Jin Ong’s debut feature Abang Adik was awarded with the Golden Mulberry at the close of this year’s Far East Film Festival (FEFF, April 21-29) in Udine, Italy, where it became the first Malaysian film ever to receive the honour.
Taiwan’s Wu Kang-Ren and Malaysian actor Jack Tan head the cast of the film about two adult orphans in Kuala Lumpur. While the older brother, a deaf-mute (Wu), has accepted a life of poverty, the young brother (Tan) burns with indignation. A brutal accident then upsets their relationship’s fragile balance.
Second place in FEFF’s Golden Mulberry awards went to Korean filmmaker Chang Hang-jun’s Rebound, while third place went to Yudo, directed by Japan’s Suzuki Masayuki. Among other audience awards, MYmovies readers voted for Janchivdorj Sengedorj’s Mongolian comedy The Sales Girl.
Abang Adik was also awarded the White Mulberry from the jurors of the Debut Film section (Ho Wi-ding, Sydney Sibilia and Fred Tsui), as well as the audience award from FEFF’s Black Dragon pass holders. The Debut Film jury also awarded a special mention to Hong Kong filmmaker Ka Sing-fung’s Lost Love.
The Mulberry for Best Screenplay, selected by a separate jury, went to Taiwanese director Fu Tien-Yu’s Day Off. Japanese veteran actress Baisho Chieko (Plan 75) received the Golden Mulberry Award for Lifetime Achievement.
This year was the first time FEFF had been held without any Covid restrictions after the festival moved online in 2020, held a hybrid edition in 2021 and an “almost traditional” edition in 2022, with a strict mask-wearing policy. More than 200 international guests attended the festival, which screened 78 titles, including 13 international, 14 European and 23 Italian premieres.
FEFF co-directors, Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche, closed the festival with a plea to film funding institutions to reflect on the achievements of the festival. “We believe that given the long journey it has taken to get where it is today, the festival deserves to continue seeing its potential for growth bear fruit: are public bodies ready to support the FEFF with more funding, transforming it into a genuine hub that connects the East and the West? Will the future of the FEFF continue to be that of a major international film festival or can its network of over 20-year-long relationships be developed into something more wide-ranging?”
The festival wrapped on April 29 with a screening of closing film Full River Red, directed by China’s Zhang Yimou, which grossed $656m (RMB4.54bn) at the China box office over Chinese New Year.
Next year’s FEFF has been confirmed for April 19-27, 2024.