I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: One of my favourite film festivals in Hong Kong is Kino, the German film festival that is hosted each year by the Goethe-Institut. Their selection of films is always diverse, with both topical and thought-provoking films and some comedic fare thrown in for good measure. Opening night this year has been moved back to the HK Arts Centre (a much more intimate venue and a great place for the after-party) but other screenings will again take place at the HK Film Archive, the Grand Cinema, Cine Moko and, for fans of German cinema in Macau, at Cinematheque – Passion, which is located adjacent to the historic Ruins of St. Paul’s.
Ten full-length films and one short film program will be screened at this year’s event. This week I’ll focus on the festival’s opening night film and next week I’ll review a few more:
Saliya Kahawatte is one determined dude! When he was a 15-year-old student in Hamburg, he started noticing that his vision was becoming blurry. The doctors diagnosed him as having an acute retinal detachment so severe that it had impacted his optic nerve. He underwent emergency surgery; however, he was left with just 5 percent of his vision. Everyone told him to drop out of school and go work in a setting for visually impaired people but Saliya wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, he went back to school, learning his courses by repeating over and over again what he heard from his teachers, and his mother and sister. (His father, sadly, was unsupportive of his efforts.) Amazingly, Saliya graduated high school and then set out to get a traineeship in the hospitality industry. Unfortunately, once he disclosed to these potential employers that he was legally blind, they didn’t want to accept him into their internship programmes. He had no choice but to withhold the truth of his condition, counting steps, relying on his other senses and repeating simple tasks until he perfected them. He got so good that he was able to fool the illustrious Bayerische Hof Hotel in Munich into hiring him on and, with the help of a few of his fellow trainees and his family, he made it all the way through to the end.
Saliya’s journey is chronicled in his 2009 autobiography “Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben” and that story has now been turned into a film of the same name starring Kostja Ullmann (A MOST WANTED MAN). Although the film follows a few rather predictable arcs of life and love, it is an endearing story thanks in no small part to Ullman’s earnest performance. He was able to capture Saliya’s “if you knock me down and I’ll get right back up again” spirit, and it will have you both feeling his pain whenever he stumbles, and cheering for him whenever he succeeds.
If you’re looking for a feel-good film to watch, MY BLIND DATE WITH LIFE is one you shouldn’t miss. It’s a great film to open the festival with!
Director Marc Rothemund (SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS) will be in attendance at the opening night screening.
Kino/17 will run from October 12 – 25. For more information about the festival, please visit the Goethe-Institut’s website.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio at the pre-holiday time of Wednesday, October 4th at 9:15 am HK time!
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I could only find the trailer in German but if even if you don’t understand it, you should be able to figure out what’s going on: