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The Hong Kong - Asia Film Financing Forum Expands List of Work-in-Progress Projects with New Category for Documentaries

The Hong Kong - Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) today unveiled 20 projects shortlisted for its expanded Work-in-Progress (WIP) program that will include feature documentaries for the first time.


WIP, now in its third edition, is an important initiative to help filmmakers find post-production funds, sales agents and film festival support.  It will take place from 18-20 March 2019 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre as part of the 17th HAF. 


The expanded WIP program this year has doubled the total number of projects to be presented from 10 in each of its two previous editions.  The shortlist now covers two sections, including 10 feature fiction films and 10 feature documentaries.  


HAF Director Jacob WONG believes it is an opportune time to launch a documentary co-production event with substance and sustainability.  “The WIP program has nurtured a number of successful film projects since its launch, such as The Man Who Surprised Everyone (WIP 2018) which won the Orrizonti Award for Best Actress in Venice Film Festival 2018, and Ayka (WIP 2018) which won the Best Actress Award in Cannes Film Festival 2018. Given the immense success of the last two WIP programs, HAF intends to take a leading role to further encourage the production of quality documentary works with an aim to provide filmmakers access to top-notch international buyers,” Wong said.  “With the expanded platform, HAF will become the first project market to receive both fictional and documentary work-in-progress submissions with approximately equal strength and numbers.”


WIP’s objective is distinguished from the main HAF program, one of Asia’s most important film-financing forums, which provides a platform for projects in the pre-production or development stages.  The WIP program further extends and complements the services of HAF by offering a platform for late-stage projects seeking closing funds, post-production partners, distributors, sales agents, festivals and other film-industry services.  The 20 shortlisted projects are required to have completed or nearly completed shooting or production.  This year’s works include diverse films from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Japan, Philippines, Iran, Singapore and Malaysia.


Internationally Renowned and Award-Winning Filmmakers Behind Shortlisted Projects


Among the fiction projects, leading queer Hong Kong filmmaker Ray YEUNG, director of Front Cover (2015) and Cut Sleeve Boys (2005), returns with a new thought-provoking drama, SUK SUK, about two secretly gay senior men who struggle between their desire for each other and the commitments to their families.  Michael J. WERNER, a long-time film industry executive and former partner in the pioneering sales company, Fortissimo Films, serves as producer along with Teresa KWONG and Sandy YIP.  To Live To Sing, a new drama from Chinese director Johnny MA, whose directorial debut, Old Stone (2016) premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was named the Best Canadian First Feature Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, follows the manager of a small Sichuan Opera troupe who must find a new home for her performers when their theatre is earmarked for demolition.  From Taiwan, Malaysian-born director Kethsvin CHEE’s Hello! Tapir is an animated tale of a nightmare-eating mythical creature.


Two projects from prominent filmmakers of the Philippines explore surviving in a country with harsh justice.  Brillante MENDOZA, who was awarded Best Director at Cannes for Kinatay (2009), produces with Carlo VALENZONA for director Raymund Ribay GUTIERREZ’s Verdict, the story of a wife and mother of a four-year-old child who files a legal case against her abusive drug-peddler husband.  Director Jun Robles LANA, a frequent presence at HAF and whose previous films include Die Beautiful (2016) and Bwakaw (2012), is back with Son of God – a project he presented in HAF in 2014 – about a 15-year-old, HIV-positive boy who is abandoned by his mother and is in danger of sliding into a life of destruction and pain.  LANA’s new project Between Sea and Sky is also presented at the main HAF program this year.


On the documentary side, Academy Award-winning Hong Kong filmmaker Ruby YANG serves as producer of director Jo CHENG Oi-yue’s first feature-length documentary, Dear Daughter, a story of hope in the life of a Vietnamese refugee 30 years after he fled the war in Vietnam.  In Hong Kong, he continues to be a prisoner of poverty, drugs and crime.  Acclaimed director HOU Hsiao-Hsien of Taiwan is among the producers of HUANG Hui-Chen’s documentary LOMA - Our Home, her passionate examination of an ethnic Chinese journalist who joins forces with an indigenous tribe, whose illegal houses were repeatedly torn down by the Taiwanese government. 


Other documentary WIP projects include On High Ice, directed by Gary KAM Byung-Seok, which follows the struggle of a group of girls in the Himalayan desert to uplift the stature of the women in India through ice hockey, was selected in the main HAF program last year.  OKUTANI Yoichiro’s Odoriko, an immersive journey into the dressing rooms of the Japanese strip theater, where odoriko dancers bare all, and Women of Azadi, from Iranian directors Sharmin MOJTAHEDZADEH and Paliz KHOSHDEL, about a 27-year-old who fulfils her dream by defying Islamic law banning a female presence at sports stadiums.


“This year’s expanded shortlist of projects is a reflection of the greater number of high-quality films from both Asia and elsewhere,” said Jacob Wong.  “The 20 films are among some of the strongest projects we have presented over the past three years.  We are especially proud to give a larger platform to documentary filmmakers, whose works underscore the enormity of previously untold political and social issues that must be presented for a greater understanding of Asia.”


HAF to Present at “Goes to Cannes”


For the third year, HAF will again collaborate with Marché du Film, Festival de Cannes, to present a program offering market screening opportunities for 5 projects at this year’s Cannes film festival in May.  “Goes to Cannes” presents opportunities for filmmakers to look for sales agents, distributors and film-festival opportunities.  Priority will be given to WIP projects.


Details of the Open Pitch Sessions


Work-in-Progress Documentaries Open Pitch

Date: 18 March 2019 (Monday)

Time: 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Venue: N206-208, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

* HAF/Filmart badge holders may attend


Work-in-Progress Features Open Pitch

Date: 19 March 2019 (Tuesday)

Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Venue: N206-208, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

* HAF/Filmart badge holders may attend

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