An impressive selection from young Hong Kong and Chinese filmmakers to look out for in the future…
Instigated by the founded by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in 2005, the Fresh Wave International Film Festival has built up a reputation as one of the best places to discover up and coming young talent. Initially held as part of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, it has more recently split to become a independent festival within its own right, featuring a selection of short movies from all over the world.
And if this first foray into their work is anything to go by, presented as part of the Pan-Asia Film Festival that reputation is well deserved… (Mise en Scéne watch out!)
Directors aged between 18 and 35 can participate, with a special section devoted to students. Each receives a grant of 40,000 HKD (roughly 3,500 GBP) to produce a short film of around 30 minutes, with mentoring from established and experienced directors like Mabel Cheung, Fruit Chan, Benny Chan and Herman Yau. Johnnie To, President of the Film and Media Arts Group at the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, has played a key role in raising the event’s profile.
Four films made up the first screening: Tam Wai-ching’s The Little One, Li Sum-yiet’s Flowers with Aphasia, Isabella Candice Lam’s On Sleepless Roads, The Sleepless Goes and Li Yushang’s Dong.
In The Little One (野犬與貓咪), a withdrawn boy falls for his stepsister (his step mum’s daughter from another marriage), their teenage angst-ridden yearning subsumed by an abusive father. Awarded for Fresh Wave Best Creativity Award (Student Division) 2012, Tam Wai-ching’s film was easily the lesser of the quartet.
deals well with the teens raw emotions, but layers more subplots than she can manage. Many add little to the sometimes messy end result, undeveloped in the short running time. The parting shot alludes to the fact that indeed both children hate their individual mothers far more than their abusive father for not protecting them. It’s an understandable perspective, but one that belies the fact that these women were victims too.
In Flowers with Aphasia (忘語花), a young boy asking for a custom floral arrangement – a teddy bear-shaped wreath with his favourite yellow flowers – visits a florist. Initially reluctant, the florist Tung strikes up an unlikely friendship with the boy, an encounter that leads him to finally confront his own bottled up grief.
Li Sum-yiet’s film took the prize for Best Film (Open Division) at Fresh Wave 2012, and was the audience favourite the night of Pan-Asia Film Festival screening, and it’s easy to see why. A touching story, tenderly told with humour and fantastic performances from the cast, it was pretty much impossible not to be moved.
In On Sleepless Roads, the Sleepless Goes (無眠夜行) the efforts of a good citizen go largely awry as he attempts to explain his actions to the police. A minvan driver, witnesses a crime and chases the robber down an alley and confronts him.
Winner of Fresh Wave Best Creativity Award (Open Division) 2012, Isabella Candice Lam’s is easily the most technically adept, with by an impressive electronic score. Though I have to admit to getting a little lost near the end, wondering if the editing had made the film denser than it needed to be.
Lastly came Dong (冬去), Li Yushan’s charming tale of two young Beijing Opera Students in Shenyang bound for securing a place performing in the capital, Dong and Nuannuan. Nuannuan has a crush on Dong, but as they develop a friendship, practicing together, Dong develops an infatuation for the girl’s young ‘aunt’.
For me the most cohesive of all the films, director Li Yushan has a keen, beautifully simple eye for composition. One shot, for instance, shows the two students practising in separate rooms through respective windows. Juxtaposed to the storyline are scenes of a lone black balloon floating away next to a kite, Dong’s memories of his mother.
Li implies much of this backstory subtly, with a fine script and great performances from the young cast. The backdrop of the tradition of Peking Opera is finely celebrated. (Just one subtlety that will be lost on Western audiences are the children’s names: Dong, meaning ‘winter’ in Chinese; and Nuannuan, literally meaning ‘warmth’.)
Li was awarded Best Film and Best Script (Student Division) at Fresh Wave 2012, rightfully deserved for a well-rounded and surprisingly considered film. (I have to admit that this film was my overall favourite, showing how ‘on the pulse’ my opinions were at the Pan-Asia screening! Ahem.)
The introduction implied that the association between Fresh Wave and the Pan-Asia Film Festival might continue in future years, and on the basis of the films shown I must say I hope it does – an impressive showcase for new talent!