FESTIVALS: ‘Stonewalling’, ‘Totem’ Win Firebird Awards At Hong Kong Film Festival

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Stonewalling, co-directed by Huang Ji and Otsuka Ryuji, picked up three awards including best film in the Young Cinema Competition (Chinese Language) of this year’s Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF). Mexican director Lila Avilés’s Totem was awarded best film in the Young Cinema Competition (World) competition.

This year’s HKIFF represented a return to normality after major disruptions during the pandemic years. While the festival did manage to hold some postponed, but in-theatre, editions in the past three years, this edition was the first time the festival had been able to welcome overseas guests after Hong Kong dropped it strict Covid quarantine requirements towards the end of last year. 

Stonewalling, part of a trilogy that focuses on the struggles of young women in contemporary China, also won best actress, which was shared by its two female leads, Huang Xiaoxiong and Yao Honggui, playing mother and daughter. The film also picked up the FIPRESCI prize.

The HKIFF Firebird Award jury commended the film for ‘reminding us of the confusion, difficulty and suffering women face nowadays, and the inescapable responsibilities they have to shoulder’. The film premiered at last year’s Venice film festival has was acquired by KimStim for North American distribution.
Also in the Young Cinema Chinese-language competition, Macau’s Hong Heng-fai won best director with Kissing The Ground You Walked On, while the best actor award went to veteran actor Li Xuejian for To Love Again. A Special Mention went to Bad Education, the debut feature of actor-turned-director Kai Ko.
Best director in the Young Cinema Competition (World) competition went to Argentina’s Martín Benchimol for The Castle. Best actor went to Mirko Giannini for France’s Astrakan, and best actress to the female ensemble cast of Spain’s 20,000 Species Of Bees.
In the Documentary Competition, the best film Firebird Award went to Apolonia, Apolonia, in which Danish director Lea Glob charts her relationship with French painter Apolonia Sokol. Polish filmmakers Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosołowski took the Jury Prize with The Hamlet Syndrome, about a group of young actors trying to stage a performance of Hamlet in Ukraine.
Swiss filmmaker Morgane Frund received the Firebird Award in the Short Film Competition with her graduation project, Bear, while the Jury Prize went to Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, a black comedy from Singaporean director Alvin Lee.
HKIFF wrapped on April 10 with a screening of closing film, Cheuk Wan-chi’s Vital Sign, starring Louis Koo as an ambulance driver considering emigrating from Hong Kong.


Young Cinema Competition (Chinese Language):
Firebird Award: Stonewalling
Best Director: Hong Heng-fai, Kissing The Ground You Walked On
Best Actor: Li Xuejian, To Love Again
Best Actress: Huang Xiaoxiong, Yao Honggui, Stonewalling
Special Mention: Bad Education, Kai Ko
Young Cinema Competition (World):
Firebird Award: Totem
Best Director: Martín Benchimol, The Castle
Best Actor: Mirko Giannini, Astrakan
Best Actress: Ensemble female cast, 20,000 Species Of Bees
Documentary Competition:
Firebird Award: Apolonia, Apolonia
Jury Prize: The Hamlet Syndrome

Short Film Competition:
Firebird Award: Bear
Jury Prize: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
FIPRESCI Prize: Stonewalling