Nozomi Tolworthy and Jessica Eu, both 18, have the perfect excuse to be on a movie-watching spree - they are part of the 14-strong committee responsible for curating Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation's second Jump Cut Independent Film Festival, set to take place from March 31 to April 5.
From September to December last year, the committee members, aged 15-19, attended a movie marathon every month. Each session, they watched three movies back to back and held discussions after the screenings. Maria Wong, HKYAF's head of performing arts, also gave them a list of feature films and short films to watch in their own time. In total, they've watched more than 50 films in four months.
Some films sparked heated debate among the committee members, such as The Philosophers, in which a philosophy teacher in Jakarta, Indonesia, makes his students go through a series of thought experiments that challenge their personal values. "I thought the film was very clever," says Nozomi, a student at St Paul's Convent School. "The ending really got people talking."
Surprisingly, More Than Honey, a documentary about bees, was also controversial, as the committee was split into those who were passionate about climate change, and those who found the topic very dull.
The committee then held a ballot to decide which films to include in the festival. They chose seven feature films and seven short films based on the theme of "Individuality".
Jump Cut, the city's first pop-up film festival, was designed specifically for young people - and is run by young people, too
Most of the short films were made by young Hongkongers, and addressed the conflict between mainlanders and locals. "Silence of the Man and Gwangong vs Alien were told from the perspective of locals who are hostile towards mainlanders," explains Jessica, who studies at Chinese International School. The Drifter, filmed from the perspective of a mainland student in Hong Kong, offered an empathic angle on the conflict.
The chosen films will be shown in a variety of venues - none of which are actual cinemas. Because the films are unconventional, the committee wanted to screen them in alternative places, like on the rooftop of an industrial building. They believe the venue contributes to how people perceive a film.
"The cinema's supposed to be the perfect place to watch a film because it's all dark and there are no distractions," says Jessica. "But when you immerse yourself in a different environment, you also bring that into your viewing experience."
Several workshops will also be held, including ones about film acquisition, film appreciation and branding. "Before attending the master class, I had no idea that the films that came to Hong Kong were picked by people. These people shape our perceptions [with the films they choose]," says Jessica.
After each screening, the director of short films and film critics will join the audience in a bilingual discussion. For Nozomi, this is the most rewarding part of the programme because people can share how they relate differently to a film. "Maybe some people saw a message in a way someone else didn't. That's [one reason] why we picked 'Individuality' [as the theme] because it was always what the discussions led back to," she says.
"My world view is not the same as others'. Through the films I was able to see different perspectives and get a broader sense of the world I'm living in," says Jessica. "It's good to know the world doesn't just revolve around you and your opinions."