Despite the presence of several established, renowned filmmakers on this year’s slate, HKIFF45’s greatest strength may actually lie in its unknown names; the young filmmakers that represent the next generation of cinema creators. In a programming year that didn’t have flashy titles from Cannes and Locarno to rely on, stemming from production delays and feeder event cancellations, it’s first-time directors and independent filmmakers to the rescue. “The independent scene was very different,” from mainstream production, said Geoffrey Wong, director of programming for the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society. “There were many newcomers and new directors emerging, who produced their own films. This year’s Firebird Young Cinema Competition section is very distinct, … and it gives the audience new options and experiences.” The category boasts 24 Chinese-language and international features and documentaries, and an additional 19 short films by debuting and second-time directors. Drifting, Jun Li’s follow-up to Tracey, zeroes in once again on Hong Kong’s marginalized. Inspired by the 2016 clean-ups of Tung Chau Street, Francis Ng plays ex-con street sleeper Fai, who one night returns to Sham Shui Po to find the few items owned by him gone and his “home” razed. Cao Jinling’s Anima is gorgeously photographed by the acclaimed Taiwan cinematographer Mark Lee. The story of brothers Linzi and Tutu unfolds against the backdrop of development that is causing environmental degradation. Tibetan filmmaker Lotan’s Lost is a black-and-white survival epic that highlights the struggles faced by a vanishing nomadic way of life. One of the program’s most challenging films, Memory House, tracks a middle-aged black man’s unraveling. Director Joao Paulo Miranda Maria’s examination of the legacy of slavery in Brazil is as timely as it is surreal. Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s unconventional documentary, Flee, tells a familiar refugee story through animation, making a wearying subject both fresh and affecting.