People’s choice: a still from Golden Mulberry winner Close-Knit. Photo: FEFF
People’s choice: a still from Golden Mulberry winner Close-Knit. Photo: FEFF

Listening to …

… what the people say. Award winners here are decided upon by the audience at FEFF who are asked to rate each film on a scale from one to five. Past glory has been shared by films that have thrilled domestic audiences and then gone on to charm the world, including the Oscar-winning Departures and Twilight Samurai back in 2009.

On Saturday night it was the Naoko Ogaigami-directed Close-Knit that lifted the Golden Mulberry. The tale of a truly modern family (mainstream dad, transgender mom, kid working the whole thing out) charmed the audience and was a worthy winner.

Second place went the way of the bowling-themed South Korean production Split, from director Choi Kook-hei – think Rain Man meets King Pin and you’re halfway there – while third went to Canola, Korean director Chang’s touching drama about a lost daughter.

The awards were a reflection of the wildly diverse nature of a festival that strives to entertain – first and foremost – by focusing on genre films from Asia, many of which test the waters of an international audience here. Let’s see how Close-Knit goes as it makes its way around the world.

Thinking about …

… why small is beautiful. After nine days and nights of what must count among the most relaxed festivals on the circuit – yes, the food and the wine help – festival fringe-dwellers and the world at large might not fully realize what goes on behind the scenes at these boutique events. Many punch well above their weight, and FEFF is no exception.

Eyebrows were raised when a festival that started out as an audience-driven event decided to test the waters by establishing a more industry-based market two years ago. That two possible productions presented at the second edition of FEFF’s Focus Asia market – Abracadabra by Faozan Rizal (Indonesia) and The Long Walk by Mattie Do (Laos) – secured the financing here shows the value to both the creatives and the money men of casting their net as wide as possible.

And then there’s the positive power of taking yourself out of your comfort zone. South Korean director Cho Ui-seok told the audience on closing night how the quiet time spent in Udine – when he was in Italy with the thriller Cold Eyes back in 2013 – had got him thinking about the lay of the land back home. Those thoughts and reflections eventually became the thriller Master, which has done a cool US$50 million at the domestic box office.

Read: Day eight of the Far East Film Festival

Andy Lau stars in Shock Wave. Photo: FEFF

Watching …

… local issues writ large. On the barren rock that calls itself Hong Kong there is much debate these days about the notion of identity. But can there be a more “local” filmmaker than Herman Yau, who’s thriller Shock Wave closed the festival. Yau is old school Hong Kong in his aesthetic and in his framing that sets this film against distinctly domestic themes – subject matter you might think no one in the world cares about, such as the disdain for a government initiative that sees a massive disparity in cross-harbor tunnel tolls.

That he can do this successfully – pandering to his home town first and foremost – and still give the world at large a taste of madcap, manic Hong Kong-style cinema is a credit to this FEFF favorite. For the record, the film sees superstar Andy Lau play a bomb disposal cop whose past catches up with him, and who is drawn into a final confrontation within the bowels of the (cheaper) tunnel that links Hong Kong island with the rest of the city.

Read more on the Far East Film Festival

Pizzeria al Quadrifoglio’s Margherita. Photo: Barbara Sorger

Eating …

…  a real slice of Italy. It took us long enough in our exploration of food porn to present that most Italian of dishes, but Barbra Sorger has been here as part of the FEFF Campus for young journalists that Asia Times has supported, and she can explain the rest. “Having been in Italy for over a week, it was finally time for authentic Italian pizza. Pictured is a Margherita from Pizzeria al Quadrifoglio, just around the corner from Teatro Nuovo.”

Click here for the FEFF 2017 site

More Asia Times coverage on FEFF