For those wanting to keep up with new talent in the Hong Kong film scene, the Fresh Wave International Short Film Festival is a great place to look. Fresh Wave's local component each year sees emerging and student filmmakers handed limited production budgets and, with established directors serving as mentors, shooting narrative works about 30 minutes long. The results screened at the festival often impress, as this introductory selection of 2010 and 2011 Fresh Wave films demonstrates.
2010; 35'; Dir: Mo Lai
After taking the overall prize in the 2010 Fresh Wave competition, Mo Lai’s 1+1 went on to limited theatrical release in Hong Kong last year. The film follows a very young girl and her grandfather, who live in a village that's about to be demolished to make way for a railway project. Together the pair roam the streets of Hong Kong, placing auspicious bamboo at various places of historical note to offer blessings. In the background throughout is a local hot topic - the pair’s village, Choi Yuen Tsuen, was eventually cleared last year - and Lai shows a deft hand in presenting cross-generational themes of heritage conservation in a charming, accessibly pop style.
THE DECISIVE MOMENT
2010; 36'; Dir: Wong Wai-kit
In Wong Wai-kit's ambitious documentary-style short, an elderly photographer is brought back into the news business after years away from the daily picture chase. Holding the old man back from taking good news photos, however, are memories of a traumatic on-the-job episode from his past. Wong ably steers his film to combine a personal journey with themes of media ethics, and uses micro-budget effects to remarkably strong use. The filmmaking is so assured that audiences may puzzle over how much of the story is true.
JULY 1ST, AN UNHAPPY BIRTHDAY
2011; 26'; Dir: Li Miao
When a young man and his girlfriend join Hong Kong's annual July 1 protest march in Li Miao's mockumentary July 1st, An Unhappy Birthday, things don't go as planned. It's the first anniversary of their relationship, but their day out in the heat and crowds sees their happy partnership come under threat. Setting the narrative amid scenes of mass protest, Li threads together the political and the personal. Armed too with disarmingly natural performances, the short film becomes one that’s unique, audacious and thoroughly enjoyable.
2011; 26'; Dir: Li Yin-fung
Fresh Wave isn't all about social and political works - relationship stories get a good run too. As Li Yin-fung's pop and upbeat Sew begins, viewers meet a bitchy cosplay fangirl living with her granny. The girl initially has no respect for the old lady, who sits sewing all day, but things change for the better when Grandma goes out of her way to make a costume and delivers it to a downtown cosplay club. Li pulls off a fine turnaround in making the protagonist likeable and delivers a clear story arc, and the subculture scenes she captures onscreen come in as a bonus.