Italy's Far East Film Festival Postponed Due to Coronavirus

Udine, Italy - Getty - H 2017

The beloved specialty event is moving to new dates in June in response to the coronavirus outbreak in both Italy and the Asian countries that the festival features.

Italy's Far East Film Festival, an influential specialty event that brings popular Asian cinema to Europe, has postponed its April edition in response to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus.

The event's 22nd edition was set to run April 24-May 2, but is now scheduled to take place June 26-July 4.

The fest is held annually in the quaint Northern Italian town of Udine, to the east of the Lombardy region, where most of Italy's confirmed coronavirus cases have been found. By Thursday, the number of coronavirus infections in Italy had spiked to 650, with 17 deaths.

“Public health is our most precious asset and the situation demands that we make responsible choices," the festival's co-founders, Sabrina Baracetti and Thomas Bertacche, said in a joint statement. They added that their various supporters — the Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche di Udine, the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, the Comune di Udine and the Teatro Nuovo — all fully supported the date change.

Coming so close to the fest's planned launch, the sudden date change undoubtedly entails myriad logistical challenges for the organizers and their partners. But with the public health situation in Italy worsening by the day, it was clear that they had little choice. The festival also features filmmakers almost exclusively from East and Southeast Asia — regions hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic — so artist participation was likely to take a dive regardless of the health situation in Europe.

Organizers emphasized that the fest's industry components will be carried forward in tandem with the date shift. The 12th edition of the Asia-Europe co-production workshop, Ties That Bind, will run June 28-July 2, as will the event's all-new Far East in Progress program, Europe's first platform dedicated to supporting Asian films in postproduction.

On the artistic programming front, the festival’s tribute to veteran Filipino actor and director Eddie Garcia will continue as planned, as will an homage to Japan’s Watanabe brothers — filmmaker Hirobumi Watanabe, known for his Jim Jarmusch-like offbeat black-and-white comedies, and Yuji Watanabe, who composes the inventive soundtracks of his older sibling's films.

Further plans for the Far East Film Festival's 22nd edition will be unveiled over the coming weeks.