Cover Here are our recommended movies to watch at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2021 (Photo: Hong Kong Asian Film Festival)

The Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2021’s lineup boasts more than 70 movies including numerous award-winning films in various international film festivals

The 18th edition of the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival will kick off on October 27 with the theme of “Emancipation in Variations” to reflect the innovative movies breaking out of the box. With cinemas closed for a while last year, its reopening has been met with much anticipation. Movie fans will be delighted to know that more than 70 films, including numerous award-winning films in various international film festivals, are selected for this year’s lineup.

The Hong Kong Asian Film Festival will introduce both old and new cinephiles to the best Asian films and act as a platform for young Asian filmmakers to showcase their craft. While the pandemic has limited the appearance of overseas filmmakers to attend the festival in person, online post-screening talks at the cinemas are still available.

Besides popular movies like Drive My Car and Memoria—movies that have continuously made the lineup for film festivals including Cannes, Busan International Film Festival and Tokyo International Film Festival, this year's star-studded lineup has plenty to offer. Not sure where to start? Read our recommendations on which movies to watch at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.

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1. Love After Love

Love After Love marks Ann Hui’s third adaptation of Chinese literacy icon, Eileen Chang’s work. Here, she presents yet again another take on how women are forced to compromise themselves in love and war. The story is a coming-of-age story of a Shanghainese schoolgirl, Weilong who is seeking solace and secondary education in Hong Kong under her aunt, Mrs Liang’s wing.

While Weilong longs for another path in life, her custodian has another plan: she's yet another valuable asset to be pawned to rich men. Despite her forthcoming fate, Weilong falls for George who seems destined to break her heart. Backed by beautiful cinematography and camera work from Christopher Doyle, score from Ryuichi Sakamoto and wardrobe from Emi Wada, Love After Love is a powerhouse collaboration waiting to be watched.

Screening day: November 14 at 2pm

2. The First Girl I Loved

The First Girl I Loved is the debut of advertising director Ng Wing-shan and actor, Yeung Chiu-hoi who are both joining forces with screenwriter Chan Hing-kai and O Sing-pui. Following the stories of Nam and Yuet, the movie is an affecting tale of female friendship and first loves.

Nam and Yuet have been the best of friends since their school days. But on the night before Yuet’s wedding, the two share an intimate moment together—one that's more than friendship but perhaps not quite love. How will the two women come to terms with their relationship?

Screening day: November 2 at 7:20 pm

3. On the Job: The Missing 8

Filipino director Erik Matti follows up his highly successful 2013 film, On the Job with this sprawling expansion of the universe. On the Job: The Missing 8 is about journalist Sisoy Salas who used to be a lackey of those in power but after the disappearance of his colleagues, he chooses to investigate the truth. But the political party is determined to spot Sisoy so they enlist the help of a programme that turns prisoners into assassins to take him out.

Much to their dismay, the hitman assigned to kill Sisoy has plans of his own. In this follow-up movie, Matti explores the culture of corruption and privilege in his home country through a visceral and exciting thriller. John Arcilla who plays Sisoy won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor—the first Filipino actor to take home the coveted award.

Screening days: October 30 at 2:15 pm, November 7 at 1:30 pm

4. Hit the Road

Panah Panahi, the son of revered Iranian director Jafar Panahi makes his feature-length directorial debut with Hit the Road, after working on several of his father’s films. This offbeat road movie follows an unnamed family comprised of the moody father, the emotional father, the angst-ridden elder son and the overactive young son.

They go on a road trip to an unknown destination. Panahi showcases the family’s dynamics through the joyful moments and more restrained ones, holding back the true reason for the voyage for as long as he can.

Screening days: October 29 at 8:00 pm, November 3 at 7:50 pm, November 13 at 1:15 pm

5. Heaven: To the Land of Happiness

Korean maverick, Im Sang-soo makes a splashy return to cinema five years after his last movie with Heaven: To the Land of Happiness. Dubbed as a mix of high-energy caper and moving bromance tale, the movie boasts a stellar cast starring Choi Min-sik as Prisoner 203, a terminally ill convict who wants to break out of jail to his daughter for the last time. He seeks the help of Nam-sik, who’s surviving by stealing medicine from the hospital.

With a stash of cash in tow, the odd pairing goes on the run both from the cops and from the mob. Im crafts an action-fuelled extravaganza about two unlikely people banding together to live out their last days with a bang.

Screening days: October 31 at 1:20 pm, November 10 at 9:50 pm

6. Rehana Maryam Noor

Rehana Maryam Noor made history as the first Bangladeshi film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival and it certainly left a mark. Director Abdullah Mohammad Saad pills no punches in this harrowing portrait of a woman seeking justice no matter what it takes.

Medical school professor, Rehana Maryam Noor hears about a student being assaulted by a senior professor. She’s unsuccessful in making the student come forward with her experience so she finds her own righteous resolve pulling her into the case, eventually spiralling into an obsession until justice is delivered.

Screening days: November 6 at 1:10 pm, November 13 at 7:20 pm

7. White Building

Cambodian director Kavich Neang has documented the last days of the iconic White Building, home to many of Phnom Penh’s artistic community in his 2019 feature documentary debut, Last Night I Saw You Smiling. He returns to the soon-to-be-demolished building in his first fictional feature, White Building. This loosely autobiographical drama follows 20-year-old, Samnang whose home is about to be pulled down and his best friend about to leave Cambodia for good.

The young man finds himself at a crossroads. There’s some emotional punch to the film as Neang's own father, a sculptor calls the apartment block home. The movie was selected as Cambodia’s official entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards while Chhun Piseth took home the Orizzonti Award for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his performance.

Screening days: November 7 at 1:15 pm, November 13 at 2:35 pm

8. Hava, Maryam, Ayesha

Hava, Maryam, Ayesha is the first fictional feature by renowned documentary filmmaker, Sahraa Krimi which premiered at the prestigious Venice Film Festival. The story is about three women, firstly there’s Hava, a pregnant woman who is forced by her husband and father-in-law to carry on with household tasks despite her condition.

Then, there’s Maryam, a strong-willed and progressive TV news anchor who is facing divorce from her unfaithful husband. Finally, there’s Ayesha, an 18-year-old girl who is arranged to marry her cousin despite her already being in a loving relationship with someone else.

Screening days: October 30 at 9:00 pm, November 4 at 7:45 pm, November 8 at 7:45 pm

9. Voice of Silence

Yoo Ah-in, one of the best actors of his generation, stars in Voice of Silence, the directorial debut by Hong Eui-jeong. Together with renowned actor Yoo Jae-myung, they play the roles of Tae-in and Chang-bok, egg sellers who make extra income by disposing of dead bodies for gangsters. The two find themselves at a loss when they’ve been tasked to safeguard an 11-year-old kidnapped girl, Cho-hee. During their time together, the kidnappers and Cho-hee form an unlikely family bond.

The movie received critical acclaim and took several awards including Best Director at the Baeksang Art Awards while Yoo Ah-in took home the Best Actor award.

Screening days: November 1 at 7:30 pm, November 6 at 7:15 pm, November 19 at 7:50 pm

10. Anita

This long-awaited biopic by director Longman Leung is about Hong Kong icon, Anita Mui, who may have left us too early at the young age of 40 but her legacy lives on as one of the greatest Cantopop stars. The movie follows the ups and downs of Mui’s life, including her meteoric rise to stardom and her star-crossed romances.

Hong Kong-born fashion model, Louise Wong makes an electrifying debut in the titular role, joining the star-studded cast of Louis Koo, Gordon Lam, Fish Liewe and Terrance Lau.

Screening days: October 21


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