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Macao’s 4th International Film Festival Highlights Local, Chinese, and International Cinema

At the 4th International Film Festival and Awards Macao, Chinese starlet Zhou Dongyu and EXO's Suho take the spotlight at the opening ceremony red carpet.

By , 6 Dec 19 00:53 UTC
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The team behind “Better Days” (Zhou Dongyu fourth from left). Richard Yu for Cinema Escapist.

The fourth International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM) began on December 5th, 2019. The festival will run through December 10th, 2019, and showcase a number of films from not only the Sinosphere, but also from around the world. 2019 also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the handover of Macao from Portugal to the People’s Republic of China in 1999; this year’s film festival features a special selection of local films highlighting life in Macao since the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty.

Chinese starlet Zhou Dongyu was named “Actress in Focus” for this year’s festival, a nod to her growing success not only within China but also globally. Zhou previously won “Best Actress” at both the Taiwan-run Golden Horse awards and the mainland China-run Golden Rooster awards for her role in Soul Mate. Her latest film Better Days, an exploration of the dark world of teenage bullying, will be an opening night highlight for the festival.

Korean boy band EXO member Suho was named “Talent Ambassador” this year. A crowd of his fans braved the chilly weather to welcome his arrival on the red carpet. His latest movie The Present, helmed by acclaimed director Hur Jin-ho, will also be screened on the opening night of the festival.

Let’s take a look at 9 notable movies that will screen at this year’s International Film Festival & Awards of Macao.

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9. Jojo Rabbit

Director: Taika Waititi | Starring: Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell | Genre(s): Action, Comedy, Historical

World War II comedy Jojo Rabbit is the opening film for this year’s Macao film festival. In Jojo Rabbit, a young member of the Hitler Youth finds out that his family has been hiding a Jewish girl in their house. His worldview turns upside down as he grapples with seeing a Jew as a real human. Meanwhile, his imaginary friend (taking the form of Adolf Hitler) counsels him as he matures from “boy” into “man.”

8. Better Days

Director: Derek Tsang | Starring: Zhou Dongyu, Jackson Lee | Genre(s): Drama

Zhou Dongyu’s latest movie faced numerous regulatory hurdles before finally getting a theatrical debut in November 2019. Better Days is a dark but brutally honest depiction of teenage bullying. Zhou expands her acting repertoire beyond romantic dramas while providing some incisive social commentary on the social pressures contemporary adolescents face.

Read our full review of Better Days here.

7. Ina And The Blue Tiger Sauna

Director: António Caetano de Faria, Bernardo Rao | Starring: Eliz, Lao I Lum, Kam Kwok Leung, Li Feng, Tsang Wai Dick, Lee Ka Wai, Awet Ho | Genre(s): Drama

Macao is known as Asia’s “sin city” not only because of its casinos, but also because of its sex industry. Saunas operate as semi-legitimate brothels in the autonomous city. This is the backdrop for Ina And The Blue Tiger SaunaIn the film, a young woman inherits her father’s sauna. The film explores the darker and seedier side of Macao (the venue of the film festival), and is a refreshingly dark take on an otherwise glitzy city.

6. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains

Directed by: Gu Xiaogang | Starring: Youfa Qian, Fengjuan Wang, Zhangjian Sun, Renliang Zhang, Guoying Zhang, Zhangwei Sun, Hongjun Du, Luqi Peng, Yi Zhuang, Zikang Sun, Zhenyang Dong | Genre(s): Drama

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains was featured at the Cannes film festival earlier this year. The film is centered on a group of brothers who take care of their ailing mother after a stroke, and is named after a famous eponymous Chinese painting depicting the landscape near Hangzhou. Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains features superb cinematography that complements the “impressive acting” noted by the festival’s programmers.

5. Years of Macao

Directed by: Tou Kin Hong, Penny Lam Kin Kuan, Albert Chu Iao Ian, Emily Chan, Peeko Wong, Chao Koi Wang, Maxim Bessmertnyi, Mike Ao Ieong Weng Fong, António Caetano de Faria | Genre(s): Drama

Years of Macao is collection of short films highlighting different stories in the years since Macao’s return to Chinese sovereignty. The films are made by local directors, and feature diverse experiences ranging from the aftermath of typhoons to marital issues. One can compare and contrast Years of Macao to Hong Kong’s similar Ten Years; although, Macao’s take on life since reunification seems much more positive than that of Hong Kong.

4. Wet Season

Director: Anthony Chen | Starring: Yeo Yann Yann, Christopher Lee, Koh Jia Ler, Yang Shi Bin | Genre(s): Drama

Relationships between schoolteachers and pupils are generally seen as taboo. Yet, Singaporean director Anthony Chen chose to tackle this difficult topic head-on in Wet Season. Chinese language teacher Ling falls in love with one of her students; yet, the film is not a romantic drama. Instead, the festival programmers consider Wet Season as a commentary on the struggles that many women in Asia face today. Regardless, we expect the auteur behind Cannes award-winner Ilo Ilo to deliver a stunning film.

3. The Wild Goose Lake

Directed by: Diao Yinan | Starring: Hu Ge , Gwei Lun Mei, Liao Fan, Wan Qian, Qi Dao | Genre(s): Drama

Renowned director Diao Yinan delivers a noir thriller considered a “virtuoso” by IFFAMs programmers. In The Wild Goose Lake, an all-star cast consisting of Hu Ge, Liao Fan, and Gwei Lun-mei portray the story of a gangster (Hu) being pursued by police (Liao), seeking to escape his past — when he meets a prostitute also looking for a new life (Gwei). The Wild Goose Lake builds on Diao’s success with 2014’s Black Coal, Thin Ice, which also stars Liao Fan and Gwei Lun-mei.

2. I’m Livin’ It

Directed by: Hing Fan Wong | Starring: Aaron Kwok, Miriam Yeung, Alex Man, Nina Paw, Cheung Tat-ming | Genre(s): Drama

Usually when one thinks about Hong Kong, the “homeless” do not immediately come to mind. Yet, there’s an under-reported population of homeless residents in one of the world’s wealthiest cities who drift between temporary shelters and sleeping in 24-hour McDonalds. Renowned Hong Kong actor Aaron Kwok graces I’m Livin’ It to tell the story of a group of individuals who have to lift themselves out of rock bottom.

1. Saturday Fiction

Directed by: Lou Ye | Starring: Gong Li, Mark Chao, Joe Odagiri, Pascal Gregorry, Tom Wlaschiha | Genre(s): Drama

Chinese director Lou Ye is no stranger to official scrutiny and controversy. His breakout film Suzhou River brought himself a two year ban from filmmaking (the film itself is still banned), and a controversial 2006 film set in the backdrop of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests led to a five year ban (the film was screened at Cannes without permission). His latest film Saturday Fiction is less politically controversial but no less thrilling. Gong Li plays an actress who returns to Shanghai with questionable motives. The film is a classic spy thriller, featuring double agents and a multi-layered plot.

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