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April 24, 2014

Far East Film Festival - The Day Before


I'm now in Udine, Italy for a film festival, one of several happening simultaneously. Most eyes will be on the events of Tribeca. But I am in Udine for one of the most significant festivals dedicated to Asian cinema outside of Asia. Part of it is because of my appreciation of Asian cinema, but also because this might be my only time to meet, even if briefly, a couple of people I've known online for a few years.

I first was aware of the Far East Film Festival when I lived in Thailand, and was following the Thai film scene through the writings of a couple of English language journalists there: Kong Rithdee and Wise Kwai. The festival president, and cofounder, Sabrina Baracetti, responded when I first read about the festival presentation of Asian musicals, and the corresponding book offered at the festival. Not only did I get the Asia Sings! book, but also the most recent film festival catalogue and a monograph on Ann Hui. A few years later, I returned the compliment by sending Sabrina a copy of the book Southeast Asian Cinema which included an essay I wrote.

I have also been corresponding with freelance film historian Anchalee Chaiworaporn, since buying a copy through her of the Asiexpo book on Thai cinema. Asiexpo published the book that includes my essay. We have since then written on occasion to each other both on Thai and Hollywood cinema. It was through Anchalee that I was able to purchase the DVDs available through the Thai Cinema Archives, which I wrote about a couple of years ago.

Here is the list of films to be presented at this year's festival. I am going as a "Black Dragon" which means that not only can I see everything at the festival, but I have a reserved seat. Not that I'm going to see everything - I don't have the capacity for that anymore, and with nine days, I'd prefer to pace myself. The festival is heavier of Chinese language films, with a greater emphasis on Hong Kong cinema that is more directed towards local concerns, as opposed to the Hong Kong films that have been designed for play in mainland China. Of the films scheduled, I have already seen The Raid II with a small, but no less enthusiastic, audience at my nearby Alamo Drafthouse theater. I know that the Korean film, The Attorney is to get a home video release soon, having seen a preview from one of the recent Well Go USA DVDs I reviewed recently.

Since everything is happening at one theater, I don't have to worry about having to choose between two or more films with conflicting schedules. On the other hand, if I miss a film, I might not ever have a chance to see it again. Since I'm not on anyone's payroll, I can see and write about what I want, so my film festival coverage will reflect my own personal interests which should include one documentary and a couple of the restored classics. Some, but certainly not all, of the newer films, will probably show up on home video in the US. My biggest challenge will probably be to wake up early enough to catch a couple of films scheduled for nine in the morning, especially the three hour Taiwanese baseball movie, Kano.

If things work out with my less than comprehensive grasp of technology, I might also post a few photos taken at the festival. With luck, Unbeatable will be more than the title of first film seen here at Udine.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 24, 2014 02:37 AM