Udine Far East Film Festival honors Kim Dong-ho

The 15th Udine Far East Film Festival opened on April 19th with a great lineup of films from Southeast Asia. The Udine festival is the largest portal of films from South East Asia in Europe, and many of the films come directly from their premiere in their country or make their international debut at Udine and this year is no exception

This festival has a success formula written all over it, even if it feels the crunch of the economy and has to be frugal. The Autumn edition of the highly regarded Oxford journal Screen wrote about the Udine recipe for success in "Counter programming and the Udine Far East Film Festival". The authors regard the festival as a high quality festival because of how it programs festival films from Asia. The authors maintain that although a film from Asia is presented at an A-list festival such as Berlin, Cannes and Venice, it gets attention primarily because it comes from Asia, not because the film is popular and given critical attention in the country of origin. The article also emphasizes that vendors at A - list festival markets are not as informed about the DVDs or films shown in the Asian market as Udine. Udine's special talent, as noted in "Screen", is selecting members for their program committee specialized in a particular country in South East Asia.

Udine chooses film after the South Korean Busan International Film Festival in October and in the interim before Cannes and Venice through special contacts from their festival committee. This makes it a special niche market for new Asian films. They also have a partnership with Busan and Venice Film Festival regarding these choices. The former head of the Venice Film Festival, Marco Muëller, is a European expert in Chinese literature so the Veneto region of which Udine and Venice became a fertile source for new films from Asia for the European and North American markets.  Many films screened at Udine have not been shown before on the festival web.

The directors often come with their films to Udine and the festival has made directors such as John Woo, Johnny To,Tsui Hark, Takeshi Miike, and Miike Kitano known in Italy.

Screen points out that the Udine audience has become in fact good experts on films from Asia, which has been demonstrated through the DVD / book market at the festival where people can buy books on Asian cinema, and films that have been shown at previous festivals.

At the 65th Cannes (2012), a special "Thai Cinema Night" was arranged for Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, an established actress. There were many programmers and marketers interested in this event. Trailers from Thai films screened at Udine were present. An actress known in Udine, Penpak Sirikul ("It Gets Better" - 2012) was on the panel for the event and as well as director Tom Waller who made – “Mindfulness and Murder” from 2012. Most people who attended the event were not aware of these films, directors and actors, so the Udine portal is confirmed as an important threshold for Europe to see fresh films from Southeast Asia.

This year the European premiere of Ip Man The Final Fight closely follows its theatrical release in Hong Kong on March 28th The setting is in postwar Hong Kong, where the Wing Chun Grandmaster, Ip Man, teacher of Bruce Lee is challenged by rival kung fu styles and must fight one last time.

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang plays Ip Man and the film is directed by Herman Yau who did the first Ip Man, the legend is born.

This year there are also three wold premieres from Japan:

Maruyama, The Middle Schooler by Kudo Kankuro , Angel Home by Tsutsumi Yukihiko, and It's Me, It's Me by Miki Satoshi who guests the festival with super pop idol Kazuya Kamenashi otherwise known at Kame, a 27 year old Dancer, singer, actor, television personality,and radio host

Other highlights this year include A Story Of Yonosuke by Japanese director Okita Shuichi who made the brilliant Woodsman and the Rain (2011)  about a film crew and young director who asks a woodman to stop sawing down trees in order to finish their shoot. The Bullet Vanishes, is a Chinese detective story set in the late nineteenth century directed by Derek Yee with an all-star cast including Lau Ching-wan and Nicholas Tse. There is also the Hong Kong action Cold War by Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, and Lost In Thailand by actor/director Xu Zheng, who holds a box office record for Chinese cinema in mainland China 
This year Golden Mulberry for Lifetime Achievement goes to Kim Dong-ho,  the South Korean director of the Busan Film Festival held in South Korea, which is called the "Cannes of the East".

Kim Dong-ho also presents a short film this year that was featured at the Berlin Film Festival about a jury who deliberates about the best films for a festival, a subject close to home.

The Udine festival ends on Saturday April 27th. Long live Udine!

©Reprinted from Movie Magazine International, broadcast April 23, 2013.


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