7 May 2013
The Far East Film Festival, held in the North Italian town of Udine, has firmly established itself as a European platform for what is new and popular the cinemas of the regions. This year's ﬁfteenth edition (April 19-27, 2013) featured various European premieres among its selection of ﬁlms from Malaysia, Thailand, North Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, with the big three (China, Japan and South Korea) accounting for the majority of entries.
Thanks to our supervisor Dr Standish and the organisers' efforts to bring together ﬁlm enthusiasts from academia, the interested public, the press, and the industry, our group of four PhD students and one MA student had the wonderful opportunity to accompany Dr Standish to the festival and attend the ﬁrst ﬁve days. In spite of the budget cuts due to the ﬁnancial crisis, the event was smoothly organised, we felt very welcome and the atmosphere among the 50.000 cineastes from sixteen countries coming together to learn about and discuss popular 'Far Eastern' cinema could not have been more animated. The regional curators did an impressive job with their selection of representative works encompassing various genres; this year the South Korean line up was particularly diverse. During our stay, romantic comedies featured strongly; but personally it was an eerily quiet political film from South Korea, National Security (Namyeaon-dong, 2012, directed by Chung Ji-young), that left the longest-lasting impression. On a less claustrophobic note, short films from young 'Fresh Wave' Hong Kong directors provided interesting glimpses into perceptions of contemporary society, and the South Korean A Werewolf Boy (Neukdae sonyeon, 2012, Jo Sung-hee) proved that the supernatural teen-romance is not necessarily restricted to glittering American vampires. One feature of particular interest which we could not see was the North Korean-UK-Belgian coproduction Comrade Kim Goes Flying (2012, Kim Gwang-hun, Nicholas Bonner and Anja Daelemans), a story about a young factory worker pursuing her dream of becoming a trapeze artist, presented at the festival by actress Hang Jong-sim and the producer Ryom Mi-hwa. The Golden Mulberry Audience Award 2013 went to Lee Won-suk's comedy How To Use Guys With Secret Tips (Namja sayong seolmyeongseo, 2012).
With a tight schedule of six or seven ﬁlms a day, it was possible to start the day with a Chinese romantic comedy at 9:15 am, fit in lunch before a Philippine demon tale and eventually emerge from the theatre after a Japanese horror movie at 1am. Breaks between the ﬁlms were used for stretching our legs and other necessities: 'the daily ice-cream ﬁx', delicious Italian food in the pretty city centre, and discussions and drinks in the numerous piazza cafes. The festival also organises various side events, ranging from martial arts demonstrations over music gigs to the popular ‘Far East Cosplay Contest,’ but with that many films to see, we merely managed short glimpses here and there. We had a great and stimulating time and obtained valuable insights into the cinematic trends of the various regions constituting this version of the 'Far East.' We would like to thank the organisers and, of course, Dr Standish for this fantastic opportunity and look forward to the sixteenth edition in 2014.