Far East Film Festival diary: Day 3
Vampire Cleanup Department, Mr Zhu’s Summer, Bluebeard, a superior ham sandwich and more from the third day of the FEFF in Udine, Italy
Listening to …
… the new generation of Hong Kong filmmakers, represented by debut directors Yan Pak-wing and Chiu Sin-hang, who looked to the past for inspiration with their Vampire Cleanup Department. For those outside the bubble that is Hong Kong, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that the city is riven with political and social discord these days – and dysfunction, depending on which side of the fence you sit.
The film is a nod to bygone days, with its central trope of hopping vampires – a distinctly Hong Kong genre. But beneath the surface are themes that should strike a chord with residents of the southern Chinese city, which on July 1 marks 20 years since the handover to Beijing rule – a fact being commemorated by a retrospective in Udine.
Chiu opened up about the state of society back home during a FEFF talk, explaining that the primary premise of the film is the disconnect that exists between generations in Hong Kong today, played out between the old guard of vampire hunters and the new.
“Young people don’t know what they want to do anymore,” he said. “The future for most kids is that they graduate, they try to buy a flat and that’s it. It’s not right.” There should be more on offer in life was his conclusion, and the film attempts to show that the uncertain future for Hong Kong should be “worked out together” between people of all ages.
Thinking about …
… how far Chinese films travel these days and what makes filmmakers decide where to premiere them. The Song Haolin-directed schoolroom drama Mr Zhu’s Summer made its debut on the third evening of the festival and producer Deng Sheng rushed back for the screening after watching local side Udinese down Cagliari 2-1 in their Serie A clash in the afternoon, and being presented with a signed shirt from the club.
Deng was thrilled by the opportunity to watch the soccer, and to bring his film to the other side of the world to play in front of an audience it was not really made for (see our video of the day below). Deng said the chance to screen here was snapped up as it would no doubt help the film make some noise back home.
A summer release across mainland China awaits for a low-key and often stylishly shot production that will compete against a lineup of big budgeted blockbusters, but the producer was confident there was an audience out there for more independent Chinese cinema – and keen to hear first-hand what an international audience thought. The film was warmly received by its audience – and Song and and Deng will face an always inquisitive local press pack this morning.
… South Korean director Lee Soo-youn’s return after more than a decade out of the chair. Lee explained she had spent most of the time dabbling in short films and writing scripts but, ironically, what drags her thriller Bluebeard down is exactly that – the script. Lee weaves a tangled web around the hunt for a serial killer and a doctor who tries to piece the mystery together but the film becomes wrapped up in itself, needing long passages of exposition to ensure its audience knows exactly what’s going on. It’s a shame as for its first third, Bluebeard simmers away with sinister intent.
… the local ham, which is served in many and varied forms. Talk to the locals about the Parma variety and you’ll witness a head shake and maybe even a finger wag and then the conversation will turn to the local prosciutto, produced by the likes of San Daniele and cured to centuries-old traditions that result – we can attest to – a far sweeter flavor. The nearby Mamm Ciclofocacceria has seen a run on its cotto prosciutto salsa rosa mozzarella combination – and it’s little wonder at 3.5 euro.
Video of the day:
Chinese producer Deng Sheng of Mr Zhu’s Summer being presented with a Udinese Calcio’s shirt.