15 Films you shouldn’t miss at the 47th Hong Kong International Film Festival

These are fifteen films you shouldn’t miss at the Hong Kong International Film Festival which will take place onsite and online from March 30 until April 10, 2023.

A Holy Family by Elvis Lu – Taiwan | 2022 – 87 minutes

Despite their devotion to religion, director Elvis Lu’s family is not exempt from hardships. His father is a gambling addict, his brother’s crop of cherry tomatoes has been decimated by flooding, and his mother can only lean on the gods for solace. Yet, A Holy Family does more than question religion; it’s a remarkably bittersweet yet intensely personal portrait of reconciliation that shows how we are inextricably linked to our roots, and it may change how you see cherry tomatoes forever. Grand Prize and Best Documentary, Taipei Film Festival. (HKIFF 2023)


Absence by Wu Lang – China | 2023 – 101 minutes

After a ten-year stint in prison, Yu returns to his seaside hometown. Kai, the man whom Yu took the fall for, is now a successful businessman, while his former lover Hong, is now the mother of a young daughter. To compensate for his long absence, Yu tries to rekindle his past relationship with Hong. Filled with delicately framed images that use space to express alienation and closeness, Wu Lang’s Berlinale-selected drama is a dreamy, poetic and ultimately contemplative romantic tale, saturated with melancholy and tenderness. (HKIFF 2023)


Autobiography by Makbul Mubarak – Indonesia, France, Singapore, Poland | 2022 – 115 minutes

Young Rakib finds himself torn between loyalty and morality after he falls into the service of a ruthless general. With his father in prison and his brother overseas, he has been left alone to care for General Purna’s mansion. When he returns to stage a re-election campaign, Rakib is soon taken under the general’s wing, only to find himself drawn into a world where corruption and violence are second nature, especially for those in positions of power and authority. Mubarak’s impressive debut is an engrossing mood piece about the loss of innocence under military dictatorship. FIPRESCI Prize, Orizzonti, Venice. (HKIFF 2023)


Bad Education by Kai Ko – Taiwan | 2022 – 77 minutes

Actor Kai Ko begins his directorial career with this shockingly violent comedy written by novelist-turned-blockbuster director Giddens Ko and co-produced by The Road to Mandalay director Midi Z. On the night of their high school graduation, three young men start a misjudged game of one-upmanship that puts them in the path of gangsters. Eventually, they will receive a truly unforgettable lesson. A simple story told with propulsive energy and macabre humour, the former Golden Horse Best New Performer winner proves himself to be a promising talent behind the camera as well. Best Supporting Actor, Golden Horse Awards. (HKIFF 2023)


Coo-Coo 043 by Chan Ching-Lin – Taiwan | 2022 – 135 minutes

For years, Master Ching invested his entire life into pigeon racing, but his obsession comes at the price of his family’s well-being. When an orphan who steals race pigeons enters his daughter’s life, it also brings back memories of Ching’s son, whose unresolved disappearance remains a thorn in the family’s side. Winner of Best Film and Best New Performer at the Golden Horse Awards, this piercing domestic working-class drama depicts a tyrannical patriarch whose desperation for glory pushes everyone he loves away, who, like his race pigeons, will never return. (HKIFF 2023)


Flotsam and Jetsam by Chang Tso-Chi – Taiwan | 2022 – 98 minutes

Director Chang Tso-Chi (Thanatos, Drunk, 39th) once again probes the complexities of fractured families and aftermath of trauma with his latest film. Since his wife fell into a coma, You-Ming has been raising his three adult sons by himself. The family’s languorous life is interrupted when a stranger arrives and claims You-Ming is her biological father. Chang, who earned his sixth Golden Horse Best Director nomination with this film, uses the serene seaside landscape to disguise the intense emotional undercurrents bubbling beneath his tale of redemption and regret. (HKIFF 2023)


In Water by Hong Sang-soo – Korea | 2023 – 61 minutes

Planning to make a short film, a young actor together with the cameraman and the female lead arrive at the coast of Jeju Island. As he wanders around searching for inspiration, he finds a young woman picking up the trash alone, and this encounter becomes his story to tell. Beyond his slow cinema style aesthetic, Hong adds to this intimate and poetic story another fascinating abstraction, crafting every image like an impressionist painting with an out-of focus lens. Imagery may be obscure but vision even sharper, Hong returns to the Berlinale with his fourth consecutive film. (HKIFF 2023)


Mountain Woman by Fukunaga Takeshi – Japan, USA | 2022 – 97 minutes

In the midst of a devastating famine, a village is starving to the point of despair. Banished for a crime committed generations earlier, Rin’s family bears the brunt of the villagers’ frustrations. When her father is accused of theft, Rin escapes into the mountains, where she is rescued by a shaggy hermit known only as the Mountain Man. Contrasting the brutality of the story with serene scenes of nature and a dash of magical realism, this bleak but beautifully lensed drama shows how humanity’s darkness knows no bounds in desperate times.(HKIFF 2023)


Plan 75 by Hayakawa Chie – Japan, France, Philippines, Qatar | 2022 -113 minutes

After the success of 2015’s speculative Hong Kong anthology Ten Years, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda oversaw a similar project in his homeland. Hayakawa’s segment, which envisions a near-future where voluntary euthanasia is promoted to the elderly in an effort to curb the country’s ageing population, has now been expanded to feature length. Focusing on the lives of three disparate individuals, an elderly woman considering the plan, a young salesman working for the company, and a migrant worker from the Philippines, Hayakawa delivers a poignant rumination on the value of human life. Cannes Camera d’Or Special Mention.(HKIFF 2023)


Project Wolf Hunting by Kim Hong-sun – Korea | 2022 – 122 minutes

When a boatload of Korea’s most dangerous criminals break free and assume control of the vessel shipping them back to their homeland, the excitement is only just beginning in Kim Hong-sun’s (The Con Artists, 2014) viscerally entertaining thriller. What starts as a Korean take on 90’s action favourite Con Air soon escalates into an unfeasibly violent tale of desperate law enforcers facing off against cartoonishly hostile villains, led by a gratuitously tattooed Seo In-guk, until fistfights give way to unspeakable horrors lurking in the bowels below. (HKIFF 2023)


Seventeeners by Prithvi Konanur – India | 2022 – 123 minutes

The inherent corruption and biases in India’s education system are laid bare in this compelling new drama from the director of Where’s Pinki? (45th). When two highschoolers foolishly make a sex tape on campus, which is then leaked online, the school board assembles a committee to decide their fates. But Hari and Deepa are from different castes, and when this difference is reflected in the committee’s pitifully unfair ruling, it sends shockwaves through the families of both children, leading to tragic, life-altering outcomes. (HKIFF 2023)


Stonewalling by Huang Ji, Otsuka Ryuji – Taiwan | 2022 – 148 minutes

Twenty-year-old Lynn ascends the path of upward mobility until she unexpectedly falls pregnant. Indecisive about an abortion, the dutiful daughter decides to offer her baby in lieu of financial compensation for her mother’s medical malpractice. As she is about to go into labour during the coronavirus pandemic, the debtor suddenly gets cold feet. Through the lens of one woman’s experience, husband-and-wife filmmaking team Otsuka Ryuji and Huang Ji, Tiger Award winner for her debut feature Egg and Stone (2012), examine the new gig economy and grey market norms of modern-day China. (HKIFF 2023)


The Hotel by Wang Xiaoshuai – Taiwan | 2022 – 105 minutes

When he was stuck in a hotel in northern Thailand with his filmmaker friends at the start of the pandemic, director Wang Xiaoshuai (So Long My Son, 2019) decided to make a pandemic film of his own. Shot in 14 days with a Thai production crew locked down in Chiang Mai, this chamber piece follows several Chinese tourists who are trapped in a hotel due to travel restrictions, capturing their desires, jealousy, and ennui that arise over time. Wang returns to his indie roots with his guerilla-style low budget filmmaking, and delivers a unique story that is at once raw, playful, and inventive. (HKIFF 2023)

The Shadowless Tower by Zhang Lu – Taiwan | 2022 – 144 minutes

In an early scene of Zhang Lu’s Berlinale competition film, a man tells the protagonist to try walking backwards for his health. This action of looking ahead while moving backwards sums up this pensive tale about one polite man’s mid-life crisis. Not long after his mother’s death, a divorced food critic is given a note with his long-estranged father’s address. While contemplating an overdue reunion, he has an ambiguous relationship with a young photographer. Over its leisurely paced narrative, Zhang plants numerous motifs that reward attentive viewers with surprisingly emotional payoffs. (HKIFF 2023)

You & Me & Me by Wanweaw Hongvivatana, Weawwan Hongvivatana – Thailand | 2023 – 121 minutes

Inseparable twin sisters You and Me are used to sharing everything, but what happens when they fall for the same boy that neither is willing to give up? Weaving a complex love triangle set in simpler times, directors and twin sisters Wanweaw and Weawwan Hongvivatana create a winning mix of nostalgia, likeable performances – especially Baipor’s star-making dual turn as the twins – and an adorable tale of sisterhood. With another crowdpleasing box office hit on their hands, blockbuster studio GDH once again proves why it is Thai cinema’s longest-reigning hit maker. (HKIFF 2023)


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