Asian filmmakers look to Europe – and then the world
Thursday 28 April 2011
While Europe's major film festivals have long championed the cause of Asian cinema, more and more of the region's smaller festivals are now being used by Asian filmmakers as a way to attract international attention for their productions.
A case in point is the Far East Film Festival, which kicks off Friday in the northern Italian city of Udine. For the past 13 years, the festival has introduced to its audience - and to European distributors at the same time - a selection of Asia's best commercial productions, as well as a series of retrospectives charting the history of cinema in the East.
For a procession of Asian talent - from Hong Kong's Johnnie To ( Election) to Japan's Oscar-winner Yojiro Takita ( Departures) - the festival has served as a way in to the European market and from there the rest of the world.
"We thought that Udine was a great chance to show our film to a western audience who might otherwise not get the chance to see it," says Hong Kong director Clement Cheng, whose martial arts comedy Gallants had its international premiere in Udine last year - and then went on to win Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards on April 17.
"Also, although we all live in the same region, Asian filmmakers never really get a chance to get together and talk about what we are doing, what is going on in Asian cinema, and smaller festivals like Udine give us the chance to do just that. We took a chance in screening Gallants there and it really worked for us."
Cheng - who co-directed Gallants with Derek Kwok - so impressed organizers of the festival in Udine that he was asked to shoot the trailer for this year's festival.
And while Udine is seen in the industry as a festival which broke new ground by concentrating on commercial Asian cinema, other smaller festivals such as the Terracotta Far East Film Festival in London have taken note of its success and have tapped in to the Asian market.
"The attention we have received since screening there last year has been fantastic," says Cheng. "For Asian directors these smaller festivals are really helping our films find a whole new international audience."
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