The first edition of the Macau Film Festival and Awards took place in the autonomous region of south China – just a stone’s throw from Hong Kong – from December 8th to 13th of December. Movies.ie were on hand in the beautiful city, dubbed “Las Vegas of Asia” to catch some movies, see some stars and generally soak up the atmosphere of this incredible and historic city.

Among the films screening at the IFFAM this year were Ben Wheatley’s highly anticipated new film ‘Free Fire’, which boasts an impressive Irish cast, including Jack Reynor, Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley. We caught up with director Ben Wheatley in Macau on the day of the movie’s Macanese premiere, just before he and star Sharlto Copley walked the red carpet at the Macau Cultural Centre. Wheatley exclusively told us that ‘Free Fire’ came about after a meeting with Cillian Murphy, saying “It’s Cillian Murphy’s fault, basically. I met Cillian and I had a few drinks with him and we really got on well, and he said ‘If you ever think of me for something’. As soon as he expressed an interest, we said ‘Right, OK. That’s it’”. Keep an eye on Movies.ie in 2017 for our exclusive interview with Ben Wheatley.

Also screening at the festival was ‘Trespass Against Us’, the feature debut from ‘Doctor Who’ director Adam Smith, which stars Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender as father and son in a very closed off and specific community, which Fassbender’s character is desperately trying to escape. Read our full review of ‘Trespass Against Us’ here.

Family is a theme that emerged very strongly throughout the International Film Festival and Award Macau, with Portugese film ‘Saint George’ telling the story of an uemployed boxer trying to hold his family together during a time of economic uncertainty and poverty in Portugal, ‘Survival Family’ focusing on a family trying to survive in a world where all electricity has disappeared, and ‘The Queen of Spades’ seeing an aunt and niece pitched against one another during the staging of a prestigious opera in Russia.

Elsewhere in the festival, JA Bayona’s ‘A Monster Calls’ screened to a packed out audience, and ‘Toni Erdmann’, the German film that swept the board at the European Film Awards over the weekend, Natalie Portman’s latest film ‘Jackie’ and Kristen Stewart’s second collaboration with Olivier Assayas – ‘Personal Shopper’ – also screened.

The IFFAM also had a strong focus on Asian Cinema, with the new film from Takasi Miike – ‘The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio’ – screening alongside Macanese films ‘Sisterhood’ and ‘Macao – The Backside of the Sea’.

The big winners at the festival were ‘The Winter’, which tells the story of a man desperately trying to protect his farm and livelihood in Patagonia. Oscar Winning director Tom McCarthy presented the award, since he was on hand at the festival for a sold out screenwriting masterclass. Elsewhere, the Career Achievement Award went to Chinese director, screenwriter and actor Feng Xiaogang, for his work in cinema, including ‘If You Are the One’, ‘I Am Not Madame Bovary’ and ‘Aftershock’.

Other awards in Official Competition included:
Jury Prize – ‘Trespass Against Us’
Best Director – Marco Martins for ‘Saint George’
Best Actor Award – Nuno Lopes for ‘Saint George’
Best Actress Award – Lyndsey Marshal for ‘Trespass Against Us’
Award for Best New Young Actress – Jennifer Yu for ‘Sisterhood’
Best Screenplay – Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley for ‘Free Fire’
Award for Best Technical Contribution – Original Music & Sound Design – Sound: Pablo Lamar and Original Soundtrack: Daniel Saavedra for ‘Elson Doesn’t Believe in Death’.

All of our reviews from IFFAM are available on Movies.ie, and can be found in our reviews section.