International Film Festival and Awards Macao Unveils First Programme Amid Mueller Exit Controversy
The inaugural edition of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao unveiled its full programme yesterday, at an event overshadowed by the surprise resignation of Festival Director Marco Mueller, announced just the day before.
“Ongoing creative differences” between Mueller and the organisation were cited as the reason for the festival head’s impromptu exit, although details remain speculative, with the festival staying tight-lipped as it considers legal action. Mueller previously served as Festival Director of the Venice Film Festival and Rome Film Festival, before moving to China in 2015 to become General Advisor to the Beijing International Film Festival and Director of Programming to the Fuzhou Silk Road Film Festival.
President of the IFFAM, Ms. Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, will take over as acting Festival Director, but was quick to reassure the public that “a festival is not run by one person. [Mueller] had his influence on the festival, but the event itself is definitely bigger than the sum of its parts. It is very important that we face these difficulties as a team and work together to create a great international festival for all to see and judge in December.”
Opening the festival, which runs from 8-13 December in the former Portuguese colony (now a special administrative region of China, not dissimilar to Hong Kong) is the Asian premiere of Angelin Preljocaj and Valérie Müller's Polina, Danser sa Vie, which debuted at Venice and stars Anastasia Shevtsova and Juliette Binoche.
The festival includes a competition section, with 11 features from around the world vying for eight jury awards, as well as the Macao Audience Choice Award. Heading the jury is director Shekhar Kapur, who is joined by Stanley Kwan, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Jung Woo Sung and Makiko Watanabe. The award itself was designed by 3-time Oscar winner Dante Ferretti (Best Achievement in Art Direction: Hugo, Sweeney Todd, The Aviator).
The films in competition this year are:
150 Milligrams (FRANCE), dir. Emmanuelle Bercot - Asian Premiere
Elon Doesn’t Believe in Death (BRAZIL), dir. Ricardo Alves Jr. - International Premiere
Free Fire (UK), dir. Ben Wheatley - Asian Premiere
Gurgaon (INDIA), dir. Shanker Raman - World Premiere
Hide and Seek (CHINA), dir. Liu Jie - International Premiere
Queen of Spades (RUSSIA), dir. Pavel Lungin - Asian Premiere
Saint George (PORTUGAL), dir. Marco Martins - Asian Premiere
Sisterhood (MACAU), dir. Tracy Choi - World Premiere
Survival Family (JAPAN), dir. Shinobu Yaguchi - World Premiere
The Winter (ARGENTINA), dir. Emiliano Torres - Asian Premiere
Trespass Against Us (UK), dir. Adam Smith - Asian Premiere
Elsewhere in the line-up of 50 international titles is a trio of gala screenings, including the world premiere of Takashi Miike's sequel The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio, the international premiere of Park Jung-woo's Pandora and the first screening anywhere of a special 30th anniversary restoration of Yonfan's Immortal Story.
Other programmes at this year's festival include Hidden Dragons, a selection of nine underexposed genre titles, including Erik Matti's Seclusion, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Daguerreotype, Colm McCarthy's The Girl with all the Gifts and Derek Nguyen's The Housemaid. The Best of the Fest panorama will highlight regional debuts of likely award contenders, including Pablo Larrain's Jackie, Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea and Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, among others. There will also be special spotlights on Taiwanese actress Gwei Lun Mei and German filmmaker Clemens Klopfenstein.
Perhaps most interesting of all is Crossfire, a selection of 12 classic films picked by 12 of Asia's most exciting genre filmmakers. Before each screening, the director will address the audience, introducing the film and discussing how it inspired them. The prospect of hearing Park Chan-wook discuss Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Sion Sono talk about Terence Fisher's Hammer classic Horror of Dracula or Johnnie To address the influence of Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - to name just a few - is frankly too cool an opportunity to miss.
With an awesome-looking project market also taking place during the festival, the first International Film Festival and Awards Macao boasts a lot of potential. With even more surprises and announcements to come between now and 8 December, hopefully the organisers can shrug off Muller's premature departure and deliver a festival we can all enjoy. Suffice to say, the ScreenAnarchy team will be on the ground next month and cannot wait to get stuck in.