Special Report: Udine Far East Film Festival 8, Italy, 2006

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Now in its eighth year, the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy is one of the most popular showcases of new Asian film in Europe. Most the 73 films selected this year are making their international or European debut. And each one of the films selected had something of appeal for every taste range--dramas, love stories, comedies, martial arts, horror and this year a special spotlight on Asian musicals. As the festival explains we are familiar Asian martial arts films and horror--but not musicals.

Special invited guest from Japan Inoue Umetsugu told me that he went to New York in 1958 and saw all the big Broadway musicals: Sound of Music, West Side Story and My Fair Lady. He was educated in jazz music and was invited to Hong Kong to make films because he worked quickly. I caught Hong Kong Nocturne from 1967 -the story of three sisters who sing while their father performs magic tricks at a nightclub . Because he steals their paychecks and even tries to force one of them to perform nude, they strike out on their own. Umetsugu said that filmmakers have a mission to illuminate social issues, and referred to how film has addressed civil rights in the USA.Consequently in his films gender equality is an important theme, and these three women choose their careers over relationships more than once in the film In mainland China

The coordination body of the festival is The Center for Cinematographic Expression - Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche (CEC), headed by president Sabrina Baracetti.Together with the Venice Intl Film Festival Udine hopes to double the amount of Asian films in their festivals.

Over 50,000 spectators attended this year and cast their ballots for the audience award. Several of my favorites were in the top ten. The most popular film came from South Korea--Welcome to Dongmakgol by Park Kwan-hyun. Set during the Korean war soldiers happen upon a village hidden from the excesses and cruelties of modern life and the peaceful ways of the eventualy villagers soften the soldiers in this well made feature.

One of my favorites of the top ten was Linda Linda Linda by Yamashita Nobuhiro from Japan --a contemplative exploration of four high school girls who form a rock band and play at the closing concert of their school. Yamashita said he wanted to create a story that would be timeless-- and believe me it could have taken place at my high school.The director invited the four actresses a week before shooting to get acquainted and their personal rapport informs the script.

I also enjoyed Always Sunset on Third Street by Yamazaki Takashi set in 1958, the year that the Tokyo Tower was built - a warm drama about Tokyo neighbors that won 12 Japanese academy awards. And Loach is Fish Too , by Yang Yazhou from China a beautiful drama about migrant workers in Beijing. Both films were in the top ten.

You and Me another film of the top ten directed by Ma Liwen from China tells the story of a meeting of an elderly woman and young university student. Granny, a former soldier, rents an inexpensive room to Xiao Ma but they become more than landlord and tenant. When they negotiate over the electricity or the phone bill its always about more than that. Liwen said that intergenerational meetings between women have seldom been filmed and her personal portrait is artfully arranged with scenes spanning four seasons.

For Movie Magazine, this is Moira Sullivan, Udine ITALY
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Udine Far East Film Festival 8, Italy, 2006