Several old friends return to Udine this year, including Hong Kong directors Johnnie To and Pang Ho-cheung who regard Udine as the festival that launched their international careers. Two other returning directors are Dante Lam with our closing night film, the all-action The Viral Factor, and — from South Korea — Kang Hyoungchul with our opening night film, Sunny.
To is here to present the European premiere of his latest film, Romancing in Thin Air, and “Fresh Wave”, a programme of short films from Hong Kong’s next generation of directors. As Chairman of the Film and Media Arts Group at the HK Arts Development Council, To has raised the profile of the unique project that provides funding and mentoring to it’s young directors.
Pang Ho-cheung has three films in Udine this year: a love letter to smoking in Love in a Puff, a love letter (of sorts) to Beijing in Love in the Buff, and a love letter to Hong Kong cinema itself in Vulgaria. Pang attends with his producer Subi Liang, his co-writer Jody Luk and his actors Fiona Sit and Chapman To. Pang’s next film will be partly shot in Italy.
Pang is following in the footsteps of Johnnie To, who already shot key scenes of one of his films in Udine, and Japan’s Takeuchi Hideki who arrives at the festival with his Italy-shot time-travel fantasy Thermae Romae.
Takeuchi’s film receives its world premiere in Udine, just days before it opens in Japan and we are thrilled that he is taking time off from his promotional campaign in Japan to be with us this week.
Also attending from Japan are 21-year-old up-andcoming actress Renbutsu Misako (The Shock Labyrinth, Quirky Guys & Gals) and 27-year-old director Matsui Daigo. Renbutsu arrives with Hiroki Ryuichi’s latest film River, which is still screening in Japanese cinemas. Matsui’s directorial debut Afro Tanaka is about the love life of a Japanese twentysomething who moves to Tokyo with his all-natural afro haircut.
From China comes another regular, Zhang Yuan, with his photo exhibition “Beijing Flickers” and his own distinctive haircut. Zhang, whose film Beijing Flickers is currently in post-production, previously attended Udine with anti-romantic films that captured the changing spirit of China’s capital. Also attending from China are debut directors Du Jiayi, Jin Rui and Chen Zhuo, the latter joined by his actors, composer and producer.
More than 7 million people watched opening film Sunny at the cinema in South Korea, a joyous nostalgic film about friendship that captures the vitality and preciousness of youth. Another box office phenomenon about teenagers, Taiwan’s You Are the Apple of My Eye, receives its European premiere in Udine with director Giddens in attendance. Apple is the most successful Chinese-language film in Hong Kong history.
The vitality of contemporary Taiwan cinema is represented by two other films, aborigine war epic Warriors of the Rainbow (Seediq Bale) and multi-character romance Love. Warriors is Taiwan’s most expensive film yet, as well as it’s most ambitious. Love — starring Taiwan’s hottest young stars — was a breakthrough in China, where it has made more than US$20m and has opened up the market to more co-productions.
Udine is not just about youth. We also welcome one of the most familiar faces in Southeast Asian genre cinema, living legend Lilia Cuntapay, attending the festival with the international premiere of a film about her remarkable thirty year career as the scariest woman in Filipino horror. It’s one of two films from the Philippines this year, both expressing a sincere love for the country’s local cinema history.
We not only celebrates the vitality of contemporary Asian cinema but also its history. Our retrospective this year, “The Darkest Decade”, explores the resourcefulness of South Korean cinema under the authoritarian government of Park Chung-hee before his assassination in 1979. Our new South Korean films can also be interpreted as a response to the increasingly autocratic government in contemporary South Korea.