10 reasons to celebrate the Far East Film Festival 2022

The twentieth edition of the Far East Film Festival in Udine, the largest Western showcase dedicated to Asian popular cinema, has just ended on 30 April. Many films presented inside the Teatro Nuovo Giovanni in Udine, a real Asian outpost with projections that are unlikely to appear on the big European screens. Here are 10 reasons why it was worth being there

New Giovanni da Udine Theater. Never as this year is it essential to start from the physical location of the 24th edition of the Far East Film Festival. After two years of “exile from Covid” – 2020 fully online, 2021 hybrid between streaming and Visionary Cinema – Europe’s most important Asian film festival is back in its glittering headquarters, the 1174-seat theater in the center historian of the Friulian capital which, since the dawn of the New Millennium, has increasingly become an international reference for the Cinema and the film industry of the East.

The now legendary organizers of the FEFF – Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche, proud natives – had thought big for the expected return home, with the Giglio d’Oro for Lifetime Achievement to be delivered to what would have been one of the greatest guests always, Takeshi Kitano. Unfortunately, logistics and geopolitical tensions have seen the presence of the Japanese Master fade away, however he was awarded in live streaming on Friday 29 April in front of an enthusiastic audience, to be sold out: a participation that did not surprise the veterans of one of the most fascinating and unmissable events for fans all over the world, with the numbers ready to prove it.

10- I Am at FarEaster

Among the 72 films proposed (13 world premieres, 11 European premieres), 15 nations involved, 40 thousand tickets torn, 70 guests, 250 professionals in the sector and 10 thousand online viewers connected from 24 countries it can be said with comforting certainty that – Kitano or not – FEFF 2022 was a wonderful success, inside and outside the walls of the Udine cinemas which welcomed the 42 competing films, retrospectives on Manila and Taiwan and out of competition. Review the “FarEasters” – recognizable by the purple accreditation, more than 1300 – lined up to enter the theater, immersed in the joyful chaos of book stalls, sake tastings and themed city stands and, last but not least, launching into the long standing ovations at the end of the films was a cure-all that the FEFF, the public and we too needed. “I Am a FarEaster!” – the lucky slogan coined to retain spectators – has become a liberating, unanimous, collective cry.

9- Malaysian applause

A definitive proof of the virtuous spirit of this festival took place at the evening screening of the Malaysian action-movie “The Assistant” on Monday 25 April: the pyrotechnics (self) presentation on stage by director Adrian Teh and the actors before the screening – guided always from the adrenaline-pumping Baracetti – and the excessive, surreal, lysergic acting that took place immediately afterwards unleashed one of the most heartfelt and festive ovations of the whole event, despite a shaky script and a “very Fight Club” ending that was a bit too surprise. But the public-cast connection before and during the fights of the slightly psychopathic and somewhat naive protagonists in the most classic of the bloody revenge-stories in oriental sauce was stronger than anything, almost a spontaneous thanks for having crossed half the planet , regardless of everything.

8- Support for Hong Kong

Applause yes but for other reasons for the films of the oriental cinema most loved in these parts since the origins and from the first memorable guest in 1998, Johnnie To: that Hong Kong is forcibly going through a period of crisis on a cultural level and not only is not a novelty, but the hearts of the fans have tightened in the face of the comedies and actions as spectacular as they are harmless proposed at this FEFF. The national security law updated in 2021 has generated unprecedented censorship in recent times, with outright bans on images of 2019’s infamous street protests, and the pandemic has certainly not helped. The organizers were good at finding delicate and touching works such as “Sunshine of My Life” by Judy Chu and “The First Girl I Loved” by Candy Ng and Yeung Chiu-Hoi, while the historic workhorse – action cinema – it was well represented by the true story of a robber in Lau Ho-leung’s “Caught In Time”.

7- Superguest

Two of the most anticipated guests of this edition arrived from Hong Kong, the actress Stephy Tang and the volcanic director-artist-influencer Josie Ho – also seen dancing behind the scenes with the organizers -, present on the screen with one of the deeper films, the documentary “Finding Bliss: Fire and Ice” on the “pursuit of happiness” by some local artists on a therapeutic Icelandic vacation. The Tang, very inspired in look and verve during the presentations, instead brought two very different protagonists, including the very toxic melodrama in twelve acts “Twelve Days” by director Aubrey Lam, returned to explore the couple crisis after the success of “Twelve Nights” of 2000, and “Table For Six” by Sunny Chan, a distant but equally successful cousin of our “Perfect Strangers” who mixed love triangles, the fundamental value of brotherhood and the inevitable real estate problem in the modern metropolis now de facto (sigh) Chinese.

6- Gifts

To prepare the public for the great meeting with Takeshi Kitano, the festival – in addition to Beat Takeshi’s 1993 masterpiece “Sonatine” – screened an unpublished documentary on the director of the Rising Sun – “Citizen K” by Yves Montmayeur – skilled in telling stories with interviews and reconstructions of the entire life and career of the comedian, actor, painter as well as director, in a large anti-conventional and rebellious portrait which, ironically, was confirmed for the umpteenth time also by the unpleasant joke of the last hour.

Even more significant and interesting is the other documentary (by PA Vincent) on a master of Japanese cinema, that Satoshi Kon who, despite his premature death at 46, with only 4 animated feature films and a cult TV series always the local industry and inspired dozens of filmmakers around the world.

5- My Small Land

From two masters of the recent past to the most current present, Japan also certified its state of artistic grace at FEFF 2022, showing the public the many faces of its Cinema and, consequently, of its society. Emma Kawawada’s teenage drama “My Small Land” about a family of Kurdish immigrants whose asylum request in what would be the world homeland of hospitality was astonished by the rarity of the subject dealt with and received wide acclaim. A hidden and hypocritical side of a nation that continues to cultivate mixed feelings about community life and collective guilt, pilloried by Hiroki Ryuichi’s corrosive thriller “Noise”, as slow and inexorable as a hot day in mid-August.

4- The year of Japan

It is no coincidence that the award for Best Screenplay came from Japan (a new FEFF award) in a world film season where Ryusuke Hamaguchi with “Drive My Car” (Oscar 2022) and “The Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy “Has set new standards for contemporary dramatic and romantic cinema:” Love Nonetheless “by Jojo Hideo seems to reproduce the same silences, the same attention to the nuances of the dialogues and relationships of these two masterpieces, with two relationships – one in the making , the other in crisis – to intertwine, burst and retransform within a narrative fluidity, sensitivity and originality capable of surprising anyone, from East to West.

3- Chinese fireworks

“Hi, Mom” ​​by Jia Ling may not have won at FEFF 2022 but will have the enviable record of the richest box office ever for a director for a long time: the time travel of a daughter, rejected at school, to save her mother from a future incident, however, the public of Udine preferred the roaring and irresistible comedy “Too Cool to Kill” by Xing Wenxiong, a sort of homage to Western cinema (there is everything, even Robert Rodriguez’s Mariachi) in a metacinematographic work where a reckless actor-extra is deceived by the real local mafia while he is convinced that he is in the first leading film of his career. An award that was very reminiscent of that “Zombie against Zombie” of 2018, which later became a resounding success, while the first Italian-Chinese production, “The Italian Recipe” by Hou Zuxin, a romantic comedy set in Rome that opened on festival.

2- Return to the dust

For the Red Dragon on the podium also the drama “Return to Dust” by Li Ruijun, already admired this year in Berlin and also awarded by the accredited Black Dragon, the hardcore fans of the FEFF: an authentic masterpiece on the dying peasant culture in a China where, for the first time in 5,000 years, young people no longer want to live with the elderly. A package and a dramatic reflection on the poor and forgotten Chinese suburbs, and a small love story that painstakingly tries to shake off the dust of an oppressive and degrading social condition.

1- The domination of South Korea

Once again, however, a South Korean film triumphed, as had already happened so many times in the Far East past: “Miracle: Letters to the President” by Lee Jang-hoon – a tear-jerking drama about genius and redemption linked to the construction of a station railway of a small town in the province – it may not have lived up to its illustrious predecessors but remains a product of excellent quality on the technical and acting side, to which perhaps some would have preferred the historical-political drama of Byun Sung-hyun “Kingmaker”, awarded by MyMovies viewers and superior in pathos and storytelling. But that’s not all: between the adrenaline-pumping all-female underground action “Special Delivery” that made “Baby Driver” look like a walk, the two neo-noir super-thrillers “The Killer” and “Tomb of the River” led by superstar Jang Hyuk, very violent and psychopath, and the usual Hwang Jung-min in an action (“Hostage: Missing Celebrity”) that knows a lot about metacinema and personal fears, South Korean cinema has clearly reaffirmed that, despite the lockdowns , its protagonists are inferior to none.

A concept sublimated by “The Apartment with Two Women”, for us among the best of this FEFF: the dark hyper-toxic relationship between a disturbed mother and a daughter unable to emancipate herself in a poor and cruel Seoul could not be better described, in an exhausting emotional travail composed with depth and clarity by a first-time solo director, Kim Se-in. Chapeau.

10 reasons to celebrate the Far East Film Festival 2022