Fresh Off Markham_CHY9966_Day2 copy

Source: 9lb films

‘Fresh Off Markham’

Chinese-language film is riding high following a slew of hits over Lunar New Year and prize-winning form at last month’s Berlinale.

Ray Yeung’s LGBTQ+ drama All Shall Be Well won the Teddy award and an audience award in Berlin’s Panorama section; Qiu Yang’s debut Some Rain Must Fall won the special jury prize in the Encounters competition; and Qu Youjin’s debut She Sat There Like All Ordinary Ones earned a special mention from the youth jury in Generation 14plus.

All Shall Be Well, a follow-up to Yeung’s 2019 award-winning Suk Suk, will next premiere on home turf as the opening film of the 48th Hong Kong International Film Festival (March 28-April 8). The festival will also host the world premiere of several local films: Ho Miu Ki’s debut Love Lies; anthology Fresh Off Markham; and Donna Ong’s Cinema Strada.

Chinese New Year delivered several box-office hits, including Yolo, Pegasus 2, Article 20 and animation Boonie Bears: Time Twist in mainland China, and Table For Six 2, The Moon Thieves and Rob N Roll in Hong Kong.

Audience tastes differ vastly between the two markets, and their holiday dates are not entirely the same too. In Hong Kong, the next key holiday is the Easter long weekend, which will see the opening of We 12, a light-hearted comedy that features all 12 members of boy band Mirror for the first time. The next big holiday in China is the five-day Labour Day in early May, which will see the release of Ding Sheng’s comedy thriller There Is Nothing That A Hot Pot Can’t Solve.

Further high-profile action blockbusters set up as Hong Kong-China co-productions are expected to fire up the box office in the second half of the year, including Herman Yau’s action thriller Customs Frontline, starring Jacky Cheung and Nicholas Tse; Alan Mak’s crime thriller Under Current, with Aaron Kwok in the cast, and Oxide Pang’s action thriller High Forces, with Andy Lau.

Screen highlights some of the key titles available from Hong Kong and China sellers at this year’s Filmart:  

Cinema Strada
Dir Donna Ong
Well-respected film critic and film historian Law Kar, affectionately known as Uncle Kar, turns the camera on himself in this biographical documentary that he also produces. It is a nostalgic trip down memory lane as Law reflects on his personal and cinematic experiences over the past 80 years. The documentary, which will premiere at HKIFF, also sheds light on Hong Kong cinema and the socio-political changes of the city. Since the 1960s, Law served as editor for cultural publications and made experimental films. He later worked as a programmer for HKIFF and the Hong Kong Film Archive. Last year, the Hong Kong Film Awards presented him with a professional achievement award.
Contact Agro Deco

Dumpling Queen
Dir Andrew Lau
The latest film by Lau, best known behind the camera for co-directing the Infernal Affairs trilogy, is based on the true story of Zang Jianhe, founder of the Wanchai Ferry dumpling brand. This biopic spans from the late 1970s when she found herself stranded in Hong Kong with two young children and started selling handmade dumplings at Wanchai Pier, to the early 21st century against a background of key historical moments such as Hong Kong’s handover and the economic boom of mainland China. The cast is headed by Ma Li from Chinese New Year hit Article 20 along with Kara Wai and Zhu Yawen.
Contact CMC Pictures

Fresh Off Markham
Dirs Kurt Yuen, Cyrus Lo, Trevor Choi
This black comedy is the directing trio’s first feature and will receive a world premiere at the upcoming HKIFF. The anthology film comprises interlocking stories that satirise the experiences of immigrants in a foreign land. The story is set in Markham, a multi-ethnic town in Canada where a new immigrant and a smalltime crook are stuck in an Uber with an unsuspecting carpooler after a simple restaurant heist goes wrong. It leads to a sinister predicament much larger than their language barriers. Director Yuen was born and raised in Hong Kong, Lo is a Chinese Canadian immigrant, and Choi was born in Montreal, Canada.
Contact 9lb films

Galaxy Writer
Dirs Li Kuo, Shan Dandan
This co-directed feature debut is a comedy about two young screenwriters who believe they have churned out a masterpiece script that will etch their names in history. They are among a group of young people who station themselves in Changying, a place where a famous Ming dynasty general once positioned his troops and is now an area for them to chase their dream of becoming filmmakers and actors. Galaxy Writer won the grand jury prize and best screenplay at First International Film Festival in Xining last year. Director Li is also an actor who has appeared in more than 300 plays, while Shan’s theatre background includes several plays selected for Wuzhen Theatre Festival.
Contact Edko Films

Life Hotel
Dir Liu Bowen
This directorial feature debut tackles the topic of death with a realistic yet light touch. The protagonist is an ex-convict who goes undercover with a secret mission to demolish a nursing facility called Life Hotel, only to find himself in a dilemma because of the bonding and emotional healing developed between him and the residents. The cast includes Huang Xuan (Moscow Mission) and Liu Yan (Love Life Light). Huayi Brothers is the primary production company, with Han Sanping as executive producer. Chinese director Liu has helmed a trio of web films, including Listen To You and The Farewell Girls, both for iQiyi.
Contact Blossoms Entertainment

Love Lies
Dir Ho Miu Ki
Starring Sandra Ng (Zero To Hero), singer Cheung Tin-fu and Stephy Tang (Table For Six), this directorial feature debut will receive its world premiere at HKIFF. Ng plays a widowed gynaecologist who falls for a French engineer on a dating app, which turns out to be a romance scam. Nevertheless, she insists it is true love despite being swindled out of a large sum of money. The project is funded by Hong Kong Film Development Council’s First Feature Film Initiative programme. Producers are veterans Chan Hing Ka and Janet Chun. Ho was nominated for best screenplay with Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 2017.
Contact One Cool Pictures

Dir Wong Siu-Pong
Following its world premiere at Rotterdam, this observational documentary will receive its Asian premiere at HKIFF. Five years in the making, it explores the old neighbourhood in Hung Hom where worshippers seek financial help from a revered temple, and garbage collectors rummage through waste to earn pennies. As a new development threatens their way of life, director Wong shows a microcosm of Hong Kong and its many contradictions. Wong’s first feature-length documentary was Fish Story in 2013, which won best documentary at First International Film Festival. Further documentary works include Snuggle and 3CM, both awarded a film of merit by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society.
Contact Wong Siu-Pong

Once Upon A Time In DSE

Source: Golden Scene

‘Once Upon A Time In DSE’

Once Upon A Time In DSE
Dir Leung Yik Ho
How challenging is the Hong Kong university entrance exam and is failing it the end of the world? These are some of the questions examined in this feature-length documentary, based on a web series produced by Hui Yin and Yau Hawk Sau through their YouTube channel Trial & Error. Director Leung and the production team spent eight months tracking the journey of a DSE exam candidate who does not give much thought to his future. To help make up for lost time, the team hire the best tutors and study with him, with producer Hui even registering for the Chinese language exam to test his own abilities.
Contact Golden Scene

Other Side Of Monlam River
Dir Detsa Kyi
This directorial feature debut is a Tibetan-language family drama told from the perspective of children. The story follows two young siblings who set out to find the legendary Wishful Naga tree, hoping it will help them retrieve their mother’s ivory bracelet, which their gambler father used to settle a debt. The film is produced by Qinghai Kawajian Film and Culture Dissemination, which aims to promote Tibetan culture through film and TV, with Berlinale 2018 title Wangdrak’s Rain Boots among its productions.
Contact Beijing Hugoeast Media

Dir Philip Yung
Headed by Lau Ching Wan (Detectives Vs Sleuths), Jo Koo (Distinction) and newcomer Dylan So, Yung’s latest film is a family drama about a café owner who leads a pedestrian existence after a family tragedy. His only wish is to have his 15-year-old son return home, but the boy is locked up in a psychiatric prison for the murder of his mother and sister. Amy Chin (Over My Dead Body) serves as producer. Director Yung is best known for thriller Port Of Call and crime epic Where The Wind Blows, which were Hong Kong’s Oscar submissions in 2017 and 2023 respectively.
Contact Golden Scene (Asia); Moebius Entertainment (international excluding Asia)

Raging Havoc
Dir Derek Kwok
Andy Lau (The Goldfinger) and Nicholas Tse (Raging Fire) double up as producer and action director respectively while also heading the cast of this action thriller as two long­lost brothers who seek revenge for the murder of their family 30 years ago. As one is now a high-level executive and the other a mercenary, their vastly different approaches to revenge pit them against each other and set Hong Kong ablaze. Among director Kwok’s credits are Schemes In Antiques, Wu Kong and Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons, which he co-directed with Stephen Chow.
Contact Emperor Motion Pictures

Smashing Frank

Source: Entertaining Power

‘Smashing Frank’

Smashing Frank
Dir Trevor Choi
The solo directorial feature debut of Choi is a dark comedy about four KOLs (key opinion leaders) who team up to rob the filthy rich. They walk away unscathed every time, until a money laundering scandal is uncovered. The cast is led by a young generation of talent including Kaki Sham (Far Far Away), Locker Lam (upcoming Fight For Tomorrow), Hedwig Tam (Hong Kong Family) and Renci Yeung (A Guilty Conscience). It is produced by Kinnie Cheung (Rob N Roll) and directed by Canada-born Choi, who returned to Hong Kong in 2018 to attend a directing course organised by the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild. He is also one of three directors of Fresh Off Markham, which will premiere at HKIFF.
Contact Entertaining Power

The Unseen Sister
Dir Midi Z
Zhao Liying (Article 20) and Xin Zhilei (Blossoms Shanghai) lead the cast of this suspense drama about a popular actress whose long-buried past resurfaces when she receives a blackmail message, while the coincidental reappearance of her long missing sister points to a bigger crisis. It was shot mainly in Beijing and partly in Yunnan province along the Myanmar border, close to the hometown of director Midi Z. This marks the second feature from series producer Linmon Pictures, as well as the first feature the Myanmar-born director has shot in China. Midi Z is known for his Homecoming trilogy — Return To Burma (2011), Poor Folk (2012) and Ice Poison (2014) — and documentaries made on a shoestring budget. Nina Wu, his first film shot in Taiwan, premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2019.
Contact Linmon Pictures

We 12
Dir Berry Ho
This light-hearted comedy boasts a cast comprising all 12 members of Hong Kong boyband Mirror, appearing together for the first time in a feature film, including Edan Lui, Anson Lo, Keung To and Lokman Yeung. The story follows 12 long-separated members of an underground organisation who must regroup for a crucial mission. Yeung Wai Lun (The Sparring Partner) co-stars. It marks the latest film production by MakerVille, a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s PCCW Media Group, following Mad Fate and The Moon Thieves. It will open in Hong Kong on March 28 for the Easter holiday through Edko Films.
Contact MakerVille