Not HAF bad

Mathew Scott

Not HAF bad

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