The 16th annual Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy ended yesterday with the announcement of the audience awards. Takashi Yamazaki’s WWII film The Eternal Zero won the Golden Mulberry for first place, while Yang Woo-seok’s The Attorney and Jun Robles Lana’s Barber’s Tale won second and third prizes, respectively.
The festival’s official website broke the news today, and has also provided detailed synopses and notes on each of the winning films. The Eternal Zero, based on the 2006 novel by Hyakuta Naoki, concerns the story a WWII Japanese Zero fighter plane pilot who struggles with the military and nationalist philosophy of kamikaze (i.e. attacking an enemy by crashing one’s own plane). South Korea’s The Attorney is loosely based on the early legal career and life of Roh Moo-hyun before he was South Korea’s President. The film also won the Black Dragon Audience Award after receiving the most votes from special pass holders. Barber’s Tale, from the Philippines, concerns a village widow who assumes her dead husband’s career as a barber, becoming first female in the history of her village to do so.
The festival is known as the “Film Festival for Popular Asian Cinema,” and, according to Variety, is the largest one in Europe. With works from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand, the Far East Film Festival programs films that have already had theatrical releases in their countries of origin. All awards are based on audience ratings since the film festival does not have a select group of jury members.
In the early portion of the festival, American producer Michael Werner, president of Fortissimo Films, was honored with this year’s Golden Mulberry Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication to international distribution of Asian cinema. The festival’s official news report refers to Fortissimo Films as the “very first and daring Western outpost for Asian film culture.” Though not exclusively focused on Asian cinema, Fortissimo Films is a well-recognized sales organization that has been involved with the international distribution of many acclaimed Asian films, including Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011), Air Doll (2009), and Tokyo Sonata (2008).
The popularity of the Far East Film Festival is quite extraordinary: with over 50,000 attendees from 16 different nations, it seems to be well worth noting for any die-hard fan of Asian cinema.