SFFILM announced the lineup for the ninth annual Hong Kong Cinema series, taking place July 12 to 14 at New People Cinema and the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
Sporting brand-new early summer dates, this year’s Hong Kong Cinema offers a selection that traverses many genres while also delivering the action-packed thrillers that put the region on the cinematic map. Hong Kong’s support of independent and emerging filmmakers is reflected in Jessey Tsang’s exploration of female sexuality The Lady Improper and the Hong Kong First Feature Film Initiative-supported G Affairs, while festival favorite Pang Ho-Cheung returns with his breast milk caper comedy Missbehavior.
Opening Night: Tracey
Jun Li, Hong Kong 2018, 119 min
Hong Kong cinema takes a bold and progressive leap forward with Jun Li’s powerful portrait of a middle-aged man recognizing he is transgender. Husband and father Tai-hung is a modest business owner who secretly dresses in women’s clothes. When a childhood friend of his dies, the past comes rushing in, and forces him to confront feelings long buried and a gender identity long denied. Sensitive and nuanced, Tracey tackles all of the ramifications of its protagonist’s decision to live life honestly, showing the impact it has on wife Anne (the legendary Kara Wai, who won a Hong Kong Film Award for her performance) and their kids. Also rare and welcome are the film’s honest and shaded depictions of other LGBTQ characters in Tai-hung’s life.
Hotel Soul Good
Yan Pak-wing, Hong Kong 2018, 99 min
Driven hotel manager Katy Chow starts seeing ghosts after she suffers a nasty bump on the head in Yan Pak-wing’s spirited comedy. After Katy is fired for her overly firm hand at work, her poltergeist pals make her aware of a small guesthouse which soon gains renown and popularity for being haunted. In return, the ectoplasmic entities ask her to provide a “yin” so that they can bring closure to their purgatorial existence. Enter hapless ne’er-do-well Jason (popular comedic actor and Cantopop singer Louis Cheung) who is proposed as the potential avenue for their escape and a possible beau for Katy, and the stage is set for hysterical hijinks of an otherworldly kind.
Lee Cheuk-pan, Hong Kong 2018, 105 min
Nominated for multiple Hong Kong Film Awards and supported by the First Feature Film Initiative, Lee Cheuk-pan’s debut feature tells a dark story of murder, prostitution, and police corruption. It begins with a timid cello player shocked by a severed head bouncing into his apartment. After it’s revealed that he’s been letting a corrupt cop use his flat for nefarious activities, the story expands to include several of the young musician’s schoolmates and teachers, many with disturbing backstories. Director Lee is interested in how criminality in city departments and schools seeps into the body public, and G Affairs shows how Hong Kong’s dark underbelly makes itself known in the light.
Pang Ho-cheung, Hong Kong 2019, 88 min
A delightfully crude caper about three estranged female friends on a madcap search for breast milk could only come from the twisted mind of Hong Kong Cinema favorite Pang Ho-cheung. It all begins when executive assistant June accidentally puts her demanding boss’s expressed milk into a client’s coffee and has to find a way to replace it before the workday is out. A ragtag rescue crew, many of whom are at odds with one another, is quickly thrown together and they disperse to various parts of the metropolis to obtain the crucial substance. Lurking behind Missbehavior’s absurdity and hilarious comic set pieces is a touching story about relationships moving forward after serious disagreements.
Men on the Dragon
Sunny Chan, Hong Kong 2018, 92 min
Sunny Chan’s bright and winning sports comedy portrays a group of hapless but well-meaning company workers who join a dragon boat racing team in the wake of company shakeups and looming layoffs. By showing can-do spirit and group camaraderie, the group of engineers hopes that forming the team will help them hold on to their jobs. What initially begins as a last-ditch effort to remain employed, though, turns into a spirit-rousing endeavor that leads them each to confront unhappy circumstances in their personal lives. Nominated for 11 Hong Kong Film Awards including five for acting, Men on the Dragon is particularly bolstered by Jennifer Yu (who can also be seen in Tracey) as their no-nonsense coach, Dorothy.
The Lady Improper
Jessey Tsang, Hong Kong 2019, 107 min
In this daring exploration of female sexuality, Charlene Choi (77 Heartbreaks, HKC 2017) stars as Siu-man, an OB-GYN facing several life crises. Her husband has left her, claiming she is sexually frigid; her hospitalized father is in danger of losing his restaurant; and her job has requested she take some time off. After hiring lady-killer chef Jiahao to overhaul the family business, she finds more than her taste buds are awakened by watching him at work and at play. Cantopop star Choi sheds her teen idol image as the titular protagonist, and her efforts were justly rewarded with a Best Actress nomination from the Hong Kong Film Awards. Note: The Lady Improper was was truncated in some locations for sexual content; SFFILM will be showing the complete 105-minute version.
Wong Kwok-fai, Hong Kong 2019, 102 min
Politics and the law, money and murder, all compellingly intertwine in this taut mystery/courtroom drama. Powerhouse attorney Lui has won 12 cases in a row, so it’s a bit bewildering when he agrees to take on the defense of a young kid who wakes up next to the murdered daughter of a billionaire businessman with no idea what happened the night before. What seems like an unwinnable defense, however, takes a surprising turn when it’s revealed that the young woman was involved with an up-and-coming shady politician. With shades of The Night Of (2016) in the background and rich character detail, The Attorney also offers a pointed look at what people with power can get away with while the dispossessed take the blame.