Scores of teenagers were entranced by the special screening of Kiseki: Sobito of That Day on Monday. The Japanese film was part of the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) which showcases 200 movies from around the world every year.
The plot was something all of them could relate to, as HK students who yearn to blaze their own paths are routinely forced into “good” university courses rather than being able to follow their true passions.
Kiseki chronicles the rise of popular J-pop band GReeeeN, whose members are dental students struggling against traditional views that music is a useless hobby and not a true vocation.
For the audience though, the highlight of the experience was the Q&A session with Japan culture expert Professor Cheung Ching-yuen of the Japanese Studies department at Chinese University. He gave participants some unique insights on how doctors are seen as highly respected pillars of society while music is only a frivolous pastime in Japanese society.
Italian movie director Francesca Archibugi talks about her film 'An Italian Name', and the need for film festivals
The festival’s marketing chief Lemon Lim says they chose this particular film because Hong Kong students would relate to it easily. “We focus on movies about teen life, which students are familiar with. For example with Kiseki, Hong Kong students definitely feel the same pressures as the main character, to pursue a career as a doctor or dentist, even though that’s not what they truly want to do.”
In addition to holding free screenings with Q&A sessions by film industry experts, the festival also encourages film appreciation by subsidising movie tickets. Full-time students can attend any of the movies in the huge selection this month, for a special price of HK$28.
Fostering appreciation for films is a major goal of all the HKIFF student outreach initiatives. Teenagers may watch many movies in their life, but the festival wants to take this a step further.
Sharing sessions by directors, producers, and production team members such as sound mixers and cinematographers, can open their eyes to the full experience of what goes into making a film. “Apart from enjoying the plot, they can also learn to look at the movie from the director’s perspective and see what goes into the creative process. We think this is important for people to really enjoy movies,” explains Jannie Ma, the festival’s Finance and Operations Director.
Apart from simply enjoying films, the festival also spreads the joy of film-making and promote careers in the film industry.
The rapid development and availability of mobile technology means it’s not hard for teenagers who want to try their hand at creating original content.
Now, literally anyone with a Smartphone and laptop can create rough cuts. HKIFF also encourages potential student enthusiasts to submit their works to organisations dedicated to developing new talent, such as the First Feature Film Initiative funded by the Film Development Council. The best proposals are awarded a maximum of HK$3.25 million to make their first feature films.
With the advent of streaming services and big-screen TVs at home, going to the cinema may be losing its appeal. Whether you’re thinking of joining the industry or whether you’re simply looking for a new hobby, the main thing the summer programme wants is to get students excited about having a cinema experience again.
But as programme participant Bernard stated when asked about why he still goes to the movie theatre to watch his favourite blockbusters: “It’s bigger. Better. The atmosphere is more exciting. You just can’t get that at home.”