Ever since its first mini-festival in 2018, MOViE MOViE has been doing its level best to bridge the gap between movies as entertainments and as art that connects to all our lives. Aside from one three-year pandemic disruption, the festival’s Life is Art has done just that, and this year’s programme also serves as a satellite event of the BODW City Programme, part of the annual Business of Design Week (BODW) Summit.
The City Programme’s overarching theme is a focus on game changers; innovators that are designing our way to a more circular, sustainable, authentic future. To that end, MOViE MOViE has dubbed the 2023 festival “Life is Art. Design in Motion.”
Of course, the primary goal of the Life is Art programme is to engage with audiences and get everyone considering the art and design all around us, and so to that end the festival has partnered with the Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC) to line up speakers for post-screening Q&As, workshops, interviews, and multi-cultural events. Among this year’s guests are stylist Tina Liu; community-oriented architect Tony Ip; production designer, director, and chair of the Hong Kong Film Arts Association Man Lim-chung; Steven Tsoi, founder of impact-oriented creative agency SONOVA; and HKDC chair Eric Yim.
This year’s line-up includes 13 new films from around the world, and begins with Kevin Macdonald’s High & Low: John Galliano and David Bickerstaff’s Vermeer: The Greatest Exhibition (both 2023). Macdonald, who is probably best known for The Last King of Scotland, explores the life and career of British fashion designer and creative director John Galliano, notorious for being one of the world’s first subjects of so-called “cancel culture” after a widely reported anti-semitic diatribe in 2010. The film tracks his fall from grace and also interrogates the reality of cancel culture, what its real impact is and how valid it is.
Artist and filmmaker Bickerstaff has made a career of bringing iconic art in key galleries around the world to cinemas through his Exhibition on Screen series, including Gaugin, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Goya, Monet and Bosch. The latest is Vermeer, chronicling Amsterdam’s once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of 28 of Vermeer’s most renowned works at home in the Rijksmuseum. The documentary illuminates the genius of Vermeer’s work and offers an immersive view of the Rijksmuseum – and yes, The Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Closing the festival is Neo Sora’s Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus, a concert film of the legendary composer’s final performance before he passed away earlier this year. Shot in lush black-and-white by cinematographer and director Sora, Opus features 20 songs that Sakamoto selected to be a representation of his 40-year career, which included scores for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor and Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence. Sakamoto died of cancer, making Opus arguably the most heartbreaking elegy ever captured in any medium and fully deserving of big screen sound.
In between, other notable entries include Kristoffer Hegnsvad’s Soviet Bus Stops (2022), a documentary that deconstructs one of the most prosaic of all public structures in the world: the bus shelter. Most of us just think of bus stops as someplace to wait for a ride to work, occasionally one that keeps us dry if it’s raining. But Hegnsvad’s film looks at how the simple bus stop married aesthetics to an otherwise forgettable bit of infrastructure, and how architects compelled to highlight Soviet communist ideals used the anonymous structures for passive rebellion. Spanning 15 former soviet states, Soviet Bus Stops could be the last chance any of us have to get a glimpse of the crumbling structures before they’re demolished.
Finally, Dione Orrom and Matt Askem go down the proverbial rabbit hole and into London’s Victoria & Albert Museum in Alice – Curiouser and Curiouser. The film is a deep dive into the fantastical world of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and visually details the influence the seminal story has had on art, film and fashion — the show included work by Vivienne Westwood, Salvador Dali and Tim Burton — as collected in the V&A’s mammoth exhibition from 2021. Orrom and Askew put a suitably surreal spin on the doc by incorporating an actor as Alice to explore the exhibits.
Rounding out Life is Art. Design in Motion are Amanda Kim’s Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV (2023), a portrait of the influential 20th century video artist who coined the phrase “electronic superhighway” and revolutionised the use of technology in art; Benjamin and Jono Bergmann’s MAU (2021) chronicles sustainability designer Bruce Mau’s rocky road to visionary and his relentless optimism; and Dancing Pina by Florian Heinzen-Ziob details how German choreographer Pina Bausch changed the way ballet is made and presented. And last but not least, the programme’s Revisiting the Classics section includes recent works that deserves a second viewing: Hong Heng-fai’s Golden Horse-nominated drama about performance, Kissing The Ground You Walked On (2023), and Man’s up-close-and-personal bio-doc of Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui, Keep Rolling (2020).