‘Stonewalling’ and ‘Totem’ Share Hong Kong Festival’s Firebird Awards

Apr 11, 2023
Dimitris Passas

NOTE: This article is a republication- Source: Variety (by Patrick Frater).

Huang Ji and Otsuka Ryuji’s “Stonewalling” won the Chinese-language section of the Hong Kong International Film Festival’s Firebird Young Cinema competition. Lila Aviles’s “Totem” won the equivalent Firebird Award for international films.

The festival began on March 30 and concluded on Sunday evening with a world premier screening of “Vital Sign” at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre’s Grand Theatre. The screening was accompanied by cast and crew including Louis Koo, director Cheuk Wan-chi, producer Jacqueline Liu and performers Neo Yao, Angela Yuen, Ng Wing-sze, Tony Wu and So Yuet-yin.

In total, “Stonewalling” picked up three awards. In addition to the best film prize, it also collected the best actress prize for leads Huang Xiaoxiong and Yao Honggui and the FIPRESCI Award. The tale of an unwanted pregnancy, the film premiered at Venice and Toronto last year. The HKIFF jury said it “[reminds] us of the confusion, difficulty and suffering women face nowadays and the inescapable responsibilities they have to shoulder. It inspires the audience to reflect on this important issue in modern society. It is an invaluable film replete with empathy.”

In the Chinese film section, Hong Heng-fai won the best director award for “Kissing the Ground You Walked On.” The best actor prize went to Li Xuejian for his role in “To Love Again.” A special mention was also given to “Bad Education,” the directorial debut of Taiwan actor Kai Ko which is amassing a growing haul of festival selections and awards.

“Totem,” which documents the unravelling of a family as it prepares for a party, premiered in competition in Berlin in February. The Hong Kong jury called it, “a unique experience of time and space.”
Other winners in the international section were Martin Benchimol for debut film “The Castle,” Mirko Giannini as best actor in “Astrakhan.” The ensemble female cast of festival favorite “20,000 Species of Bees” was named best actress.

In the separate documentary competition, Lea Glob’s “Apolonia, Apolonia” was named as winner with “The Hamlet Syndrome” awarded the jury prize. In the short film section, Morgane Frund’s graduation film “Bear” was the Firebird Award winner. Alvin Lee’s black comedy “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was the jury prize winner.

The HKIFF organizers said that the celebration of Jean-Luc Godard’s life and work that began during this year’s festival will be extended through the May-June-July edition of film outreach program Cine Fan. They also announced dates for next year’s event as March 28-April 8, 2024.

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