The Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, is back in full force in 2023, celebrating its 25th anniversary edition from April 21–29.
A key component of the celebrations will be a focus on the Asian films of the 1980s. “We have never programmed these films, nor put together this kind of program before,” says Thomas Bertacche, the FEFF’s co-head. “But these were the films and directors that inspired us to shape Udine into the festival that it is today.”
Pitching the historical lineup as “hidden treasures,” the selection is expected to include early works by Japan’s Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Thailand’s Nonzee Nimibutr and South Korea’s Jan Sung-woo.
Roger Garcia, former executive director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, is set to curate a section on Leung Po-chi, the 83-year-old British-Hong Kong director who made the leap from commercials to TV and into film. Leung was at the forefront of Hong Kong cinema’s “golden era” making diverse films, including 1984’s “Banana Cop” and Chow Yun-fat-starrer “Hong Kong 1941.”
Most of the rest of the festival lineup has yet to be announced, though organizers have teased the selection of “The Sales Girl,” a Mongolian comedy by Sengedorj Janchivdorj in which a woman stands in for her injured friend and finds herself working in a shop selling sex toys.
“While seeming on the surface to examine the private kinks and vices of Ulan Bator, it actually follows [the woman’s] progressive emancipation from her ambitious family. It’s not her bizarre experiences in the sex shop that help her blossom, it’s her relationship with its mysterious and worldly middle-aged owner,” explains Sabrina Baracetti, the FEFF’s other co-head.
Having long ago established itself as one of the world’s premiere festivals specializing in Asian genre film, it has in recent years made strides in establishing additional credentials as an industry-support program.
Nestled close to the Alps, the wine-growing areas of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region and the border with Slovenia, the FEFF had little choice other than to become a destination festival — where films and filmmakers were obliged to make a purposeful decision to participate, to stay for a while and shut out the distractions of other events in hub cities.
That quality has helped Udine lock in participants for its All Genres Project Market, the Ties That Bind workshop program, which connects professionals from Asia and Europe, and its FEFF Campus journalist training program.
This year the Focus Asia industry package is to be swelled by the participation of the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA), which will launch a cash prize of €10,000 ($11,000) for the best project at the market.
The move is in line with TAICCA’s strategy of reaching out to selected partner events that can boost film co-production on the island.
Udine can point to “Karmalink” by Jake Wachtel, which was selected in 2018 for Udine and premiered at Venice Critics’ Week in 2021, and to “Plan 75” by Japan’s Chie Hayakawa as among its past success stories. “Plan 75” took part in the 2019 Focus Asia edition and premiered as a completed film at Un Certain Regard in Cannes 2022. (Building on that success, the FEFF is planning to give a lifetime achievement award to “Plan 75” lead actor Baisho Chieko, who, before her starring turn, had achieved fame as a recurring character in the two decade-long “Tora-san” film series directed by Yamada Yoji.)
“The first year of collaboration with TAICCA in 2022 was a success. We learned more about Taiwan, its culture and its movie industry. For the second year, our aim is to create a stronger bridge between Taiwan and Europe by exchanging our cultures and our markets,” says Baracetti.
Other film support agencies from Asia — notably the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Malaysia’s MIFFEST and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office — are poised to follow suit and tap into Udine’s 25-year hot streak.