In the historical northern Italian city of Udine, they hold the annual Udine Far East Film Festival, dubbed "the film festival for popular Asian cinema". Now in its thirteenth year, the festival goes from strength to strength, with a record number of screenings and audience numbers this year.
This year's Audience Award - the Golden Mulberry - went to the Chinese production, Aftershock, the earthquake drama directed by Feng Xiaogang. The award comes just a couple of weeks after it was named best film at the prestigious Beijing Student Film Festival. For a short time it was the highest-grossing locally-made film ever in China, until it was surpassed at the box office by Let the Bullets Fly this year.
China also took the silver medal in the Audience Awards, with Zhang Yimou's coming-of-age drama Under the Hawthorn Tree set during the Cultural Revolution. Zhang used a cast of unknowns - both Zhou Dongyu and Shawn Dou who played the film's romantic leads were making their acting debuts.
The Festival also announced its inaugural Golden Mulberry Lifetime Achievement Award, with the honour going to a legend of Hong Kong comedy, Michael Hui (许冠文, pinyin: Xǔ Guànwén - pictured right). Hui began his career in the entertainment industry back in 1968 as a TV host, including creating and hosting the popular television variety show Hui Brothers' Show with his two younger brothers. He effortlessly made the transition from small screen to big screen with his film debut, The Warlord in 1972. That film went on to become the number one box office success that year in Hong Kong. Other box office smashes followed: Games Gamblers Play in 1974, The Private Eyes in 1976, and Securities Unlimited in 1981, all of which he also wrote and directed as well as starred in. Securities Unlimited won him the Best Actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
In those earlier films he usually starred alongside his younger brothers, but in the 80s he went solo, so to speak, and created some of Hong Kong's finest satirical comedies, including Inspector Chocolate (1986), Chicken and Duck Talk (1988), Front Page (1990), The Magic Touch (1992) and Always on My Mind (1994). Front Page earned him another Best Actor award, this time from the Hong Kong Artists Guild. The 68 year-old last appeared in a film in 2006, co-starring with Jackie Chan in Rob-B-Hood. He still occasionally performs stand-up comedy shows, most recently selling out the Hong Kong Coliseum in February this year. He will bring his stand-up show to Malaysia later this month.