The world premiere of Hong Kong thriller Bodies at Rest, starring Nick Cheung and Richie Jen, and directed by Finnish filmmaker Renny Harlin, has been announced as the opening film of the 43rd Hong Kong International Film Festival. Francois Ozon’s Berlin Grand Jury Prize winner By the Grace of God will close the festival, which runs from 18 March until 1 April 2019.
Other Berlin favourites, including Nadav Lapid’s Golden Bear winner Synonyms, and Best Director winner Angela Schanelec’s I Was at Home, But… will also feature, although Wang Xiaoshuai’s So Long, My Son, which bagged both the Best Actor and Best Actress trophies, is notably absent.
Best known for Hollywood action thrillers Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and The Long Kiss Goodnight, Renny Harlin has spent the past few years in China, collaborating with the likes of Jackie Chan (Skiptrace) and Wang Leehom (Legend of the Ancient Sword). In Bodies at Rest, Nick Cheung plays a forensic expert working in the city morgue, when masked intruders break in and demand he hand over a corpse involved in a recent crime.
Gala presentations at the festival also include Lou Ye's Guangzhou noir The Shadow Play, Stanley Kwan returns with lush period drama First Night Nerves, starring Sammi Cheng and Gig Leung as feuding theatre divas. Peter Jackson's sensational First World War documentary They Shall Not Grow Old will be screened in 3D, while Jacques Audiard's brilliant western The Sisters Brothers, starring Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly, will screen on French Night.
Hong Kong audiences will finally get the chance to see a number of this year’s Oscar winners and nominees. If Beale Street Could Talk, adapted from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins from the novel by James Baldwin, is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of young love and racial conflict in 1960s New York; Best Documentary winner Free Solo, the breathless, nail-biting chronicle of free climber Alex Honnold’s latest endeavour demands to be seen on the big screen. Best Foreign Language Film nominees Never Look Away and Cold War also make their overdue debuts.
Local action legend Sammo Hung is this year’s filmmaker in focus, with 10 of the actor-director-choreographer-writer-producer’s best films being screened: The Valiant Ones, Encounter of the Spooky Kind, The Prodigal Son, Winners and Sinners, Eastern Condors, Painted Faces, Pedicab Driver, Eight Taels of Gold, SPL and Ip Man 2. Hung will also conduct an in conversation masterclass.
This year, HKIFF also celebrates a centenary of Korean Cinema, in collaboration with the Korean Film Council. Director Lee Chang-dong will be in attendance and give a masterclass following a special screening of his latest masterpiece, Burning. Recent offerings including Han Ka-ram’s Our Body, Hong Sang-soo’s Hotel by the River and Lee Han’s Innocent Witness will be screened, while restored versions of Lee’s Peppermint Candy, Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder, Im Kwon-taek’s Mandala, and Kim Ki-young’s Ieodo are among the classics to be screened.
A selection of Fifth Generation classics from Mainland China will see One and Eight (Zhang Junzhao), Yellow Earth (Chen Kaige), The Black Cannon Incident (Huang Jianxin), The Horse Thief (Tian Zhuangzhuang), and Red Sorghum (Zhang Yimou) remastered and back on the big screen. In addition, the new 4K restoration of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900, and Mikhail Kalatozov’s I am Cuba are among the restored classics on offer.
Genre fans are not to be left wanting in the always arthouse heavy lineup. Lars Von Trier’s serial killer shocker The House That Jack Built heads up the Midnight Heat sidebar, alongside Peter Strickland’s delightfully retro haberdashery giallo In Fabric, Shinya Tsukamoto’s samurai tale Killing and the new 4K restoration of Dario Argento’s fluorescent horror classic, Suspiria.
Alexandre Philippe’s Memory: The Origins of Alien, his hotly anticipated follow-up to Psycho documentary 78/52, arrives fresh from its rapturous premiere at Sundance, boasting a similarly deep dive into the rich creative backstory of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror masterpiece.
For full details of this year’s lineup, schedule, ticketing information and more, head over to the festival’s official website