Far East Film Festival diary: Day 1
There was plenty for cinephiles to get their teeth into on opening night in Udine, Italy
Listening to …
… the opening night speech by festival boss Sabrina Baracetti, who was joined on stage by local dignitaries, including Udine Mayor Furio Honsell. Like any good politician, the man rose to the occasion and captured the mood of an event that has always prided itself on providing common ground – through cinema – between worlds and people, East and West, set as it is in northern Italy but showcasing the best in Asian genre films.
“It’s a unique opportunity for us,” Honsell said. “In a time when so many walls are being built in the world, this festival is a bridge that is built between cultures and nurtures mutual understanding between cultures. Udine is a friendly city and for this time it will be immersed in a different hemisphere.”
Thinking about …
… just how diverse the FEFF program continues to be, even as festival planners scour the region for genre films that are essentially directed at a domestic audience. The continuing surprise here is just how well these movies travel to an audience on the other side of the world. A glance across the VIP section on opening night promised plenty ahead over the next eight days, from Hong Kong blood suckers (Chiu Sin-hang and Yan Pak-win’s Vampire Cleanup Department), to Malaysian genre mash-up (Ho Yuhang’s Mrs K), to Chinese school-based drama (Song Haolin’s Mr Zhu’s Summer) – we’re told to watch for the subtle social message with that one.
Throw in a retrospective of Hong Kong’s best from the past two decades – here to mark the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty – and reworked versions of classics from that city’s maverick Fruit Chan (Made in Hong Kong from 1997) and recently departed Japanese giant Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill from 1967) and there’s little doubt organizers can expect more packed houses at the main venue, the Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine.
… the opening film from Japanese director Shinobu Yaguchi, known for lighthearted fare such as the youth-themed Waterboys and Swing Girls. This time around he was represented by Survival Family – with producer and four-time FEFF guest Hirotsugu Usui standing in for the director in Italy.
The whimsical dramedy concerns a modern clan living in a Tokyo high-rise, but in reality living worlds apart. When an unexplained blackout shuts down life as they know it, the four family members head into the countryside by bicycle in search of a grandfather who knows a far simpler existence. Enigmatic from start to finish, it has the flashes of drama – and of warmth – that are Yaguchi’s trademarks and it was well received. The Japanese have come to Udine with a strong hand this year – and Survival Family has set the bar high for the 19th edition of the FEFF.
Eating and drinking …
… coffee and pastries. Caffeine is the staple sustenance for any festival-goer, no matter the destination. But Italy takes things to another level. FEFF spreads itself between two venues and the walk takes visitors past any number of temptations. We kicked the event off with an afternoon stroll past the Café Beltrame but were lured inside for a macchiato with a profiterole chaser. Slipping straight into la dolce vita.
To see more of Udine, through the eyes of the Asia Times-sponsored members of the FEFF Campus, click on the video below.