Since 2009, ifva (Incubator for Film and Visual Media in Asia)—a short film and media art awards and festival organised by the Hong Kong Arts Centre—has been running the All About Us creative media education programme for ethnic minority youth in Hong Kong. With numerous short films made and produced over the years, the first-ever All About Us Film Festival is finally taking place from October 30 to November 20.
Kattie Fan, the festival director of ifva said that when they first thought of the programme back in 2009 they didn’t know much about ethnic minorities. But since their focus was on arts and culture, they wanted to offer something new to ethnic minority youth that other organisations aren’t doing—and that was film or moving images.
“[Ethnic minorities] use different languages, they come from different backgrounds and different cultures. And film is something very visual so you can produce a film without dialogue and still convey the many emotions, cultures and stories,” says Fan. “We thought that maybe it’s also one of the possible careers that they could consider.”
Ali Shamaz is one of the first participants in the earlier editions who also subsequently returned as a mentor the following years. His short film, Before It’s Too Late is also screening at the festival. Shamaz says that he was surprised to find out such a programme specifically for ethnic minorities existed. “I went to a local school but I still hang out with ethnic minorities so when I heard that there’s such a programme, it was sort of the first time that I got to experience talking in English with other people because back then, I considered Cantonese as my mother tongue.”
Since joining the programme in 2013, Shamaz says he’s become more creative. “I start to explore more possibilities outside of academics because when you’re in school, you only focus on that. But I realise that I’m actually very interested in directing which influenced me to pursue the creative field, in some way.” True enough, Shamaz is now studying integrative systems and design at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
The programme has changed much over the years, while it still targets ethnic minority participants, the aim is to reach a wider Hong Kong audience. “In the beginning, we thought [the films] will only target ethnic minority youth but now we aim to reach different audiences regardless if they’re local Chinese or ethnic minorities. We hope that we can bring the [students’] films to the public and let their voices be heard,” Fans says.
She adds that running the programme for more than a decade has been a learning experience for them too. “We tried to do it the same way that we do for local Chinese students but it was a total failure, and we soon realised that it wasn’t the best way to approach it as there are differences that hinder them from participating on a weekly basis. It was something we had to learn and understand and then adjust to.”