1.Can you tell us about the preparation of the 19th Udine Far East Film Festival? What are the highlights worthy of attention at festival this year?
The preparation of the next Udine festival starts when as soon as the last one finishes… or even while it’s still going!
The reason for that is obvious: we need to spend a lot of time finding films and discussing with our team of consultants who live and work in Asia but who are here in Udine for the festival itself.
So while the event is happening, it also gives us the chance to hold meetings with the FEFF programming team – meetings where we plan the future together.
Throughout the year, we at the FEFF then personally participate in a lot of Asian festivals: from Busan to Tokyo IFF to see the selected films but also to meet the producers and the Asian sales agents and to collect important information about upcoming movies.
The selection for Udine isn’t based solely on the selections of other international festivals, though – it’s the result of actually being there in the field, talking in person with directors and producers in Asia with the aim of gathering information first-hand.
We usually spend two weeks in Beijing between October and December: two hectic weeks of meetings and private screenings.
The highlights of 2017: first of all, the 83 films in the official selection, one of the highest numbers of films in the history of the festival.
Then: The restored version of Made in HK conceived of, developed and promoted independently by the FEFF over two years. An idea that we had two years ago and which has now become reality. A dream that came true. We are really proud; proud that the FEFF has ‘saved’ one of the key films of the former British colony’s cinema – a film which otherwise would have been lost forever. Now it will have a new digital life and can be seen worldwide.
Other highlights: the participation, for the first time, of a film from Laos directed by a woman.
The tribute to Susuki Seijun with Branded to Kill, the film manifesto of the great Japanese master.
And of course, one of the best moment will be the Award ceremony for Feng Xiaogang and the Life Time achievement award.
2. How about the exhibitors in this years’ film market? Are there any special events during Film Markets this year?
We have a lot of events planned, in particular market screenings and panel discussions.
The rich programme of activities includes one-to-ones and a series of panel meetings, case studies on development strategies, financing and distribution, such as the sessions Fixing A Broken Model: Global Distribution In The Digital Age held by Todd Brown (XYZ), Being John Malkovich – Or Getting Into The Mind Of Investors held by Juliane Schulze, and the case study of ‘Mr Long’, a Japan-Taiwan-Germany co-production recently screened in competition at the Berlin film Festival.
3. Why is the Udine Far East Film Festival focusing on the Asian films from the beginning? Is there any new direction for the future development of FEFF?
We’ve always loved genre films, starting with those from the great tradition of Italian comedy, melodrama and westerns.
When we started looking in Asia in 1997, we discovered an world unknown to us in the West – one which corresponded to an idea of a popular cinema capable of reinventing the aesthetic of genre film.
We loved it, and we started to feed off those films that amazed us and made us cry and entertained us all at the same time. Asian cinema has maintained this strength over the years – the strength to tell a story to a real audience.
In the future we would like to continue to invest our energies in showing the other side of the world through the unique and powerful tool of cinema.
4. Now there are many film festivals in the world, what do you think will be the trend for the future development of the film festival? How to balance the internationalization and the taste of the local audience?
Festivals are important because they allow the public to share an emotion – they allow people to meet each other and allow a cultural and commercial exchange.
If festivals continue to do this in the age of the Internet and “everything straightaway,” they will be increasingly important.
5. What kind of Chinese films do you prefer to introduce to Italian audience?
What we want to show Italian audiences is both the commercial product – the blockbusters that the Chinese sell en masse to theatres – as well as the smaller auteur discoveries which enrich our selection.
By this I mean talented directors who may not have had a chance to emerge, like, for example, Song Haolin, the director of a little jewel we’ll be showing at the FEFF: Mr. Zhu Summer.
6. Italian films have won the great reputation in the world, and maintained some unique characteristics. Are there any changes for Italian films development in recent years?
For decades, Italian cinema had an international reputation and fame which has faded in recent years. In my opinion, only those films willing to open up and overcome parochial limitations to face the demands of the general public will have a chance of success and development. Recently, the film Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers) was tremendously successful in Italy and abroad, and the remake rights have been sold in many countries. This shows that a well-written story and good team work can be a guarantee of success. In Italy you often feel the lack of enlightened manufacturers who ensure care for all aspects of a film’s production, from script to casting. Too often directors in Italy do everything and decide everything…
7. How do you think about the development of Chinese films in recent years? How do you see the prospects of cooperation between China and Europe in the film industry?
The production values of Chinese cinema have developed exponentially in recent years and are now absolutely comparable with those of Hollywood.
At the same time there seems to be less room in cinemas for smaller, more innovative movies.
It seems that the blockbuster has become the dominant production model, reducing the differences between genres and the variety of actors and technicians.
Cooperation between China and Europe must be triggered by the exchange of product; exchange and comparison. And the distribution of Chinese films in Europe must be guaranteed too.
To achieve this, though, Chinese productions cannot continue to be only “blockbuster/mainstream” productions that are obviously only targetting a domestic audience. There’s a need for more variety of genres and stories.
From the point of view of co-productions between Europe and China, there will continue to be occasional high-level production exceptions but more often small art-house products.
8. What do you think is the key element of the success of a film festival and film market?
Passion and the desire to change the details of what’s on offer every year and experience the festival as a unique and unrepeatable event.