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The Network - 12/02/2016
Interview – The Far East Film Festival in Udine and its Campus Project for young Asian and European Cinephiles
The 18th edition of the Far East Film Festival will be held from the 22nd to the 30th April 2016 in Udine, in the North-East of Italy. The Festival is organised by Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche (C.E.C.), an Italian cultural association financed by the Italian Government, the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, and the Udine provincial and municipal authorities. C.E.C is dedicated to the public exhibition of quality cinema, by programming and managing two film theatres in Udine. Among these, Cinema Visionario (3 screens) is member of Europa Cinemas since 2006.The Far East Film Festival is the most important cultural and artistic project handled by C.E.C, the aim of which is to encourage and develop the understanding of East Asian popular filmmaking amongst European and Italian audiences and to create a mutually beneficial exchange between Asian and European filmmaking companies.
Interview with Sabrina Baracetti, Director of the Far East Film Festival and President of Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche
What are the distinctive features of the Far East Film Festival? What is the key of its success?
The Far East Film Festival shows brand new Asian films that are generally considered international or European Premières in Europe. The aim is to screen films that Asian people usually watch in cinemas. Other European festivals are targeted for Western audiences and screen films that are specifically created for festivals, whereas the Far East Film Festival shows what people in Asia actually choose to watch in local film theatres. That’s why our Festival mainly includes popular films that have been successful hits in the Asian continent. One of the keys of FEFF’s success is that it is the largest Festival completely dedicated to Popular Asian Cinema in Europe. Moreover the winners of FEFF are not selected by a jury of experts, but directly by the audience and this confirms the popular distinctive feature of the festival (Editor’s note: in FEFF 2015 edition – which gathered 60,000 viewers – the Audience Awards were assigned to Ode to My Father by JK Youn, The Royal Tailor by Lee Won-suk and My Brilliant Life by E J-yong)
The Campus project, organised within the FEFF, aims to involve young cinephiles from European and Asian countries. Can you describe more in details what the Campus project consists in?
Campus is a unique opportunity that will allow eight young writers under the age of 26 to experience the festival first-hand and play an active role in what has become known across the globe as the Far East Film Festival community. Four candidates will be selected from Europe and four from Asia. They will have the chance to attend a training programme with seminars, interviews and workshops focusing on the art of film and writing while working under the supervision of a host of experienced film industry and media professionals, led by film industry veteran Mathew Scott. Participants will also contribute to the festival newsletter and embrace aspects of the cultural and historic life of Udine and the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. All young European and Asian journalists who have a passion for cinema and want to experience an important film festival first-hand can apply for the selection, which will close 29th February 2016, by sending their cv to: email@example.com (and by indicating FEFF CAMPUS 2016 as subject of the mail). It is a really outstanding opportunity for these people if you also consider the fact that travel and accommodation expenses are all paid by FEFF.
How did you come up with the idea of the Campus project and what are its main strengths, based on the evaluation of its first edition in 2015?
We wanted to target a specific audience: young people, which are a huge part of our overall audience, so we decided to create something specific for them. The first edition of the project, which was held last year, was such a great success that we decided to repeat the experience this year and give the opportunity to other eight aspiring journalists under the age of 26 to be selected for the project. All the 2015 participants succeeded in finding employment in prestigious publications including Variety, Financial Times and Time Magazine. The strengths of this project include cultural exchanges between Asia and Europe and shared learning experiences between the two continents. Last year’s excellent day to day schedule included group discussions on selected films, daily interview slots with FEFF guests and Asian filmmakers, a group interview with the city mayor, seminars on “What it means to be a Critic” with Patrick Frater, Variety Asia Editor and Roger Garcia, veteran film critic and Executive Director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, on “Programming a Festival” with four of FEFF’s programmers and on “Freelance writing” with Mathew Scott, old-time film critic and writer.
Besides the Campus project, how does cinema Visionario develop its Young Audience policy throughout the year?
Besides focusing on quality programming and choosing the right films, Visionario aims to be an attractive place for the general as well as the younger audience all year round. It does so by adapting its space, for instance in the summer time we set up an outside arena where movies can be seen using headphones and where we organise many other events, such as concerts, ethnic dinners and markets. Throughout the year, the cinema café proposes concerts and DJ sets with the help of local music bands, artists and youth organizations. Moreover, the Audiovisual library "Mario Quargnolo" inside the Visionario theatre organises workshops and educational programmes especially for youngsters. Not all of these activities translate into an immediate growth of ticket sales, however all of them contribute to maintain the relevance of Visionario in the city's ever-growing leisure time opportunities.
How do you manage to combine quality European films with the promotion of popular Asian cinema in the programming of your film theatres and in the events you organise?
The two activities might seem to be contradictory, but actually they are not. Even if some specific aspects like timing, costs and respective audiences are very different, both quality European and Asian cinema face more or less the same challenges. Namely, how to preserve the collective cinema experience inside a movie theatre when films can easily be accessed on many different platforms? How can we motivate the audience to be curious and interested in watching something which is relatively small and unknown and not “ordinary”? The themes on which Europa Cinemas has focused in the last few years are relevant both for the ordinary cinema programming as well as the festivals, and we keep these in mind in both our activities. For example, we constantly adapt our communication style when we aim to reach new audiences, we regularly listen to the viewers’ needs and we try to build new audiences through events and offers that go beyond the film screenings. Even when we founded our film distribution company Tucker Film, together with Cinemazero (also a member of Europa Cinemas), we started off with the same approach and therefore never thought of having to choose between European quality cinema and popular Asian cinema (Editor’s note: among the films currently distributed by Tucker Films there are The High Sun by Dalibor Matanic and the six restored masterpieces by Ozu Yasujiro)?
Sonia Ragone, February 2016