South Korea’s ‘Miracle’ wins top prize – The Hollywood Reporter

South Korean romantic drama Miracle: Letters to the President was the big winner on Sunday evening at the closing ceremony of the 24th Far East Film Festival (FEFF), the popular Asian specialty event held every spring in the picturesque town of Udine, in northern Italy.

The film, directed and co-written by Lee Jang-hoon (To be with you), won the Golden Mulberry of Udine award, which is awarded annually by popular vote of festival attendees. Described by the organizers as “a sweet hymn to the power of dreams”, Miracle tells the real-life story of a high school math whiz who works with his family to bring a private train station to their remote rural community.

The Chinese film industry was the other big winner in Udine on Sunday. Chinese author Li Ruijun’s astonishing rural setting back to dust won second place in the audience award, while Beijing filmmaker Xing Wenxiong’s hit comedy Cool to Kill came in third place. Both films were enthusiastically received by famous and open-minded festival-goers in Udine.

Japanese screen legend Takeshi Kitano received this year’s Udine Excellence Award. The 75-year-old actor/director/comedian was unable to attend the festival in person, but appeared via a live video stream at Udine’s grand Teatro Nuovo to accept his trophy, telling the crowd: “I am now editing my new film together and I hope to come to Udine to present it to you.

The Udine festival has seen a strong recovery in the pandemic era in 2022, having been forced to move online in the previous two years. The festival brought together more than 70 guest filmmakers from Asia and screened 72 films (13 world premieres, 18 international premieres, 11 European premieres and 13 Italian premieres) for a festival audience that totaled more than 40,000 people (nearly half of the city’s 100,000 inhabitants). The event also retained some of the digital innovations imposed by the pandemic, broadcasting 28 of the festival’s titles on the Italian video platform MYmovies, which attracted an additional 10,000 virtual festival-goers from 24 countries.

The Udine jury for the best first film – made up of the Manetti Bros. and Vanja Kaludjercic, director of the Rotterdam Film Festival – presented the White Mulberry award to Xing’s Too cool to kill. Holders of the festival’s Black Dragon pass – a premier badge for filmmakers that grants privileged access to all screenings – also voted for a separate audience award, which was awarded to Return to the Dust. Online viewers of the Mymovies platform also chose their favorite title, which was awarded this year to the South Korean political thriller, kingmaker, by Byun Sung Hyun. A Brand New Best Screenplay Award Has Been Given To Japanese Director Jojo Hideo Love it anyway.

The 2022 Far East Festival also relaunched its various industrial functions, which took place over seven days in venues scattered around the historic city center of Udine. Some 250 European film professionals came to participate in Focus Asia’s project market and industry sessions. Udine also brought back the FEFF Campus, a film journalism apprenticeship program that welcomes 10 young aspiring writers/critics from around the world for a week of hands-on festival training and industry exposure.

In her closing speech on Sunday evening, festival co-founder Sabrina Baracetti urged audiences to mark their calendars for next year, when FEFF celebrates its 25th anniversary with a special edition from April 21-29, 2023.

“Things in the world may not be normal yet,” Baracetti said from the stage. “There is a pandemic; and there is a terrible war. But the important thing right now is that we are here together to celebrate this art form that we love.

Leaving the stage, she added, “See you next year, peace and love!”

Darcy J. Skinner