The Asiatica Film Mediale is a small but warm and friendly film festival which takes place every year in the Eternal City. But its 9th edition (15-23 November 2008) was almost cancelled. The usual financial help from the city has been cut, mainly for political motivations according to the organizers, who decided to maintain the festival only one month before it started. However, despite a very low budget, Italo Spinelli and his hospitable and friendly team did a great job that can notably be seen through the rich programme of the event and the quality of the selection.
The NETPAC jury I had the honour to preside over (Italian film directors Wilma Labate and Mario Gianni were the two other jury members) gave its award to two films ex aequo: Tokyo Sonata by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, "for the humorous yet sober description of a family in a society where saving face is crucial" and Songs from the Southern Seas (Marat Sarulu's Russian-French coproduction) "for the lightness with which it portrays a multi-ethnic reality distorted by history".
Besides these two films, among those in competition, Blink (Kurap) deserves a mention: Ronnie Bertubin's first feature deals with some aspects of the metropolitan realities of the Philippines (corruption, prostitution, drugs, violence...). It was shot within three days on a budget of 20,000 USD only, showing that, even with very few means, one can make interesting films thanks to talent.
Talking about few means and talent, my attention was drawn as well to Letters from Death Row (Ba Bai Bang), partly shot in a real prison in China and dealing with the story of a man on a death sentence who is assigned the job of recording the last wills of the other prisoners awaiting execution like him. Produced by young Chinese director Kevin Feng Ke himself, the film was awarded the first prize ex aequo from the international jury of the 9th Asiatica Film Mediale.
by Keoprasith Souvannovong