12/17/2011 08:26 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cultural Revolution Drama "The Blue Kite," Once Banned in China, Kicks Off Hong Kong Short Film Festival

HONG KONG--The Fresh Wave 2011 International Short Film Festival, which is now open at the Broadway Cinemathèque in Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong, opened in typical red-carpet style Friday night, but the choice of opening film was anything but ordinary -- the festival kicked off with Tian Zhuangzhuang's classic 1993 feature, "The Blue Kite." This film, while acclaimed abroad, has never been shown in mainland China, and on its release in the West earned Tian a two-year ban from filmmaking in his homeland. Tian attended the screening, alongside local star actress Deanie Ip and renowned Hong Kong director Johnnie To Kei-fung.


A scene from Tian Zhuangzhuang's previously banned film, "The Blue Kite" / Courtesy Fresh Wave

To give the film such a prominent position was a powerful statement by the event's organizers, who established the festival last year with the goal of inspiring young filmmakers and developing the film culture of Hong Kong. The festival was established following the Fresh Wave Film Competition, which was set up by To Kei-fung, who is also the chairman of the Film and Media Arts Group of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC), which also encourages local filmmakers to undertake independent projects.

"The Blue Kite" tells the turbulent story of modern China through the eyes of a schoolboy who grows up through the political campaigns of the 1950s only to have his life destroyed by the ruinous Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. The film itself, which took the Grand Prix at the 1993 Tokyo International Film Festival, and Tian's tenacity in the face of the opprobrium it earned him at home (his official two-year ban resulted in an almost ten-year-long hiatus in his directing career) certainly set the bar high for the rest of the festival, which will continue through December 18.

Over the course of the festival's 10 days, 50 films will be shown in 24 screening sessions. The competition includes 30 local entries alongside 20 award-winning short films by young overseas directors. These latter films were drawn from the International Association of Film and TV Schools, the South Taiwan Film Festival, and the Thai Short Film and Video Festival.

An additional five overseas directors will screen their short films during the festival as part of the "Film Culture Exchange @K11" event on December 15, which aims to facilitate the exchange of ideas between the local participating movie teams and overseas directors. The featured films include "Azad and the First Time" (U.S.), "Guided Tour" (Israel), "Time of Cherry Blossoms" (South Taiwan Film Festival Selection, 2010), and "Butterfly's Wheel" (Thai Short Film and Video Festival).

The festival closes on December 18 with a ceremony during which nine awards will be handed out. "Best Film," "Best Creativity," "Best Script," and "Best Cinematography" prizes will be awarded in both an open section and a special student division. Finally, the "Fresh Wave Award" grand prize will be presented to the most outstanding short film of the year.

See the official Fresh Wave Festival trailer here, and check the festival's Web site for more information.

-Belle Zhao, ARTINFO China, ARTINFO

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