'Departures' wins more at Udine

Asia-focused festival ended Saturday night

HONG KONG -- "Departures," the Japanese film that was the surprise winner of the best foreign-language film Oscar this year, scooped up two more prizes at the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy.

The picture claimed the audience award ahead of Korean hit "Scandal Makers" and Indonesian kids' picture "The Rainbow Troops" and also earned the Black Dragon Award, a prize given by the fest's most die-hard season ticket holders.

Another Japanese film, the female road movie "One Million Yen Girl" was named best movie by readers of My Movies.

The ostensibly noncompetitive festival (April 24-May 2) eschews art house film in favor of popular Asian cinema and is the largest event of its kind in Europe.

As such, the event, which has now completed 11 editions, consistently attracts a top-level guest list. This year's attendees included Thai directors Panna Rittikrai ("Ong Bak 2") and Prachya Pinkaew ("Chocolate"); Korean director Kim Jee-woon ("The Good, The Bad, The Weird"); Hong Kong team Dante Lam and Nick Cheung; "Departures" producer Mase Yasuhiro; and up-and-coming Chinese director Cao Baoping. The festival included a major retrospective of the early TV works of director and Hong Kong social conscience Ann Hui.

"After the 10th edition of the festival we asked ourselves very seriously whether we should carry on, what more there was to achieve. But when we looked at the crop of Asian films available for selection we felt we had to go on," festival director Sabrina Baracetti said. "The result was that we succeeded in programming more European premieres than ever before and attracting more audiences to the mid-week and daytime screenings."

The festival this year held an expanded version of "The Ties That Bind," an East-West industry workshop. The 2009 think tank was organized in cooperation with European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs, a training and development scheme sponsored by the European Union's MEDIA Programme.