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!)