The eighth day of the Udine Far East Film Festival 2010 offered to viewers an amazing selection of films from six different countries – certainly the most varied program during CUEAFS’ stay in Italy. Four international premieres, one European, one Italian and the presence of two of the films’ directors was the treat for everyone who attended FEFF on April 30.
From Indonesia came the international film “Identity” (2009) by Aria Kusumadewa – a dark and depressing story of nameless and ‘rightless’ people, living in absolute poverty – a daily reality in Indonesia. Adam (Tio Pakusadewo), who works in the mortuary section of a hospital, befriends a nameless girl and desperately tries to solve her problems, whilst he himself faces an eviction. As the story develops, more and more problems begin to arise, as Adam becomes more involved in the story of the young girl and is dedicated to saving her, even after her death. A story about the importance of having an identity and a dark portrayal of the everyday life of millions of Indonesians.
Another international premiere arrived from Taiwan: “Hear Me” (2009) by Cheng Fen-Fen is a touching youth romance, which deals with the issue of disability and the right of the hearing impaired to a normal life. The film tells the story of two deaf sisters, one of which is a swimmer, striving to win a gold medal at the Paralympics, whilst the other struggles to build a normal relationship with Tian Kuo, thinking he is also hearing impaired. Both sisters encounter difficult problems in the course of events, due to their disability, but their sister’s bond is able to overcome everything, as they support each other through the difficult choices they have to make. The film is light-hearted and funny, whilst dealing with important issues, and it holds a surprising ending for the audiences.
Premiering in Europe was the Chinese historical epic “The Founding of a Republic” (2009) by Han Sanping and Huang Jianxin, made by the China Film Group to mark the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The film tells the tale of the Communist ascendancy and triumph and recounts the history of China from 1945 to 1949. The audience is presented with complicated political events in the period after the Second Sino-Japanese war and during the civil war, which led to the founding of the Chinese Republic. An impressive cast, as the film stars some of the most popular Chinese faces in the cinema industry, such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi, Fan BingBing, Andy Lau and many many others. Although sometimes described as dull, the film is not overwhelmed by political party propaganda and delivers its story in a way that would appeal to younger audiences and would educate them on the history of China.
From Hong Kong the audience was fortunate enough to receive Teddy Chen’s “Bodyguards and Assassins” (2009) which held its Italian premiere in the evening of April 30. The film tells the story of Chinese politician Sun Yat-sen who is on his way to meeting other activist leaders in a try to overthrow the Qing government. As the Qing court sends its most skillful assassins to make sure the activist doesn’t make it to the meeting, a group of bodyguards is gathered to make sure Sun Yat-sen arrives at the gathering and to distract the assassins for one hour, while important questions are discussed. The film is quite slow for the first part and it is sometimes difficult to follow all the personal stories, that are interweaved within it, the second part is packed with action and fighting scenes, which are at points uncomfortably ridiculous and don’t deliver. However, a pleasant experience for everyone with a marvelous musical accompaniment by the genius of Peter Kam, which could only be guilty for its unnecessary length.
Premiering internationally from Japan was Miura Daisuke’s “Boys on the Run” (2010). Based on a manga by Kengo Hanazaw, the film tells the story of 29-year-old virgin Tanishi, who works for a small company that sells toys for vending machines and spends his time obsessing over Chiharu, a beautiful co-worker, and watching porn. Just when things start to look up and Chiharu seems to be reciprocating Tanishi’s feelings, a rival salesman snatches her and turns Tanishi into an unsuspected hero. While keeping the audience entertained with the right-on-point punch lines and combining them with the sometimes disgusting realism, the film might please some, but mostly leaves the viewers uncomfortable with its lack of direction and even though it maybe redeems itself just a little in the final moments, it might be disappointing to those with high expectations.
And last but not least, Thailand had its own representative – in the presence of director Nithiwat Tharatorn the teenage drama “Dear Galileo” (2009) had its international festival premiere. Two girlfriends, Cherry and Noon, decide to travel and work as waitresses in Europe, whilst trying to escape from their own lives – one is running away from school, the other – from love. With only one rule of never leaving each other, no matter what happens, the two girls head off to see England, France and Italy, while proving the strength of friendship which overcomes human-created borders.
With seventeen films in their pockets over the course of less than four days, CUEAFS members packed their bags, unwilling to leave without seeing the final selection of films, which proved to be as impressive as the ones already seen. With only a few films to slightly disturb with either unnecessary length or inevitable plot holes, the Udine Far East Film Festival 2010 certainly delivered! All those who attended FEFF 12 will definitely be keeping their eyes peeled for the festival’s next edition and will be lining up for the chance to see as many films as possible and to speak to directors, producers and stars, whilst receiving impressive insight into the past, present and future of East Asian cinema.