Singapore-Korean collaboration Ajooma, directed by He Shuming, and Bad Education (pictured), from Taiwanese star-turned-director Kai Ko, will open this year’s Far East Film Festival (FEFF) in Udine, Italy (April 21-29). Zhang Yimou’s recent Chinese New Year blockbuster, Full River Red, will close the festival.
In total, the FEFF line-up includes 78 films from 14 countries, of which 15 titles are from female directors and 12 from newcomers. FEFF said the line-up explores how the cinemas of East Asia and Southeast Asia have re-emerged from the pandemic with differing results.
“The 2023 selection aims to showcase the immense complexity of Asia more than ever before,” FEFF said in a statement. “A selection that seamlessly combines the recent past with today and its diverse communities, expectations and life choices, languages and dialects, politics, religions, habits, inclinations, beliefs, myths and legends and, last but not least, its diverse gender identities.”
Chinese-language cinema includes Xu Ang’s recent mainland release Hachiko, six titles from Taiwan, also including indigenous filmmaker Laha Mebow’s Gaga, and as usual a large selection of Hong Kong cinema, covering recent and upcoming releases such as A Guilty Conscience, Hong Kong’s highest-grossing film of all time, Ka Sing-fung’s Lost Love and Lau Kok-rui’s The Sunny Side Of The Street.
Southeast Asian titles include Indonesian horror Satan’s Slaves: Communion and super-heroine tale Sri Asih; Thai coming-of-age story You& Me&Me; Malaysia’s Abang Adik and Coast Guard Malaysia: Ops Helang, and Mongolia’s The Sales Girl. The Philippines is represented by three titles including Kenneth Dagatan’s recent Sundance entry In My Mother’s Skin.
FEFF organisers highlighted how the Korean film industry, one of the world’s strongest, “limped out of the pandemic with audiences halved, cinemas transformed into gyms, dozens of films stuck awaiting a release date, and financial capital moving from cinema to TV.” But the festival also said its selection of Korean titles, including horror The Other Child, period drama The Night Owl and spy thriller Phantom, heralds a comeback.
For its 25th anniversary, FEFF will also screen a selection of “Greatest Hits from the ‘80s and ‘90s”, the period of Asian cinema that inspired the festival’s launch. Among the 21 titles selected are Nonzee Nimibutr’s Dang Bireley’s And Young Gangsters, Park Chan-wook’s Trio, Hsu Hsiao-ming’s Dust Of Angels and Tsai Ming Liang’s Teenage Fugitive.
Highlights also include a retrospective of Japanese director Hiroki Ryuichi, including his new film Phases Of The Moon, while Japanese actress Baisho Chieko, star of award-winning drama Plan 75, will receive the Golden Mulberry Award for Lifetime Achievement. Plan 75 will screen at the festival along with two of her earlier films – Tora-san (1969) and Where Spring Comes Late (1970).