22nd Far East Film Festival - Report 2

By Moira Sullivan

Golden Mulberry and Audience Award
Derek Tsang's Better Days

The 22nd Far East Film Festival ended July 4 after 9 days and it was a huge online success with over 3000 card holders and 25,000 visits to the website where films were screened for accredited patrons. The festival works with the public because the organizers are so thoroughly prepared for this event directed by Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche. It is a festival that specializes in popular film in East Asia with experts that provide detailed information about the films, and about the state of the film business in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The contacts with directors, distributors and producers is world class and many legendary directors visit the festival such as Takeshi Miike, Johnny To and Derek Tsang.

Dongyu Zhou in Better Days

Derek Tsang’s Better Days was awarded the Golden Mulberry this year and it also took home the Audience Award– a film that was technically proficient with an engaging narrative. The competitive exams - the Gao Kao in China - are equivalent to the SAT and top scores help students to get into the best schools in the west after high school graduation. Tsang's film in fact has made an impact on resolving the cutthroat atmosphere that exists for this exam. The excellent shots of the school and students are compelling, and the plot is engaging. Dongyu Zhou plays Chen Nian, a student who loses a friend that commits suicide because of her exams. Jackson Yee as Xiao Bei is a young man involved in gang wars and is a small punk. When he sees Chen Nian being bullied, he comes to her rescue and is pretty much there for her throughout her ordeal. The bullying by a gang of teenage girls is relentless and eventually Chen Nian has to make choices.

Malaysian director Layla Ji

A film not unlike the Golden Mulberry winner is the Silver Mulberry recipient -- Malaysian director Layla Ji's debut film Victim(s) that had its world premiere at the festival. It is a story of young teenagers who bully classmates with their cellphones, which leads to revenge and even murder. The cruelty of the teens to each other and their use of mobile phone to film and humiliate their classmates mirrors the media contamination of the larger society. The affordability of cell phones and easy access to them is pervasive and Layla Ji has made a powerful film.

The White Mulberry for First Time Director was selected by an international jury (La Frances Hui, Leopoldo Santovincenzo and Mark Adams).   Lee Sang-geun's South Korean action-comedy Exit about the release of a poisonous gas in South Korea and two rock climbers who manage to scale tall buildings in endless bounds to make their way to safety with the help of rescue teams and private drones.

The Far East Film festival proves in its 22nd edition that it continues to serve a dedicated and enthusiastic public with its rigorous model and platform for the best popular films coming from East Asia.

© 2020 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/08/20
Movie Magazine International