Far East Film Festival: Derek Tsang's 'Better Days' Takes Top Prizes

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Courtesy of Well Go USA

The highly regarded specialist Italian film festival was held virtually this year due to the pandemic.

Hong Kong director Derek Tsang's Better Days won the top prizes at the first—and perhaps only—virtual edition of Italy's Far East Film Festival (FEFF). 

Tsang's romantic crime drama, starring Zhou Dongyu and Jackson Yee, took the overall audience award, the Golden Mulberry, as well as the Black Mulberry, voted on by the Shogun pass holders. The film, a huge critical and financial hit in China, tells the story of two teens, one a bully the other bullied, who meet and change each others lives. 

The win for Tsang, son of legendary actor and FEFF favorite Eric Tsang, makes it the second consecutive year that a Hong Kong director has dominated. Last year, Oliver Chan's touching drama Still Human starring Anthony Wong and Crisel Consunji took home the festival's top audience prizes. 

Malaysian thriller Victim(s) by Layla Ji won the festival's second-place audience award, the Silver Mulberry, while Liao Ming-Yi's iPhone-shot pandemic relevant Taiwanese film iWeirdo took the third-place trophy, the Crystal Mulberry. iWeirdo also picked up the Purple Mulberry, an online audience award voted on by users of mymovies.it streaming platform. 

FEFF's White Mulberry award, which honors the most distinguished first feature, went to South Korean newcomer Lee Sang-geun for disaster action comedy Exit. 

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, this year's FEFF went digital-only for the first time. Organizers hope next year's edition, the 23rd, as well as the Focus Asia market will return to take place in-person as usual in the picaresque Italian town of Udine, just north of Venice. 

"We dreamed up and created an actual festival, even if it was online," FEFF founders Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacchi said in a joint statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "We managed to put together a lineup featuring some extremely important films, many first features and numerous female directors. We sought to maintain the atmosphere that can usually be found in Udine, where for over twenty years an international community has been gathering for the nine days of the festival."

They added: "One thing is for sure: we will treasure the things we've learnt from this experience (which it might be more accurate to call an “experiment”!) and we’ll keep them close to our hearts when we start on FEFF 2021. In real life, this time."