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Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

The Far East Film Festival’s Focus Asia industry programme reaffirms its commitment to European-Asian collaboration


The Italian festival’s platform for cross-continental industry cooperation included two new partnerships and an unprecedented number of market submissions

The Far East Film Festival’s Focus Asia industry programme reaffirms its commitment to European-Asian collaboration
Alessandro Gropplero (left) and Shoichiro Kawashima during the pitch for Polaris (© Saul Dose)

The 26th annual Far East Film Festival’s industry programme, Focus Asia, has just concluded this year’s edition after three full days of panels, workshops and market showcases in Udine, Italy, from 29 April-1 May. Unique to Focus Asia is its dedication to European-Asian collaboration, this year also boasting several new collaborations with the European audiovisual industry.

This year’s industry programme included two inaugural partnerships, one with Bridging the Dragon, a Berlin-based association connecting European and Asian film professionals. The organisation curated insights into Asian projects filmed in Europe with a focus on line producing as well as opportunities for collaboration with the European market beyond traditional co-productions. The second new partnership was undertaken with Europa International, the European network of international film sales agents, bringing representatives to participate in this year’s markets and overall programme.

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Two workshops, the Distribution Lab and Ties That Bind, rounded off the industry section’s skill-building programme. The former was composed of 20 distributors from over 16 European countries brought together by Europa Distribution, examining strategies and best practices for distributing Asian cinema in Europe and vice versa.

Ties That Bind, European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs’ (EAVE’s) Asia-Europe co-production training lab, completed the second half of its workshop in Udine, with the first half having been held in Taipei in November 2023. Five European and five Asian producers were selected, with the workshop’s focus being on project development of either feature-length fiction films, animated fiction films or TV series.

Panels over the three-day programme investigated different facets of European-Asian collaboration across the international film industry. Europa Distribution curated a panel discussing the distribution strategies of Asian films in Europe, featuring professionals from Romania, Germany, Israel, Singapore, the Netherlands and Germany. When examining Past Lives and Perfect Days [+see also:
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, Monica Felea, of Bad Unicorn, highlighted the public preference for feel-good movies in the post-pandemic era in Romania, while Lena Kettner, of Pandora Film Medien, emphasised how the complex narrative of Evil Does Not Exist likely translated into a challenge in bringing in audiences.

The success of in-country distribution was reiterated by participants in conversations throughout Focus Asia as well as during the “State of European Film Markets: What Asian and Global Producers Need to Know” presentation. Sten-Kristian Saluveer, head of Cannes NEXT at the Marché du Film, indicated that it is vital for Asian producers to understand the inclination of each European country they intend to distribute to, and what specifically about the project might resonate, with a blanket approach being less successful. He also stressed the importance of understanding the shift from a content-based paradigm to an attention-based one, where media is competing for the attention of viewers. Platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, said Saluveer, act as a testing ground for new IP.

The panel titled “Beyond Co-productions: Exploring Asian Filmmaking Experiences in Europe” looked at examples presented by Won-kuk Kim, of Hive Media Corp (South Korea); Franck Priot, of Ghosts City Films (France); and Fan Zhang, of Yiyi Pictures (China). According to Zhang, Chinese domestic audiences enjoy watching Chinese or Chinese diasporic characters in different cities, especially Europe. This was a sentiment echoed by Reign Anne De Guzman, of Project 8 Projects, in a conversation when looking at what cinematic settings entice Filipino audiences.

The festival self-describes Focus Asia as a “family market”, with 200 participants from 35 territories and multi-year returnees. This year’s growth could be seen in the greater number of market submissions, coupled with an increase in quality, said Focus Asia content curator Alessandro Gropplero.

The sales forum consisted of the All Genres Project Market, specifically for projects with European-Asian co-production potential, and Far East in Progress, dedicated to Asian projects seeking international distribution in Europe. The Taiwan Creative Cultural Agency (TAICCA) offered the second annual TAICCA/Focus Asia Co-production Award, a cash prize worth €10,000 for a project with the most promising European-Asian co-production potential. The prize was presented to Polaris, produced by Shoichiro Kawashima and directed by Yoko Yamanaka. Yamanaka's second film, Desert of Namibia, will screen in the 2024 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight (see the news).

Here is the full list of selected projects and participants:

All Genres Project Market

1982Uisenma Borchu, Sven Zellner (Vietnam)
Production: OKIA HANOI Film Production

A Ballad of Long HairAnnisa Adjam, Giovanni Rustanto (Indonesia/Singapore)
Production: Sinema5/Sinemalima, Akanga Film Asia

Four Seasons in JavaIfa Isfansyah, Kamila Andini (Indonesia)
Production: Forka Films

Kyushu MoonKatia Monla, Luc Peter, Stéphanie Argerich (Switzerland/France)
Production: Intermezzo Films

Lost LandKazutaka Watanabe, Angele De Lorme (Japan/France/Malaysia)
Production: E.x.N.K.K, Cinemata Productions, Panorama Films

Naga Swim UpstreamNapakarn Boontarig, Patiparn Boontarig (Thailand)
Production: Error Brothers, Ltd

PolarisShoichiro Kawashima (Japan/Taiwan)
Production: Twenty First City Inc

PosthouseMikhail Red, Nikolas Red (Philippines)
Production: Evolve Studios

The HorseCeline Kao, Yi-Tzu Lan (Taiwan)
Production: Ksana Films Co, Ltd

The PassportMun Bel Choo, Ananth Subramaniam (Malaysia/Philippines/Germany)
Production: Sixtymac Production Sdn Bhd, Epicmedia

White Flowers and FruitsSeii Li, Yukari Sakamoto (Japan)
Production: Chiaroscuro, Inc

Far East in Progress

Deep Quiet RoomCarlo S Hintermann, Sylvia Yea-Chun Shih, Hui Fen Chiu, Ko-Shang Shen (Taiwan/Italy/Poland)
Production: Citrullo International, Film Produkcja, Flash Forward Entertainment, Oxygen Films Co, Wind Rises Entertainment

How to Feed a Hungry GhostErik Shirai (Vietnam/France/USA)
Production: Cebu Osani Creative, Ghosts City Films, Generation 11

I, the SongStefano Centini, Fernanda Renno, Johann Chapelan (Bhutan/Italy/France/Norway)
Production: Dakinny Productions, Fidalgo Films, Girelle, Vollo Films Italia SRL

MongrelsNach Dudsdeemaytha, Jerome Yoo (Canada)
Production: Hodu Mob Films Inc

SunshineGeo Lomuntad, Reign Anne de Guzman (Philippines)
Production: Project 8 Projects

Tale of the LandYulia Evina Bhara, America Kusum, Tazia Teresa Darryanto (Indonesia/Philippines)
Production: Kawankawan Media

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