12th Far East Film Festival , Udine Italy, Report 1

By Moira Sullivan
The Far East Film Festival in Udine now in its 12th year ran from April 23—May 3. It is still one of the largest panoramas outside Asia of new films from South Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore Indonesia and Thailand. All in all 72 films were screened this year, many of them international festival debuts. The majority of the selection is popular film that appeals to a wide audience. Judging by the well attended festival of primarily young people from the medium sized town of Udine, its fair to say that the directors who chose Udine for their international premiere have a good chance of seeing how the film might do in Europe at the box office. Many of these directors come first hand to see for themselves and sit with the audience. Directors such as John To are regular visitors. To's latest film Vengeance presented at Cannes last year starring Johnny Halladay was released first in Udine for the Italian premiere April 22.
This year the Iceland volcano kicked up some dust for long haul and European travelers but fortunately the air space cleared in time for the festival. The Veneto region is home to not only Udine but the Venice Film Festival and both events specialize in showcasing quality Asian films in a collaborative effort.
Probably the most distinguishing change this year is reflected in the number of films from China where the box office grew by 44 % last year. This year several historical epics are featured at the festival. A film about the political origins of modern China, The Founding Of A Republic has won this film the distinction of being the highest grossing Chinese film yet, directed by Sanping HAN and Jianxin HUANG.
LU Chuan's City Of Life And Death explores the Rape of Nanjing where over 300,000 Chinese lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese between 1937 and 1938, though some Japanese still dispute the figure. Jackie Chan acted, produced and did the actions sequences of Little Big Soldier on ancient warlords in the kingdom of Qin. Jackie Chan is still his ordinary mischievous self, but it is interesting to see him in this historical epic directed by Sheng DING.
Another ambitious epic is Chen KUOFU and Qunshu GAO's The Message about the underground resistance in China in 1941 during WW 2 with some inventive calligraphy that tells the language of code crackers. Five members of Chinese intelligence are sequestered in a remote castle. Among them is "The Phantom", a secret messenger for the resistance.
From Japan comes the story of "Pan Pan" women during the war who serviced American GIs in the late 1950s. Zero Focus directed by Isshin INUDO is a film based on a story by the mystery writer Matsumoto Seicho. The ambitious film shows that the evolution of women’s rights was slow to emerge in South Korea with entrance into the government and the remaining tradition of arranged marriages. The festival poster features the South Korean actors sporting read coats that were the signature of "Pan Pan" girls.
Special retrospectives this year focus on Hong Kong director Patrick Lung Kong, who made films more than forty years ago, including Story Of A Discharged Prisoner. Kong wanted to end the myth of dowdy Hong Kong films, and he understood his audience. In the mid 60s that meant women who worked in factories, and to that market he made several socially relevant films.
Also featured this years are horrors and thrillers from the Japanese film studio Shintoho, and the rein of studio boss Okura Mitsugu has been compared to the Roger Corman studios. On the popular Udine "Horror Day" Vampire bride from 1960 was screened directed by Kyotaro NAMIKI. The lead actress Ikeuchi Junko was punished for marrying against the wishes of Okura Mitsugu and cast in this role as a woman pushed off a cliff by her jealous friends. She becomes disfugured and seeks out a witch to retsture her beauty but is doomed to live part of the time as a fanged hairy monster.
One of the highlights of this year's festival is the international festival premiere of Wilson Yips’s Ip Man 2, the story of Yip Man, the martial artist that later became Bruce Lee’s teacher, starring Donnie Yen. The story picks up as Yip has fled China in 1950 and opens up a win yun school in Hong Kong.
The Far East Film Festival Audience Award and the Black Dragon award pooled by film critics will be announced after the screening of Ip Man2 on Saturday, followed by some fantastic parties in Udine.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan Udine Italy

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/28/10
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