The pioneering Far East Film Festival in Italy will honor Japanese actor, director, comedian, TV presenter and yakuza film legend Takeshi Kitano with its Golden Mulberry Award, a lifetime achievement honor that recognizes outstanding contributions to popular cinema.
The 75-year-old artist, also known by his stage name ‘Beat Takeshi’, will travel to the festival, held annually in the picturesque northern Italian town of Udine, to receive his honor in person during a special gala on April 29.
Europe’s largest film festival specializing in Asian cinema, FEFF returns this year for its first large-scale and globally attended edition of the pandemic era. Last year, the festival featured a mix of virtual and in-person screenings.
In many ways, Kitano would come across as an ideal embodiment of the festival’s programming philosophy. Unlike most European festivals, which tend to focus on the rarefied aesthetic of Asian arthouse cinema, Udine is primarily dedicated to providing a platform for Far East cinema. Orient which has achieved commercial traction in its home markets – giving festival-goers a surprisingly rare window into the contemporary cinema that the world’s most populous region watches in droves.
Kitano is a figure whose career spanned nearly every facet of Japanese film entertainment, achieving both niche cult fame and wide popular success. Once described by influential Japanese critic Nagaharu Yodogawa as “the true successor” to Akira Kurosawa, Kitano began his career in the 1970s with a bawdy version of the Japanese stand-up tradition Manzai, becoming one of the the country’s most recognizable comedians.
After several eye-catching supporting performances, one of her first serious film roles came in Nagisa Oshima Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, in which he played a brutal World War II POW camp sergeant opposite Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Bowie. After other acting jobs, he launched his directing career with neo-noir violent cop (1989), in which he also starred. In the 1980s, he became the host and star of Takeshi Castle, one of the oldest and most successful Japanese variety shows of all time. His directing career took off internationally with the release of the yakuza classic Sonatina (1993), and he gained popularity with the heartfelt crime drama Hana biwho won the Golden Lion in Venice in 1997.
A string of festival contenders and fan favorites followed, including Kikujiro (1999), Dolls (2002), and Zatoichi (2003), among others. His trilogy of tough yakuza films — Contempt (2010), Beyond outrage (2012) and outrage code (2017) — is a pillar of the genre. His stone face became even more world famous thanks to his starring role in battle royale (2000), which helped define the genre of death games (long before squid game). Among his dozens of other screen credits, Kitano also periodically appeared in Hollywood projects, such as Johnny Mnemonic (1995) and ghost in the shell (2017).
“The Udine Film Festival crowns Takeshi Kitano for his exciting journey across genres and styles and between film and television,” FEFF organizers said in a statement, describing the actor/director as “the one of the giants of world cinema”.
The 2022 Udine Far East Film Festival runs from April 22-30. The full program for the event will be unveiled on April 12.