Clad in an elegant tulle dress, a microphone and a rose in her hands and a voice that seems to come from the world of fairy tales: Baisho Chieko, queen of Japanese cinema, has just received the Golden Mulberry Award for Lifetime Achievement and thanked the audience in Udine by improvising a song… If we were forced to sum up the Far East Film Festival 25 in a single frame, this would surely be it: a moment of pure magic that captured perfectly the meaning of this dialogue between East and West that began in 1999. A long story of love and of cinema which, over the last nine days, has brought 60,000 spectators to Udine.
And, in confirmation of a pop tradition dating back to FEFF number 1, it is this public who gave Malaysia its very first triumph in Udine, awarding the Golden Mulberry to Abang Adik, the dazzling debut by director Jin Ong. Second place on the podium went to South Korea with Chang Hang-jun's irresistible Rebound, while third place went to Japan for the touching Yudo by Suzuki Masayuki. Black Dragon pass holders also voted for Abang Adik, while MYmovies readers chose Janchivdorj Sengedorj's Mongolian comedy The Sales Girl. The jurors of the Debut Film section (Ho Wi-ding, Sydney Sibilia and Fred Tsui) shared the general enthusiasm for Abang Adik, awarding it the White Mulberry, along with a special mention for Ka Sing-fung's Hong Kong drama Lost Love, while the Mulberry for Best Screenplay went to the touching Day Off by Taiwanese director Fu Tien-Yu (chosen by several of the jurors of Gorizia's "Sergio Amidei" International Award for Best Screenplay: Massimo Gaudioso, Marco Risi, Marco Pettenello, Francesco Munzi).
After 2020's totally digital edition, the 2021 summer edition that combined online and in the flesh participation, and an "almost traditional" edition in 2022, this year's Far East Film Festival was finally free to joyfully revel in all those things that had been put on hold (not to say broken) for so long by Covid and the persistent health restrictions. An everything represented not only by the record numbers of the line-up (78 titles from 14 countries and 9 world, 13 international, 14 European and 23 Italian premieres) but also by the record number of guests of honour (200) who were finally free to travel to the red carpet in Udine.
"Obviously, it goes without saying how happy we are to have been able to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the FEFF without the restrictions and worries of the last three years," comment the FEFF's two directors, Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche, "and on the wave of these very positive results, we feel it's essential to invite the institutions to reflect. 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 twenty-year-long relationships be developed into something more wide-ranging?".
And talking of results, let's take a look at them: more than 3,000 overall guests of the festival located in the city's accommodation facilities, while this year there were 1,600 accredited guests (another record number), including 120 cinema and oriental language students from Hungary, England, France, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria and Singapore (as well as Italy). Over 200 professionals came from all over Europe for the Focus Asia industry sessions and over 10,000 people took part in the FEFF Events scattered throughout the city centre. Finally, the online FEFF, streamed on the MYmovies ONE platform, registered over 10,000 visitors from 200 municipalities (the first city being Milan with 1,000 visitors, 15% of the overall "digital audience"). The most watched films were South Korean Ditto by Seo Eun-young and The Legend & Butterfly by Japanese director Otomo Keishi.
So all that remains to do is make a note on your calendar of the dates of the next edition, when the Far East Film Festival will be hitting its twenty-sixth milestone: see you in Udine from the 19 th to the 27 th of April 2024!