We present the winners of the Hong Kong – Asian Film Financing Forum (HAF) which took place from March 14 – 16, 2022 in Hong Kong.
IDP Award (Hong Kong Project)
A primary school in North Point, 1998. Fifth grader girl Ace and transfer student Lee are the only boarding students living with Ms. Tam, a retired teacher, in the basement underneath the schoolyard. When a super typhoon calls for early dismissal at school, the two unearth a supernatural phenomenon that transports them 20 years into the future. On a sunny afternoon, they wander around the neighbourhood and encounter “The Boredom Triplet”, three outcasts from neighbouring girls’ schools. Along the way, Ace secretly discovers that Lee is already dead in this present. Overcome with fear, she strays from the pack and wails on the street. As another typhoon arrives, she finds Lee from her present and runs with him back to their school.
Back to their present, Ace and Lee both keep their time travel secret, while Ace withholds the other secret. But soon after, everything changes with the demolishment of the basement, and Ace and Lee must take diverging paths. In this ever-changing city, love and hope may have become diminished, but one can always find a fifth grader girl, swirling in different years, running fearlessly to rescue her best friend. (HAF 2022)
IDP Award (Non-Hong Kong Project)
Sun Yao is a 30-year-old screenwriter, a northern drifter and a nerd. Unable to finish writing anything for a long time, he falls into a slump. Ding Yi was Sun Yao’s college classmate and is now a producer. Determined to help Sun Yao out of his predicament, Ding Yi proposes to go on a trip to search for inspiration.
The two of them embark on the trip, not knowing that on the other side, Sun Yao’s characters—a pair of killers and a prostitute—have also decided to get out of the rotten building they are trapped in and search for their author. After arriving at the southern town, Sun Yao has trouble acclimatising. To make matters worse, Peng Peng, the local driver hired by Ding Yi, is a naturally talented storyteller. Sun Yao becomes both envious and jealous of him.
The research is progressing poorly, as Sun Yao simply cannot find material that he would find helpful to the story. Meanwhile, the assassins and the prostitute gradually find people connected to Sun Yao using limited clues, piecing together Sun Yao’s profile and the reason for his inability to finish the story. Eventually, Sun Yao and his characters meet. The border between fiction and reality becomes blurred… (HAF 2022)
Lao Liu, a tourist from a foreign land, finds a mysterious woman in a deep pit in a dense forest. When the woman inexplicably disappears, Lao Liu follows her trail to the town of Silent Ghosts. He meets different men of different ages—each with their own secrets—who all claim to have met a mysterious woman. The identity of the woman is different for different people; she is a love affair, a memory, a wife and a lover. For Lao Liu, this shadowy mystery woman is like his own soul, tempting him to keep pursuing her.
This may be a spooky story, but it is also about the mind. Entering a small town by mistake and falling deep into it, not knowing how to return…isn’t that what reality is like? (HAF 2022)
Taipei Film Commission Award
Every time he enters a foreign space, penetrating or penetrated, he wears a new identity. It seems like he can only be honest about himself with a forged persona. Sometimes he meets his hook-ups again. Most of the time he does not. These encounters leave no trace in their lives. Yet they hold onto one another in this difficult time.
These sex partners come from all walks of life: An English teacher, a Thai karaoke server, a Pakistani deliveryman, a Brazilian chef, a Taiwanese flight attendant and a retired American banker. They all reside in different homes in this defective city of Hong Kong.
In this queer time and place, they discuss love and loss, monogamy and promiscuity, riots and peace, oppression and choices, insanity and numbness, to stay or to leave; they argue over notions of sovereignty, resistance and liberation. In today’s Hong Kong, these topics become very mundane.
They have sex, hold or fail to hold conversations after sex, then they part. He wanders the streets and quietly observes until he encounters the next man. His reality becomes so absurd it might blend with nightmares and memories. In the end, everything always comes full circle. (HAF 2022)
Wouter Barendrecht Award
Forty-something housewife Tam discovers her husband’s affair and decides to cast a spell, hoping she can voodoo him back into love. Her daughter Ha begs Tam to get a divorce instead, but Tam ignores Ha’s warnings and installs the spell in her room. The spell seems to work at first, but it also ends up awakening the House Spirit. It first appears as an innocent dark spot on the ceiling, but it gradually grows into something hideous.
Meanwhile, Ha is also dealing with her own trauma and the fear of turning into her mother. However, Tam is oblivious because she is too busy trying to fix her marriage even as her instinct says that it’s over. Reality finally slaps Tam in the face when her husband’s pregnant lover shows up at the door. Desperate for an escape, Tam is swallowed by the House Spirit, which has consumed the entire ceiling.
Ha returns home to find her mother retreated into a cocoon on the ceiling, refusing to come out. Finally, Ha decides to save her mother in the only way she knows as a daughter. (HAF 2022)
Network of Asia Fantastic Films (NAFF) Award
In present-day Bangkok, Mit and May, a father and his teenage daughter, move into a house in a run-down suburb populated mostly by Thai Muslims. Troubled by guilt after the death of his wife, Mit wants a new start. But when he digs a hole in the land to build a Buddhist home shrine, he unleashes the ghosts that have been locked up there since the founding of the capital 200 years ago, when Malay Muslim slaves were transported from the South to Bangkok. The ghosts terrorise the family, especially targeting Mit, whose mind is burdened by sadness and guilt. As tension rises between the newcomers and their Muslim neighbours, May has to step up to save the family. She asks a monk for help, but the monk admits that Islamic curses are beyond his expertise. As Mit faces a fatal threat from the ghosts, May receives unexpected help from Heem, the only neighbour she can trust. Together they travel to Pattani, a province in Thailand’s “Deep South” with a heavy military presence, to ask a Muslim witch doctor to help her in Bangkok. The final exorcism will unlock many dark secrets about the land. (HAF 2022)
Udine Focus Asian Award
White Light Post-Production Award
Gul and Sas are santris (Islamic students) living and studying in an all-male Islamic board-ing school (pesantren) led by the charismatic Kyai Wahab. The school is located on the outskirts of a small town that thrives on illegal gold mining. The boys’ ability to recite the Quran beautifully makes them Kyai Wahab’s favourites. On the other hand, they are despised by Kyai Wahab’s younger brother Rozak, who runs the boarding house with overbearing control. He physically punishes santris who break the rules and sexually abuses some of them.
Gul is in love with a young prostitute named Rabina, unaware that Sas is harbouring romantic feelings for him. Rozak’s abuse of power with the young students goes out of control, and the situation in the pesantren worsens with Kyai Wahab’s untimely death. Rozak also gets more deeply involved with the gold mine gangsters, who has power over the prostitution business that Rabina works in. To make matters worse, Rozak vents his hatred towards Gul by exploiting Sas.
In the end, Gul must bring down Rozak and the mafia to take Rabina and Sas away from the godforsaken town. Unfortunately, one has to be left behind. (HAF 2022)
White Light Post-Production Award
Seventeen-year-old Uri screws up his first interview in the army. He tells his examiner the truth about his complicated home life, about not being able to be with a lot of people in the same room, and about only being able to pee when he’s alone.
Uri has to deal with his family falling apart, the realisation that he has no place in his father’s new life, and having no privacy at home after his mother moved into his room. Uri wants to break free from his parents’ emotional and physical hold. He wants to make room for himself and have a room of his own.
At the same time, Uri likes the idea of having his mother beside him at night. He likes lying down in their shared bed, reading a book under the nightlight, with his eyes following the lines until they slowly shut. (HAF 2022)
“HAF Goes to Cannes° Shortlisted Projects
A Room of His Own | Israel
Director: Matan Yair
Producer: Maya Fischer
Silent Ghost | Hong Kong
Director: Yang Heng
Producer: Yan Ni
The Spark | India
Director: Rajesh S. Jala
Producers: Rajesh S. Jala, Prayas Deepti
The Sunny Side of the Street | Hong Kong
Director: Lau Kok Rui
Producers: Vinod Sekhar, Winnie Tsang, Soi Cheang, Peter Yam
The Vessel’s Isle | Mainland China
Director: Wang Di
Producer: Xu Ruijing
For more information about the HAF please visit: https://industry.hkiff.org.hk/en/