Virus Outbreak Forces Postponement of Udine Asian Film Festival

Jackie Chan in Udine 3
COurtesy of FEFF

The Far East Film Festival in Udine, one of the best-regarded specialty festivals on the calendar, is to postpone its upcoming edition. The festival is situated in North Eastern Italy where the coronavirus outbreak has recently struck hard.

The festival had been scheduled to run April 24 – May 2. Udine’s 22nd edition will now be held two months later, from June 26 to July 4.

Organizers made the announcement on Thursday. They said it was “a very hard decision to take,” given the amount of preparation that had already been undertaken. But they acknowledged that as Italy’s public health measures are being stepped up, they had little choice.

“Public health is the top priority,” said Far East fest co-founders Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche in a statement, adding that they were glad that Italian institutions behind the event, and also its main venue and hub the Teatro Nuovo, had supported the date change.

Organizers also said that the 12th edition of Asia-Europe co-production workshop Ties That Bind remains in place and will run June 28-July 2. Also still standing is the first edition of Far East in Progress, the only European platform dedicated to asian films in post.

More details of the Far East fest’s postponed edition will be soon announced.

The festival’s homage to veteran Filipino actor and director Eddie Garcia remains as planned, as does a celebration of Japan’s Watanabe brothers comprising director Hirobumi Watanabe – known for black-and-white comedies “And the Mud Ship Sails Away” (2013), “7 Days” (2015), and “Poolsideman” (2016), which have echoes of Jim Jarmush and Bela Tarr – and his younger brother Yuji who composed the films’ distinctive soundtracks.

Festival logistics would also have come under strain, as many of the films and filmmakers it was to have invited would have hailed from virus-hit Asia. Some may not have been able to travel. Others may have been unwilling to do so.

The coronavirus outbreak reached epidemic proportions in China at the end of January. And while the number of new cases in China may now be slowing, new infections and deaths are increasingly being recorded outside mainland China.

Already considered a coronavirus hotspot, Italy had recorded more than 500 infections and 14 deaths, by Thursday. Some Northern Italian schools have closed or cancelled travel as a measure to slow the spread of the disease. Airlines have responded by cancelling flights to Milan.

By Wednesday morning China had recorded 2,715 deaths and over 78,000 confirmed cases of the virus. It has also now seen more than 23,000 people fully recover and be discharged from hospital.