DIALOGUE WITH KIKI FUNG: EXPLORING THE ENIGMA OF TIME
“Comparative Literature teaches us to be more open-minded and critical. It reminds us not to take representations for granted, but to always ask questions”
KIKI FUNG 馮嘉琪 (BA 2002) is Programmer for the Hong Kong International Film Festival and former Head Programmer for the Brisbane International Film Festival and Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival. She also served as Industry Consultant for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Australia. With extensive experiences in film programming, festival operation and public speaking, she shares observations and reflections as a cinephile and dedicated art administrator.
CULTIVATING INTERESTS AND VALUES
Time is a subject matter that never ceases to fascinate Kiki. She is intrigued by stories about time and space, and finds the depiction of time mesmerising. With an early interest in literary and film appreciation, studying Comparative Literature was a clear choice for her. The theoretical training from the discipline cultivated her awareness towards important concepts such as diversity, gender and sexuality, colonialism and postcolonialism, and the complex idea of identity. “I’ve become more aware of the cultural and social contexts when I think about an issue or phenomenon.”
TAKING MULTIPLE ROLES
While Comparative Literature developed her skills in close reading, Kiki recognised the need to go beyond the interpretation of meanings. “The cultural studies approach we are familiar with allows us to examine texts critically. Yet it is equally important to look at film as light, colour, movement and imagination. It is an organic body that communicates with its audience in ways that are beyond the theoretical and at times, beyond interpretation. And precisely because of that, the study of film language and mise-en-scène should not be neglected.”
Her knowledge in film language and history, together with the sensitivity and sensibility as a critic, become important assets when it comes to programming. “There are many factors to take into consideration when selecting a film, such as the reception of a director’s works over the years, a film’s positioning within a filmography and national cinema, whether the film deals with its subject matter in ways that are meaningful or original, etc. After viewing a piece of work you would need to make a judgement, and this is where the training as a cultural critic comes in useful.”
“Being a film critic is no easy task. One may be tempted to use catchy and accessible terms like ‘critique’, ‘reflection’ or ‘social commentary’ to speak to readers. But some viewpoints or worldviews presented in films cannot be captured using such simplistic terms. For instance, there are many layers to the narrative in Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game (1939), and one would have fallen into a trap by making a simple judgement about its message.” The awareness that critics’ opinions could influence audience perception also shapes her approach as a programmer.
TRAVELLING FORWAD AND BACKWARD IN TIME
Interestingly enough, the notion of time returns when Kiki described her mission as a programmer. “It’s about balancing different needs to come up with a programme that is forward-looking but at the same time retrospective.”
To her, a film festival provides a platform for both filmmakers and the audience. Masters and emerging directors may share their works on the screen and interact with the audience. At the same time, the audience can watch films that are otherwise unavailable in commercial channels, and learn about the latest developments in global cinema. Organising a film festival is like staying one step ahead to lead the audience to uncharted waters. “Ideally, a film festival inspires them to be more adventurous and breaks their boundaries.”
Excited about Hong Kong audience’s receptiveness to foreign films, Kiki observed that there is still a common misperception that European art-house films—the more abstract kind of films that deal with philosophical or existential matters—are superior to plot-driven films. “Over the years, we have had plenty of opportunities to watch a lot of monumental works from established auteurs from Europe. Isn’t it time to explore some other directors
and films? My current interest is all the great works made by the European and American filmmakers in Hollywood during its Golden Age, such as Nicholas Ray, Fritz Lang, John Ford, Otto Preminger—just to name a few. I cannot stop looking at these films as they speak to me in different ways as to what cinema is. Many of these films are also ahead of their times in terms of their takes on gender politics and social structures.”
This is perhaps connected to her experience as a programmer, curator and audience in Brisbane, where she attended programmes and screenings at various film festivals in Australia and across the globe. This exposure has cultivated a taste and sensibility that she hopes to bring into the programmes and share with the local audience.
“It’s about the way we ‘communicate’ with an artwork. The award-winners may not be the ones that touch our hearts. I hope the audience would go and watch a film not because it is on one of those ‘must-see’ lists, but because they find it attractive when they look at the programme notes, and are willing to take the ride with us.”