Sunday, April 8, 2007

My 2007 HKIFF viewing experiences (1)

Back on 27th February, I made my first mention of the 31st Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) on this blog. At the time, I wasn't sure whether I'd be attending this year's HKIFF. However, as I made clear about a month later, I did eventually give in to the temptation and soon after all sixteen of the film screenings I wanted to attend, my hotel accommodation and flights to and back from Hong Kong had been booked, off I headed for a week's worth of intensive HKIFF-ing!

Now, as I write this latest blog entry, I realize that some seventy-two hours have already passed since I went in to the
Hong Kong Cultural Centre's awesome Grand Theatre to attend my final screening of the 2007 HKIFF. Consequently, my sense is that enough time has passed for me to have "decompressed" and thus feel able to write at some length about my past week's viewing experiences.

Before proceeding to do so though, here's pointing out to interested readers that the 2007 HKIFF was the third Hong Kong International Film Festival that I've attended (and that my report of last year's HKIFF -- which contains some mention of my experiences at the 2005 HKIFF -- can be found over here.) Also, that I'm envisioning that my account of this year's HKIFF is going to run over at least three blog entries and days -- because, yes, there really is that much that I think is worthy of recounting and reporting! ;)

Something else that this blog's readers might wish to know is that the focus of my report(s) will very much be on films viewed (rather than such as the socializing done and other activities enacted while in Hong Kong on my part). And this despite it being so that I'd agree with a friend's assessment of a good film festival experience as one during which participants enjoy their film viewing experiences but also have ample opportunity to meet up with fellow film fan friends and enjoy the (other) attractions that the host city has to offer.

Anyways, without further ado, here beginneth an account -- in viewing order -- of the sixteen films whose screenings I attended in Hong Kong between 30th March and 4th April of this year:-

Nanking (U.S.A., 2007)
Humanitarian Awards for Documentaries entry
Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman, directors
With Hugo Armstrong, Woody Harrelson, Mariel Hemingway, Jurgen Prochnow, Stephen Dorff, Rosalind Chao, Sonny Saito, etc.

On 13th December, 1937
, Nanjing (then the capital city of China, and known in English as Nanking) fell to the Japanese Imperial Army. During the Japanese occupation of the Chinese city, numerous atrocities were perpetuated. Collectively, they became known as the Nanking Massacre.

In 1997, some sixty years after
the rape of Nanjing, Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II was published. Now, ten years later, comes this chilling documentary film which is dedicated to the late author's memory and seeks to continue her efforts to make this heinous event known to the world as well as stand "as a testament to the courage and conviction of individuals who were determined to act in the face of evil and [also as] a powerful tribute to the resilience of the Chinese people" (31st HKIFF Catalogue, 2007:48).

I'm not sure how this film will play in the West and many other parts of the world which lie far away from East Asia. What I can attest to, however, is that it found a very receptive audience at the screening that I attended (and which also was attended by the work's two directors and one of its producers).

Also, that I may not have been moved to tears on account of having been somewhat prepared for what unfolded on the screen by way of having read Iris Chang's book but that I couldn't help but be affected by some of the filmed personal accounts that I did feel like I was hearing for the very first time as well as the audible sobbing of the woman sitting to my right at the screening.

My rating for the film: 8.0

The Bimo Records (Mainland China, 2006)
Humanitarian Awards for Documentaries entry
Yung Rui, director
Tian Zhuangzhuang, producer

This offering that was four years in the making seeks to capture on film the world of the Bimo, the priest-shamans of the Yi ethnic minority who reside in the Daliang Mountain region of Sichuan Province.

In particular, it focuses its gaze on three Bimos of varying age and credibility: the eldest of whom is reduced to visiting a government hospital for medical treatment; the youngest of whom is more local politico than traditional religious leader; and the third of whom is a four-times married middle-aged man who continues to practice his traditional craft and command the respect of members of the Yi community.

Viewing this almost too polished and expertly-shot work, many of whose scenes feel too staged to be truly authentic, I found myself seriously doubting that it's really a documentary like it's billed as being. Two other things which disturbed me about this film was the feeling that it is guilty of over-exoticizing a non-Han people plus is over-willing to provide detailed confirmation of
Karl Marx's suggestion that "religion is the opium of the masses".

Consequently, visually interesting this offering undeniably is but at the end of the day, I have to admit that, more than anything else, its content and apparent accompanying message(s) got me worried -- and in ways that the filmmakers may not have sought for a viewer of their work to be.

My rating for this film: 5.0

(To be continued tomorrow as this entry may already be too long for some readers' liking!)


Anonymous said...

I was thinking the entry isn't long enough.....Enjoyed reading your write ups of the movies and look forward to more. Your readers can be very demanding...hehe

Willow said...

good stuff!

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Don't worry, there's definitely more to come. And hooray for readers who want more rather than less! :)

Hi Willow --

Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

To anonymous,

If you believe the youtube pictures are correct you should identify yourself by name.

This is similar to the Holocaust denial. The question is not whether these youtube pictures show Japanese killed innocent Chinese civilians but whether Japanese killed innocent Chinese civilians.

YTSL said...

To "anonymous" --

Normally I don't mind "anonymous" comments but yours aren't even really personalized comments and, rather, just links to various youtube clips (none of which I've gone and checked, BTW).

Consequently, unless you respond to this post within the next 24 hours or so, I will consider it to be spam -- rather than a genuine attempt at commenting and/or start of a discussion -- and delete your comments from this thread.

At the same time, should you be one of those who denies that the Nanking Massacre occured -- and was perpetuated by members of the Japanese Imperial Army on Chinese people (who were civilians for the most part) -- then I'd suggest that you check out NANKING: the documentary film which I viewed at the HKIFF, and one which featured interviews from Japanese soldiers who were there and had done some killing (and, at least in one case, raping) of their own.

Also, for the record, two wrongs don't make a right. So even as I acknowledge that members of the People's Liberation Army have gunned down civilians (cf. the Tiananmen Massacre), that by no means render the actions of the Japanese armed forces at Nanking somehow excusable.

eliza bennet said...

Welcome back YTSL and consider me one of your readers who didn't find this post long enough!!! Very eager to read more of your thoughts on the films you have seen :)

YTSL said...

Hi "eliza bennet" --

Here's a compromise that I think should work: i.e., I'll keep my posts to not more than 20(!) paragraphs but will now devote more posts towards my 2007 HKIFF report than my originally envisioned three. In any event, hope that you and others will continue to enjoy reading my thoughts about the films I saw there. :)

Anonymous said...


We are bloggers from HK, our site aims at linking all HKIFF-related posts so that more bloggers and film buffs would have access to these writings. This post has been linked to us.

Anonymous said...

our site:

Anonymous said...

the link is here:

YTSL said...

Hi "mad dog" --

Good to hear from you and thank you for noticing and linking to one of my HKIFF entries.

FYI, I actually am doing a series of blog posts on the films I viewed at the HKIFF. You might also like to know that there’s an Alta Vista Babel Fish device on my blog which translates pages into Chinese along with Japanese, Korean, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info. i think most hong kong bloggers would feel comfortable to read english writings on hkiff too.

YTSL said...

Hi again "mad dog" --

Am glad to hear that you think that most Hong Kong bloggers would be comfortable reading English writings. I just wish I were able to read (their) Chinese language pieces about the HKIFF and other matters! ;S

Anonymous said...

It seems like the Asian community in the United States has no problem with Japan being portrayed heroically in World War II.

Outstanding Film: Letters from Iwo Jima

Nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima tells the untold story of the Japanese soldiers who defended their homeland against invading American forces during World War II. With little defense other than sheer will and the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima itself, the unprecedented tactics of General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai) and his men transform what was predicted to be a swift defeat into nearly 40 days of heroic and resourceful combat. Their sacrifices, struggles, courage and compassion live on in the taut, gripping film Rolling Stone calls “unique and unforgettable.” It is the powerful companion to Flags of our Fathers.


I am not one to hold a grudge but the Japanese used Chinese citizens for chemical warfare testing. The Chinese still haven’t forgiven them for that.

And somehow American history has lost the stories of how the Japanese treated American Prisoners of War

And how about the Rape of Nanking?

But, no to Clint Eastwood (and I guess the American Asian Community who honored his film) the Japanese soldiers were merely defending their homeland against those mean olde invading American imperialists.

Clint Eastwood is a traitor to America who has denigrated all those who fought in the Pacific as merely racist imperialists going after the yellow men instead of the liberators of Asia which they really were.

I spit on Clint Eastwood! No wonder Hollyweird can’t distinguish the good guys from the bad guys in Iraq when they can’t even do that when it comes to the Japanese in World War II.

By the way, on the Truth Serum video, of course I disagree with the whole part accusing Bush or America covering it up in order to get access to the scientific research that the Japanese inhumanly performed. That is just insane.

But everything else on that Truth Serum video seems historically accurate. If that isn’t the case, I would really appreciate someone educating me to the inaccuracies in the video.

I do wonder why we didn’t after World War II convict Japanese of War Crimes to the extent we did the Germans. They Japanese did terrible things to AMERICAN POWs. From my understanding the Japanese treated American POWs far worst by and large than the Germans did. And then of course there was the way they treated the Asian Civilian communities they invaded. They never seemed to be personally held accountable for it the way the Germans were the Holocaust.

YTSL said...

Hello there anonymous --

I'm not going to comment at length re your very heartfelt comments. However, I have to register my unease re generalizations like "the Asian community", "the Chinese", etc. Yes, these may be groups and communities but there also are individuals within them and a whole range of opinions which can be masked by over-generalization.

Also, to some extent, I understand as well as know where you're coming from. At the same time though, my distinct sense is that not everyone in America has forgotten -- and every Chinese has not -- the way that you're suggesting.

Additionally, as far as my own feeling and relations with regards to Japanese people and Japan, etc. is concerned: I most definitely am aware of past war atrocities (and I include those inflicted on civilians during war time). My grandparents and parents lived through the Japanese occupation, after all.

At the same time, there's also a feeling of not only needing to move on but also that for the most part, the Japanese today are quite a bit different -- sometimes amazingly so, in fact -- from the Japanese of some 60-something, etc. years ago. And so much so that, as an example, I was able to have a civil and educational conversation with a Japanese friend about "Nanking" -- the film as well as what it depicted -- just a few days after having viewed it.