Realistically, there are at least thirty more films in this year’s HKIFF lineup (3/17 – 4/2) that you should not miss. But like a kid in a toy store (or app store for the children of the 21st century), it is easy to get lost in this sea of cinematic wonder that ranges from recent Berlinale entries (Hong Sang-soo’s Nobody’s Daughter Haewon) to repertory cinema (Golden Harvest classics, including Bruce Lee’s four complete films). Okay, enough with the parentheses. There are not many chances to see a James Broughton retrospective with the experimental filmmaking pioneer in attendance. Aside from that, here are my ten picks of the festival:
Leviathan (dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel / USA, UK, France)
Following the hypnotic documentary Sweetgrass, Lucien Castaing-Taylor came down from the mountains of Montana and ventured into the world of commercial fishing off the New England coast with his co-director Véréna Paravel (Foreign Parts). Marred by technical difficulties as soon as they set sail in the ferocious sea, the filmmakers opted to strap tiny GoPro cameras on the fishermen and their bodies, in addition to throwing (and retrieving) a few into the water. The resulting images and sounds are spellbinding. While their previous projects have quietly built up a reputation, perhaps Leviathan is the definitive film that lives up to the name of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, where the duo and their colleagues have combined the fields of visual arts and anthropology.
Closed Curtain (dir. Jafar Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi / Iran)
Jafar Panahi, one of revered Iranian filmmakers in world cinema, has been confined to house arrest and barred from filmmaking since Iran’s ill-fated Green Revolution in 2010. But the confines of four walls did not stop the defiantly resourceful Panahi from shooting a day-in-the-life documentary This Is Not a Film inside his apartment with Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. As brilliant as the Cannes-premiering film is, Panahi’s future remained grim—how many movies can one expect to shoot in a living room? Panahi surprised the world with Closed Curtain, which won Best Screenplay at Berlinale less than two months ago. The HKIFF closing film started off as a fictional story about a filmmaker and his dog in a beach house but Panahi pushes the narrative form once again because when an artist is being restricted, he/she is bound to break free by means of creativity.