Cover All About Us Film Festival is the first-ever of its kind in Hong Kong (Photo: ifva)

After more than a decade of organising the All About Us programme—a creative video project dedicated to ethnic minorities in Hong Kong—ifva finally launches its first-ever film festival with the aim to break down racial boundaries through film

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.”

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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.”

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Eventually, the weekly sessions were discarded and replaced by a three-day camp where students can make films during their time together. Guests from the industry were invited to share their experience and over the years, previous participants returned as mentors to guide the students in producing their work.

For Fan, after 12 years of organising the programme, a film festival has already been in the works for quite a while. “During the 10th anniversary [of All About Us], we started to think about running the festival because there’s no festival that showcases ethnic minorities’ work in Hong Kong. We had a lot of screenings [of the students’ works] but I think it would be more significant to have a festival as it would attract more people to take a look and learn about other cultures,” she says.

Continuing to balance his studies and his passion for filmmaking, Shamaz says that the programme and film festival is a “platform to showcase what we can do. We can show that we can be even more creative than what people might think. [All About Us] also allows ethnic minorities to have more choices to see if [the creative field] is the right [career] fit for us.”

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There are different sides of people in this society. It’s not always like how they’re being represented in the media. There are people with different stories that they want to tell
Ali Shamaz

Bipin Karma, a Nepali actor from Hong Kong recently made waves as one of the first ethnic minority actors in the city to land an acting lead role in a mainstream movie for neo-noir crime drama, Hand Rolled Cigarette opposite Hong Kong star, Gordon Lam. Karma was also a former participant of All About Us and his directorial debut, the short film Melting Pot is also screening at the festival.

Shamaz—who was also part of Hand Rolled Cigarette—thinks that there’s at least been a change in how ethnic minority representation in the media thanks to stars like Bipin Karma and Crisel Consunji but he laments that there are still labels, prejudice and stereotypes that exist. “In Hong Kong, I believe there’s no such thing as ethnic minorities. There are just people from different cultural backgrounds. But it might take a few years for people to finally realise that we’re all just Hongkongers.”

But at least, the programme and the film festival remains as stepping stone to break down racial boundaries. “We call it All About Us because it includes everyone. We want to showcase that the students’ films tell many layers to the lives of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong,” says Fan.

“There are different sides of people in this society. It’s not always like how they’re being represented in the media. There are people with different stories that they want to tell. [The festival] also influences other people to appreciate these types of art as well,” adds Shamaz.


All About Us Film Festival runs until November 20, 2021. Please visit their Facebook page for more details.

 

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