Citizen of a Kind, Zhang Yimou, YOLO

Source: Udine FEFF

‘Citizen of a Kind’, Zhang Yimou, ‘YOLO’

The Far East Film Festival (FEFF) in Italy’s Udine has unveiled the full line-up for its 26th edition, which will honour Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou with an honorary award and world premiere restored versions of his Raise The Red Lantern and To Live.

Running April 24 to May 2, the festival will open with a double bill: Chinese box office hit YOLO and South Korean action-comedy Citizen Of A Kind.

YOLO dominated this year’s Lunar New Year releases, grossing $484m in China, and is directed by Jia Ling, who stars as an unemployed woman in her 30s whose life is turned around when she meets a boxing coach. Citizen Of A Kind, directed by Park Young-ju, has also been a local box office hit as South Korea’s fourth biggest title of the year to date.

Zhang will receive the Golden Mulberry Award for lifetime achievement on the stage of Udine’s Teatro Nuovo on closing night. This will be followed by the world premiere of a 4K restoration of To Live, Zhang’s 1994 drama that won three prizes at Cannes and a Bafta.

The Chinese filmmaker’s latest political thriller, Under The Light, will also receive its international premiere in competition at the festival while a 4K restoration of his 1991 period drama Raise The Red Lantern will world premiere at FEFF.

Zhang, whose box office smash Full River Red closed last year’s FEFF and received a lifetime honour at the Asian Film Awards earlier this month, will also take place in a masterclass event on May 1.

Taiwanese producer Chiu Fu-sheng, who was behind the two restorations, will also attend the festival and receive a Golden Mulberry Award for lifetime achievement. He is also known as the producer of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Venice Golden Lion winner A City of Sadness, The Puppetmaster and Johnnie To’s The Mission.

The festival will screen 74 Asian films from 11 countries, including 15 world premieres. The number of accredited visitors is up 24% on last year to 1,228.

“While last year’s festival documented the cultural and economic consequences of the pandemic… this year it will be documenting the signals of an industry that is gradually getting back on its feet,” said a statement from the festival.

As part of this recovery, FEFF highlighted “many young directors who are filling cinemas with a new vision, telling local stories that speak to a global public”.

Films in the selection that reflect this young Asian wave include Time Still Turns The Pages from Hong Kong’s Nick Cheuk; The Midsummer’s Voice from China’s Zhang Yudi; 18x2 Beyond Youthful Days, a Taiwan-Japan co-production by Michihito Fujii; Mimang by South Korea’s Kim Tae-yang; and Motion Picture: Choke from Japan’s Gen Nagao.

As well as the box office hits opening the festival, this year’s edition will include South Korean blockbusters 12.12: The Day and Exhuma. Kim Sung-soo’s istorical drama 12.12: The Day was the country’s biggest title at the local box office in 2023 while Jang Jae-hyun’s supernatural thriller Exhuma has topped the charts for five consecutive weekends and comfortably leads the rankings for 2024 to date. Directors Kim and Jang will both attend FEFF to present their films.

A further South Korean selection is action sequel The Roundup: Punishment, which premiered at the Berlinale last month and is anticipated to be another box office hit in South Korea, following in the footsteps of the first three titles in the franchise. Star Don Lee will not be in Udine but organisers promise a video message.

Additional highlights include a retrospective of Asian films from the 1980s and 1990s, including Tony Bui’s Three Seasons, the first Vietnamese film released in the US after the embargo; and seven Korean titles from the 1950s including 4K restorations of Madame Freedom and The Widow (the first Korean feature directed by a woman).

FEFF will also host a live music performance of Gift – a companion piece to Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Venice grand jury prize winner Evil Does Not Exist – led by composer Eiko Ishibashi.

Hong Kong filmmakers set to attend this year’s festival include Jonathan Li (Dust To Dust), Sasha Chuk (Fly Me To The Moon), Felix Chong (The Goldfinger), Lawrence Kan (In Broad Daylight), Norris Wong (The Lyricist Wannabe), Herman Yau (Moscow Mission), Nick Cheung (Peg O’ My Heart) and Nick Cheuk (Time Still Turns The Pages).

From Japan, directors heading to Udine include Yoshiyuki Kishi ((Ab)Normal Desire), Naoya Fujita (Confetti), Akihiro Toda (Ichiko), Gen Nagao (Motion Picture - Choke), Mitsuhiro Mihara (Takano Tofu) and Yukiko Mishima (Voice), alongside Filipino filmmaker Jun Lana (Becky & Badette) and Taiwan’s Hsiao Ya-chuan (Old Fox).