[Sponsored] The coronavirus pandemic has drastically impacted the lives of people around the world this year, upending everything from education to commerce, the arts and – in particular – cinema.

In what has been a challenging time for film, the second Hong Kong International Documentary Festival (HKIDF) offers a glimmer of hope when it opens on 20th November and runs through to 9th December. It offers a full expanded programme as well as socially distanced in-person screenings, presenting the films in the way their creators would want to the largest possible audiences, something that has been a rarity on the international film festival circuit in 2020.

Organised by Visible Record and formerly known as the Chinese Documentary Festival, which was established in 2008, the HKIDF took on a new name last year as it looked outward, globalising its mission and seeking out insightful and rarely told stories from around world.

In response to HKIDF’s broader global vision, this year the festival has received more than 2,000 entries from over 110 countries. The final selection has been painstakingly whittled down to 34 documentary films from 21 countries. Ever evolving, HKIDF’s 2020 programme is divided into the newly established International Doc Competition, the long-running Chinese Doc Competition, the International Selection and the Hong Kong Selection.

Photo: Hong Kong International Documentary Festival.

International doc competition

Newly established this year, the International Doc Competition features 12 films from 10 countries, highlighting some of the best documentaries made globally in the last few years, with the HKIDF’s venerable jury deciding upon a winner. The inaugural International Doc Competition entries include:

Roy Dames and Jos Driessen’s African Bride (Netherlands, 2019)which portrays the hedonistic lifestyle of a retired white Belgian man who moves to Africa in search of sexual adventure only to encounter trouble and complications.

Ehab Tarabieh’s Of Land and Bread (Palestine/Israel, 2019) which documents the daily harassment and oppression Palestinian civilians face living under the Israeli Occupation.

Tai Michael and David Ofek’s Around the Bed of a Dying Collaborator (Israel, 2018) which follows the fraught last days of a Palestinian collaborator living in fear of retaliation from his countrymen after his exposure.

Mina Akbari’s Formerly Youth Square (Iran, 2019) which gives us an Iranian female journalist’s self-reflection on the challenges and adversities faced by the media in her country.

Photo: Hong Kong International Documentary Festival.

Ismail Fahmi Lubis’ Help is on the Way (Indonesia, 2020), which explores the life of two Indonesian women working overseas as domestic workers and the pressures and challenges they face.

Martin Weber’s Map of Latin American Dreams (Argentina/Mexico/Norway, 2020), which retraces an Argentine photographer’s steps after two decades, reuniting him with Latin Americans he captured in the past and discussing whether they had lived their lives the way they had hoped.

Andrea Testa’s Mother-Child (Argentina, 2019), which captures the plight of female patients at an Argentine hospital, some having suffered sexual violence and others having contravening strict conservative religious doctrine.

Photo: Hong Kong International Documentary Festival.

Yulia Vishnevets’ Hey! Teachers! (Russia, 2020), which follows the struggles of two idealistic Russian teachers torn between the harsh reality of modern Russia and their attempts to teach their students about feminism and human rights.

Vato Kuntsev’s Transparent World (Georgia, 2018), which sees a Georgian father trying to educate his mentally handicapped son in photography and documenting his journey to a solo exhibition of his work.

Matthias Berger’s Hôtel-Régina (France, 2019) which documents the fading glory of a once luxurious Toulouse hotel that has fallen into disrepair and now houses low-income tenants, despite the best efforts of its proprietor.

Mathilde Babo and Zoe Rossion’s CELL 364 (France/Germany, 2020) which follows a former East German political prisoner revisiting the cell he was held captive and tortured in by the Stasi secret police.

Kazuya Ashizawa’s My Theatre (Japan, 2019), which documents the efforts of an elderly retired Japanese man who dedicates his remaining years to preserving a 100-year-old theatre belonging to his family.

Chinese doc competition

Photo: Hong Kong International Documentary Festival.

The long-running Chinese Doc Competition features 10 films this year, five from mainland China, three from Taiwan and two from Hong Kong.

From China: Zhao Maomao’s Blank Canvas (2020), which sees the director follow her father’s recovery from a stroke and his attempts to paint again; Wen Chenghao and Huang Jingkun’s Heaven Can Wait (2019), which follows a mother’s search for truth behind her daughter’s brutal rape and murder; Guo Shuang’s Uncle Guo’s DreamWorks (2020), which investigates the controversial college entry exam industry in China; Gu Xue’s The Chinese Plaster (2020), which explores ancient medicine making and a father’s attempts to pass on his business; and Zhang Jie’s The Old Barber (2020), which offers a brief look at the life of a handicapped barber.

From Taiwan: Chen Chih-Han’s A Decision (2019), which examines the dilemma of life and death for paralysed patients; Hsin Pei-Yi and Hung Wei-Lin’s Ah Ying: The Extraordinary Ordinary (2019), which follows a street hawker bent on pursuing justice using her self-taught legal knowledge; and Tsai Tzung Shian’s Đặng Tú Trinh (2019), which follows a Vietnamese woman, a former “foreign bride”, and how her life in Taiwan panned out after her divorce.

Photo: Hong Kong International Documentary Festival.

From Hong Kong: Kanas Liu’s Comrades (2019), which gives a brief but impactful look at last year’s protest movement and Tsang Kam Shan’s In Want of a Mask (2020), which depicts the scramble for masks by Hongkongers at the start of the pandemic.

International selection

Now in its second year, the festival’s International Selection will feature nine outstanding works from nine countries with all bar one of the films produced by female documentarians.

Photo: Hong Kong International Documentary Festival.

The selection includes: Lina Sinjab’s Madness in Aleppo (Syria, 2019), which records of atrocities witnessed in Aleppo by a physician and a photographer; Qutaiba Barhamji’s Gevar’s Land (France/Qatar, 2020) which offers a glimpse of the difficult life of a Syrian refugee in France; Dima El-Horr’s Zeinab on the Scooter (Lebanon/France, 2019) which follows the quest for independence of a Muslim Lebanese woman;  Natalya Kadyrova’s A Mom for Julia (Russia 2019) which follows three Russian women who become “mum” to a young girl born inside a prison; Maria Shevchenko’s Birthmark (Ukraine, 2020) which explores the relationship between the director and her mentally ill and estranged mother.

Others include Teodora-Kosara Popova’s Tanda (Bulgaria, 2020) which is a short portrait of the different patrons of a Bulgarian Tango club; Anne Koch and Julia Lemke’s Glitter and Dust (Germany, 2020) which follows American girls competing in the male-dominated world of rodeo; Barbara Paz’s Babenco: Tell Me When I Die (Brazil, 2019) which captures the final hours of famed Brazilian director Hector Babenco’s life; and Emelie Kastberg’s Criteria of Rape (Sweden, 2019), which sees a sexual violence victim discuss the difficulties of pursuing justice.

Hong Kong selection

Three short documentaries from Hong Kong will be screened this year, including: Elyse Hon’s Floating Mushroom (2019), which chronicles the last days of the traditional food stalls in housing estates; Chau Man Kit’s A Hong Kong Farmer’s Lot (2019), which offers brief portrait of the life of farmers in Hong Kong; and Ho Man Shan Idris’ Consciously Unconscious (2019), which explores the creative ideals that motivate every artist.

Festival Details

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20th November to 9th December, 2020.


  • MOViE MOViE Cityplaza – 5/F Cityplaza, 18 Taikoo Shing Road, Taikoo Shing, Hong Kong Island.
  • MOViE MOViE Pacific Place – Level 1, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway Road, Hong Kong Island.
  • PREMIERE ELEMENTS – 2/F, ELEMENTS, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon.


Tickets are available to purchase from screening venues and the Broadway Cinema website. HK$75 or HK$55 for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and their minders and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients.


  • bc VIP and MOViE MOViE (MM) 20% discount for members.
  • Fleurs des Lettres subscribers: 20% discount.
  • (The discount schemes are applicable to regular-priced tickets only. Please provide proof of Fleurs des Lettres subscription upon purchasing ticket. The discount scheme for Fleurs des Lettres subscribers is only available for purchase via box office counter.)

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