The Tectonics of Humanity - Christian Frei Documentary Film Retrospective

Wednesday, 13.02.2019 – Sunday, 17.02.2019, Christian Frei: Tectonics of Humanity

Movie; Conference

Banner Christian Frei © Reto Sterchi

Oscar-nominated and Sundance winning Swiss director-producer Christian Frei plays both truth and dare, and is known for his attempts at weaving documentaries about different walks of life. His topics cover lovesickness in New York, extinct mammoth hunting in Siberia, the Taliban’s destruction of the largest Buddha statue, war photographer James Nachtwey, space tourism and more. Through investigating humanity’s ways of life in the extremes, Frei uncovers profound faces and forces of human nature. Frei was president of the Documentary Film Commission for the film section of the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, and is now president of the Swiss Film Academy.

Screening Schedule

13/2 (Wed)  7:30pm   War Photographer*

14/2 (Thu)   7:30pm   Sleepless in New York

15/2 (Fri)     7:30pm   Space Tourists*

16/2 (Sat)    3:30pm   Genesis 2.0*

17/2 (Sun)   7:30pm   The Giant Buddhas*

*Director will attend the after-screening talk.

#Director will attend the pre-screening introduction. Advertising celebrity Stephen Chung will attend the after-screening talk.

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War Photographer (Opening Film)

Switzerland | 2001 | 96' | In English and German with English subtitles | DCP |  Colour

Eurodok Award, European Documentary Film Festival, Norway 2003

Peabody Award, Peabody Awards, USA 2004

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, Academy Awards, USA 2002

Nominated for News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Cinematography, Emmy Awards, USA 2004

13/2 (Wed) 7:30pm*

*Director will attend after-screening talk (conducted in English). 

“We’re required to look at it. We’re required to do what we can about it. If we don’t, who will?” 

James Nachtwey is considered one of the bravest and most influential war photographers of our time. With formidable endurance and determination, Nachtwey has worked in countless crises areas, and has brought the world to the sense of sufferings, injustice and violence with the cogent forces of his photography. This film is an intimate portrait of a reserved and modest hero who dives into the pains of others and translates compassion into action and art. 

Sleepless in New York

Switzerland | 2013 | 91' | In English with no subtitles | DCP |  Colour

Visions du Réel International Documentary Festival, Switzerland 2014

Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, Canada 2014

14/2 (Thu) 7:30pm*

*Director will attend the pre-screening introduction (conducted in English).

Advertising celebrity Stephen Chung will attend the after-screening talk (conducted in Cantonese).

“Mankind has loved love and has also been terrified of this thing called love.”

While romance can be beautiful, intoxicating and otherworldly, heartbreak is the lethal stake and suffocating pain that possibly come with it. Real stories of soul-crushing lovesickness are explored by an anthropologist, and we ride the exciting rollercoaster of frensied nights of nightmares and yearnings. Why do we plunge into great depths of despair when we are let go? Why don’t our brains and hearts stop torturing us? Why do we want love? Has nature overdone it? Despite the tears and aches, love also makes us fly high on discovery, enlightenment and creativity.

Sleepless in New York: After-Screening Talk

After the screening of Sleepless in New York, Hong Kong advertising celebrity Stephen Chung will chat about the rewards of romance and the challenges of heartbreaks with the audience. Together with international relations scholar Simon Shen, Stephen recently started Breakup Tours which brought forlorn lovers whose relationships just ended on a trip to Tokyo. This pioneering trip became the talk of the town.

About the speaker

Stephen Chung graduated from the School of Journalism and Communication of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is Co-Founder/Director of Secret Tour Hong Kong (STHK) and a guest lecturer in advertising at the Hong Kong Shue Yan University and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. After working in the creative departments of 4As advertising agencies such as Leo Burnett, McCann & Spencer and TBWA, Stephen co-founded Secret Tour Hong Kong (featured on BBC, CNN, etc.), a tour agency that introduced the authentic faces of Hong Kong to the city’s visitors. The company was later transformed into a brand experience agency. Its diverse portfolio includes promotional campaigns for charities and commercial enterprises. Stephen is a TEDx speaker and a columnist for local publications such as am730 and Weekend Weekly Online.

Space Tourists

Switzerland | 2009 | 98' | In English, Russian and Romanian with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

World Cinema Documentary Directing Award, Sundance Film Festival, USA 2010

Special Jury Award, EBS International Documentary Film Festival, South Korea 2010

Nominated for Best Documentary, Swiss Film Prize, Switzerland 2010

15/2 (Fri) 7:30pm*

*Director will attend after-screening talk (conducted in English).

“This is the ultimate dream. Up, up and away!” 

Sometimes, we want to leave this planet, and be in the outer space. Self-made millionaire Iranian-American woman Anousheh Ansari was able to fulfill her childhood dream and became the first female tourist in space. This story follows her journey into space and shows everyday life at the International Space Station. The extraordinary beauty of outer space is set in contrast to the trips taken by Kazakh rocket debris collectors in their hunt for the coveted carrot-shaped rocket stages, which literally fall out of the sky and are collected by men with trucks the size of dinosaurs. 

Genesis 2.0

Switzerland, USA, China, Russia, South Korea | 2018 | 112' | In English, Russian, Yakut and Korean with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

Special Jury Prize, World Cinema Documentary Award for Cinematography, Sundance Film Festival, USA 2018

Audience Award, 40th Moscow International Film Festival, Russia 2018

Best Feature Film, Seoul Eco Film Festival, South Korea 2018

16/2 (Sat) 3:30pm*

*Director will attend after-screening talk (conducted in English).

“God’s word is still imperfect, but if we work together, we can make God perfect.”

The film observes the harsh and dangerous life of the so-called mammoth hunters in the far north of Siberia. The archaic landscape in which these people are looking for the tusks of extinct mammoths looks like primordial earth. There is a kind of gold rush fever in the air, because the prices for this white gold have never been so high. Such finds are magnets for high-tech clone researchers in search of mammoth cells with the greatest possible degree of intact DNA. They want to resurrect the mammoth as a species. The goal of synthetic biology is to produce complete artificial biological systems. Man becomes the Creator.

The Giant Buddhas

Switzerland | 2005 | 95' | In Arabic, Dari, English, French and Mandarin with English subtitles | DCP | Colour

Silver Dove for Best Documentary and Opening Film, Leipzig DOK Festival, Germany 2005

Nominated for Swiss Film Prize for Best Documentary, Swiss Film Prize, Switzerland 2006

Nominated for Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Documentary, Sundance Film Festival, USA 2006

17/2 (Sun) 7:30pm*

*Director will attend after-screening talk to be moderated by film scholar Dr. Zhu Ying (conducted in English).

“The Buddhist statues… crumbled to pieces out of shame, because of the West’s ignorance toward Afghanistan.”

In March 2001, two huge Buddha statues, one of which was the tallest-standing representation of Buddha in the world, were blown up by the Taliban in the remote area of Bamiyantal in Afghanistan. The dramatic event surrounding the ancient stone colossi - unique proof of a high culture that bloomed until the 13th century along the Silk Road – is the starting point for a cinematic essay on fanaticism and faith, terror and tolerance, ignorance and identity. This thought-provoking film journeys along a perimeter that both divides and unites people and cultures.

Tickets of the Tectonics of Humanity - Christian Frei Documentary Film Retrospective are available at URBTIX now.

Ticket price: $75 / $60* 

Tickets package (includes one ticket of the five films): $280

*20% off discount for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients. Concessionary tickets for CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis. Concessionary ticket holders must produce evidence of their identity or age upon admission.

*20% off for each purchase of 4 or more standard tickets.

Programme enquiries: 2582 0203

Credit card telephone booking: 2111 5999

Mobile ticketing app booking: My URBTIX (Android & iPhone versions)

Ticketing enquiries: 3761 6661 (10:00-20:00 Daily)

Internet booking


Presented by

Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong

In collaboration with

Hong Kong Arts Centre
Hong Kong Documentary Initiative

Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong

Goethe-Institut Hong Kong

The Centre for Film and Moving Image Research, Academy of Film (School of Communication), Hong Kong Baptist University


Swiss Films

Location: Louis Koo Cinema, Hong Kong Arts Centre