Udine Far East Film Festival‘s 15th edition kicked off on Friday 19th April, and CUEAFS were there to cover the event.
As a recent member of CUEAFS I was very, very happy to be at the festival. It’s hard work and requires a lot of dedication so understandably the society is somewhat choosy about who goes, so I was very lucky!
My role at the festival was predominantly as a writer, and I wrote a total of seventeen film reviews over the eight days of the festival, and watched over twenty. I also got the chance to interview two directors on the last day of the festival, Nicholas Bonner director of Comrade Kim Goes Flying and Lee Won-suk director of the hilarious How to Use Guys with Secret Tips. I’ve always fared well in interviews, but I’ve never been the interviewer face-to-face, especially not with successful film directors, so I was pretty nervous. We got to the press room and although it’s a very formal affair it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as I thought it would be and sitting on a comfy sofa face to face with the directors was easy…made even easier by the fact that Lee Won-suk began his interview by telling us that he loved it in Italy because he was drunk all the time and ‘there’s alcohol everywhere!’ that was a pretty good ice breaker!
My review writing improved massively throughout the course of the festival. To begin with my first two had to be edited to the point of almost total rewrite to meet the standard of the society’s website, however by my third my writing had improved and from the third review onwards my reviews were posted to the website word-for-word, which means a lot to me because it’s what I love doing, and it’s what I want to do as a career.
Working as press was tiring but not as hard as I though it would be. I’ve always been good at handling lots of work, and I work my best when I’m under pressure so after a fairly laid back term at university with just one module to work on, having a sudden blast of intense work gave my mind something to do and made me produce much better reviews. We were treated as professionals and although that meant having to pretend that I knew what I was doing all the time, it was a welcome relief from being in education where no matter what, to some degree you will always be treated like an idiot child.
The panels were really interesting and it was an eye opener to hear from film directors, screen writers and actors alike about their views on the film industry, their films and filmmaking itself. As a keen filmmaker I found listening to their stories and advice to be really inspirational. I learned a lot from director Herman Yau in his panel when he was talking about filmmaking and his latest film Ip Man: The Final Fight. What’s perhaps most interesting yet probably most obvious is how down to earth all these people are! You wouldn’t expect a veteran director like Yau to just casually stand outside in the sun with a university society, and yet he did. So in terms of what the film industry itself is like I’ve definitely come away with a different view of the people that have ‘made it’. They’re just normal people that are passionate about what they do, and keen to share their knowledge and experience with aspiring filmmakers because they’re passionate about keeping the industry alive.
The other great thing about the festival was that it opened my eyes to all the different genres of Asian cinema out there. Prior to Udine I hadn’t ever even considered watching an Asian comedy or romance, Asian films for me were either horrors or action/thrillers. However some of my favourite films of the festival didn’t fall in to either of those genres and I forced myself to watch a broad range of films. I only saw a couple of films that I really didn’t like and those were mainly horrors, other than that I really enjoyed most of them.
I’ve come away wondering why I turn to American or British films when there are so many brilliant Asian films that just get swept under the carpet. There isn’t a massive market for Asian cinema here in the UK which is a huge shame, and I think a lot of people have a similar attitude as I had; that Asian cinema is simply for horror or thriller films. My mind has been opened and my passion for Asian cinema has grown even more! I feel like I learned a lot more about working in the field I want to work in from going to the festival than I have on my university course. I was able to put my skills into practice in a professional and intense working environment. My review writing improved drastically in those eight days, more so than any of my skills have in the past six or seven months of university; I think that says a lot about degrees…they’re useless unless on their own, and it’s so important to do other things in your spare time.