Udine’s Far East Film Festival (FEFF) is Europe’s only festival focused on East Asian popular cinema. It is also one of the most pleasant and relaxed to attend. Winter has finally gone and you can sit outside between movies, sipping an orange-coloured Aperol with a view of the Dolomites in the distance. A sense of warmth, wellbeing and relaxation gradually melts your tension away and you can focus on the films. As I contemplated this year’s screenings, various thoughts occurred to me. Udine has survived serious financial cuts to deliver a streamlined program, which this year emphasised contemporary releases over retrospectives and other activities like panel discussions. The selection was one of the strongest ever, showing that popular cinema in East Asia continues to prosper, as it both does battle with and learns from Hollywood. South Korea and Japan continue to dominate both the schedule and the critical response from audiences, while the Taiwan commercial industry continues its recovery and Thailand continues to dominate the horror market. There were smaller numbers of films from countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. A special event which created a real buzz was the screening of a new North Korean film. But for me the real story of this year’s Udine was the emergence of mainland Chinese genre cinema from many years of trying and failing to the production of a range of straightforwardly successful box office hits. Through all the different genres and countries of origin, I noticed a pattern to my response: so many films opted for the high-risk strategy of trying to make you care about a seemingly obnoxious protagonist, but not all of them succeeded. And, finally, one film may have changed the way I view certain kinds of horror films forever.
All state-funded events in Europe face belt-tightening at the moment. That FEFF had not escaped this crash diet was evident from the very beginning of the 2013 festival. There was no festival trailer this year – a mercy for loyal audiences who come to many screenings! The King Hu retrospective was accompanied by a significant book of translations of King Hu “In His Own Words”, edited by Roger Garcia, but only managed to include three films. Two – Kongshan Lingyu (Raining in the Mountain, 1979) and Xianü (A Touch of Zen, 1970-71) – are well known to almost everyone, although it was of course a delight to be able to see them on the big screen. The third, Fuxing Gao Zhao (My Lucky Star, 1963, directed by He Menghua), is a less well-known film programmed to showcase King Hu’s comedy acting talent. As I sat stone-faced through this slow-paced farce that telegraphs every laugh a mile ahead, I reflected that we should all be grateful King Hu decided to focus on directing.
Despite straitened circumstances, FEFF 2013 put on a packed main program of 58 new features and a handful of shorts. All the films except for the retrospective screened in the huge and handsome single-screen Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine. Starting at nine and finishing with a midnight screening every day, with barely a bathroom break in between, the schedule was relentless but satisfyingly full. Some rumours spoke of an initial fifty per cent cut to the budget, later ameliorated to “only” twenty-five per cent. To continue to be able to put on such a rich event in these circumstances is a tribute to the organisers, and it won support in the form of record box office numbers that exceeded 50,000.
Although I did see almost 40 of the features in the program, I somehow managed to miss all this year’s award winners. I was late getting back from the above-mentioned King Hu farce My Lucky Star, and so I missed the film that picked up the Golden Mulberry for Best Film from in the audience awards. As its title suggests, Lee Won-suk’s debut film Namja Sayong Seolmyeongseo (How to Use Guys with Secret Tips) is also a farce. Although I bumped into friends walking out half-way when I got back to the Teatro Nuovo, it seems those that stayed found much to please. The Black Mulberry audience award voted for by Black Dragon audience members with reserved seats went to Taiwanese film Ni Guang Fei Xiang (Touch of the Light, directed by Chang Jung-chi). The description for the 9am screening, featuring a blind pianist, a ballet dancer, and words like “inspiring”, made me feel queasy so soon after breakfast, but it seems I did not need to worry.
For me, the discovery at this year’s festival was the medium-budget genre films from mainland China. In my report on last year’s festival, I discussed the difficulty faced by the festival’s China consultants in finding commercial films from the People’s Republic that were not so clumsily made and pompous that they would be unacceptable to Udine audiences. In 2012, a controversy was generated by programming some independent and small-budget films of the kind usually avoided by Udine to fill the gap. Their inclusion was justified on the grounds that they had commercial elements or genre tendencies, but not everyone felt they belonged in FEFF.
No such convolutions were necessary this year. After many years of striving to learn from Hollywood, People’s Republic of China genre cinema seems to have finally come of age. Just as FEFF 2013 began, on 21 April Michael Cieply reported on the Chinese box office for the first quarter of the year for the New York Times. He not only titled his article “US Box Office Heroes Proving Mortal in China”, but also concluded that they were losing out to relatively modestly budgeted comedies rather than big budget Chinese fantasy and action films as vacuous and overblown as their Hollywood counterparts. Fortunately, some of the new Chinese “box office heroes” were at Udine.
Ren Zai Jiongtu Zhi Taijiong (Lost in Thailand) currently stands as the all-time box office smash in China, outdoing Avatar and every Chinese spectacular fantasy film. Directed by Xu Zheng and owing no small debt to The Hangover Part II (Todd Phillips, 2011), Lost in Thailand is a fast-paced chase film featuring China’s three top screen comedians of the moment and lots of no holds barred slapstick. Xu, who also co-authored the screenplay, stars as an executive who has come up with a magic formula product. Determined to sell it and make his fortune, he heads off to Thailand, where his potential buyer is on a Buddhist retreat. However, his office rival, played by Huang Bo, is hot on his heels. Complicating the picture and adding crazy charm is Wang Baoqiang, known to festivalgoers from Mr. Tree, directed by Han Jie in 2011. Wang’s character is a member of a Chinese tour group who is literally an “innocent abroad”. Guileless, well-intentioned, and reminiscent of Jerry Lewis, he causes all manner of delays and comic disasters in his efforts to be helpful. Lost in Thailand is far from cinematically or intellectually ambitious, but it certainly works! To say I was glued to the screen and rolling in the aisles seems appropriate to the action comedy on display, and the film was thankfully devoid of wholesome Communist Party or police characters puncturing the balloon with tiresome messages.
The same combination of a heavy debt to Hollywood, a modest budget, efficient deployment of genre conventions, and a light touch when it comes to moralising political messages characterised the other successful offerings from the People’s Republic at Udine this year. If I tell you that most of Beijing Yu Shang Xiayatu (Finding Mr. Right) takes place in Seattle, you will know which Hollywood rom com this appealing comedy is channelling. Starring Lust, Caution lead Tang Wei in her mainland big screen comeback after being banned for her role in that film and directed by Beijing Film Academy professor Xue Xiaolu, Finding Mr. Right dispels the dull and dusty image of academics as surely as it reveals Tang’s comedic talents and range. This was the first but not the last time I was presented with a seemingly obnoxious protagonist, and this time Tang’s acting skills managed to persuade me that she really was nice after all. The mistress of a rich man, she descends on Seattle dripping bling and famous brands. Her aim is to have her baby in Seattle, presumably to endow it with US nationality. However, as she discovers that money cannot buy her everything, flashing the cash gives way to glimpses of a more sensitive side. At the same time, the comedy itself offers some sharp insights. For example, the film delivers an effective critique of China’s notorious one-child policy when Tang’s character breaks down in tears, protesting that she does not care about giving her baby a US passport. The problem is that, as a single mother, she would not even be able to find a hospital to give birth in back home, never mind a school that could accept the child as it grows up.
Equally effective despite its reliance on passable CGI effects is Lin Lisheng’s Bai Wan Ju E (Million Dollar Crocodile). With a nod in the direction of King Kong, Jaws and any number of other Hollywood monster movies, the film has the right mix of the comic and scary to keep you engaged. Ah Mao is the eponymous huge and valuable reptile. But when her croc park home goes bust and she is sold to a restaurant, she breaks free from and goes on a rampage. However, just like King Kong, Ah Mao shows surprising discrimination. She never touches the little boy who feels sorry for her and feeds her sausages, but only snaps her jaws around evildoers – and a bag full of euros. Genre films rely on anxieties about mainstream values, in the process revealing what people really hold dear. Lost in Thailand, Finding Mr. Right and Million Dollar Crocodile are all about putting human relationships above the quest for money and material benefit, which suggests that in fact, just like Ah Mao, absolute greed and selfishness are running riot in Chinese society today. In the film, Ah Mao is despatched, but not without leaving the door open for a follow-up movie. Perhaps China is discovering that once out of its cage, materialism is equally persistent.
In contrast to these modest but effective genre films, the big budget action films from the People’s Republic continued to be as overblown as ever. Guan Hu’s Sha Sheng (Design of Death) is another one of those Chinese fable films set on the borderlands and full of peculiar customs. This was a fresh formula for China’s Fifth Generation film directors twenty years ago, but it is pretty tired by now. Huang Bo, who appeared to much better effect as the villain in Lost in Thailand, plays the local bad boy, Niu Jieshi. Dead at the beginning of the film, Design of Death then flashbacks to explain what happened to him. Here is another obnoxious protagonist we are supposed to come to like, as the film plays out a parable about the dangers of excluding eccentrics and non-conformists. But it is difficult to feel tolerant when you are being told the same story of a very irritating character again and again – Rashomon-style but without the substance. Hua Pi Er (Painted Skin: The Resurrection, directed by Wuershan) has been a box office hit, but even the potentially intriguing queer dynamics between the two female fox spirit leads do not prevent it from drowning its own expensive special effects and pretension.
Finally on the People’s Republic, two other rather more old-fashioned mainstream films also shone at FEFF. You Zhong (Beijing Flickers,) marks director Zhang Yuan’s long-awaited return to form. It is, in many ways, a return to the familiar territory he launched his career with so successfully in the 1990s, because the film is set in Beijing’s music sub-culture, as was Beijing Bastards. However, where that film was all gritty realism, Beijing Flickers is an altogether sleeker and sexier late night jazz affair. The characters in the earlier film were Beijing locals, but the tribe of friends in Beijing Flickers are all young migrants who come to make it in the big city. In China’s contemporary society composed of only children, all of them are pretty much on their own, relying on friendship bonds rather than family, and without any institutional support. The film refuses cheap Hollywood promises that if you work hard you will make it, but it also eschews melodramatic tragedy, as we discover how each character responds to different setbacks and opportunities.
If Beijing Flickers evokes the early 1990s “urban generation” cinema, Wang Jing’s Wan Jian Chuan Xin (Feng Shui) harks back even earlier to the 1980s realist dramas of the so-called Fourth Generation of Chinese film directors. Rather than being outmoded, the result is surprisingly satisfying and was, for me, the standout among the Chinese films in this year’s festival. Set in the mid-1990s, when the transition from state-owned economy into full-blooded materialism is gathering force, it focuses on the misfortunes that befall a family after they move into their longed-for bigger and better apartment. One of their friends thinks it is all because the apartment has bad fengshui. But you could be mistaken for thinking it is all because the wife and protagonist of the film is such a castrating shrew. Where Huang Bo struggles to make Niu Jieshi likeable in Design of Death, Yan Bingyan succeeds in enabling us to understand and even care about the relentlessly aggressive nag. This is a bravura performance that commands the audience’s attention and respect. Another indictment of the evils of Chinese materialism, Feng Shui stands above the People’s Republic genre films by resisting platitudes like the idea that love will win out in the end or that family is family after all.
An altogether different kind of old-fashioned film also stole the scene at Udine this year. There was much excitement around the screening of a rare North Korean film. Kim Dongmuneun Haneuleul Nanda (Comrade Kim Goes Flying) is actually something even rarer than a pure North Korean film – it is a Belgian-North Korean co-production, co-directed by Kim
Gwang-hun, Nicholas Bonner and Anja Daelemans. Bonner was present for the screening along with Han Jong-Sim, who stars in the role of Comrade Kim, and the North Korean producer, and they got a rapturous reception from the audience. In the glossy Hollywood Mosfilm style, Comrade Kim tells a story of personal aspiration and triumph against the odds, tempered by class struggle. Kim is a miner who dreams of going above ground – high above the ground – and becoming an acrobat. Although the privileged and pampered acrobats in the state troupe dismiss her, of course this daughter of the working class proves them wrong. North Korea appears in the film as a land where the sun always shines and everyone is rosy-cheeked – as much Pasadena as Pyongyang. To my fascination, every line of Marxist dialogue in this cinematic curiosity was greeted with applause. Udine is a prosperous North Italian tidy town, but it seems the prospect of state socialism still enchants some of the well-upholstered bourgeoisie who would be among the first to be purged after any revolution.
If the new and successful Chinese genre films and the rare appearance of a North Korean drama were the news at Udine, the same could not be said about the strength of the South Korean films at the festival, but only because they have been so consistently reliable for so many years now. The festival opened with a tribute to veteran Kim Dong-ho, awarded the Golden Mulberry prize for his contributions to the Pusan International Film Festival and South Korean cinema over so many years, and honoured with a screening of his first film as director, a modest film festival satire called Jury. This short was followed by Ryoo Seung-wan’s riveting spy thriller, Bereullin (The Berlin File). A North versus South Korean drama set in the formerly divided city, the film stays true to genre by focusing on an honourable protagonist used and abused by both sides. Unlike Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Ryoo remembers the thriller part as well as the espionage. And so, whenever all the twists and turns of the plot are getting confusing, it does not matter because an exciting action scene will follow and keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Gangster films are another dependable genre from South Korea, and this year Park Hoon-Jung’s Sinsegye (New World) certainly did not disappoint. The twist in this succession war in the Goldmoon syndicate is that some of its members are Chinese Koreans, and the gang itself is transnational. National and corporate metaphors and regional anxieties abound, as the Korean Korean gangsters try to keep the Chinese Koreans out and the audience begins to realise that it is too late because they are already here in Korea. A similar fear of the mainland Chinese also animates the Hong Kong crime film, Leng Zhang/Hon Jin (Cold War), written and directed by first-time directors Longman Leung and Sunny Luk. Tony Leung Ka-fai and Aaron Kwok battle over how to respond to a kidnapping – no holds barred or within Hong Kong’s famed rule of law, which is what supposedly makes it different from the rest of the People’s Republic. The plot worries about a younger, post-handover generation that seems to care little for the latter.
South Korea seems to excel in almost every genre at the moment. Doduk-deul (Thieves), directed by Choi Dong-hoon is a witty heist movie that travels to casino land Macau and owes a debt to Ocean’s Eleven. David Cho’s Naega Gobaek-eul Hamyeon (The Winter of the Year Was Warm) is a very subtle romance in which a city-dwelling film producer and a nurse who lives by the sea gradually warm to each other after agreeing to swap apartments on weekends. If you analysed the plot alone, you could say The Winter of the Year Was Warm is a typical tale of coincidences and love overcoming obstacles, but it has none of the fakery that suggests. Even the social issue film is well-served by Kang Yi-Kwan’s Bleomjoe-sonyeon (Juvenile Offender). The film focuses on the plight of a baby-faced teenage thief struggling to survive after his grandfather, who has been looking after him, dies. When she reappears, all the blame seems to be placed on his feckless mother. But, as in the Chinese film Fengshui, a sensitive script and an outstanding performance by the lead actress (Lee Jung-hyun) makes us see past the unsympathetic surface, and in this case we see that the patterns of family dysfunction go back through the generations.
The only genre that South Korean films did not win me over on was comedy. Although I missed How to Use Guys with Secret Tips for King Hu’s wooden Lucky Star, I did catch Min Kyu-Dong’s Nae Anae-ui Modeun Geot (All About My Wife). Desperate to escape an overwhelming and controlling wife, a husband persuades his neighbour to seduce her in pursuit of grounds for divorce, only to see her charms once the seduction threatens to become a reality. This time, the risky strategy of winning us over to a seemingly obnoxious character does not work. She remains unbearably annoying to the end. Who could wait for a divorce?
Sadly, South Korea was not the only source of unfunny comedies at Udine this year. If I did not want to know “all about my wife” in the Hong Kong Ekin Cheng vehicle Ngor Loh Por M’gao Ching 2 Ngor Loh Gung M’san Sing (My Sassy Hubby), directed by James Yuen, the sassy hubby was not sassy. Ekin Cheng is nice, polite, and dull. Worse still, his wife (played by Charlene Choi) is another annoying character we struggle to like. Noisy, uneducated, and hopeless around the house, she is also unable to earn a living. When a mainland rival for Ekin’s affections comes along in the form of a wealthier, more educated, and charming younger mainland Chinese woman who cooks like a dream, we are seriously asked to believe he would not dump her at the first opportunity. With more and more Hong Kong men taking mistresses in the mainland, My Sassy Hubby is symptomatic of Hong Kong wives’ anxieties. However, it offers no reassurance.
The sole Malaysian film at Udine this year, Istanbul Aku Datang (Istanbul Here I Come), directed by Bernard Chauly, features another irritating protagonist. Spoilt and immature Dian arrives in Istanbul squealing and pouting, much like Tang Wei’s arrival in Seattle in Looking for Mr. Right. But Tang Wei has more range than Lisa Surihani, who plays Dian, or maybe more was asked of her by the script. Dian is paying a surprise visit to her fiancé, who is studying medicine in Turkey. It turns out he is cheating on her, and we are supposed to hate him for it. But who could blame him? Istanbul does look lovely in the film, and there is one strong moment at the end: Dian makes a perhaps unexpected decision when faced to choose between her repentant fiancé and a new boyfriend she has met in Istanbul. But this is not enough to redeem Istanbul Here I Come.
As well as flatfooted couple comedies, there were girl group comedies that had limited charm. The Philippines gave us Heto nAPO Sila!, Chris Martinez’s musical comedy. A musical plus a comedy made this a double handicap from my perspective. The English title is I Do Bidoo Bidoo, but despite the best efforts of all involved and lots of gloss, I do bidon’t. The actors work hard to hold up the thinnest and most predictable of Romeo and Juliet plots, and the film seemed to last twice its two-hour running time. The well-intentioned and professionally executed Japanese girlpower comedy Garu (Girls for Keeps), directed by Fukagawa Yoshihiro, challenged stereotypes about working women in Japan. But ultimately it fell into gently sighing platitudes like, “for women, life is half pink, half blue.” This seemed to defeat the original purpose and confirm that trying to work and have a family is not a good idea after all.
In contrast to these disappointments, Taiwanese-style romantic comedies continued to be both distinctive and more appealing, if not universally successful. All five of the Taiwanese films screened at Udine this year fit into this generic category. As I have already confessed, I missed the prize-winner, Touch of Light, but I caught all the others. The best was Arvin Chen’s Mingtian Jide Aishang Wo (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?). Ever since Blue Gate Crossing back in 2002, Taiwan cinema has thrived on rom coms with a queer twist. In this case, a married optician is reminded of his gay youth when he finds himself staring dreamily into the eyes of a charming young air steward client. Meanwhile, his sister is having pre-wedding jitters. The film explores the complexity of relationships beyond the stereotypes with poignancy and humour. The cast is sympathetic, and the film hits the right note from beginning to end, managing to entertain while at the same time ringing true, especially with its surprise ending.
Almost as good as Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? is another queer rom com, GF*BF, directed by Yang Ya-che. The film follows the well-established pattern of two boys and a girl, where one of the boys is gay and loves the other boy, whereas the girl loves the gay boy but ends up with the straight one. Sensitive and amusing, what makes it different from all the other queer rom coms is the historical backdrop, which places the young trio in the middle of Taiwan’s democracy movement in the 1980s. By paralleling the hopes and excitement of political change and youthful romance, and then following both through to the disappointment and complications of full adulthood, the film suggests greater depths of meaning. For some viewers, this will make it more profound, for others, it will simply be pretentious.
Moving away from the tried and tested queer rom com that Taiwan does so well, the two other Taiwanese rom coms at Udine this year were more mixed. Ama de Mengzhong Qingren (Forever Love, directed by Shiao Li-Shiou and Kitamura Koyoharu) takes us back to the ‘50s to tell the story of the Taiwanese-language cinema through the love story of the protagonist’s grandparents. In comparison to the Mandarin-language cinema promoted by the KMT regime, the Taiwanese-language cinema was notoriously under-capitalised and churned out huge numbers of low-budget films. Most of them have disappeared forever, and so the attempt to return to this era has plenty of interest for cinephiles. However, Forever Love is caught between affection for the era and a tendency to affirm the stereotype of the films as cheap rubbish, making it a bit difficult to understand why anyone would care. An even bigger problem is the two hours-plus length for a simple love story. What should have been a light and pacey ninety minutes quickly drags.
Finally, we return to the problem of unloveable protagonists who are supposed to win us over with Hsieh Chun-yi’s Duimian de Nühai Shaguolai. This is a cross-straits rom com, with a mainland tourist in Taiwan enlisting the help of a local man in her search for her grandmother’s long-lost boyfriend, who followed the KMT troops on their retreat to the island at the end of China’s civil war in the 1940s. The film depicts the mainland girl through the Taiwan stereotype of the mainland woman as a demanding, loud, and bossy slattern. Huang Lu proved she could make seemingly unattractive characters work in Lou Ye’s Summer Palace. But this time the effort defeats her and we cannot see why Bryan Chang’s male lead would not want to send her back to the comrades a.s.a.p.
The Thai film Home Kwanmrak Kwamsook Kwamsongcham (Home) also seemed to pay tribute to the Taiwanese queer rom com tradition, at least in its first segment. A trio of love stories bound together by loss and directed by Chookiat Matthew Sakweerakul as a tribute to his late father, the film begins with the flickering of a schoolboy romance between boys who discover their attraction for each other at the very moment when they must part. The middle story, about a recent widow who keeps finding her late husband’s notes everywhere as she tries to take over the business and keep things going, is also touching and at times funny. But the third segment lets the film down. This is about a bride’s wedding night jitters and coming to terms with realising she can only marry one man. Since both the groom and the ex-boyfriend are equally handsome, silent, and lacking in personality, it was obvious from the start that she was doing the right thing by hitching herself to the one with more money, and audiences could have left right then.
If Taiwanese cinema at FEFF 2013 continued to be dominated by rom coms with a twist of one sort or another, a quick read of the synopses indicated that many of the twelve Japanese films on offer were going to be yet more quirky comedies. I reached my quirk limit quite a while ago, and decided not to force myself to see these. But there was one exception, and I am very glad I went. Yokomichi Yonosuke (A Story of Yonosuke) is directed by Okita Shuichi, who made the exceptional The Woodsman and the Rain, a highlight of last year’s festival. This is a case where the unpromising protagonist does win you over. Kora Kengo, who appeared as the film director in The Woodsman, is a geeky rube come to study in the big city. Quirky boy meets quirky girl, but fortunately there is more to the film than this, as both his girlfriend and various other friends remember stories about his strange behaviour that end up making him loveable rather than annoying. The film contains a narrative device that I cannot give away but which is devastating and very skilfully deployed.
Finally, I need to turn my attention to horror. I rarely see the horror films at Udine. This is not because I have an aversion to the genre, but because they usually screen – I confess – way past my bedtime! However, I did catch two. Because of scheduling rather than anything else, both were from the Philippines, although I must acknowledge that the majority of Thai films at the festival were in the horror genre, too. First, Erik Matti’s Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles told a conventional horror story of a family with a heavily pregnant wife in an isolated rural house and threatened by man-eating aswang monsters. Why do they wait to attack? “Because the new-born tastes better than the foetus,” one of them explains. I roared with laughter. What made the film different from run-of-the-mill monster movies was its use of effective SFX to render not only the monsters but also the sets and colours, creating an eerie atmosphere. By drawing the aswang in an obviously animated way, the issue of whether they are believable or not becomes irrelevant, and we can just sit back, or perhaps on the edge of our seats, and be scared.
The second horror film I saw was, however, unwatchable for me. And this reaction to Richard Somes’s Mariposa sa Hawla ng Gabi (Mariposa in the Cage of the Night) was at least in part because of another film I had seen earlier in my week at Udine: the South Korean Namyeong-dong 1985 (National Security, directed by Chung Ji-young). National Security is not the kind of film you might normally expect to see at FEFF, because it is not a genre film. But for me, it was one of the best films of the festival. I understand it was included because it was an unexpected box office hit in Korea.
Director Chung Ji-young is a veteran responsible for such classics as White Badge (1992) and The Life and Death of the Hollywood Kid (1994), but he has not been so prominent recently. Chung’s own career goes back to the 1980s days of the military dictatorship, when National Security is set. It is based on the true story of a labour activist who later went on to become a national assemblyman before his death in 2011 at the age of 64. Kim Geun-tae’s relatively early death was at least partly due to the after-effects of being tortured during 22 days of arrest in 1985, and National Security takes us through this excruciating experience with Kim. The film’s impact is devastating because never for a moment is our focus taken away from Kim and the relentless impact of torture. And somehow, even though it is very hard to watch, we cannot tear our eyes away for fear of what might happen if we do not keep watching. We all know that torture is wrong, but after National Security, you come to feel it in the core of your being as well as to understand that nothing can ever make things right afterwards.
After National Security, Mariposa was intolerable. This is basically a torture porn film about the terrible things that happen to a country girl who makes the mistake of coming to the big city of Manila. The idea that the female victim ultimately gets her revenge does not detract from the fact that the main “thrill” of Mariposa is watching beautiful young girls being cut up and disfigured. I doubt whether I will ever be tell myself these films are harmless entertainment again.
So, in conclusion, this was another visit to FEFF that was so well worth making. Saturated in East Asian cinema, I left updated, transformed, and looking forward to next year. Let’s hope that everyone recognises the value of this unique event, not just for Udine, or for Italy, but for all of Europe.
Far East Film Festival
Udine, 19 – 27 April 2013
Festival website: http://www.fareastfilm.com/EasyNe2/Homepage_eng.aspx