3,000 accredited pass-holders from 45 countries and 25,000 votes to decide the winner of the Audience Awards 2020: those are the numbers that tell the story of how this digital edition of the Far East Film Festival went. And what a success story it is! Both the initial numbers (46 titles in the lineup, including 5 world premieres, corresponding to dozens of production companies deciding to back the online FEFF) and the final ones, collected after 9 days of programming (not just films but also 45 livestreamed events, 38 video-messages from directors and 10 press conferences, not to mention all the many meetings organized on Zoom by the FEFF Campus and by Focus Asia).
The Golden Mulberry went to the powerful Chinese youth drama Better Days
by Derek Tsang (son of the legendary Eric Tsang): an unforgettable story of love and violence at school that also won the Black Mulberry Award, selected by Shogun pass-holders. The Silver Mulberry went to Malaysian director Layla Ji's debut film Victim(s)
(Malaysia's first time on the winners' podium) which had its world premiere at the FEFF 22. The Crystal Mulberry went to Taiwanese pop fairy tale I WeirDo
by Liao Ming-yi (another world premiere), which also won the Mymovies Purple Mulberry. The White Mulberry for First Time Director, selected by an international jury (La Frances Hui, Leopoldo Santovincenzo and Mark Adams) instead went to Lee Sang-geun's South Korean action-comedy Exit
. South Korea also won the special mention for Kim Young-hoon's noir Beasts Clawing at Straws
. And let's not forget that all the Mulberry awards are crafted by IdeaPrototipi.
Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche, the FEFF directors, say: «We dreamed up and created an actual festival, even if it was online. We managed to put together a lineup featuring some extremely important films, many first features and numerous female directors. We sought to maintain the atmosphere that can usually be found in Udine, where for over twenty years an international community has been gathering for the nine days of the festival. One thing is for sure: we will treasure the things we've learnt from this experience (which it might be more accurate to call an “experiment”!) and we’ll keep them close to our hearts when we start on FEFF 2021. In real life, this time».
90% of FEFF's virtual audience chose the Festival's daily calendar over the on-demand library, which shows that the public understood and appreciated the risk the organizers took in completely re-imagining the Festival. Because the revolutionary nature of FEFF 22 didn't just consist in it being transferred online - it consisted in adapting every single section and every single operating space to the laws of the web. But while moving the headquarters "virtually" onto MYmovies.it and "physically" to the Hotel Clocchiatti in Udine, where the various sets for live events were set up, might have meant the Festival changing its syntax, it certainly didn't mean changing its soul - it's remained a thrilling dive into the heart of Asian pop cinema (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia)!
It wasn't just the public who understood and appreciated the organizers' vision, choices and (let's face it) daring, though: Far East Film Festival 22 was also able to count on public institutions and private sponsors, once again finding essential help in the local area to allow it to take wing and to continue that flight which began in 1998 with Hong Kong Film, the FEFF's historical ancestor.
And acting as a symbolic bridge between 2020's daring "virtual" edition and the next one - which has already been scheduled from the 23rd of April to the 1st of May, 2021 - a precious document: the bilingual FEFF 22 catalogue, which the organizers were determined to have printed in physical form. 255 pages of synopses, essays and interviews to act as a tangible reminder of this journey and not just a colourful trail of pixels.