Hong Kong's first Pineapple Underground Film Festival

Hong Kong's first Pineapple Underground Film Festival

A film festival for indie filmmakers by indie filmmakers, featuring censored Chinese movie "The Debts"
Hong Kong independent film festival
Hong Kong's first Pineapple Underground Film Festival.

When local art house curator Gina Wong began her involvement in independent films 10 years ago, she soon became disillusioned by the opportunities to both view and display true low-budget cinema. 

“Film festivals have lost their original meaning; they’ve become a platform for commercial films,” says Wong with a slight touch of disdain. “It’s quite hard to find real independent cinema here.” 

A Film Festival for Indy Filmmakers by Indy FilmmakersFestival Director Gina Wong is back row, third from left, and her fruit-loving volunteers who made the PUFF happen.After filming her first feature "Orient Top Town" in Shanghai last year, Wong decided to change all that. She sent out a casting call to independent directors, through film contacts and through the web, asking for feature films and shorts for a newly proposed film festival: Pineapple Underground Film Festival (PUFF). 

“There are so many talented people out there but their work is not being shown due to a lack of budget,” says Wong. “They cannot afford distribution and marketing costs and even admission to film festivals.” 

So Wong set the admission fee at a nominal US$5. Sometimes this fee is waived. The result was over 350 films flooding in from all over the world.

Wong and her staff of volunteers whittled down the list to six features and 20 short films. Canada, the United States, Greece, Italy and mainland China are all represented in the feature category, while the shorts are an even more eclectic bunch with films from Iran, Brazil, Taiwan, Norway, Spain and Hong Kong successfully passing the selection committee. 

Wong’s recommended movies are "Sex Equo" an Italian collection of six amusing, philosophical and raunchy stories about sex, and "The Debts" a world premiere by first-time director and former stand-up comedian Wang Xiao Ming.

"The Debts" was filmed on location with an all-local cast from Wang’s home of Leizhou in the southern part of Guangdong province. The story deals with underground gambling, mafia and various illegal activities. The film uses the local Leizhou dialect, which Gina Wong suggests is a subversive cinematic first, and has raised the hackles of several governments.

The mainland authorities banned "The Debts" from being shown, and even attempts to screen the film in Singapore were met with refusal by cautious festival organizers. 

A Film Festival for Indy Filmmakers by Indy FilmmakersDirector Wang Xiao Ming will open the festival and attend the screening of his controversial film "The Debts."Wang Xiao Ming’s case is particularly close to Wong’s repeated mantra: “The goal of PUFF is for filmmakers to be able to screen their film.” 

PUFF will grant "The Debts" pride of place and have it open the festival at the Experimenta art space which Wong has curated for the last three years in the creative hotbed of Sheung Wan.

Wang has confirmed his attendance for discussion and will take questions from the audience. 

Audience members at the PUFF screenings will be asked to take on an active role and rate each film out of five pineapples in a cheeky nod to RottenTomatoes.com and their film rating system using tomatoes. The public voting system will award prizes for the films in three categories. 

With a history of working with up-and-coming artists and curators at Experimenta (including Nadim Abbas in December last year), Wong hopes that PUFF will be able to finally provide a true platform in Hong Kong for future independent filmmakers, and an opportunity to reinvigorate the no-/low-budget cinema scene. 

Trailer for "The Debts"

Pineapple Underground Film Festival
Dates: June 10-12
Location: Experimenta, 89-95 Hollywood Road, Lower Ground Floor (Shop B), Central.   
Tickets: Available at Konzepp, 50 Tung St., Sheung Wan, +852 2803 0339
Price: Single tickets HK$30 each for Programmes 2, 4 and 5, including one drink; Pineapple Pass (all weekend/all programmes) $75, including three drinks and a festival goodie; Free Admission (pick up tickets at Konzepp): Programmes 1 and 3.

PUFF General Information :
+852 9277 4955 (Helen) / +852 6501 3557 (Cheryl)
Website: www.experimentahkpuff.wordpress.com, www.facebook.com
Twitter: Puff_HKFilmFest