Chinese-Italian co-production The Italian Recipe, directed by young Beijing-based director Hou Zuxin, will make a fitting world premiere as the opening title of this year’s Far East Film Festival, the pioneering Asian cinema event held annually in the picturesque northern Italian city of Udine.
A romantic comedy described by the festival as “Roman holiday with Chinese flavors,” the film stars Chinese actor Xun Liu as a spoiled pop star who travels to Italy to participate in a reality TV show, where he meets a simple young girl (played by Yao Huang) who dreams of becoming an Italian chef. Over the course of one long Roman night, a collision of personalities and personal histories transforms into a heart-warming love story.
Following a boom of cross-border activity throughout much of the past decade, co-productions between China and the West have been on the wane since the onset of the pandemic, making The Italian Recipe an encouraging example of continued international collaboration. The project features a mix of European and Chinese talent among its writers, producers and cast and crew ranks.
The Far East festival’s organizers unveiled their 2022 selection Tuesday at Udine’s grand Teatro Nuovo. Making a strong recovery from the pandemic-impacted past two editions, the festival’s lineup will include a total of 72 titles from 12 Asian nations, with 42 titles included in a sprawling competition section (13 world premieres, 18 international premieres, 11 European premieres and 13 Italian premieres). As usual for Udine, Europe’s largest festival dedicate to Asian cinema, the lineup features a broad selection of commercial hits that may not have been seen widely outside of their home countries (China’s Hi, Mom and Nice View; Korea’s Special Delivery and Escape from Mogadishu; The Philippines’ Rabid), as well as sleeper festival favorites (The Apartment With Two Women from Korea; China’s outstanding drama Return to Dust, and the Japanese rock opera anime INU-OH) and carefully curated classics (a special program of films set in Manila), some of them freshly restored.
Organizers also have opted to retain some of the innovations that were foisted upon them by the pandemic. A selection of 28 films in the lineup will be made available to stream online, with accessibility varying depending on the viewer’s home market. Fourteen of the titles in the digital selection will be available worldwide, while all of them will be viewable in Italy.
A sizable number of the directors, stars and producers of the competing titles are expected in person in Udine this year, despite the ongoing travel difficulties in some countries of Asia. As previously announced, Japanese screen icon Takeshi Kitano will be on hand to receive a lifetime achievement honor, while Hong Kong pop diva Stephy Tang will attend to receive a special honor.
Udine’s industry activities also are returning in force in 2022, including the FEFF Campus, a film journalism mentorship program for young writers from Asia and the West; seminar series Focus Asia; and Ties That Bind, a workshop that supports co-productions between Asia and Europe.
The 2022 Far East Film Festival runs April 22-30.