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Festival History

As one of the oldest film festivals in Asia, the global reputation of the HKIFF was built on the pioneering work of programming Asian films and its retrospectives when Asian and Hong Kong cinema were not well known to the international community. Built on a solid reputation for programming, the HKIFF became the model for many subsequent film festivals around the region.

Established by the Hong Kong Urban Council, the first HKIFF was held in the summer of 1977 with a focus on world cinema, while the second HKIFF included its pioneering Hong Kong cinema retrospective on Cantonese films of the 1950s. In 1978, the HKIFF began publishing its acclaimed bi-lingual publications that have since been a notable hallmark of the HKIFF Society.

The third HKIFF in 1979 consolidated what was to become the template that would serve the festival for the next three decades; a programme that showcased world cinema, Hong Kong retrospective and contemporary cinema and regional Asian cinema.

The foundations laid by the first three HKIFFs helped to propel the festival to international significance in the 1980s, and was a guiding force for the development of many film festivals in the region. Unusually for a recently established film festival in that decade, the HKIFF gained prominence neither through a high-profile competition nor commercial market.

Instead, the HKIFF’s dedication to quality and intelligent programming, its devotion to the discovery of new areas of filmmaking in Asia and China, its exceptional work for Hong Kong cinema, seminars and acclaimed publications, gave it a unique and respected international reputation that helped promote Hong Kong cinema at home and abroad.

Between 2000-2004, various government departments or statutory boards including the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council organized the HKIFF. In 2004, the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society Limited was officially corporatized as an independent, charitable organization that would manage the development of the HKIFF after completing its 28th edition.

Today, the HKIFF has grown to be Hong Kong’s largest cultural event and is one of Asia’s most reputable platforms for filmmakers, film professionals and filmgoers from all over the world to launch new work and experience outstanding films. Screening over 280 titles from 50 countries in 11 major cultural venues in Hong Kong, the HKIFF reaches an audience of over 600,000 and 4,500 business executives attending the Hong Kong International Film and TV Market (FILMART).

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