Roger Garcia (HAF / Hong Kong): “we will include four documentary projects in HAF 2012″

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14 months after his appointment to the role of executive director at the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society and head of HAF, Roger Garcia explains why the major Asian Film Financing platform is opening its scope to documentary films.

As a long time consultant, advisor, curator and juror for many film festivals in Asia, America and Europe, Roger Garcia also speaks about the future of documentary film in Asia.

. HAF is celebrating its 10th anniversary in March 2012 (19 to 21), can you present HAF ?  

HAF is one of the major project markets in Asia and we are modeled on similar events around the world. HAF is run by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, a non-profit organization which is also responsible for the Hong Kong International Film Festival (the oldest film festival in Asia and celebrating its 36th edition in 2012), and the Asian Film Awards, a celebration of excellence in Asian Cinema.


The general plan of HAF is to select around 25 projects a year in the narrative fiction feature genre, with an Asian element – whether talent, theme etc.

We invite the producer and director to Hong Kong where they can pitch their projects to potential financiers, co-producers, sales and distribution companies and similar, who come to Hong Kong from around the world. Clearly we have a high proportion of representatives from Asia including China, Japan and Korea, some of whom are also in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong Filmart. Every year we have about 800 to 1000 industry people coming for HAF. Filmart itself is the biggest film market in Asia and annually attracts around 5,000 or more participants.

. Why a film producer or director should submit their project to HAF ?

HAF is a great opportunity to present projects, network with the international film community and industry, and get feedback on the project itself. These elements can be as valuable to a filmmaker as funding because you receive information and evaluation on whether your project can work or not in a particular market and why. People will also give opinions on the subject and story, offer ideas about casting and so forth – whether you accept those views or not is a question of both creative and commercial judgement and are invaluable in the development of a film project.

We give several cash awards to HAF projects every year – the Hong Kong Film Development Council Award for both non-Hong Kong and Hong Kong projects; a Chinese script award; the Wouter Barendrecht Award for young filmmaker, and for the first time this year the Fox award for best Chinese film project which will come in the form of a cash award and a first look deal for the filmmaker with Fox studio.

. Can you tell us how many HAF projects became released films ?

Around 30 HAF projects have been completed – these include high profile and commercially successful films such as THE HOST and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE WEIRD from Korea, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS from Hong Kong, CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH from China, and the Cannes Un Certain Regard winner, TOKYO SONATA from Japan. We have also been involved in other Cannes winners such as KINATAY from the Philippines.

. For the first time in its history, HAF is opening its selection to non-fiction and documentary films project. Why did you took such a decision ?

Documentaries are clearly an intrinsic part of cinema and like narrative feature films, also help to map the human experience and bear witness to the emotions of events as well as the events themselves. In recent years some of the most interesting work has been in the documentary field – both from a creative, commercial and educational point of view.

I believe that documentary filmmaking in China over the past few years for example is often as interesting from the point of view of film vocabulary as the events they depict. There are many talented documentary filmmakers working in Asia at a more auteur than artisanal level and that is a phenomenon that we ignore at our peril. I believe that there are projects in the documentary field that can bring the experience of Asia, the personal articulation of the filmmaker, and the experience of our time to the wider international community and audience.

The production of documentaries is also very active and as everyone knows, driven by television. I have seen more and more quality documentary work on television and we wanted to try and attract this sector of the industry to discover the riches and talents of documentary filmmakers in Asia.  Our part of the world is experiencing profound change with rapidly developing economies and societies and I believe that this whole evolution is something that is of great interest to the international media market.

. How many doc projects are your targeting to include in your HAF selection for next year ?

We are starting off small, really just to test the water, so we will include four documentary projects in HAF 2012.

. What would be the criteria for selection ? the doc director or producer must be from Asia ? the topic of the film must be about Asia ?

We will follow the general criteria of our other HAF projects with preference for Asian themes, talent and subject matter. We are also in partnership with CPH:DOX from Denmark and will take a couple of projects from them.

. Will you invite some specific potential financers of doc content to attend HAF ?

We would like to target some broadcasters. Our colleagues in the Hong Kong Trade Development Council who run Hong Kong Filmart are trying to develop the television industry component of Filmart so we have some synergy there.

. What do you think about the potential of documentary theatrical production and distribution in Asia pacific ?

I do not know if there is great potential for documentary theatrical distribution in Asia – it’s not too different from the West where only certain documentaries can really get a wide release e.g. Michael Moore documentaries and works like AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. I don’t think we have quite got Asian “equivalents” of those yet though if it does happen then I expect a rise in interest. I see good potential for production and distribution in ancillary markets especially the increasing trend of on-line streaming and continued proliferation and penetration of television.

. Wont we face more censorship issues in this field ?

Censorship is always an issue wherever you are – you just work with it. In any event nowadays if you want to get your work out there unencumbered, the internet is a great channel to use.

. As for you, what are the most promising territories for documentary distribution ?

I see good potential basically in developing economies in South East Asia for all the obvious reasons like improved education, better media infrastructure, younger demographic with a thirst for knowledge. I think there is also potential in mature markets but maybe for domestic product such as the great success of OLD PARTNER in Korea in 2008.

. What is the last good Asian doc you watched on video, tv or in Theater ?

I watch a lot so I hate to single out any particular one so let me go back in time and say that just off the top of my head, I enjoyed Li Ying’s DREAM CUISINE (Japan/China) a few years ago, Zhang Yuan’s CRAZY ENGLISH (China), and more recently I thought Micha X. Peled did a good job with BITTER SEEDS (US) about farmers in India.

HAF application submission until 30th November 2011


Interview by mail on 20/11/2011

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