• Hong Kong's financial secretary said on Friday that the special administrative region government will promote the digital economy in the city through strengthening overall policy coordination, bolstering digital infrastructure, facilitating local and cross-boundary data flow, expediting digital transformation, and developing a sustainable technology talent strategy. Paul Chan Mo-po made the pledge at the Digital Economy Summit, which has gathered 4,000 Hong Kong, mainland and overseas technology professionals. The event, which ends on Saturday, was organized by the Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and Hong Kong Cyberport. Chan said the Digital Policy Office will be established this year to formulate and implement effective digital policies. At the same time, the government will strengthen the development of digital infrastructure such as enhancing the use and coverage of 5G networks, further promoting electronic payments and rolling out the business version of “iAM Smart”. “Hong Kong is now building a supercomputing center that will serve the computing power needs of enterprises, academic and research institutions. The first phase of its service will be rolled out as soon as within this year,” said Chan. “On cross-boundary data flow, this is an area where Hong Kong enjoys unique advantages under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement. Hong Kong is where data from the mainland and around the world would converge. Hong Kong has long enjoyed unfettered access to international data while the city is making progress in cross-boundary flow of data with the mainland,” Chan argued. “We see clear potential for international data trading to become a new and thriving industry in the city. We have commissioned an expert group to study how best to develop a robust data-trading system in Hong Kong,” he added. Chan said local and cross-boundary data flow drives more public and private cross-boundary services, such as encouraging more research and development activities in artificial intelligence as well as life and health technologies in Hong Kong. In the business sector, the administration will extend the coverage of the Commercial Data Interchange run by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This initiative had facilitated more than 13,000 loan applications with a total loan amount of around HK$12 billion ($1.53 billion) at the end of last year. The finance chief also noted the government will support and incentivize the city’s small- and medium-sized enterprises in adopting electronic options through providing necessary information and skills training. And it will continue to attract, retain and cultivate digital talent through enhancing education and training, and also work to enhance digital literacy and competency for the whole community. At the summit, Wang Song, vice-minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China, said: “As of last year, the number of internet users in the country has reached 1.092 billion, and the scale of the digital economy has exceeded 50 trillion yuan ($6.91 trillion), accounting for 41.5 percent of gross domestic product, with online retail sales of 15.42 trillion yuan, and mobile payment penetration rate reaching 86 percent.” The vice-minister recommended five strategies for developing the digital economy through promoting the integration of digital and real industries; accelerating the research and development application of big data, and artificial intelligence in industry, education, finance and other scenarios; leveraging Hong Kong’s niches as a top international talent hub; activating the value of the elements of data in cementing AI governance work; and strengthening talent training and exchanges.
  • The 48th Hong Kong International Film Festival is packed with firsts — from a tete-a-tete with Oscar-nominated director Martin McDonagh to a concert featuring music composed on the spot. Mathew Scott reports. The ongoing 48th edition of Hong Kong International Film Festival has certainly cast its net wide in curating a program that boasts more than 190 films from 62 countries and regions. The festival is hosting five world premieres, six international premieres and 64 Asian premieres across its 12-day run. From the outset, the festival’s ambition has been to cater to those interested in the craft of filmmaking. This year HKIFF’s ever-popular master classes featured the British-Irish multiple Oscar-nominee Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin, 2022) and talks by the likes of veteran Spanish director Victor Erice (The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973). Albert Lee, executive director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, which runs the annual HKIFF, is pleased to have engineered McDonagh’s maiden Hong Kong visit. “Over the past decade, I have talked to many Asian and Chinese filmmakers, and they all think very, very highly of Martin. I know a lot of people who are excited by the chance to see him and Erice. Both of them always have a lot to share about their films and also filmmaking in general. It’s a great chance for young filmmakers to learn from them,” Lee says. Weird and wonderful The festival opened with Ray Yeung’s All Shall Be Well (2024), a film about a lesbian couple in their 60s. It had won the Teddy Award for best LGBTQ-themed feature film at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival in February. Fruit Chan is this year’s filmmaker in focus, and the festival is screening 10 of his films, including Durian Durian (2000) and The Abortionist (2019). The eight films selected for the Firebird Awards’ Young Cinema Competition (Chinese Language) include three that focus on the lives of the Chinese diaspora — Kurt Yuen’s Fresh Off Markham (2024), A Song Sung Blue (2023) by Geng Zihan and Chong Keat-aun’s Snow in Midsummer (2020). Lee is keen to have the future generation of Hong Kong filmmakers check out the sometimes weird and generally wonderful world created by the French provocateur Jean Eustache. The festival is showing three of his feature films — A Dirty Story (1977), screened together with the short, The Photos of Alix (1980); My Little Loves (1974); and The Mother and the Whore (1973). Boost for emerging talents At the Hong Kong Filmart held in March — often regarded as an unofficial industry warmup for the HKIFF — the big news was that the local film and television industry would soon receive a HK$5 billion ($639 million) boost via a five-year Hong Kong Cultural and Art Industry Revitalization Program driven by the e-commerce and entertainment giant Alibaba. There was also encouragement for emerging filmmakers in the form of awards at the annual Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) program (see sidebar) and a new HKIFF Industry-CAA China Genre Initiative to promote the more commercially leaning works of Chinese cinema. “It all seems to be happening,” Lee says. “The industry has been very busy. We are working closely with the talent agency CAA China toward promoting genre films and that is a first for Hong Kong. We hope to encourage more Chinese-language filmmakers to become involved.” Instant music The Asian premiere of Gift — a unique live collaboration between Japanese Oscar-winner Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car, 2021) and his go-to composer Eiko Ishibashi, on March 30 — was a festival highlight. Ishibashi composes an extempore soundtrack during the show, as she responds to images cut from Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist (2023) — their most recent film together. “I don’t see these images before the concert, only react to them in the moment, and the audience can react to both things,” Ishibashi explains. She hopes that the experience can help broaden the horizons of the audience in terms of what constitutes a cinematic experience. “I like to explore new things, and new ways of presenting my work, and I think that is an important part of being featured at a film festival where you should always try something new,” Ishibashi says. The festival draws to a close on Monday, with Japanese director Shô Miyake’s achingly romantic All the Long Nights (2024) making its Asian premiere.
  • Since its inception some 24 years ago, the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) has supported promising independent films in the development or postproduction stage. This year was no exception. “We want to help people get their films made” is how Jacob Wong, director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Industry Office, explains the program. There were 26 in-development projects and 15 works-in-progress vying for awards at the HAF this year. Announced on March 13 — during a ceremony held as part of the annual Hong Kong Filmart industry gathering — the winning entries reflected the wide diversity in content that continues to drive the Asian film industry. The awardees included a Hong Kong-set vampire horror with an Indian lead character (Shreyom Ghosh’s The Vampire of Sheung Shui), a sweeping drama looking at the dualities of life in the present-day Inner Mongolia autonomous region (Jiang Xiaoxuan’s To Kill a Mongolian Horse), and a film about a character made out of feces coming to life (Brian Tse’s The Excreman — On the Road), produced by Hong Kong’s famed McDull franchise. Seeing that previous HAF-backed successes include the box-office smash Dying to Survive (2018) and the critically acclaimed martial arts actioner Barbarian Invasion (2021), the new awardees are in good company. Wong says that there are both art-house and commercial ventures among this year’s awardees. “The range this year was quite exciting, and we are happy to embrace the more commercial projects. I think that is just the way people do business in Asia and it also makes sense because the Hong Kong film industry is very commercial in nature.” This year, the HAF was held under the HKIFF Industry Project Market banner, along with the first edition of the HKIFF Industry-CAA China Genre Initiative for Chinese-language projects. Five projects featured in the new initiative, with prizes going to the comedies Call of Lobster, by Yin Chen-hao, and Dying Fire, by Gao Linyang, for their “compelling narratives and bold use of dramatic elements”. For Wong, the new initiative makes creative as well as logistical sense. “Increasingly, we are doing business with the Chinese mainland and we want to continue to explore the market there,” he says. “The idea is and always has been to help aspiring filmmakers, and when we see any of these projects actually getting made, it just makes everyone involved very happy.” If you go Hong Kong International Film Festival Dates: Through April 8 Venue: Various venues
  • Though we’re more than halfway through the 48th Hong Kong International Film Festival, there’s still a chance to catch some of the entries on the festival’s expanding documentary program. In the decades since Robert Flaherty willfully blurred the line between fiction and reality in his Nanook of the North (1922), the documentary has never been more popular — thanks largely to Netflix and its bottomless supply of true crime mini-series and docudramas that have turned attention to the form. As the world of streaming — where some of HKIFF’s titles will undoubtedly find homes — broadens exponentially, theatrical documentaries “are increasingly asking where the boundaries between documentary and drama are,” says HKIFF programmer Mimi Wong. She cites Valeria Sarmiento’s archive-based doc on the rediscovery and restoration of Raúl Ruiz’s 1973 satire Socialist Realism. The Pinochet-led military coup in Chile led to Ruiz fleeing his country, while his film got left behind on the editing table. Wong says Sarmiento’s restored 2023 version of the film is “half-documentary and half-drama, and when audiences see the film they’ll be wondering what’s real”. Wong’s co-programmer, Geoffrey Wong, notes that “there’s been an uptick in docs about war and correctness, and these are hot topics”. But then, he reminds us, that documentaries do not necessarily have to be about what’s trending. The HKIFF has nearly two dozen docs in the lineup this year, ranging from “standard” documentary films to the formally experimental and personal self-examinations. Among the standouts are journalist Shiori Ito’s Black Box Diaries. In 2015, Ito was raped by a powerful and popular reporter, and the film tracks her search for justice. Black Box Diaries unfolds against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement beginning to gather momentum, and long-held attitudes toward sexual violence and harassment being re-examined. Equally feminist yet structurally opposed to Ito’s film is Klára Tasovská’s I’m Not Everything I Want to Be, in many ways a deeply personal and probing biography of Czech photographer Libuše Jarcovjáková. The film pulls away from the tradition of compiling archival materials. Instead, Jarcovjáková is shown reading from her diaries and reflecting on the Prague Spring of 1968, her life in West Germany, her self-image as a woman, and her search for identity. In Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir’s The Mother of All Lies, identity comes with a price. In trying to re-create the Casablanca neighborhood of her youth, she uncovers buried traumas and a conspiracy of silence that upends her family and national history. Ibrahim Nash’at’s Hollywoodgate, on the other hand, addresses a concern that’s more immediate in his chronicle of the 2021 transfer of power in Afghanistan. The film shadows Air Force commander Mawlawi Mansour with unprecedented access, resulting in a chilling portrait of authoritarian rule. Closer to home, directors Donna Ong and Wong Siu-pong couldn’t be farther apart stylistically, but each reveals a slice of Hong Kong life frequently overlooked. In Ong’s Cinema Strada, viewers are invited to take a look back at the city’s cinema culture — or the lack of it — in the ’60s and how critic, curator, researcher and filmmaker Law Kar almost singlehandedly changed that. Uncle Kar, as he’s known, ruminates on the past 80 years of Hong Kong movies and suggests how they could help alleviate stress. Wong’s Obedience peels back the layers on Hung Hom, one of Hong Kong’s most complex neighborhoods. Rich and poor, sparkling towers and grimy alleys, the living and the dead butt up against each other in Wong’s five-year document of a fast-changing urban jungle.
  • Tech-savvy gurus and risk-takers in blockchain-based, third-generation internet (Web3) are hailing technological advances in virtual reality and artificial intelligence as key drivers of the digital world. While agreeing that people’s lives are becoming more entwined with virtual spaces, they also hold great expectations for Hong Kong’s role in blurring the border separating the physical and digital realms. At the World of Web3 (WOW) Summit in Hong Kong, Elio D’Anna, co-founder of the UK-based House of Fine Art Gallery and CEO of, said that the days of being tethered to a smartphone may be numbered. Instead, he envisioned a future where human beings will live in a more immersive, three-dimensional reality that seamlessly integrates the digital and physical worlds. “This new reality will be powered by innovative devices that are connected through nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and cloud nodes, enabling users to stream and experience a digital world that is deeply intertwined with the physical one,” he told a panel session co-organized by China Daily titled “Emerging Trends in NFTs and the Metaverse”. Echoing his remarks, Gillian Pua, head of marketing and communications of BreederDAO — a Philippines-based digital assets provider for blockchain-based games — said the sector is waiting for innovations in virtual reality applications to play an increasingly crucial role to shape the world of tomorrow. She said people are witnessing a gradual shift towards a more virtual world, driven by reliance on the internet and social media platforms as well as emerging projects in the metaverse — an immersive digital realm where people can interact via avatars. The creation of innovative hardware is essential in pushing people closer to a seamless virtual experience, she said, citing the example of tech giants like Apple and Samsung, who are striving to create the best hardware that will make the digital playground more lifelike and engaging. During the same discussion, Emil Chan, co-chair of the Hong Kong Digital Finance Association, said Hong Kong has the potential to become a digital asset trading center, serving as a superconnector between the virtual and real worlds. His remarks highlight the city’s unique position and the need for a mature ecosystem to facilitate seamless transactions between digital assets and traditional financial systems. “Hong Kong’s historical role as a trading hub between East and West has positioned the city to leverage its expertise in bridging different markets,” Chan said. “As the world embraces digital assets, such as NFTs and cryptocurrencies, Hong Kong has the opportunity to extend its role as a superconnector to the virtual realm.” Chan noted the importance of creating a system that allows for easy “on-ramping” and “off-ramping” between the virtual and real worlds. This would enable investors to transfer their money into digital assets, creating value in both realms. By developing a mature ecosystem that supports such transactions, Hong Kong could become a center for digital asset trading, serving as a gateway for investors to enter and exit the metaverse, he added. However, to achieve this goal, Chan highlighted the need for stable regulation and the transformation of the traditional financial system. He pointed to the example of the Hong Kong dollar, which has been pegged to the US dollar since 1983, as a model for stability. If a digital currency is issued by renowned banks such as HSBC or Bank of China, it would inject greater confidence among investors, compared to those issued by commercial companies with less transparency, he said. Alexy Joven, co-founder of Modjo, a Paris-based startup specializing in Web3 and Web2 business branding and expansion, shed light on the transformative power of NFTs in the world of marketing. He noted the potential of NFTs to help startups grow without relying on traditional advertising methods, offering a fresh perspective on audience targeting and customer retention. His suggestion challenges the conventional wisdom of casting a wide net to reach a large audience. Instead, he advocates a more targeted strategy, focusing on a smaller group of around 2,000 people. By offering NFTs for free, backed by real value, startups can create a viral effect, generating buzz and attracting a targeted community of users, he said. “You give NFTs for free. … People want it, (and) speak about it. It goes viral, you have … a new community, (receive) better attention and then increase your revenue,” Joven said. Maria Ivina, founder of Satori Me which promotes the synergy of art, ecology, and technology, stressed the importance of synergy between Web3 technologies and sustainable living. Citing the metaverse as an example, she said the virtual space offers opportunities to organize exhibitions, conferences, and gatherings that leverage digital art to draw attention to eco-problems. “I’m very positive about that because I know a lot of people who do care about our planet. And new technologies are a very important part of our life,” she said. WOW Summit Hong Kong 2024, held on March 26 and 27 at AsiaWorld Expo, is a flagship event for the city to raise its profile in the global Web3 community. With over 7,000 attendees, including officials, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists, the event has served as a sounding board for Web3 players, allowing them to pick each other’s brains on NFT investment, blockchain technology, content creation in the metaverse and virtual asset regulation.
  • HONG KONG – The 48th edition of the Hong Kong International Film Festival – which will run from March 28 to April 8 – will feature 194 movies from 62 countries and regions. There will be total 307 screenings in various cinemas across the city, the organizers said at a press conference in the city on Friday. Cinephiles in Hong Kong will have the opportunity to meet award-winning filmmakers during the festival. They include Irish writer-director Martin McDonagh and Spanish maestro Victor Erice, as well as Zar Amir, the first Iranian female actress to win Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival. "As transportation has resumed after COVID-19, more world-renowned directors and movie writers will come to Hong Kong for the festival to engage with movie lovers by giving masterclasses and sharing their filmmaking experience," Wilfred Wong, chairman of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, said at the press conference. Japanese multi-instrumentalist and composer Ishibashi Eiko will give a live performance on March 30. She composed music for director Hamaguchi’s Evil does not exist and the silent film GIFT was created to accompany her live performance. Other than global movie professionals, local filmmakers will also get the spotlight during the annual festival. The festival will kick off with a new local movie, All shall be well, which has won the Teddy Award at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival in February. Director Ray Yeung, whose another award-winning movie is Suk Suk, captured the bittersweet story about the inheritance right of a partner of a lesbian couple in Hong Kong, where the partner passed away and the other one lost all of her assets due to the lack of legal protection for same-sex couples, and more importantly, love and care from her partner’s family members and relatives in her twilight years. Hong Kong independent film pioneer Fruit Chan has been picked as "the filmmaker in focus" for this year's festival, showcasing his early work of the 1997 trilogy Made in Hong Kong, The Longest Summer and Little Cheung, as well as his recent works. Renowned actress Karena Lam has been named as the ambassador for the 48th edition of the event. “I feel very honored for being recognized for my contribution to Hong Kong’s movie industry for more than 20 years," Lam, a ceramics enthusiast, said at the press conference. Other than screening of new and restored classic movies, budding talents will also compete for the Firebird Awards for outstanding movies, short film and documentaries. The participating works will also be screened during the festival. Tickets will be available for purchase starting from 10 am on Tuesday on the HKIFF official website. The HKIFF is Asia’s longest-running platform for filmmakers, film professionals, and filmgoers worldwide to launch new work and experience outstanding films.
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