26 Films you cannot miss at the 43rd Hong Kong International Film Festival (Part 1)

We present a list of twenty-six films you shouldn’t miss at the 43rd Hong Kong International Film Festival which will take place from March 18th to April 1st, 2019 in the city of Hong Kong.


Alpha, The Right to Kill by Brillante Mendoza – Philippines | 2018 – 94 min.

Laying down his empathetic lens from Ma’ Rosa (41st), Filipino filmmaker Mendoza axes social realism in a tough, rumbling drug-war thriller. In a SWAT-led police raid to crack down the biggest drug lord in Manila that ends with dead bodies, a cop and his informant walk off with a backpack full of money and drugs, into a web of risk and peril. A police celebratory parade at the opening and closing make Mendoza’s political statement high and loud. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.

March 28th | Thursday | MCL Telford Cinema | 7:30 pm
March 31st | Sunday | Festival Grand Cinema | 5:00 pm



Blue Hour

Blue Hour by Hakota Yuko – Japan | 2018 – 92 min.

Takahata Isao’s animated artistry in Only Yesterday (1991) comes to life in Hakota Yuko’s delicate story of a woman’s mnemonic journey. Trapped in her anemic career and love relationship, a 30-year-old TV commercial director returns to her countryside home in the company of a free-spirited girl friend. In a bittersweet reunion with an alienated family, her childhood memories of freedom and yearnings creep in the dreamlike blue hour, transcending into a lyricism of self-realization – at once whimsical, agonizing and yet hopeful.

March 28th | Thursday | The Metroplex | 5:00 pm
March 30th | Saturday | The Metroplex | 7:15 pm



Bulbul Can Sing

Bulbul Can Sing by Rima Das – India | 2018 – 95 min.

Following on her Village Rockstars (42nd), prize-winning director Rima Das – in her one-woman production team – continues her visceral coming-ofage dramas about a girl’s puberty blues, combining simplicity and realism. Despite failing in her father’s hopes for her to become a singer, Bulbul lives blissfully, hanging out in the fields and falling in love for the first time. But after she has endured the loss of a dear friend, she finally learns to sing for herself. Special Mention, Berlinale generation.

March 19th | Tuesday | The Sky | 9:45 pm
March 21st | Thursday | MCL Telford | 7:30 pm




Burning by Lee Chang-dong – South Korea | 2018 – 148 min.

Who is Hae-mi? What do we know of her past? Or her future? Lee skilfully transmutes a story by Murakami Haruki into a masterpiece of psychological tension in a multi-sided triangle in contemporary Korea. Does Jong-su love her? Understand her? Even trust her amidst her – and his – mobile entanglements with the equally mysterious Ben? After an eight-year hiatus, Lee Chan-dong returns to the screen with a film garnering critical interest and praise worldwide.

March 20th | Wednesday | Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre | 7:30 pm
The screening is followed by a dialogue with Lee Chang-dong and co-writer Oh Jung-mi.



The Crossing

The Crossing by Bai Xue – China | 2018 – 99 min.

Produced by Tian Zhuangzhuang, this bracingly real youth drama represents an astonishing debut for writer-director Bai Xue. 16-year-old Peipei smuggles iPhones across the Hong Kong-China border, bringing her a bounty in cash but also causing new conflicts. Bai Xue explores contemporary issues while spinning a uniquely local coming-of-age tale, discovering Huang Yao, whose expressiveness brings the young smuggler to life. Best Film and Best Actress in the Fei Mu Awards at the Pingyao International Film Festival.

March 20th | Wednesday | PREMIERE Elements | 7:45 pm
March 28th | Thursday | PREMIERE Elements | 4:45 pm



A Dog Barking at the Moon

A Dog Barking at the Moon by Xiang Zi – China | 2019 – 107 min.

Buried under the deep soil of Chinese family tradition, the secrets gradually sprout when the pregnant daughter returns home to visit her parents. A secret no one wants to admit; yet it was long exposed when the mother caught her husband with a young man. Refused to divorce, she looks to ominous sect for redemption; what she finds is bitterness and hatred in the mother-daughter relationship. A complex family saga unfolded in interwoven narrative strands, shooting up suppressed desire and ingrained regrets.

March 27th | Wednesday | PREMIERE Elements | 2:30 pm
March 30th | Saturday | PREMIERE Elements | 4:15 pm


a family tour

A Family Tour by Ying Liang – China | 2018 – 109 min.

Exiled dissident filmmaker Yang Shu attempts a family reunion when she arranges for her mother to travel from Sichuan to Taiwan for a sightseeing tour. Yang Shu follows the tour, but to avoid suspicion must pretend to be unrelated and can only see her mother during brief, secret moments. Himself a China exile, Ying Liang understands the complex emotions arising from family separation and political censure, and distills them into his humorous, thoughtful, and heartbreaking work.

March 22nd | Friday | Hong Kong Arts Center Louis Koo Cinema | 5:00 pm



First Night Nerves

First Night Nerves by Stanley Kwan – China | 2018 – 100 min.

Hong Kong New Wave icon Stanley Kwan assembles a powerhouse cast for his first full-length feature in nearly a decade. Cantopop A-listers Sammi Cheng and Gigi Leung play two leading actresses feuding amidst the behind-the-scenes chaos of their soon-to-open stage production. For his long-awaited return, Kwan smartly explores the disparate cultures of show business and sisterhood, giving voice to marginalized communities while commenting engagingly on the dismal state of art and film in Hong Kong.

March 27th | Wednesday | Hong Kong Cultural Centre | 7:00 pm
March 29th | Friday | Hong Kong City Hall | 7:15 pm



The Gold

The Gold-Laden Sheep and the Sacred Mountain by Ridham Janve
India | 2018 – 97 min.

Myth and film converge in the Himalayas in a film as strikingly different as its title. Immersing himself in the stories of the Gaddi shepherds and their harsh landscape, Janve introduces the element of a plane that may have crashed and rumors of onboard gold. This intrusion spurs the quest of the young shepherd Arjun even as the mountains and pacing of the film themselves challenge the impurity of his mission. An unforgettable experience of what cinema can be.

March 27th | Wednesday | The Metroplex | 4:45 pm
March 29th | Friday | The Metroplex | 7:15 pm



Graves Without a Name

Graves Without a Name by Rithy Panh – France, Cambodia | 2018 – 116 min.

Picking up where his Oscar-nominated The Missing Picture (2013) left off, Rithy Panh continues his profound journey into the lasting effects of the Cambodian genocide. Revolving around his search for the remains of his perished family, this touching and contemplative documentary, with mournfully beautiful images and poetic voiceover, provides a multilayered exploration of his personal trauma and spiritual redemption, and a deep probe into the “baksbat” (Khmer for “broken courage”) that haunts Cambodia’s past and present.

March 22nd | Friday | Festival Grand Cinema | 7:30 pm
March 30th | Saturday | The Metroplex | 9:45 pm



In the claws

In the Claws of a Century Wanting by Jewel Maranan
Philippines, Germany, Qatar | 2017 – 121 min.

A century ago, the city genre powerfully explored the images and rhythms of the modern metropolis. Today, indie documentarian Jewel Maranan turns her critical eye on the people of Tondo and their lives in the shadow of Manila’s ever-engulfing port to recast such urban visions in gripping human stories of violence, displacement and the human spirit. A vision that provides discordant notes for the 21st-century city of global inequality and brutal transformation

March 20th | Wednesday | The Metroplex | 9:30 pm
March 23rd | Saturday | Festival Grand Cinema | 5:00 pm



Innocent Witness

Innocent Witness by Lee Han – South Korea | 2019 – 129 min.

Seeking to clinch lucrative partner status at a renowned law firm, an ambitious lawyer must defend a suspect in a high-profile murder case in which the only witness is an autistic teenage girl. As the reclusive girl opens up, the lawyer rediscovers the true value of life. Celebrated star Jung Woo-sung and talented newcomer Kim Hyang-gi beautifully bring out the sensitivities of a complex yet simple relationship, adding flashes of care and warmth to a captivating courtroom drama.

March 20th | Wednesday | PREMIERE Elements | 9:15 pm
March 22nd | Friday | Jockey Club Auditorium, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University | 7:45 pm




Jesus by Okuyama Hiroshi – Japan | 2018 – 76 min.

A Jesus Christ like no one has seen before – in miniature but hyperactive form, He keeps company with a lonely boy who has to adjust to the new environment and a new Christian school after his family moves from Tokyo to the snowy countryside. Just as the boy starts to have faith in the power of the Lord, tragedy strikes, leaving him to question tiny Jesus’ role, while pondering life, religion and death. Winner of the New Director award, San Sebastian.

March 25th | Monday | The Metroplex | 7:30 pm
March 27th | Wednesday | MCL Telford Cinema | 9:45 pm


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