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Archive for October, 2010

The Golden Rock - SQUATTERTOWN Edition

Did watch VENGEANCE CAN WAIT at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, but since there’s only one film on Friday and one film last night, I will condense the two into one entry this weekend.

For now, would like to point your attention to SQUATTERTOWN, which I have talked about on the East Screen/West Screen podcast and on my Twitter. Mr. Sparmberg has sent out a press release, and I will now reprint it here, with his permission:



October 12, 2010

Hong Kong 10.10.10 – The production crew of Hong Kong’s first Dim Sum Western web series started its elevated location scouting on the rooftops of Hong Kong for the highly anticipates shootout of SQUATTERTOWN.

Headed by trans-media filmmaker Marco Sparmberg and Digital Media Expert Juergen Hoehbarth SQUATTERTOWN is about to be a wild mixture of film genres, art forms and new media technology. Run as multimedia project with an open source character, SQUATTERTOWN is a sole crowdsourced and crowdfunded project which engages its audience and contributors right from the start. Since August the project is worldwide looking for funding on various internet based collaborative fundraising platforms like Indiegogo.

Within the past years of their professional work in Hong Kong, Marco Sparmberg and Juergen Hoebarth set up a very own concept of local crowdsourced independent film production and a so-called “reverse distribution model”. Touring and promoting their vision throughout the city as well as international new media arts festivals like this year’s Ars Electronica, both were able to raise extreme awareness of their recent project SQUATTERTOWN.

Currently the projects core crew is assembled with independent filmmakers and experts in film related fields from all around the globe, ranging from China, the US, Germany, Austria and Portugal. This diversity is even stronger within SQUATTERTOWN’s daily increasing follower base throughout all the projects internet channels.

The web series is designed as 5 episode release, during its first season, for mobile devices and internet platforms. Not only the way how SQUATTERTOWN approaches its audience is unique, but also the dramatic genre via a gripping apocalyptic story will be told. Merely conceived as so-called Dim Sum Westerns, basically a mixture of the visual aesthetics from Spaghetti Westerns and Hong Kong films during the 1980s, the series will draw a gritty fictional picture of a desperate future society.

Set within the unique rooftop squatter housing structures of Hong Kong, SQAUTTERTOWN will also tackle a severe local social issue: the gradual disappearance of a very own culture, hidden in the dark for decades. Due to Hong Kong’s rapid urban renewal process the series’ director Marco Sparmberg admits, “This phenomenon has to be dealt with by the most modern mass media tools available otherwise it will vanish even before we can communicate and translate it to a broad global audience.”

Hence, the project turned out to be a race against time as some locations are soon about to be demolished, others already no longer accessible. The team around Marco Sparmberg and Juergen Hoebarth are scouting for suitable locations till mid of November 2010, principal photography is scheduled for first week of December. Till the cameras roll SQUATTERTOWN’s fundraising campaigns on are still running. “We welcome every single piece of support. Even just telling a friend or writing a tweet is already bringing the project one step further!” says Juergen Hoebarth.

For more information and details on the project, tune in and subscribe to one of the projects various internet channels like Twitter or Facebook. And to take direct action in helping this ambitious and talented crew SHOOTING SOME DIM SUM contact


So spread the word and join a worthy cause!

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Day 4 Edition

After a packed weekend, only two films for night 4 of the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival

Asian Shorts 1 - This program consists of 6 short films, totaling about 75 minutes:

Now - A 2-minute short film made by friend Edmund Yeo for Prada is short, nice-looking, and to the point. Not much else to say about that.

The Artist and His Magic - 8-minute short film is shot with 3d animation and still photography. Looked ok, but abstract “story” didn’t do anything for me.

Heaven and Hell - Risky Liu returns from his previous bad publicity incident for this strong one-take film based on the Liu Yi Shang story. The camerawork could be a little better, but it’s still quite well-made for what it is.

Shinda Gaijin - This short from Waseda University starts off with some good dark humor, but ends kind of flat. Wonder what the family of Lindsey Hawker would think about this film (look her up).

Kids in the Dark - This short film from Mainland China simply shows two people sitting in an apartment writing notes to each other. The director obviously forgot content.

Crimson Jade - KJ director Cheung King Wai’s first foray into dramatic narrative is beautifully shot some powerful images. Half an hour works fine for his quiet, minimalist style, but would not sustain feature length. Anti-drug message feels a little insincere, but otherwise a strong short film.

Paprika(2006, Japan, directed by Satoshi Kon) - Satoshi Kon’s final film is light on story, but heavy on imagination. Some really strong images and great ideas keep this entertaining sci-fi mystery immensely entertaining. Animation format feels fully utilized, and great pacing for a wild ride. Wish I had caught this earlier.

Tomorrow: Tadanobu Asano in VENGEANCE CAN WAIT

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Day 3 Edition

The second consecutive day of three films sadly didn’t match the previous day’s stuff, but some interesting stuff nevertheless.

The Time To Live The Time To Die (Taiwan, 1986, director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien) - Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s autobiographical film about his childhood is slow, ponderous, and lack a clear story. It is 138 minutes connected by moments, and some of them are quite good. Like I tweeted in August about several Iranian films, this is a film that I can admire, but can never truly like.

Let the Wind Carry Me (Hong Kong/Taiwan, 2009, directed by Chiang Hsiu-chiung and Kwan Pun-leung) - This documentary about this year’s retrospective focus Mark Lee Ping-Bing is a fascinating look into a more normal cinematographer (Wong Kar Wai’s comparison of Lee and Christopher Doyle is spot on). However, it feels like it’s strictly for film buffs, with interesting tidbits about Lee’s technique. Still, strictly for film buffs and aspiring filmmakers only.

My Ex-Wife’s Wedding (China/South Korea/Hong Kong, 2010, director: Lee Kung-Lok) - Fun commercial fluff has a strong MTV style, a very polished look, plenty of expensive stuff, and an Aloys Chen Kun mugging it up as a comedic lead. There are plenty of things that this sometimes ridiculous romantic comedy, but it manages to make itself likeable all the same. The surprisingly honest Q&A with producer Daniel Yu and writer Szeto Kam-Yuen helped make me like the film better as well. Nothing special, but nothing too embarrassing, either.

Tomorrow: Some short films, and Satoshi Kon’s PAPRIKA

The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Day 2 Edition

The Hong Kong Asian Film Festival is now in full swing for its first weekend. There’s at least two more weekends of all-day movie watching, but let’s just get through this first day of three-or-more screening days:

Perfect Blue (1997, Japan, director: Satoshi Kon): Animated or otherwise, PERFECT BLUE is an interesting psychological thriller about the price of celebrity, especially in the Asian pop world (I’m looking at you, too, Korean pop). The layers of real and unreal and all those in between keeps the audience riveted, and the directorial tricks will keep people going back to watch it. The violence is a little much (doubt it would’ve made it to live-action), but it’s a rewarding ride to sit through that also broke the types of storytelling that could be done on the animation format.

Villain (Akunin) (2010, Japan, director: Lee Sang-Il): This emotionally intense drama from the director of HULA GIRL feels like two films: A great ensemble drama about the fallout from a crime with an exceptional supporting cast, and a ho-hum love story. While the core is the journey of the film’s protagonists - a murderer and his new girlfriend - the parts that really worked is the side stories with the older supporting actors, especially Kirin Kiki as the murderer’s grandmother. Lee’s point of exposing all kinds of villainy in the world really drives the film thematically. Overlong at 139 minutes, but surprisingly involving for its duration.

The Drunkard (2010, Hong Kong, director: Freddie Wong): The writings of novelist Liu Yi-Chang inspired Wong Kar Wai for IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and 2046, and it’s quite obvious from film critic/festival curator Freddie Wong’s directorial debut THE DRUNKARD. It includes a writer in 1960s Hong Kong heading for career self-destruction and makes it up with alcohol, smoke, and women. Similar themes - especially about professional compromises - have been seen in 2046 with better production values. While episodic in structure with stilted dialogue and problematic acting, THE DRUNKARD really serves more as an intellectual curiosity than a real film. Fans of the novel are apparently pleased with how closely it stuck to the novel (which I haven’t read), but I found it too self-important.

Tomorrow: Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Mark Lee documentary, and Aloys Chen & fans.

The Golden Rock - HKAFF 2010 Day 1 Edition

We’re off and running. It’s the 2010 edition of the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, and this blogger is moving up and down the Kowloon peninsula (plus Central) to check out this year’s offering of Asian cinema. I’m trying to update daily with the help of my shiny i P a d (that was to avoid spam), so pictures and links are sparse to ensure efficiency.

For more info about any of the films I’m covering, check out

Day 1 was the opening films. I attended the opening ceremony with Boss Kozo, but please check out photos on the YesAsia Facebook or in the upcoming news item on YesAsia instead.

Lover’s Discourse (Hong Kong, 2010, directed by Derek Tsang and Jimmy Wan) - This collection of love stories with interconnected characters is a strong debut by two-thirds of Pang Ho-Cheung’s screenwriting team (Pang serves as producer). While the acting is mostly hits with some misses, the film overall is well-made. The first half starts out really strong with some great spots of humor, then a little dragged down by a more serious second half. At nearly two full hours, the film also runs a little long. Still, a strong local youth romance that is sadly almost guaranteed to not make a lot of money.

Revenge: A Love Story (Hong Kong, 2010, directed by Wong Ching-Po) - This gory exploitation thriller feels like what Josie Ho wanted DREAM HOME to be - a loud, violent, nihilistic exploitation revenge film that rocks it’s audience into shock. What Ho and producer Conroy Chan didn’t expect was that Wong Ching-Po has an art film ambition in his script. Star Juno Mak, a self-proclaim fan of exploitation cinema, wrote this story that would’ve made an ok entry in 90s category III cinema, but his writer-director couldn’t avoid his penchant for creating meaning. The result is utterly ridiculous, but entertaining in its own sadistic way. Aoi Sola gives it her all, performing a graphic rape scene that no HK actress with dare to touch. Review for LoveHKFilm coming.

Note: Star Juno Mak pointed out that the festival version of the film is the “director’s cut” and that they’re in negotiations with the censorship board about possible edits needed. Yay, us.

Day 2 will be 3 films, including VILLAIN and THE DRUNKARD, whose original author reportedly influenced Wong Kar Wai greatly. I expect to catch some sleep in between.

The Golden Rock - 2010 48 Hour Film Project Edition



The 48 HOUR FILM PROJECT is a yearly event happening around the world where filmmakers gather and make short films within 48 hours (rather straightforward, isn’t it?). Having been in film school and around people involved with film, this is the second year in a row that someone I know is involved in the contest’s Hong Kong stop. The filmmakers have worked very hard, and they will be screening the fruits of their labor on Saturday, October 23rd, at Hong Kong’s The Grand Cinema.

While I won’t be at the screenings myself (HKAFF!), I am showing my support for my friend Seth and the contest as a whole by encouraging you all to make it to the screening if you’re in Hong Kong. One of last year’s winners ended up being screened at this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival, so amateur filmmaking this ain’t.

Don’t believe me? Go to The Grand Cinema on the 23rd and check it out yourself.

Tickets can be bought here. Copyright © 2002-2019 Ross Chen