Magazine article Screen International

Q&A: Hong Kong Film Festival Artistic Director Li Cheuk To

Magazine article Screen International

Q&A: Hong Kong Film Festival Artistic Director Li Cheuk To

Article excerpt

Li joined as a programmer in the 1980s and has seen the festival through times of boom and bust for Hong Kong cinema.

Li Cheuk To

You have been at HKIFF for 34 years. What was the Hong Kong film landscape like when you first started?

I joined the festival in the early 1980s to programme the Hong Kong Cinema Retrospective section. In those days we discovered new land every year, like introducing China’s Fifth Generation to international audiences with [Chen Kaige’s] Yellow Earth. The 1980s were the golden age of Hong Kong cinema. It was also the age of innocence for exchanges among film festivals and film cultures.

How has your role evolved along with the growth of the festival?

My role changed to programming international cinema in the 1990s. We held on to our ideals of discovering new talents and promoting Hong Kong cinema in the troubled times. A Hong Kong Panorama catalogue was published as a companion to the screening programme, and we paid tribute to a Hong Kong filmmaker every year.

HKIFF evolved from a government-organised festival to a private initiative when the millennium set in. I was general manager during the transition years (2002-04) when it was organised by Hong Kong Arts Development Council. We were able to break from bureaucratic straitjackets to start looking for sponsors and marketing opportunities.

How did the changes benefit HKIFF?

The corporatisation of HKIFF in 2004 allowed us to be proactive. We took over the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) and founded the Asian Film Awards. …

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