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Friday, December 06, 2019, 12:34
Starry nights in Macao
By Scott Murphy
Friday, December 06, 2019, 12:34 By Scott Murphy

Among the Macao entries is Strings of Sorrow, directed by Oliver Fa. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

An array of world-renowned film stars are attending the 4th International Film Festival and Awards Macao which opened yesterday. The list includes Carina Lau, Juliette Binoche, Lily James and Zhou Dongyu alongside directors Peter Chan and Cristian Mungiu. More than 50 local and international films are being screened during the six-day festival, alongside filmmaking competitions, masterclasses, special retrospective screenings and a marketplace for industry insiders and budding filmmakers to pitch projects.

“The goal of IFFAM is to strive to be a festival that showcases the best of world cinema, and a platform to showcase the best of new directors and established names in our retrospectives and focus sections,” says Lorna Tee, head of festival management at the IFFAM. 

South Korean actress Im Yoon-ah features in the “Asian Stars Up Next” category in Macao film festival. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The festival opens with acclaimed new satire Jojo Rabbit about a 10-year-old boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. Other highly anticipated films in the line-up include current critics’ darling The Lighthouse, starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe; Judy, a biopic of Judy Garland featuring Renee Zellweger; Aardman Animations’ Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon; A Hidden Life by cult favorite director Terrence Malick, and Japanese director Takashi Miike’s First Love. I’m Livin’ It, about a homeless banker in Hong Kong, starring leading Hong Kong actors Aaron Kwok and Miriam Yeung, which competed in last month’s 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival, will close the program. 

Films by 10 first or second-time filmmakers will be screened as part of an international competition with a US$60,000 prize. Among the competitors are Bellbird by New Zealand director Hamish Bennett and Bombay Rose by Indian director Gitanjali Rao. 

Singer-actress Carina Lau makes an appearance at Macao film festival. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

New Chinese Cinema, meanwhile, features competition entries from around the globe that celebrate the best of the genre. “We have expanded this section with more films and more awards,” says Tee. “We want to be able to highlight the most interesting and notable Chinese language films and filmmakers of the year and to highlight the diversity of the films.”

The spotlight will be turned on several regional stars under the age of 30, including South Korean actor Im Yoon-ah. “Our ‘Asian Stars Up Next’ are also superb talents in their own right, and given the right opportunities, will be the next global stars,” says Tee. 

Among the celebrity guests is Lily James, who starred in Danny Boyle’s Yesterday. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Beyond the screenings and competitions, film fans will be able to interact with some of the stars and directors. French actress Juliette Binoche will take part in a conversation session to coincide with the screening of The Truth, starring Catherine Deneuve and Ethan Hawke. The film marks the foreign language film debut for director Hirokazu Kore-eda, last year’s Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner. Lily James — known for her roles in Baby Driver, Cinderella, Yesterday and the TV period drama series Downton Abbey — will take questions from the audience, as will Korean director Kim Yong-hwa, well-known for being behind the lens on romcom 200 Pounds Beauty and the sports comedy Mr. Go.

Homegrown films will have a special opportunity to shine at this year’s festival. Five locally-made films will be screened to mark the 20th anniversary of the transfer of Macao sovereignty from Portugal to the People’s Republic of China. Among them are Ina and the Blue Tiger Sauna, by Antonia Fara and Bernardo Rao, about a 19-year-old Macanese girl who inherits the family business and Strings of Sorrow, a tale about a musical quartet, directed by Oliver Fa. The event organizers see this as both a gesture of cultural exchange and a sign of how the festival itself is evolving.  

Zhou Dongyu stars in Derek Tsang’s Better Days, to be screened at the festival. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

“This is a good sign that the local film industry is stepping up and telling Macao stories for the local and international audience,” says Tee. “Macao is extremely cinematic as a location. The stories of a long history of a global East-West trading and cultural melting pot are coming forth beautifully.”

If you go

4th International Film Festival and Awards Macao

Organized by Macao Government Tourism Office

Dates: Until Dec 10

Venue: Macao Cultural Centre, Avenida Xian Xing Hai S/N, NAPE, Macao, and other locations


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