Despite the pandemic, the show must go on. And that is exactly the case with the 45th rendition of the Hong Kong International Film Festival.
"It is my honor to be able to host the 45th festival as it is a milestone for all of us," said Geoffrey Wong, the director of programming of the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society.
However, under the current social restrictions, the festival requires a new way of presentation.
"As Hong Kong has always been such an advanced city, we believe it's time for us to adopt the hybrid format and bring this new experience to film lovers and the public."
The festival will be presented in both in-theater screenings and on a new online platform.
Wong said preparing for the new online platform took months, with many problems to be resolved, such as copyright and piracy issues.
"The challenges were enormous and unprecedented, but we keep on pursuing as we believe the new format will be an inevitable trend in the future," said Wong.
Opening the festival are two local films, described by Wong as "love letters to this great city. Where the Wind Blows is loosely based on the story of Hong Kong's infamous "Four Great Sergeants" from the 1960s and is director Philip Yung's sequel to his 2015 film Port of Call.
Septet: The Story of Hong Kong is an anthology of seven short films by local veteran directors such as Ann Hui and the late Ringo Lam, "who themselves represent the diversity of Hong Kong cinema and their nostalgia toward local cinema and our city."
The festival has always included films of different countries and genres and a range of directors, both veteran and emerging. This year's lineup sees 16 films from the Young Cinema Competitions and timeless classics from famed local directors Wong Kar-wai and Stanley Kwan.
Wong is most looking forward to Tih Minh, a century-old silent film by famous French director Louis Feuillade.
Other than film screenings, the festival will also include masterclasses and webinars featuring names like Frederick Wiseman and Kurosawa Kiyoshi. Wong said it is the silver lining of the pandemic, as renowned filmmakers may not have been able to fly in if we were in normal times.
With the recent closure of a large local cinema chain, some may not see a bright future for local films. Wong understands, but does not agree.
"There is inevitably a change in lifestyle and the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic and social unrest. However, I have always been optimistic on the film industry and the local filmmakers.
"These people are so energetic and talented. I'm sure they will find ways to express themselves and create art of the highest order in such turbulent times."
The festival will be held online and in theaters from April 1 to 12. Tickets are available online through Urbtix outlets, MCL Cinema's website and mobile ticketing app and the K11 Art House box office.