Best of Hong Kong Film Week 12th-16th September

For the bulk of my childhood, my favourite movie in the whole world was Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. The film starred Jason-Scott Lee as his own father (which means he re-enacts his own conception – ew) and takes us from the streets of Hong Kong to Lee’s rise to international stardom. From this film stems precisely all of my knowledge about Hong Kong. And it’s an American movie.

If you’re like me, your knowledge of Hong Kong cinema won’t be much different. Westerners are forever finding themselves guilty of lumping all Asian cinema into the same bracket, and few of us investigate the cultural and stylistic differences between each. Luckily, the London Hong Kong Film Week is this September, so committed film buffs will no
longer have any excuse to delay their education in the Asian cultural giant that is Hongkongese cinema.

Often called the Hollywood of the East, Hong Kong has produced some of the most recognisable stars of Asian cinema, including Jet Li, Chow Yun-Fat, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. Of all East Asian cinema, it is the industry that most resembles our own, in that it is the only thread of Chinese film production that does not receive financial support from the government. As a result, movies tend to be thoroughly commercial and universally crowd pleasing. Arguably, it’s the most accessible breed of Asian cinema. But let’s leave arguments out of it: let’s just see what the Hong Kong Film Week at the Prince Charles Theatre has in store for us.

13th September, 6.30pm – IP Man

While we’re all acquainted with martial arts movies that have some vague underlying message of ‘HONOUR!’ and ‘TRADITION!’, most of us may only be familiar with the dated or low budget varieties. You know the ones. The ones that inexplicably appear on our TV screens at four in the morning, and that we stay up until six watching, making ‘high-YA!’ noises all the while.

IP Man is perhaps one of the finest modern examples of the martial arts genre. The beautifully shot biopic tells the story of Ip Man, grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun and master to Bruce Lee. The film, starring Donnie Yen and set during Japan’s occupation of China in the 1930’s, focuses on Ip Man’s vigilantism against the Japanese military. Whether you’re a fan of martial arts movies or not, the film is truly breathtaking, and has enough historical context for you to be believably swept up in its wonderful ass-kickery.

14th September, 6.15pm – Echoes of the Rainbow

At the other end of the spectrum we have Echoes of the Rainbow, a drama focusing on a Hong Kong family in the 1960s. The film has received international acclaim since its release in 2010, and it’s not hard to see why. The plot centres on Jen-Yi, a teenager who is popular, gifted and a star athlete. The family comes into turmoil when Jen-Yi develops leukemia, while also dealing with social unrest, a failing business and the adorable kleptomaniac Jin-Er.

Sweet, moving and subtle, this is one of Hong Kong’s proudest recent productions. Having won six awards at the 29th Hong Kong Film Awards (Six awards? What is this, Lord of the Rings?) this is an unmissable film for anyone who likes their drama high and their soundtracks hopeful. There’s also a Q&A afterwards with director Alex Law and producer Mabel Cheung, if you’re in an obnoxious mood.

15th September, 6.30pm – Love in a Puff

A topic that is very close to my (black, charred) heart, Love in a Puff focuses on the bonds that develop between smokers in smoking areas. I know, right? Is this the most effective plot for a rom-com, ever? Why hasn’t Hollywood done this? The movie was made in the aftermath of the Hong Kong smoking ban in 2007, where millions of smokers were forced to congregate in outdoor areas. Advertising exec Jimmy and beautician Cherie develop a close bond during their smoking breaks, quickly becoming confidants. The film is intriguing from a number of angles. It seems to capture how a trivial offering like a lighter can start an unstoppable ball rolling. Oh, the vast kismet of the smoking area.

Other then that, the film itself seems to be Hong Kong’s love letter to smoking. Poking fun at China’s smoking stereotype, the film looks playful and charming, and became an overnight hit upon it’s release.

Overall, there is very little excuse not to have a look in at the Hong Kong Film Week. Alongside these showings we also have the International Premiere of Overheard 2 on the 12th of September at the Mayfair Hotel, and crime thriller The Beast Stalker on the 16th at the Prince Charles Theatre.

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