The urge to work in a realist mode remains strong in contemporary cinema. Here in Hong Kong, perhaps our most famous 'neoreaslist' is Ann Hui. One of her most famous films is Boat People, about the people who fled Vietnam in 1979, some of whom ended up in Hong Kong. The film is 'neorealist' in intent and mood more than style.
More obviously neorealist in style, perhaps, is Hui's The Way We Are, a wonderful film which reveals some of the nature of life in one of Hong Kong's poorest districts, Tin Shui Wi. This comes closer to the neorealsit ideal in terms of creating a diegesis which is recognisably authentic and generally minimising the intrusion of the filmmaker herself. Read more here.
Another filmmaker who seems to be influenced by neorealism is Paul Greengrass. Probably best known for his involvement with the Bourne Identity franchise, he has also made very grity political dramas base don real events. Perhaps the best is Bloody Sunday, his dramatisation of the shooting of peace markchers by British soldiers in Ireland in 1971. Read more here.
One of the more famous neorealist-style films of recent years is Laurent Cantet's The Class. This is closer to the original neorealist ideal as expressed by Zavattini in Some Ideas on the Cinema; we see the democratic impulse in the unknown actors, the narrative which turns on small, seemingly unimportant details and so on. This is, perhaps, the best place to start.
A number of our students regard film not as a way to entertain and distract an audience from their lives, but as an opportunity to confront them more closely with the realisties of life, often focusing very closely on their own communities. This film, for example, makes some powerful points about work and family culture in Hong Kong, and while it does not particularly follow the tenets of Neorealism in terms of aesthetic, the spirit is certainly there.
Some Ideas on the Cinema - Cesare Zavattini. If you only read one thing, make it this.
KGV Reflections on Song of the Exile (also Ann Hui)