When Faiyaz Jafri and Harry Oram decided to organize the first Third Culture Film Festival, they agreed that this was not going to be a red-carpet event aimed at earning a quick buck. TCFF exists for the love of film, and the respect for everyone and everything involved in filmmaking. Faiyaz Jafri, Co-Founder and Curator of the festival, explains why the filmmaker’s experience is so important to TCFF. 

“As a filmmaker, I’ve had the fortune of having my projects screened all over the world. But many times, the festivals I attended as a filmmaker were clearly only interested in sponsors and ticket sales. You’d show up and they’d look at you like “who are you?” There’s even been times when they simply forgot to screen my film! This was back when I lived in the U.S. I’d have traveled to the other side of the country, only to find they’d “lost it somewhere”, or they “couldn’t work out the format” or something. That was a huge influence for me when organizing our own festival. Ours was going to be a filmmakers’ event, all about the artists sharing their work with an audience.

There’s been times when a festival simply forgot to screen my film

I think it’s important for an audience to see who’s behind the work. I don’t mean the big Hollywood actors that do the rounds from talk show to talk show promoting the film. I mean the director, the DoP,… I want to know who did the special effects, who wrote the story, etc. When an audience learns these elements of the film, it can completely change their viewing. I think we’ve achieved that with our first edition. We’ve had people coming out of screenings in intense debate with friends about what they just saw. These films, sometimes just a few minutes long, really left a big impression on people. Sometimes, they were quite shocked, they’d have to leave the room for a second, catch a breath…

Still from Jafri's award winning film This Ain't Disneyland
Still from Jafri’s award winning film This Ain’t Disneyland


This intense connection with the audience is as important -if not more so- for the filmmaker. You do not make art to be put in a drawer. You’re an exhibitionist. You want to show your work to the world. A film festival can be a great experience for a filmmaker, if they don’t forget to screen your film. The lights go off, your film starts, and it’s out of your hands. It’s scary in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it you notice it’s quite rewarding.

Screening at a festival is scary, but rewarding

We’ve had a very good response to this emphasis on the filmmaker. We’ve had directors bring their whole crew to a screening. They may have made a couple of films before, but to see your film on a big screen… to have other people -whom you don’t know!- watch your film… It’s something else. It makes you a better filmmaker.

Faiyaz Jafri talking about his work at CutOut Fest 2015, Querétaro, Mexico.
Faiyaz Jafri talking about his work at CutOut Fest 2015, Querétaro, Mexico.

Guiding the local film scene

We hope a competitive festival will also help to encourage local Hong Kong filmmakers to broaden their horizons. The film scene here is very focused on commercial projects. You can hardly blame them, they have to think about a career. They need to get a “proper job” right away. Only then they might be able to afford a house by the time they are 50. It doesn’t leave you much time to experiment.

As an animator, I’m lucky I’ve had the time to find my own style, to try out things, to learn from the experience of screening my film at festivals. Many Hongkongers hope that by copying the style of studios like Pixar, they might get hired by these giants. But honestly, I don’t think Pixar employees got where they are by animating in a Pixar style. They did their own stuff, and they did it very well. Doing your own thing, experimenting and creating, that’s what makes you better, that’s what gets you noticed.

Copying Pixar doesn’t get you into Pixar

I’m not saying there’s no talent here. There is a lot of talent. I feel like Third Culture Film Festival can help these talented creators by inspiring them, showing them the diverse world of film, and hopefully we can guide them to progress.”

Read co-founder Harry Oram’s ideas on the Hong Kong independent film scene here

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