During film festivals, the opening movie is the calling card for audience and critics. Its importance is such as to create a mood that represents the edition itself, as it is often one of the most watched films of the entire festival.
For this, newspapers such as the Hollywood Reporter or the Screen Daily reported some news that aroused many doubts. What happened behind the scenes of the festival? No one knows, but let’s explore some aspects to better understand what happened.
The suspect story of the cancelled film
As we know, Philip Yung’s crime thriller “Where the Wind Blows” has been erased from being the opening film of the Hong Kong Film Festival. The festival stated on social media: “Upon request from the film owner, the screenings of “Where The Wind Blows”, originally scheduled at 5.30 p.m. on 1 April and 2.30 p.m. on 4 April, are cancelled due to technical reasons.”
The Screen Daily, authoritative magazine, writes: “The term ‘technical reasons’ has often been used by the Chinese authorities when a film has censorship issues. It was the reason cited when Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” was pulled from the Berlin Film Festival in 2019. Zhang’s film underwent some edits and was finally released in mainland China in November 2020, however it didn’t receive an international festival screening.”
Is this the main reason? Like other journalists, these are our mere speculations supported by some strong coincidences. It’s normal to get caught up in instinct and to think initially of a conspiracy, but without real evidence, we don’t know what really happened.
Despite the influence of Chinese politics on other sectors, Hong Kong has never suffered hypothetical censorship like this. In fact, many directors such as Johnny To, Andrew Lau, Longman Leung, Felix Chong and Alan Mak talked about corruption and abuse of power.
An important testimony that we cannot fail to mention in this article is the following: “Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper, whose founder Jimmy Lai is currently imprisoned for his role in supporting the city’s pro-democracy movement, previously reported that “Where the Wind Blows” was targeting a release in late 2018 before it became entangled in censorship problems in mainland China that could thwart the movie’s release there”. The Hollywood Reporter, and other magazines like Variety, stated that everything seems to lead to the theory of censorship, but the certainty is still far.
Given the high level of media attention to the issue, we will probably know in the next future what the truth behind the event is. Maybe same director Philip Yung will let us know. Once all the facts will be reconstructed, we just have to wait for new rumours or even new statements from the Hong Kong Film Festival itself. We will keep you up to date.
The 45th edition of HKIFF is scheduled to run April 1-12, 2021.