Macao Int'l Film Festival's reputation grows
Liane Ferreira

The 4th International Film Festival & Awards – Macao (IFFAM) is upon us and the schedule will be busy. More than 50 films will be shown December 5-10, including a section on the 20th anniversary of the Macao SAR with five full-length features shot by local filmmakers.

This is only the fourth edition but the festival organization has been pulling out all stops to make the festival bigger each year by inviting international stars to be ambassadors, partnering with industry names to give masterclasses – for example, this year by South Korean director Kim Yong-hwa and Britain's Lily James – and media publication Variety will give out the "Variety Asian Star: Up Next Awards." All these efforts might be starting to generate a positive effect, helping the event to grow and build its reputation.

A red carpet event at the 3rd International Film Festival & Awards – Macao (IFFAM). / Photo IFFAM

A red carpet event at the 3rd International Film Festival & Awards – Macao (IFFAM). / Photo IFFAM

"IFFAM is solidifying its position in the industry and the festival circuit," movie director Antonio Faria told CGTN Digital in an email interview, adding that the event has been promoting local directors and, at the same time, it has offered several masterclasses aimed at giving more education to local movie producers, directors and technicians.

Faria noted that "every movie event is always positive for a city, the audience has access to a greater variety of movies and a full week dedicated exclusively to cinema."

"It's going to be a matter of time for the festival to position itself in the world cinema route," he said. "The city has all the conditions to do it, the glamour and the culture mix can really be the motto for the future." 

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In his opinion, it's also fundamental to support local talent, educate and give it opportunities. "Eleven years living in Macao and I can say there is a great evolution since 2008. When I arrived, there weren't a lot of video contests; there was only Doc Power in Macao Cultural Center, which did a great job," explained Faria, who is the co-director of "Ina and the Blue Tiger Sauna" showing on December 6.

Ina was born in 2014 in a project called "Macao Stories 3." Initially a 30-minute short, it became a full-length movie in 2018. The character, born in Macao, has to live with her father and his secrets, said Faria about the thriller drama. 

According to him, there are more people interested in making movies than in the past. Local talent wants to tell stories through the camera and to experiment in several visual formats. In his view, Cinematheque Passion has a very important role in the cinema sector in Macao, because its diversified program helps residents know more about what's done at an international level.

'Bigger and bigger'

Singapore born movie director Thomas Lim said the festival has gained a bigger and bigger name over the past few years.

"I think it's starting to gain a positive reputation," he told CGTN Digital, noting that more filmmakers in the region, especially from Hong Kong, talk about it. Admitting that outside China or the South East Asia region, the festival is not known, the Los Angeles-based director stressed that it takes time to reach certain markets, like the American one.

Thomas Lim, who filmed two movies with Macao as a backdrop, considers that the event definitely gives an added incentive for filmmakers in the territory as a possible showcase platform, but in the end, it is up to filmmakers to make films, and so he can't say if it's helping the local film industry to take off. Nonetheless, "it's wonderful there are five films directed by local talent on showcase this year."

Talent Ambassadors Nicolas Cage and Yoona on the red carpet event at the 3rd IFFAM. / Photo IFFAM

Talent Ambassadors Nicolas Cage and Yoona on the red carpet event at the 3rd IFFAM. / Photo IFFAM

Creating an international brand with local flair

Noting that IFFAM is creating a brand, Hong Kong actor Dicky Tsang said that Macao government support in making the festival international is substantial and noticeable for the guest list, invited movies, and focus director.

The view from the local art sector is very positive, but Tsang considers that more work  has to be done in terms of promoting the festival to local audiences and how to make them more curious about locally produced movies. "It's all about education, promotion, and movie appreciation. We have to let the local audiences recognize the work made by Macao movie, actor, director, and producers," the actor, who now lives in Macao, said in an interview with CGTN Digital.

For Tsang, the festival is a good platform to present movies to local and foreign audiences, but Macao still doesn't have an industry. "If we want to develop this art into an industry, government and movie makers must cooperate in making adequate policies, and also educate the local audience," he noted.