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

NO PRESSURE, ALL FUN

With its cobblestone streets, charming Venetian architecture and plenty of good wine, Udine exudes a laid-back and spirited atmosphere that keeps filmmakers, industry professionals and cinephiles returning unfailingly each year.

For Chinese national Han Jun, who works at a travel agency in Rome, the festival’s biggest draw lies in the ease of access spectators have to filmmakers. It’s not unusual to spot directors and actors mingling with the masses at the theatre lobby, smoking on the lawn outside or simply catching the films of the day. Members of the public are welcome to pose questions to filmmakers at daily panel talks.

“Udine is very chill. Everything looks like a movie set. I can just sit down, enjoy the weather, have a coffee with anyone and talk as though we’ve known each other for a while,” says Taiwanese actor Huang Shang-ho (黃尚禾), who was here for the international premiere of gangster action film Gatao 2: Rise of the King (角頭2:王者再起).

Han, who was back at the festival for the sixth time, adds: “It’s one of the festival’s aims to let audiences get up close and personal with the filmmakers, so they don’t construct many barriers. Everyone gets a chance to interact with directors on the spot, get their autographs, take photos.”

Even the biggest stars find a reason to unwind and let their hair down. Besides films, the festival offers over 100 Asian cultural events and activities such as an annual cosplay contest, origami and Japanese bento-making workshops, Chinese martial arts displays, Vietnamese “Dien Chan” facial reflexology sessions and traditional Thai dance performances.

Veteran Taiwanese director-actress Sylvia Chang (張艾嘉), at Udine to present her generational drama Love Education (相愛相親, 2017), was looking forward to attending a meditation workshop.

“Sometimes when you go to bigger festivals, you’re very intense. There’s a competition, there’s marketing,” she says. “But here, everyone’s so relaxed. I’ve met many friends in Udine who I don’t normally see in Taiwan or Hong Kong, which means that they like to come here.”

A WAIT OF 20 YEARS

As daylight segues into dusk, conversations in an enchanting mix of Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Korean, English and Cantonese fill the air over the heady aroma of local Pignolo wine. At the Teatro Nuovo, spectators are already gathering in line for the 7.45pm screening of Love Education.

For European fans of Chang, it’s a long-delayed but symbolically fitting, maiden visit from the multi-talented filmmaker — the festival first screened her films, Siao Yu (少女小漁, 1995) and Tempting Heart (心動, 1999), in its second edition nearly 20 years ago.

Later on, as she greets a cheering audience onstage with Baracetti, Chang quips: “It’s really a warm welcome from all of you. They didn’t tell me, if not I would have come earlier. I don’t know why you didn’t invite me before!”

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