Film projects involving Anthony Chen, Fruit Chan, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Marco Mueller and Zhang Lu adorn the lineup of the upcoming Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum project market.

The 21st edition of the market will be held as an in-person event for the first time after a hiatus that forced HAF into a digital-only format for the past three years. It will operate March 13 – 15 alongside the 27th Hong Kong Film & TV Market (FilMart), March 13-16.

From 244 submissions, HAF organizers selected 28 in-development projects for this year’s market. Of these, half are by prospective first-time directors. Eight of the 28 are Chinese-language projects developed by young filmmakers at recent editions of the HAF Film Lab coaching program.

Organizers will announce a further list of work-in-progress projects, after the Chinese New Year holidays later this month.

Chen, director of “Ilo Ilo” and “Wet Season,” is attached as producer of two HAF entries. With Xie Meng, he is producing “A Better Tomorrow,” a mainland Chinese coming-of-age drama to be directed by Tang Peiyan. With Teoh Yi Peng, he is also producing “Skin Coat,” the only animated project in the HAF21 line-up. To be made by Tan Wei Keong, it depicts a man donning a woman’s skin coat to enter his male lover’s village and meet his parents.

Mueller, former festival director of Venice, Locarno and Pingyao, is attached as producer of “In the Fruit,” directed by Li Dongmei and tracking a woman’s joy and sadness through pregnancy and miscarriage.

Zhang Lu (“Yanagawa”), himself a noted director, is attached as producer of “In the Last Haven,” to be directed by Zhang Jun. The story sees a woman return to live with her parents following her divorce.

Frankie Lee’s “Kapok,” a drama about a woman burdened by work and family duties who returns to her hometown to find solace, to be produced by iconoclast Fruit Chan (“Hollywood, Hong Kong,” “The Midnight After”).

The sole Indian project in the line-up is director Praveen Morchhale’s “White Snow,” which Morchhale will produce with Suneel Sajnanai through Barefoot Pictures. South Asia is also represented by Nepal director Bikas Neupane’s “Bhunte,” about children who dream of getting a football. It is being produced by Govinda Prasad Khanal through Hamrobox Entertainment.

The organizers noted that love, scams and deception – a social problem that has grown rapidly in many Asian countries during the COVID era — is a recurring theme of many selected projects.

These include: “A Divorce,” by Hong Kong’s Jevons Au (“Trivisa”), which looks at how a fake divorce turns real when love and trust disappear; and “Family of Crooks,” by Lai Kuo-An (“A Fish Out of Water”), about a family of street opera troupe feigning madness in an insurance scam.

“The Marriage Drive,” by Lawrence Kan, produced by Cora Yim, tells the story of a couple’s marriage spanning over a decade. In Zhang Yuxuan’s China-Thailand-France co-production, “Till Forgetfulness Do Us Part,” two estranged lovers travel to Thailand to start over. Tian Zhuangzhuang (“The Horse Thief”) joins He Bin (“The Crossing”) in producing Phakpa’s “Dark Eyes,” a tale of first love between a Buddhist monk and a young blind girl that transcends beliefs.

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