Feng Xiaogang receives his Golden Mulberry lifetime achievement award at the Far East Film Festival 2017 on April 25 in Udine, Italy. Photo: FEFF
Feng Xiaogang receives his Golden Mulberry lifetime achievement award at the Far East Film Festival 2017 on April 25 in Udine, Italy. Photo: FEFF

Listening to …

… mainland Chinese director Feng Xiaogang as he picked up his Golden Mulberry lifetime achievement award and spoke through the applause about how much the Far East Film Festival (FEFF) had meant to him over the years.

Feng Xiaogang on stage (center). Photo: FEFF

The festival picked up on Feng’s talent for genre jumping and for producing wildly successfully productions early in the piece – and the Chinese Spielberg is the tag leaned on regularly now due to the man’s habit of rolling out box office smash after smash.

His history here dates back to Be There or Be Square (1999). And before his latest critically acclaimed drama I Am Not Madame Bovary screened on day five, several films had played in Udine previously, including The Banquet (2006), Assembly (2007), If You Are the One (2008), Aftershock (2010) and Personal Tailor (2013).

Read: Day four of the Far East Film Festival 

“The festival was the first international audience for my films and they are my friends here,” he said. “They are also friends of Chinese cinema. They have always supported my films here and I am happy to be here and honored to be given this award.”

Feng Xiaogang (second from right) and James Wang (left). Photo: FEFF

That Feng was joined on stage by James Wang, head honcho at the Huayi Brothers hit factory, showed just how much the award meant to the pair and Feng gave a nod to the man whose studio has helped him bring around 20 productions to fruition.

Thinking about …

Mattie Do is Laos’ sole female filmmaker. Photo: FEFF

… how Laotian director Mattie Do won over the audience the night before with her appearance on stage before the screening of her latest film, the thriller Dearest Sister.

Do came to Italy like a force of nature and seems to be the whirlwind behind a fledgling industry that is slowly beginning to make its mark on the Asian cinema scene.

Horror film Dearest Sister by Mattie Do. Photo: FEFF

The trick, Do claimed when fronting the press, was not to make films that seem to be expected from smaller Southeast Asian markets – by the West at least – and to instead focus on storytelling traditions that make her country unique.

Read more on Asian Film 

As Asian film fans have known over the years from Thailand, and more recently Cambodia, that can mean they are in for a wild ride – especially when the cameras are under the control of the likes of Do.

“My goal is to be Lao,” said Do. “We don’t have to imitate other countries. What I don’t want to make is poverty porn. I’m sick of foreigners telling me I can’t be authentic if I’m not making a film that is some story about a kid that’s lost his leg and is stuck in the mud. That is not my country and that is not the story that we have to pass on. Fuck poverty porn.”

Watching …

Fan Bingbing stars in Feng’s I Am Not Madame Bovary. Photo: FEFF

… Feng’s multi-award winner I Am Not Madame Bovary showed the film again to be a lesson in how Chinese directors have increasingly been able to portray a gritty realism when it comes to telling contemporary tales.

Stylishly shot, but not in any way a pretty picture in terms of how Feng presents the tale of a wife bruised by a failed attempt to scam the system, nor in terms of his representation of the labyrinth-like chain of governmental command she has to contend with as she seeks what she sees as some degree of justice.

The fact it has made more than US$70 million shows there is market for pure Chinese drama and maybe a little less focus on monsters and patriotic drum beating.

Eating …

Udinese Caffé. Photo: Mathew Scott

… what’s close at hand. FEFF celebrates its 20th anniversary next year and let’s hope there will be little gems like this. The smarter group of film enthusiasts has found the Udinese Caffé – right across the road from the main Teatro Nuovo Giovanni Da Udine – a convenient place to recharge the batteries.

A delicious bruschetta from Udinese Caffé. Photo: Mathew Scott

Shades of art deco linger in the interior design, while the main attraction here is the bruschetta cooked in a custom-made furnace that sits over the bar. You can sit by the window and tuck in to the Della Fattoria variety – which delivers on the promise of that name, believe us – as you thumb through the programme, or just watch the world go by.

Video of the Day:

A look at the best scenes from Feng Xiaogang’s back catalogue, courtesy of FEFF.

Photo: FEFF 2017
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