The 15th annual Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy took place between the 19th and 27th of April. The FEFF not only attracts an audience who adores East Asian cinema, but throughout the years, it has also become a popular gathering for Asian film studies and cultural studies scholars from around the world. It is one of the most important Asian film festivals in the world nowadays.
The programmers this year selected films from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, The Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan. Although a lot of the films have already been shown at the domestic cinemas, festivals like FEFF still act as the main platform for European audience to experience films from the Far East. The festival also invited special guests and filmmakers to deliver talks and workshops.
…the current mainstream Chinese cinema flavour: films only have a good box office if they follow the Hollywood standard.
Hong Kong film IP MAN – THE FINAL FIGHT (2013), directed by Herman Yau, was also part of the festival schedule this year. It is not a surprise Yau’s film was selected, following the Ip Man sensation that Hong Kong cinema has been circulating since 2008. However, sadly, Wong Kar-wai’s THE GRAND MASTER (2013), a film that also puts Ip Man as the narrative centre, was not in the schedule. FEFF seems to be interested in showing the more popular and wider successful East Asian films in general. This can be proved by its selection of Xue Xiaolu’s FINDING MR RIGHT (2013). This film became one of the hottest topics in mainland China recently, and was a huge success at the Chinese box office after its release in March 2013. More than that, this film has created a new rising Chinese film star Wu Xiubo – a gentleman in his 40s who was not very well known by the audience before. FINDING MR RIGHT can almost be seen as a Chinese reproduction of a Hollywood rom-com: a pregnant young lady’s love story with a handsome middle-aged man who struggles with his mean wife. However, this film’s success also represents the current mainstream Chinese cinema flavour: films will only have a good box office if they follow the Hollywood standard.
There are many independent Chinese filmmakers looking for festivals to have their films screened, as it is difficult for them to have their films distributed in mainland China, due to issues such as quality and censorship. Festivals abroad will no doubt provide them an opportunity to have their voice heard, and their vision seen. Event such as FEFF should perhaps introduce a new panel, to include more independent and low budget films in their programme, as well as having their usual picks of mainstream Asian cinema favourites.
This year the Golden Mulberry goes to South Korean film HOW TO USE GUYS WITH SECRET TIPS! by Lee Won-suk. The Silver price goes to debut Thai director Nattawut Poonpiriya and his film COUNTDOWN. The Bronze price goes to the refined biopic IP MAN – THE FINAL FIGHT. Although FEFF tends to select some more popular domestic East Asian productions for the festival programme, it has been actively screening and distributing East Asian films in Europe for the past 15 years. Festivals like this not only encourage conversations between filmmakers and audiences from the East and the West, they also provides a platform for critics and scholars to gather to exchange their thoughts, knowledge and passion of Asian cinema. This is not only the practice of transnational cinema: at the same time, it also proves how cinema is itself already trans-national.