Little Cheung (1999) to the daily life of a prostitute in Durian Durian (2000), Chan always strives to provide resonance to these neglected personal stories with intense political commentary through the silver screen. Five of Fruit Chan’s significant works, including these two films will be screened under a special Tribute to Fruit Chan.

“Naomi Kawase and Fruit Chan are both world class filmmakers who are very distinctive Asian voices. They embody the kind of fearless spirit in their work that SGIFF continues to champion. Naomi and Fruit’s generosity towards SGIFF allows us the opportunity to connect with the next generation of filmmakers through the sharing of their creative journey in their masterclasses,” Hadi continued.

Opportunities for Festival Goers to Interact with the Filmmakers

Besides screening some of these directors’ films at the festival, including Yau’s latest film The Mobfathers that stars Anthony Wong and Chapman To, the SGIFF also aims to facilitate and expand the conversation on filmmaking, encourage in-depth exchanges and create a vibrant festival with an immersive experience for all festival goers. Some of these renowned directors and producers including Kawase, Chan, Yau and Le will be speaking on their craft and experiences at masterclasses, forums, talks and In Conversation sessions that are open to the public. More information of the sessions will be announced in end October. 

The 27th edition of SGIFF, which runs from 23 November to 4 December 2016, will take place across various venues, including Marina Bay Sands, National Museum of Singapore Gallery Theatre, Shaw Theatres Lido, National Gallery Singapore Auditorium, The Arts House Screening Room, Filmgarde Bugis+ and Objectifs Chapel Gallery. Ticket sales for SGIFF will begin on 28 October 2016. 

The SGIFF is an event of the Singapore Media Festival, hosted by Infocommunications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA). SGIFF’s Official Sponsors include Presenting Sponsor, Marina Bay Sands and Official Festival Time Partner, IWC Schaffhausen.

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Please refer to the appended annexes for more information.

For Media Enquiries, please contact: press.office@sgiff.com

Resources

About the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF)

Founded in 1987, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) is the largest and longest-running film event in Singapore. It has become an iconic event in the local arts calendar that is widely attended by international film critics; and known for its dynamic programming and focus on ground-breaking Asian cinema for Singapore and the region. Committed to nurturing and championing local and regional talent, its competition component, the Silver Screen Awards, brings together emerging filmmakers from Asia and Southeast Asia while paying tribute to acclaimed cinema legends. With its mentorship programmes, masterclasses and dialogues with attending filmmakers, the Festival also serves as a catalyst for igniting public interest, artistic dialogue, and cultural exchanges in the art of filmmaking. The SGIFF is organised by the Singapore International Film Festival Ltd, a non-profit organisation with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status. For more information, please visit https://www.facebook.com/sginternationalfilmfestival/

Annex A: Chinese translations of key festival terms

EnglishChinese
Yuni Hadi, Executive Director, Singapore International Film Festival云妮海迪, 执行总监, 新加坡国际电影节
Silver Screen Awards银幕大奖
Asian Feature Films亚洲长片
Southeast Asian Short Film东南亚短片
Honorary Award荣誉成就奖

Annex B: Biography of Silver Screen Awards Jury Panel

Asian Feature Film Competition

Naomi Kawase (河濑直美) – Jury Head

Since her emergence in the 1990s, Naomi Kawase has cemented herself as one of the most respected and adroit filmmakers in contemporary Japanese cinema.  Her films are a window into the inner worlds of nature and humanity, illuminating the quiet humanism that is present in all our lives. She has made more than 30 documentary and fiction works that have been lauded by critics, festivals and audiences all over. 

Naomi Kawase was born in 1969 in Nara, Japan. She graduated in 1989 from the Osaka School of Photography, where she began experimenting with documentaries on Super 8mm and 16mm cameras. In 1992, Kawase made her documentary Embracing, shot in handheld experimental styles, chronicling her search for her father who had abandoned her. Her next documentary, Katatsumori, captured moments from her loving but fraught relationship with her adopted mother. Kawase’s autobiographical impulses were clear, as she drew from her family histories to craft intimate and affecting ruminations on familial love, sadness and reconnection. They caught the attention of wider audiences, both films winning prizes at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in 1995. 

While still making documentaries, Kawase began to turn her attention to fiction films.

She gained international prominence with her debut narrative feature Suzaku in 1997. At 28, she garnered the Camera d’Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, making Kawase the youngest director to win the award. Since then, Kawase has continued to hone a documentary-realism style of filmmaking that combines poetic lyricism and quiet reflection with shrewd insight into the human condition. Through her documentaries such as The Weald (1997), Mangekyo-Kaleidoscope (1999) and Genpin (2010), she grapples with difficult realities and casts a careful gaze on the inner lives of her subjects, unveiling moments of tender humanity and stark honesty. Through these reflections, her fiction films are conceived. Her films also embrace the spiritual and physical landscape of her leafy hometown of Nara, using the incandescence of nature as a commentary on the ruthless and cyclical nature of life that her characters struggle to reconcile with.

Kawase’s legacy transcends her films. As a filmmaker with significant stature, she is intent on using her platforms to give back to the filmmaking world in Japan. She founded the Nara International Film Festival (NIFF) in 2010, determined on showcasing culture and talent in her hometown city with a rich historical past. Through the festival, she also champions young filmmakers through the NIFF NARAwave section, where winning student films are passed on directly to the Cannes Cinefondation director. To her, teaching and nurturing the next generation of filmmakers is an imperative.

Kawase’s ties with the Singapore International Film Festival date back to her debut feature, Suzaku, which was in competition for Best Asian Feature Film at the 1997 edition. It garnered the Best Actress Award for first-time actress Machiko Ono, who went on to star in acclaimed films such as Like Father, Like Son (Hirokazu Koreeda). She also served as a jury member at the 16th edition of the festival in 2003.  

Herman Yau (邱礼涛)

Herman Yau is a Hong Kong director, scriptwriter and cinematographer. He studied film at the Department of Communications, Hong Kong Baptist University from 1981 to 1984. To date, he has written, shot and directed over 100 films, which include Ebola Syndrome, From the Queen to the Chief Executive, Master Q 2001, The Legend is Born: Ip Man and Ip Man: The Final Fight

His films have been shown at various festivals in Hong Kong, Europe and the United States. The Untold Story and Ebola Syndrome were praised as “cult classics”, while From the Queen to the Chief Executive was awarded the Golden Torch Award by the International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual.

Jocelyne Saab

Born on 30th April 1948 in Beirut, Jocelyne Saab began exploring the world of the moving image during the 1970s. Starting out as a journalist and war reporter, she moved into film fiction during the ‘80s and has completed four feature films. Over 30 of her documentaries are inscribed in the literary tradition of Albert Londres and Ernest Hemingway, and inspired by the poets of cinema such as Peter Whitehead and Dick Fontaine.

The emotional strength of her films not only comes from her use of memory but also from the formal elegance of her work: an original perspective and documentary information combine and compete in intensity. While the presence of the subjective can sometimes undermine the analysis of a situation, in Jocelyne Saab’s work both are perfectly balanced, making her oeuvre a reference point in the history of cinematographic form.

Most of her 30 documentaries are screened in Europe, on Canadian and Japanese television, and her first feature-length fiction film, A Suspended Life, was selected at the Cannes Quinzainnes des Réalisateurs. Dunia was also selected at Sundance in the international section. She is currently working on a musical.

Aside from her work in film, she has dedicated a significant amount of time to photography and her first large-scale exhibition was a mix-media installation at the National Museum of Singapore in 2007. Jocelyne Saab’s art enters into a profound relationship with the image, seeking to better understand those images that make up our collective history.

She established the Cultural Resistance Association and has, since 2013, been the organiser and curator of the Cultural Resistance International Film Festival – the first film festival in Lebanon to be focused on cinema from Asia and the Mediterranean – a striking example of how the terms of art and culture are no longer synonymous with a “cultural obligation” but rather with understanding and engagement. She is working on an art series of video postcards shot in six different countries now.

Sunny Pang (冯推守)

Sunny Pang is an accomplished actor and fight choreographer based in Singapore.  He worked as a bodyguard and a bouncer before entering the film industry. Sunny has appeared in numerous short films, TV serials and films, becoming one of the most versatile and recognised actors in Singapore and Southeast Asian cinema. He is a main player of the Ronin Action Group, a collective of stunt actors that aims to improve the quality of action films within the region.

Pang has an impressive list of movie credits and has worked with many directors within the region. He has appeared in films such as The Maid (2005), One Last Dance (2006), Call If You Need Me (2009), Perth (2004), Petaling Street Warrior (2012), The Collector (2012), Hantu Di Vietnam (2013), Ranh Giới Trắng Đen (Black & White) (2014), Pukulan Maut (2014), Re:solve (2014), Siew Lup (2016) and Headshot (2016). He was nominated for Best Performance at the 2009 Singapore Film Awards for his leading role in the omnibus feature film Lucky 7 (2009).

Pang will collaborate once again with directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel for an action crime drama Night Comes for Us, and another crime drama project by Malaysian Director Zahir Omar entitled Four.

Southeast Asian Short Film Competition

Mira Lesmana – Jury Head

Mira Lesmana was born in Jakarta in 1964. She studied at the Jakarta Art Institute majoring in Film Directing, but graduated in Film Producing. She was the first student to graduate as a producer, and in her thesis she laid down the important role of a producer in a film production.

Mira’s love for Indonesian Cinema is undeniable. Her spirit to revive the local film industry has been noted when together with her filmmaker colleagues, Riri Riza, Nan Achnas and Rizal Mantovani, she wrote, directed and produced KULDESAK. It was released in 1998, in the midst of Indonesian film industry crisis. KULDESAK gave its own mark, not only because of its success, but also because of the story behind the making of the film. It took three years to finish the film and was made in guerilla style, breaking rules under the New Order regime. The spirit behind the filmmaking surprised everyone since there was a very pessimistic view towards Indonesian films at the time.

Mira continued to break the pessimism towards Indonesian films, when she produced Sherina’s Adventure (2000) and What’s With Love (2002). Both films became a huge box office and brought back the youth to the cinemas to watch local films.

Her passion for creative freedom and artistic integrity is apparent, as she refused to make her company, Miles Films, to be driven by the industry despite her ability in making box office films. Miles Films remained as a small company producing only 1 to 2 films at the most every two years.

Film critics has labeled her as ‘unpredictable’, producing films ranging from a big box office success to critically acclaimed films, from small budget features to big epic productions. Her films such as Eliana, GIE, 3 Days To Forever and Atambua 39”Celcius, which were all directed by her partner Riri Riza, have received many awards internationally.

In 2008 and 2009, she produced The Rainbow Troops and The Dreamers, which achieved big commercial successes though the films featured non-actors. The Rainbow Troops became the highest box office success in Indonesia until today. The film was also selected in the panorama section of Berlinale 2009. From 2010 to 2015, the number of audience dropped sharply in Indonesia. After 2012, even commercial films could no longer reach over 2 million viewers. Most filmmakers blamed the distribution system and also the audience for no longer appreciating local films. Mira once again proved them wrong as she released the sequel of What’s With Love? (What’s With Love 2) in 2016, 14 years after, and it brought back a long queue of audience again in the cinemas to watch the film all across Indonesia. The film is now sitting at the No. 1 Box Office list of 2016 with over 3.6 million audience.

 Anderson Le

Splitting his time between Los Angeles and Honolulu, Anderson Le has worked diligently in the global promotion of independent and world cinema as director of programming for the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF), which is now heading into its 36th year. In addition to his duties at HIFF, Le also serves as artistic director for the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and a program consultant for the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy. He is a co-founder with Hollywood director Justin Lin of YOMYOMF.com, an Asian American pop culture blog and digital media company, where he has curated short films and is in development of several digital projects for various SVOD and OTT platforms.

Bertrand Lee (李晓明)

Having studied film directing at the prestigious Escolar Superior de Cinema I Audiovisuales de Catalunya (ESCAC) in Barcelona, Span, Bertrand’s work typically displays compelling storytelling and strong characters.

His visual style is diverse, preferring to take guidance from the script to determine the imagery. Nevertheless, there is a preference for cinematic wide frames and handheld spontaneous movement, exhibited in an array of work from narrative films for Breadtalk, Singtel, MCI, promotional films for the Youth and Paralympic Games, and brand campaigns for Coca Cola, Canon, Dumex, Mandom, Rexona, Samsung, Suntory, Philips, amongst many others.

His most recent work include a stylised single-take promotional film for ciNE65 featuring a hyper-realistic war scenario, a dreamy brand campaign for Gardens by the Bay shot from the perspective of two best girlfriends, and an energetic campaign for New Balance centred around track running.

Early this year, he also directed a highly successful social experiment campaign for Prudential, which has already garnered 12 million viewership hits and counting.

Annex C: Focus: Naomi Kawase at the 27th SGIFF

Suzaku (萌之朱雀)

Japan / 1997 / 95 min / Japanese

This love letter to Kawase’s hometown is a sublime and tender contemplation of familial strength and gripping humanity.  

Nestled in the gentle rhythms of a mountainous village of the Nara prefecture, a family grapples with the emotional aftershocks of an economic fallout. Young Michiru and her cousin Eisuke discover that the world isn’t as kind as their childhood promised. In their relative isolation, they search for a tenuous peace.   Kawase’s landmark debut feature is a cleared-eyed rumination on the fragile nature of familial relationships as they splinter under the indifferent determinism of modernity. Continuing from her personal documentaries and short films, Suzaku casts a scrutiny on the fraught bonds of family history and memory. As she draws out the wordless moments of introspection with a characteristic gentleness, Kawase reveals the beautiful juxtaposition of a life that is both tranquil and fractured.

The Mourning Forest (Mogari No Mori) (原木之森)

Japan / 2007 / 97 min / Japanese

Two people lose themselves in an ethereal forest of grief in this eloquent deliberation on what it means to be alive.

Haunted by the death of her child, Machiko moves to rural Nara, working as a nurse in a retirement home where she develops a filial fondness for the senile Shigeki. Their breezy countryside trip unexpectedly diverts deep into the forest as Shigeki searches for his wife’s tomb. It has been 33 years since his wife’s passing; her spirit will soon travel to the land of Buddha, never to return again.

The film is a lyrical endorsement of human resilience after loss. Described as mogari, the forest becomes a time and place for mourning, a metaphor for life, death and spiritual rebirth. Shigeki Uba and Machiko Ono’s quiet but soul stirring performances augment Kawase’s minimalist audio-visual poem on death and dementia. Trudging firmly through the forest, they find solace in each other, attaining a precious peace in the embers of devastation.

Genpin (玄牝)

Japan / 2010 / 92 min / Japanese

A raw and delicate treatise on birth and femininity, told through the journeys of several women in ther quests to give life.

Naomi Kawase’s documentary Genpin focuses on the Yoshimura Clinic, a traditional childbirth clinic in the forest where many women in their second pregnancies are drawn to the natural methods after unsatisfactory experiences in hospitals. 

As Kawase slips into the circle of expectant mothers, she draws forth deeply personal stories of childbirth anxieties and lingering losses. Her own experience with natural childbirth elicits a tender empathic connection with the women. Through her camera, the rural, rustic forest brims with life, mirroring the exuberance of the content mothers. Genpin poignantly draws from a Lao Tzu quote, “The valley spirit never dies / It is named the mysterious woman (genpin).”  Like the valley spirit, women are the wellspring of humanity, and Genpin is a reverent tribute to female strength in a purpose of life that never ceases. 

Still the Water (Futatsume no mado) (第二扇窗)

Japan / 2014 / 120 min / Japanese

The turbulence of human relations escalates, explodes and settles in tandem with the waves and weather in Kawase’s naturalistic portrait of youth.

Kaito, a 16-year-old boy lives with her single mother – a complicated relationship due to his mother’s multiple partners. The sudden discovery of a corpse floating on the riverfront and the incoming typhoon that engulfs the town sets a catalyst that brings out Kaito’s traumas to the fore, and enacts a coming of age in the face of one’s mortality. As with the slowness of island life and the turbulent waves of a storm, Kawase moves her story in a pace that holds a strong allegiance and sensitivity to the environment. Deeply personal, Still the Water was made after the death of Kawase’s adoptive mother (the film is also set in Amami-Oshima, the birth place of her ancestors), providing a haunting parable about the cycle of life and death and the transmission of knowledge between generations.

AN (Sweet Bean) (澄沙之味)

Japan / 2015 / 113 min / Japanese

Culinary and human passions are sensitively threaded together in Kawase’s much loved treatise on the healing power of empathy.

An takes its cue from its English translation “sweet red bean paste”, the filling from Doriyaki, a Japanese pancake. Similarly, An is a sensitively woven melodrama revolving around Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase from Mystery Train and The Hidden Blade), a lonely Dorayaki chef and his encounter with Tokue, a mysterious elderly lady whom he hires as an assistant. She imparts to him her recipe for red bean paste which turns his practice into a delicate slow process. In time too, a subdued relationship and complications develop between the two. 

An is based on a novel by Durian Sukegawa and it is the first film that she shot in Tokyo instead of her hometown Nara. An was Kawase’s first film that was widely celebrated by Japanese audiences when released domestically after its premiere in Cannes.

Annex D: Biography of Fruit Chan and Tribute to Fruit Chan at the 27th SGIFF

Fruit Chan (陈果)

Fruit Chan is a vital figure in Asian Cinema. Since the 90s, he has been ceaselessly pushing the boundaries and quality of the Hong Kong cinema while existing within and navigating the conditions of the country’s film industry. Following the tumulus progression of political and cultural changes in the country, Fruit Chan’s films have been reinventing genre traditions with a ceaseless enquiry into Hong Kong identity, tracking its anxieties, heritage and its ever shifting image.

Born in Guangzhou in 1959 and raised in Hong Kong, Fruit Chan was a regular at the Hong Kong Film Culture Centre, a film club that he worked at before his entrance into Hong Kong film industry in the 80s where he worked for many directors such as Jackie Chan, Ronny Yu and Shu Kei.

Emerging in the 90s with contemporaries such as Wong Kar Wai, Ann Hui and Johnnie To, Fruit Chan’s films hold a mirror to Hong Kong society. His films straddle the line between mainstream and independent cinema. While presented within the milieu of Hong Kong commercial cinema, his films often challenge its parameters, providing fresh takes on the industry’s common genres.

In 1991, he released his debut feature Finale in Blood as well as Five Lonely Hearts. He rose to prominence as an auteur with Made in Hong Kong (1997), a low-budget film made with leftover film stock from previous productions that is recognised as one of the most important films of Hong Kong cinema. While faced with mixed response from audience and critics, the film won the Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival, and Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Best Director at the Golden Horse Film Festival. The film is part of his 1997 Trilogy – together with The Longest Summer (1998) and Little Cheung (1999) – which reflect upon the everyday life of the working class set within the period preceding the handover to China in 1997. 

After completing The 1997 Trilogy, he delved into the subject matter of prostitution and the socio-economic conditions leading to its prevalence in society, to make what is termed The Prostitution Trilogy that resulted in the production of his next two films Durian Durian (2000) and Hollywood Hong Kong (2001). 

His later works saw him venturing further into horror and mystery genres while keeping his keen observation on Hong Kong society. This is evident in his exquisitely shot masterpiece Dumplings (2004), an innovative leap in Hong Kong horror cinema, and The Midnight After (2014), a supernatural allegory of post-handover Hong Kong based on the web-novel Lost on a Red Minibus to Taipo.

Fruit Chan’s films form a strong thread that flows through the trajectory of Hong Kong cinema from the 90s to the present. He is a versatile filmmaker that has broken resistance from mixed receptions from audiences and critics to sustain his body of work that has always harboured a strong interest in the complexity of Hong Kong. His recent documentary My City (2015) explores the heritage of Hong Kong through the eyes of a poet. 

Besides filmmaking, he is also an actor, producer and scriptwriter. He is a regular at the Singapore International Film Festival where The Longest Summer was screened in its 12th edition and Hollywood Hong Kong in its 15th edition. He is also the scriptwriter for Bugis Street (Yon Fan, 1995), which was screened at the 26th SGIFF.

Little Cheung (细路祥)

Hong Kong / 1999 / 118 min / Cantonese

A heartrending coming of age drama layered with nuanced political subtext that moves gently with veracity and earnestness.

In the triad neighbourhoods of Kowloon, Little Cheung helps out at his father’s restaurant. When he encounters a little immigrant girl, Fan, they spend the summer delivering food to triad members and embarking on an ill-advised quest to find Little Cheung’s estranged brother. As the shadow of Hong Kong’s handover looms overhead, it is a summer of innocence lost.Closing out Fruit Chan’s Handover trilogy, Little Cheung is a trenchant social-realist drama that ponders upon Hong Kong’s political complexities through the eyes of its charismatic nine-year old lead. Crisscrossing stories of immigrants, gangsters and native Hong Kongers, the film plays out with a considered depth and vivacity. The stark reality of the city’s social dichotomies come to the fore with Chan’s neo-realist sensibilities as he constructs a brimming world of grimy survivalism.

Durian Durian (榴梿飘飘)

Hong Kong / 2000 / 116 min / Cantonese

A prostitute and an immigrant crosses paths in this tender introspection of hope and opportunity. 

On a three-month visa to Hong Kong, Shanghai-born Yan makes a hard living as a prostitute. She takes multiple showers a day in an attempt to excise the grime. Meanwhile, immigrant girl Fan lives on the sidestreets in fear, toiling as a dishwasher. When Yan’s pimp gets knocked out by a durian, it brings them together. But soon, Yan’s visa expires, and she is forced to return to her hometown.

Fruit Chan’s first film in his Prostitution trilogy is a poetic and poignant rumination of the downtrodden poverty of the city-state. He juxtaposes life in the two cities of Mongkok and Shanghai through alternating visual kineticism and languidity. The economic burdens weighs down on their shoulders, guiding their actions which serve as a reflection of contemporary Asian afflictions. Despite it all, optimism arises. 

Dumplings (饺子)

Hong Kong / 2004 / 91 min / Cantonese

A genre masterwork that blends subversive social realism with deliciously thrilling horror reinventions.

Mrs. Lee (Miriam Yeung) is on a quest for youth and beauty. With a philandering husband (Tony Leung Ka-fai) and a desire for children, she visits enigmatic chef Mei (Bai Ling), known for her rejuvenating dumplings. Soon, she is hooked. But the dumplings hide a terrible secret, and the price to pay may be too high. 

Fruit Chan’s gourmet horror film is a treat for the senses, unravelling twisted threads with loving culinary deliciousness. A knife slicing through supple meat, the delicious crunch of the dumpling, the ecstasy of the aftertaste – all captured through gorgeously lensed visuals by Christopher Doyle. Dumplings is a film that crawls under your skin, as Chan deftly twists the narrative into an insidious brew of stomach churning moral quandaries, coalescing into a chilling and unforgettable finale.

The Midnight After (那夜凌晨,我坐上了旺角开往大埔的红 VAN)

Hong Kong / 2014 / 124 min / Cantonese Hong Kong / 1999 / 118 min / Cantonese

Hong Kong gets a post-apocalyptic makeover in this campy caper featuring a raucous ensemble cast.

Seventeen people get on a minibus in Hong Kong, travelling from Mongkok to Tai Po. After going through a tunnel, strange occurrences start to happen around them: once crowded streets become deserted, a couple of passengers get offed through mysterious circumstances, plus the appearance of a strange figure in a gas mask and many other oddities. Is it the end of the world as we know it for our motley crew?

Based on a viral web novel by a Hong Kong writer with the quirky moniker of Mr. Pizza, The Midnight After is a crazy escapade brimming with horror and comedy in its most absurd – a postmodern treatise on the people and spaces in Hong Kong that baffles in tandem with the complexity of its collectivity.

My City (他们在岛屿写作:我城)

Hong Kong / 2015 / 121 min / Cantonese

Fruit Chan’s debut documentary feature is a warm and quirky insight into the life of Xi Xi, one of Hong Kong’s most beloved writers.

Hong Kong poet and author, Xi Xi, started writing in the 1950s. With her rich and profound writing style, she found her place in the hearts of many bibliophiles through her novels and more, drawn from everyday places and neighbourhoods. 

As Fruit Chan’s first foray into documentary filmmaking, My City becomes not just a portrait of a writer, but also that of Hong Kong. Through interviews with Xi Xi and the people who know her, Fruit Chan paints an image of an ever-changing city that still manages to retain its essence and authenticity. Playful, poetic and engaging, this docu-film transcends the love letter format as a paean to someone’s homeland. My City had its world premiere at the Hong Kong Film Festival in 2015.

Annex E: About The Mobfathers

The Mobfathers (选老顶) 

Hong Kong / 2015 / 121 min / Cantonese

Bloody and mayhem is infused with a measure of social consciousness in Herman Yau’s eccentric take on Hong Kong’s gangster genre.

Director Herman Yau’s latest film stars comedian Chapman To as Chuck, a lifelong member of the Jing Hing Triads, and Anthony Wong as the titular dailou (Big Boss) of the organisation. Upon his release from prison after a gang fight, Chuck gets thrown into an election in a bid to become the triad’s successor. In the meantime, he tries to reintegrate with his family, who have gotten used to life without him. 

Combining swashbuckling action with To’s signature humour, The Mobfathers leads us into the underbelly of Hong Kong’s sociopolitical fabric by amplifying the triad genre’s tropes to outlandishly comedic proportions. Still, Yau’s trademark is evident throughout – balancing commercial entertainment with political commentary, providing a thinly disguised allegory of Hong Kong’s relationship with China, as well as dreams of democracy.