The first and last challenge of this trip, for you prospective exchangers, is travelling as a large group. You are somewhere on a spectrum of travel experience, and will quickly learn where everyone else is on that spectrum. Relax; it only takes practice before you can navigate both the city and your role in the group. All travel experience improves your travelling capabilities, and this topic is usefully intensive in more than just an academic sense.
To deeply understand the place of any film in the HKIFF, there is a hundred and twenty years of national cinema to be studied. Indeed, reaching into any new discipline, the first thing you find is how much you do not know. I have been made aware of the dedication required to make oneself an expert in national cinema. Certainly, becoming an expert in Asian cinema invites you into a culture that is ever-changing yet traditional, and efficient but not uncaring. Seeing many films in not many days is an odd, rewarding method of consumption. A region is laid bare by the people who know it best, where our task as audience members is not to validate our knowledge, but to ask better questions.
The same can be said of film festival culture; attending a film festival and understanding its history, as well as its place in the world, country, and city, is a skill that can be improved and perfected. Attendance may be a matter of financial and temporal resource, but participation is a matter of experience, study, and attentiveness. Though Screen students should already have some idea of this, the most valuable skill this trip provides is the serious engagement of individuals with regional films and their creators. I have attended director Q&As before with embarrassingly little curiosity; my questions were broad and unresearched. Now, with over half of our screenings being followed by director Q&As, I have the vocabulary and insight to ask questions that are specific and enthusiastic. The HKIFF instils in its attendees a respect for, and encouragement of, the trials of the industry and its workers.
Susan Cilento, Bachelor of Arts (High Achievers) student participating in the “East Asian Film Industry Engagement Project” in April 2017