The Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) is changing dates next year - to coincide with Hong Kong Filmart - and is undergoing a major repositioning to reflect changes in the international festival scene.

Next year's HKIFF will open on March 20 and run for 18 days. The first nine days will focus on international guests, press and industry, while the second half will be geared more towards the local audience in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Filmart will run March 20-23, while accompanying projects market, the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), will take place March 20-22.

The festival has also taken over organisation of HAF as part of a strategy to play a more active role in matching filmmakers with financing mechanisms. It also plans to become more international by focusing on new talent from regions including Europe, the US and South America, in addition to Asia.

'We don't want to be seen as just an Asian festival as so many others are doing that,' says festival director Peter Tsi. 'Our aim is to uncover new talent in world cinema and also become a platform for East and West to get together for distribution and co-production deals.'

On the financing side, the festival is considering various initiatives, including setting up an investment fund, possibly working with commercial corporations and the Hong Kong government which looks likely to step up film support over the coming year.

'We believe the projects market model has to evolve and next year we will be more active in diverting available funds into film projects,' says Tsi.

Previously government-funded, the HKIFF has traditionally catered to Asian film buffs and the local audience and isn't regarded as an industry platform. It became a private non-profit organisation two years ago, and while public funding has decreased by 50%, it made up the shortfall with corporate sponsorship and ticket sales.

However, it has lost its status as Asia's only major festival outside Tokyo, due to heavily-funded upstarts such as Pusan and Bangkok.

The new timing enables HKIFF to play a role in Hong Kong's major industry events, but also run over Easter weekend - an important consideration for ticket sales.