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The 21st annual Made in Hong Kong Film Festival, cosponsored by the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, features some of the most talked-about recent films out of Hong Kong. This year’s festival, running from July 15 through Aug. 7, kicks off its opening weekend with international movie stars Kara Wai and Carlos Chan and the world premiere of their film Happiness at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Wai is known to international audiences for her kung fu roles in Shaw Brothers Studio films in the 1970s and 1980s. She has since portrayed a wide range of roles in films and on television. In 1982, she became the first recipient of the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress for her role in My Young Auntie (screening July 17). More recently, her portrayal of a mother in the 2009 film At the End of Daybreak won her acting awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards, Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards, Changchun Film Festival, Pacific Meridian, Asian Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards.
This year’s Made in Hong Kong Film Festival kicks off with a tribute to Wai, an enduring icon of Hong Kong movies. The full festival lineup includes:
- The world premiere of Happiness Friday, July 15, 7 p.m. Wai gives a powerful performance in Andy Lo’s directorial debut. In her role as a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, she takes under her wing an aimless young man (Chan) who has come to Hong Kong to look for the father who abandoned him. Together these wounded souls make a family of their own.
- My Young Auntie, Sunday, July 17, 2 p.m. Wai won her first Hong Kong Film Award for her effervescent performance in this delightful kung fu comedy. She plays a young student who marries her dying teacher to keep his inheritance away from his untrustworthy relatives. When she visits her new relatives, traditional notions of familial hierarchy are upended.
- The Mermaid, Saturday, July 23, 2 p.m., 3-D screening. From the Hong Kong comedy king Stephen Chow, this film will be an “exhilarating, bizarre, good-hearted, blatantly obvious sci-fi-fantasy-slapstick eco-fable.” (Glenn Kenny, New York Times)
- Ten Years, Sunday, July 24, 2 p.m. This collection of five short films, each by a different director, speculates on what Hong Kong will look like in 2025. This micro-budget sci-fi omnibus beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Hong Kong box office.
- Office, Saturday, July 30, 2 p.m., 3-D screening. Based on Design for Living, a popular stage play by Sylvia Chang (who stars in the movie alongside Chow Yun-fat), Office depicts the ups and downs—romantic and financial—of a financial firm’s staff during 2008’s global economic turmoil.
- Ip Man 3, Sunday, July 31, 2 p.m. In the third installment of this popular franchise, Yen reprises his role as the real-life kung fu master best known for having trained a young Bruce Lee. In this edition, which was nominated for eight Hong Kong Film Awards, Ip is settling into life as a family man, but he is soon called to protect Hong Kong from a ruthless American businessman who is trying to make a land grab.
On Saturday, Aug. 6, an old-school kung fu double-feature will be presented in 35 mm prints:
- The Blade, 1 p.m. The Blade is Tsui Hark’s masterful tribute to the martial arts films of his youth. A reimagining of director Chang Cheh’s 1967 wuxia landmark The One-Armed Swordsman, this phantasmagoric action film moves like an out-of-control freight train.
- A Terra-Cotta Warrior, 3:30 p.m. Inspired by everyone from Akira Kurosawa to Steven Spielberg, A Terra-Cotta Warrior is a feast for the senses. Two-and-a-half years in the making, it was one of the most exquisite fantasy films to come out of Hong Kong in the 1990s, featuring a unique blend of romance, swashbuckling action and comedy.
- The Red Wolf, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2 p.m. The first African American to be inducted into the Hong Kong Stuntman’s Association, Bobby Samuels worked with some of Hong Kong’s biggest movie stars during his career there in the 1990s. Samuels closes out the festival with a screening and discussion of one of his films, the action-packed hostage drama The Red Wolf, directed by legendary stunt-master Yuen Wo-ping.
All films will be screened at the National Museum of American History’s Warner Bros. Theater at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., americanhistory.si.edu/visit/getting-here.
The Made in Hong Kong Film Festival is free and open to the public. Admission is first come, first served. Auditorium doors open 30 minutes before show time. Visit asia.si.edu/films for full descriptions, schedule updates and admission policies.
About the Freer and Sackler Galleries
The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museum of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler. The Freer, which remains closed during the festival, is scheduled to reopen in 2017 with modernized technology and infrastructure, refreshed gallery spaces and an enhanced auditorium.
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