PRESS RELEASE: UDINE – “This isn’t the Far East Film Festival 22: this is the Far East Film Festival 22 online edition.” The words of Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche, the FEFF directors, sum up the entire operational philosophy of the twenty-second edition, which will be in the global spotlight from 26 June to 4 July. There’s no point beating around the bush: this is going to be a truly historic edition – a revolutionary one, in fact. But the revolution doesn’t consist in having moved the Far East Film Festival onto the web: it consists in having transformed the Far East Film Festival into a digital event, completely redesigning its architecture (model, formulas and editorial strategies) while preserving its primary objective: to investigate Asia and showcase the best of its mainstream film productions. So even though the festival’s operational base might be moving from Udine to MYmovies.it, FEFF 22 isn’t just going to be an online library of Asian films: it will once again be a full immersion in the heart of the “Far East”, featuring 46 films from 8 countries (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia)!
Some titles will be available worldwide, some only in Europe and some exclusively in Italy, with 4 world premieres, 12 international premieres, 10 European premieres and 17 Italian premieres. The web will become a meeting place for Fareasters, who will be called upon to vote for the winners of the Mulberry Awards (created by Idea Prototipi) and the Audience Awards and to participate in the video-greetings from actors and directors and in-depth talks from the big names of Asian cinema. The FEFF Campus – the journalism school for young talents (five from Asia and five from Europe) headed by super tutor Mathew Scott and supported by China Daily, China Film Insider, Eastern Kicks, Taiwan News and The Jakarta Post – will also be moving online. And from 30 June to 2 July, so will Focus Asia – the festival’s Industry area, including the FEFF in progress section (the first and only European platform dedicated to Asian films in post-production) – the project market and an abundant line-up of webinars. The Far East Film Festival 22 audience this year is potentially bigger and less “specialized” than usual, and will have the opportunity to choose whether to participate as “curious tourists“, “travellers” or “expert explorers“: each will correspond to a specific type of pass designed specifically for the web.
The virtual passes will be available in three versions which fondly evoke Asian imagery: Silver Ninja (€ 9,90), Golden Samurai (€ 49), and Platinum Shogun (€ 100). Both faces of FEFF 22 – the festival and the online platform – will be fully represented in the new structure: the organizers have in fact put together a daily schedule which functions as a guide to showings, but have also left open the possibility of choosing independently when to watch movies by accessing the on-demand section. Only 3 of the 46 titles: I WeirDo, My Prince Edward and Better Days, will be shown exclusively in the time slot indicated in the schedule.
So let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights of this 22nd edition…
Poster © CJ Entertainment
ASHFALL (making its International Festival Premiere) is the film which will be opening the Far East Film Festival 22!
The opening film of the 2020 edition will be Ashfall, last Christmas box- office smash in South Korea! A blockbuster featuring finely-crafted comic dialogue and a controlled vein of melodrama, Ashfall is more than an explosive disaster movie: it’s an invitation to reflect on borders and on what Asian genre films have achieved (in cinemas a long way from Hollywood), and consequently an invitation to reflect upon the society in which we live: citizens of the North and citizens of the South, friends and enemies, and a country that still remains divided in the 21st century! A huge earthquake unleashes a chain reaction that sets in motion a volcanic eruption so devastating it might wipe out the entire peninsula. The only solution: an atomic explosion in the magma chamber… That’s the plot of this ambitious film which mixes action, thriller, family drama and the buddy comedies Koreans love so much, and which stars two extraordinary actors: the great Ha Jung-woo (who we will also see in the horror movie The Closet) in the role of the South Korean bomb expert and star Lee Byung-hun (perhaps the best known Korean actor working in Hollywood) in the role of the North Korean. For Ashfall, directors Lee Hae-jun (screenwriter and director of the memorable Castaway on the Moon) and Kim Byung-seo (director of photography for Along with the Gods, here making his directorial debut) have put together a truly exceptional cast which also includes Don Lee, the beloved star of Train to Busan!
Poster © Better Days
BETTER DAYS (making its European premiere) is the film which will be closing the festival!
The second film and second youth drama from a friend of the Festival, HK director Derek Tsang (son of the legendary Eric Tsang – Golden Mulberry for Lifetime Achievement award at FEFF 2017). After making a dazzling debut with Soul Mates (presented at Udine in 2016), Derek confirms his talent as a contemporary Hong Kong/Chinese writer-director with the powerful Better Days, which has been selected to close the festival: a drama about bullying but also a story of love, redemption and growth. The protagonists are a young woman and a young man who are as beautiful as they are poor and who live alone on the margins of a ruthless society and of the brutal Chinese state education system. But, set against the background of the dreaded “gaokao” university admission exam, both have a dream. The protagonists’ profound need to prove to the world that they exist sparks a kind of love and an intense feeling of solidarity between two human beings who have nothing left to lose… A powerful, gripping and heartfelt movie that attracted the attention of film fans internationally in early 2019 when it was suddenly withdrawn from the Berlin Film Festival line-up and its summer film release postponed until October 2019. The lucky spectators of the FEFF will get to see its European premiere!
Poster © Ip Man 4
From IP MAN 4, which closes out the saga that began in 2008, and Johnnie To’s latest film CHASING DREAM to THE CAPTAIN (the Chinese version of Sully) and a homage to one of the grand maestros of Japanese cinema: Obayashi Nobuhiko.
Martial arts star Donnie Yen returns as the protagonist in the latest (and final) chapter of the saga dedicated to Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun Master. While the previous three films followed Ip Man as he faced Japanese enemies during the war and then while living, teaching and fighting in Hong Kong from ’49 onwards, this time the story begins in 1964, with Bruce Lee promoting his Kung Fu philosophy in San Francisco and participating in major tournaments. Ip Man 4, The Finale is a film with a mood of subtle, elegant melancholy but with no lack of spectacular action and combat scenes. In a nutshell, it’s a must-see! But how will we manage without the wisdom, calm and moral authority of the Master?
Andrew LAU, one of the wizards of Hong Kong action (Infernal Affairs), signs off on the direction of a spectacularly gripping edge-of-your-seat movie that despite being based on a true story manages to create an atmosphere of suspense worthy of a horror film. Imagine a Chinese version of the great Clint Eastwood’s Sully! Based on a true story, The Captain is a tribute to the Sichuan Airlines pilots who in 2018 managed to save all their crew and passengers despite a terrifying unexpected event which took place at 30,000 feet…
At 180 minutes, Labyrinth of Cinema is the final eccentric masterpiece of Obayashi Nobuhiko (Golden Mulberry for Lifetime Achievement in 2016), who passed away on April 10th. A psychedelic, experimental, mystical and deeply eccentric film which represents the theoretical and spiritual testament of one of the great names of contemporary Japanese cinema – a director who will be greatly missed. You might almost say that Obayashi constructs Labyrinth of Cinema the same way Dante constructed the Divine Comedy: creating an absolute and definitive work of art into which he pours the refined ideas and formal inspirations of an entire life.
Chasing Dream instead is the international premiere of the latest film directed by His Highness Johnnie To! Mixing music and martial arts, Chasing Dream is an upbeat piece, both in its execution and in its mood, in part because it reunites the famous filmmaker with co-producer and screenwriter Wai Ka-fai in an enjoyable return to the past and to the crazed energy of their finest productions of the early 2000s (even though this time, the story is set entirely in mainland China).
Poster © Udine Far East Film Festival
Talking about Freedom
In recent years, political documentaries have enjoyed enormous success in Japan. I-Documentary of the Journalist directed by Mori Tatsuya is one of them and represents a high watermark of the genre as Mori chases after intrepid and courageous journalist Mochizuki Isoko, who writes for Japanese newspaper Shimbun, as she investigates the issues that in recent years have been thorns in the side of the Abe government. There is a discussion of media manipulation, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and how to handle the “powers that be” in a film which will be among the most controversial of the selection. Making its world premiere at the Tokyo Festival, it arrives in Udine for its Italian premiere and will also be the subject of a live talk in which Mori, Mochizuki, and journalist Pio D’Emilia will participate.
FOCUS: Watanabe Hirobumi, a comic poet of the everyday
Watanabe Hirobumi’s talent will be at the centre of a Focus special conceived and created by the FEFF especially for the online edition. In its 21 years of history, the Udine Festival has often allowed itself to stray from the path of popular and genre cinema. In the case of Watanabe’s cinema and style, that decision is clear and bold: his aesthetic is black and white, his cinema simmers with punk attitude, and his eccentric sense of humour recalls early Jim Jarmush. With four titles from 2017 to 2020 (including the children comedy I am Really Good, making its world premiere at the FEFF 22), Udine will be the western springboard for Hirobumi, who works closely with his younger brother Yuji, the writer of the splendid soundtracks to all his films.
FOCUS ASIA 30 June/2 July 2020
From 30 June to 2 July, Focus Asia, the festival’s “market” section, will also be making its debut online, and in this difficult moment for the film industry worldwide, it represents a clear response to the challenges that professionals from Asia and Europe have been facing. The idea is to create a unique event capable of laying the foundations for the films of tomorrow and at the same time promoting the circulation of international titles in the two continents’ cinemas and festivals. Just like every year, the programme will include the All Genres Project Market, a market of projects under development where new work by internationally renowned directors will be presented to an audience of producers, festival representatives, and financiers, but where there will also be space for films in search of distribution with the first edition of Far East in Progress, the only event in Europe dedicated to Asian films in post-production, and the third edition of Get Ready for the Future, a platform principally dedicated to the export of Italian and European films to the Asian market. To facilitate new collaborations, the virtual version of Focus Asia will attempt to maintain the intimate and cozy atmosphere that characterises the real-life event, and the use of new digital platforms will allow the presentation of film projects and online meetings between all participants to be optimized. Professionals will also have the opportunity to participate in numerous webinars and round tables organized in collaboration with Ties That Bind, the main Asia-Europe co-production workshop.
Collaborations with EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) and European Film Promotion, the largest network of sales agents and film promotion agencies in Europe, as well as with HAF – Hong Kong and Taipei Golden Horse Film Project Promotion have all been confirmed. The 2020 edition’s new partner will be 108 Media, thanks to which one film in post-production will win a “distribution award”.
Participation in Focus Asia 2020 is free and includes participation in the various scheduled sections as well as the extraordinary opportunity to meet the key players in the Asian film world.
TIES THAT BIND 2020
Ties That Bind 2020 will also accompany the Festival in this digital transition, handling the organisation of webinars and round tables as part of the densely-packed Focus Asia programme. As it is impossible to hold the first session of the workshop in Udine, the aim of these initial online events is to bring Asian and European participants together in a virtual space and also to investigate the current situation of the film industries in both continents, with an emphasis on future challenges and opportunities. The consolidated collaboration between Fondo Audiovisivo FVG, FEFF, EAVE, SAAVA/REED, and Creative Europe will instead bring the flesh-and-blood version of Ties That Bind to Udine next year as part of the 2021 edition of the Festival.
Better Days, Derek Kwok-cheung TSANG, school bullying drama, China 2019, Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY CLOSING FILM GALA
The Captain, Andrew LAU, China’s answer to “Sully”, China 2019, Italian Premiere – WORLDWIDE (EXCEPT CHINA PRC)
Changfeng Town, WANG Jing, charming vintage story, China 2019, Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY
An Insignificant Affair, NING Yuanyuan, “never give up” love story, China 2020, World Premiere – ITALY ONLY*
HONG KONG (6)
Chasing Dream, Johnnie TO, songs! fights! love!, Hong Kong/China 2020, International Premiere – WORLDWIDE
Ip Man 4: The Finale, Wilson YIP, a-hero-never-dies, Hong Kong 2019, European Festival Premiere – ITALY ONLY
Line Walker 2 Invisible Spy, Jazz BOON, “break your neck” action story, Hong Kong 2019, International Festival Premiere – ITALY ONLY
My Prince Edward, Norris WONG, “my two husbands” dramedy, Hong Kong 2019, European Premiere – ITALY ONLY* GALA
Suk Suk, Ray YEUNG, Hong Kong gay drama, Hong Kong 2019, 2019 Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY
The White Storm 2 Drug Lords, Herman YAU, anti-drug action gangster epic, Hong Kong 2019, Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY
Gundala, Joko ANWAR, modern superhero saga, Indonesia 2019, Italian Premiere – WORLDWIDE
Impetigore, Joko ANWAR, everyday horror, Indonesia 2019, Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY
HandballStrive, MATSUI Daigo, sport comedy with smartphone, Japan 2020, World Premiere – WORLDWIDE
A Beloved Wife, ADACHI Shin, quirky marriage story, Japan 2020, International Premiere – WORLDWIDE
Colorless, KOYAMA Takashi, forbidden-colors youth drama, Japan 2019, European Premiere – EUROPE ONLY*
Dance with Me, YAGUCHI Shinobu, compulsive dance musical, Japan 2019, Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY
Minori, on the Brink, NINOMIYA Ryutaro, female power drama, Japan 2019, Italian Premiere – WORLDWIDE (EXCEPT JAPAN)
My Sweet Grappa Remedies, OHKU Akiko, life, love and a sip of grappa, Japan 2019, Italian Premiere – WORLDWIDE (EXCEPT JAPAN, MAINLAND
CHINA, TAIWAN, USA)
One Night, SHIRAISHI Kazuya, powerful family drama, Japan 2019, European Premiere – ITALY ONLY
Romance Doll, TANADA Yuki, him, her and the sex doll, Japan 2020, European Premiere – ITALY ONLY
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, FUKUDA Yuichi, sparkling otaku musical, Japan 2020, International Festival Premiere – ITALY ONLY
Soul, Emir EZWAN, folk tradition horror, Malaysia 2020, European Premiere – EUROPE ONLY*
Victim(s), Layla JI, hidden truth drama, Malaysia 2020, World Premiere – WORLDWIDE*
THE PHILIPPINES (2)
Edward, Thop NAZARENO, coming-of-age story, The Philippines 2019, European Premiere – WORLDWIDE
Sunod, Carlo LEDESMA, ghost in the office building, The Philippines 2019, International Premiere – WORLDWIDE (EXCEPT THE PHILIPPINES)
SOUTH KOREA (10)
Ashfall, KIM Byung-seo, LEE Hae-jun, North/South, friends/enemies disaster action, South Korea 2019, International Festival Premiere – EUROPE ONLY OPENING FILM
Beasts Clawing at Straws, KIM Young-hoon, sexy-crime thriller, South Korea 2020, Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY*
The Closet, KIM Kwang-bin, jumpscares horror, South Korea 2020, International Premiere – ITALY ONLY*
Crazy Romance, KIM Han-kyul, drunken love story, South Korea 2020, World Festival Premiere – WORLDWIDE*
Exit, LEE Sang-geun, Toxic Gas Attacks Daegu!! action comedy, South Korea 2019, Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY
The House of Us, YOON Ga-eun, life’s-not-a-fairy-tale children story, South Korea 2019, Italian Premiere – EUROPE ONLY
Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, KIM Do-young, #Metoo family drama, South Korea 2019, European Premiere – ITALY ONLY*
Lucky Chan-sil, KIM Cho-hee, cinephile romantic drama, South Korea 2020, European Premiere – ITALY ONLY*
The Man Standing Next, WOO Min-ho, chilling political drama, South Korea 2020, International Festival Premiere – ITALY ONLY
Vertigo, JEON Gye-soo, love on the top floor, South Korea 2019, Italian Premiere – EUROPE ONLY
Detention, John HSU, political psycho-horror, Taiwan 2019, Italian Premiere – ITALY ONLY*
I WeirDO, LIAO Mingyi, smartphone-made madcap couple story, Taiwan 2020, World Premiere – ITALY ONLY * GALA
We Are Champions, CHANG Jung-Chi, The Basket Brothers, Taiwan 2019, European Premiere – ITALY ONLY
Out of Competition (8 titles)
SPECIAL SCREENING (1)
Labyrinth of Cinema, OBAYASHI Nobuhiko, eccentric – psychedelic-mystic tale, Japan 2019, Italian Premiere – EUROPE ONLY (EXCEPT UK)
i-Documentary of the Journalist, MORI Tatsuya, the power of free speech, Japan 2019, Italian Premiere – EUROPE ONLY
RESTORED CLASSICS (1)
Cheerful Wind, HOU Hsiao-Hsien, classic romantic drama, Taiwan 1982/restored version 2019, International Premiere –– WORLDWIDE
INFO SCREENINGS (1)
The President’s Last Bang, IM Sang-soo, real-life political drama, South Korea 2005/restored version 2019 – ITALY ONLY
WATANABE HIROBUMI, COMIC POET OF THE EVERYDAY (4)
Cry, WATANABE Hirobumi, offbeat slice of life, International Premiere, Japan 2019 – WORLDWIDE
I am Really Good, WATANABE Hirobumi, wacky children’s comedy, Japan 2020, World Premiere – WORLDWIDE
Life Finds a Way, WATANABE Hirobumi, a most unconventional film director, Japan 2018 – WORLDWIDE
Party ‘Round the Globe, WATANABE Hirobumi, ordinary lives of two Beatles’ fans, Japan 2017 – WORLDWIDE