We’ve been on many a fantastic trip here at HeyUGuys, and needless to say, heading over to China to attend the International Film Festival of Macau, was right up there with the best of them. As we landed in Hong Kong, before taking the ferry over to the Island populated by Casinos (it didn’t get the nickname ‘the Las Vegas of Asia’ for nothing) we had an inkling this would be a special week.

Of course we were there to work, so when we weren’t stuffing our faces with the local delicacy of egg tarts, or the ‘pork chop in a bun’ which is, unsurprisingly, just a pork chop in a bun, we were found in the Cultural Centre, indulging in some of the very best cinema from around the world, several of which are films you’ll expect to hear a lot more of come award’s season.

The opening film was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali; telling a true story of Dr. Don Shirley – a classical pianist – who hired an Italian-American in Tony Lip to drive him on his tour of the American south. A wonderful opening to what went on to be a rather wonderful week. The eclectic programme also consisted of the likes of French thriller School’s Out, while celebrating resourceful, and, rather absurd filmmaking, with the likes of Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite and Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria available for the Macanese public to indulge in, not to mention Panos Cosmatos’s revenge thriller Mandy.

The star of the latter, Nicolas Cage, was the ‘talent ambassador’ at the festival – and given his attendance, we had the opportunity to speak to him, which was every bit as surreal and fantastic as we had hoped. Peter Strickland’s latest In Fabric was also on show, as the programmers sought to bring such creativity to the island. There was, of course, a touch of beauty too, as Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar shortlisted Roma played – and given the recent controversy about the film’s lack of cinema showings given it’s Netflix release, the locals were fortunate enough to see the film it’s in most striking of settings, and the excitement was palpable.

There were more character driven pieces in Papi Chulo, starring Matt Bomer, as well Ben Wheatley’s latest, a more stripped back affair, but no less effective take on the barbed family dynamic in Happy New Year, Colin Burstead. Talking of family, we also had Jacques Audiard’s first film in the English language, casting Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly as siblings in The Sister’s Brothers, a film that also had roles for Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal (I know!).

There were more French films, such as Gilles Lellouche’s Sink or Swim – a more charming, and well, more French take on the recent drama Swimming With Men, as well as Close Enemies, starring Matthias Schoenaerts in the leading role, while the wonderful Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino returns after the success of The Great Beauty, with his new film Loro. Britain was rather well represented too, not just with the Oscar hopeful Mary Queen of Scots – which, if it were to win anything it would be via the breathtakingly impressive Saoirse Ronan, who seems to be getting better, and better and better. But also with Old Boys, a charming and tender debut for Toby MacDonald, featuring the charming and tender Alex Lawther in the lead role.

Barnaby Southcombe was also back with his second feature, presenting Scarborough – in competition, and taking home the prize for best screenplay, which, given the complexities of this relationship drama, was thoroughly well-deserved. Also worth catching for the fine performance from the young Jessica Barden. We also caught Korean financial drama Default, before the festival came to a fitting finale with its closing film, which hailed from China, in the form of Yimo Zhang’s Shadow, closing the curtain on a fantastic week, celebrating both local, Chinese cinema, and films from all over the world – some of which are the best you’ll have seen this year.

From great films to fascinating filmmakers, to many, many egg tarts – here’s hoping we’ll be back again soon. Maybe next time we may even have a go in one of the many vibrant and grandiose casinos and lose some of that money we don’t have. Or, you know, maybe we’ll just spend it all on food… again.

The 3rd International Film Festival and Awards – Macau (IIFAM) ran from December 8-14th 2018.