Thu, May 10, 2018 - Page 13 News List

A Taiwan-Italy silver screen romance

In a picture-postcard tiny Italian town, popular Taiwanese commercial films that are usually overlooked in Europe take the spotlight every April

By Paige Lim  /  Contributing reporter in Udine, Italy

Asian movie buffs gather outside the Teatro Nuovo in Udine, Italy last month during the Far Eastern Film Festival.

Photo courtesy of Paolo Jacob

In the heart of northeastern Italy, something is brewing. It’s only 8.30am on a Sunday morning, but snaking queues have formed outside the Teatro Nuovo, a sprawling, luxurious theater located in the tiny picturesque province of Udine, just an hour’s drive from Venice and populated by 100,000.

But these Italians are not lining up to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or listen to Mozart’s melodies by a symphony orchestra. They’re here for the screening of Take Me to the Moon (帶我去月球), Hsieh Chun-yi’s (謝駿毅) time-traveling romance drama that hit local cinemas a while back.

Come late April every year, the sleepy city of Udine transforms into a vibrant cultural melting pot where East meets West. It’s the time of the year when the Far East Film Festival (FEFF), the biggest showcase of East Asian cinema in Europe, screens the latest popular commercial films over nine days to visitors from across the world.

BIGGEST SHOWCASE OF ASIAN CINEMA

FEFF is the brainchild of co-founders Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche, who had sought to bring exciting genre cinema from Asia to Western audiences. Beginning in 1999 with a focus on Hong Kong film, the festival has since evolved to become a unique cornerstone event in the European film festival circuit.

To celebrate its milestone 20th anniversary this year, a total of 81 titles from 11 Asian territories were screened, attracting over 60,000 spectators and 150 stars including elusive screen icon Brigitte Lin (林青霞), who received FEFF’s prestigious Golden Mulberry Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alongside the festival’s steady growth, more Taiwanese films have subsequently made their way to Italy. Today, about four to six homegrown films premiere at FEFF every year — though not the titles one might expect.

A DIFFERENT FACE OF TAIWAN

In Udine, it’s a different kind of Taiwanese cinema that reins in the crowds. Horror, action, romance and slapstick comedy are the order of the day, an accessible selection far removed from the social-realist, independent works of the 1980s Taiwan New Wave Cinema movement most cinephiles in the West would be familiar with.

“When we first started this event, we had the impression that Taiwan was more for art house films — Taiwan was very well-known all over the world for Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) and Edward Yang (楊德昌), especially in the mainstream film festivals. So we thought there wasn’t any popular cinema back then,” Baracetti says.

Hou and Yang may have put the nation on the map at Cannes and Venice, but at FEFF, a new generation of audiences clamor for another set of names: Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖), Giddens Ko (柯景騰) and Hsieh Chun-yi (謝駿毅), a trio that has contributed to the renaissance of Taiwanese commercial cinema in the last decade.

All three Taiwanese directors have made appearances at Udine — Hsieh for Apolitical Romance (對面的女孩殺過來, 2013), Wei for 52Hz, I Love You (52赫茲我愛你, 2017) and Ko, twice, for You Are The Apple of My Eye (那些年,我們一起追的女孩, 2011) and Mon Mon Mon Monsters (報告老師!怪怪怪怪物!, 2017).

“Most of the Taiwanese movies shown in the earlier days of our festival were big portraits following periods in Taiwan’s history and on the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) times, what happened before and after,” Bertacche says. “Nowadays, the movies we see are all about the youth of Taiwan: how they live, enjoy, meet and love each other.”

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