| Le sommeil d'or
Pioneering documentary on Cambodia's golden film age is only half a meal.
China Doll among Cinema One winners
Festival recognises Elwood Perez and Mother Lily
Philippines announces Oscar shortlist
Films by Erik Matti, Brillante Mendoza and Mark Meily
Filipino festivals show funding flair
Indie cinema in The Philippines is flourishing thanks to festivals' financing of micro-budget films
NY Asian Festival powers up
Premieres, prizes and retro presentations
Hua Hin declares It Gets Better
Romantic drama handed audience award
Hua Hin rolls out red carpet
Stars in Thailand for new event
Hua Hin Festival unveils Asia-centric lineup
New showcase kicks off next week
Hua Hin festival announced
New film event launches in Thailand
Winds of Asia looks backward and forward
Sugino Kiki, Kim Ki-young and Cinemalaya under the spotlight
Comedy tickles Cinemalaya jury
Septic Tank is major winner in Manila
SE Asian film-makers cry freedom
By Patrick Frater
Fri, 27 January 2012, 18:23 PM (HKT)
The importance of film festivals in South East Asian cinema was underlined today in a series of discussions at the debut Hua Hin International Film Festival งานเทศกาลภาพยนตร์นานาชาติหัวหิน.
Billed as providing status reports on cinema in the ASEAN region, a series of speakers largely avoided the usual tables of statistics and denouncements of Hollywood. Instead they presented a collection of individualistic, almost idiosyncratic, views on their local industries. These ranged from a look at indie funding systems in Singapore to the motorcycle genre in Malaysia and the specific role of Islamic films in Indonesia.
Other speakers described the festivals that they are involved with and explained how their activities that goes far beyond curating a week of screenings. Their additional roles range from film funding, through advocacy and education, to outright government defiance in the case of the recent Art of Freedom festival in Myanmar.
Cambodian film-maker Davy CHOU, director of Golden Slumbers Le sommeil d'or (2011), explained that the main genre of films produced currently in Cambodia is documentary. They are cheaper to make than fiction films and, being reality based, have more immediate relevance for audiences. He posed the question "is fiction the luxury of the rich and documentary reality the refuge of the poor?"
Indonesian critic and festival organiser Eric Sasono described how Muslim-themed films have caught the imagination of a public in the world's most populous Islamic nation, since Verses of Love Ayat-Ayat Cinta (2008). These are not hagiographies, nor iconographic, but are largely portrayals of everyday life and concern issues that affect the middle classes. In the main they are not political, but Sasono acknowledged that the most successful at the box office, such as A Veiled Woman, have often taken on a political edge. So successful is the genre that non-Muslim producers are now making Indonesian Islamic films.
Amir MUHAMMAD (pictured) dished the dirt on the Malaysian censorship system, regularly considered one of the toughest in the region, and how it has been bamboozled by a string of movies about motor bikers (Remp-it) who are small time thieves and big time street racers. The genre's success has worried the police, but film-makers have either made sequels in defiance of the authorities or simply allowed the genre to evolve.
According to Amir Muhammad it now covers Boksia ("sluts on motorcycles"); Semp-it (a self-parodying genre spoof that was a big hit in 2010) and the recent Hantu Bonceng (2011) which sees the bike genre collide with the horror genre. "Because they involve night shoots and police payoffs, the budgets are double that of an average Malaysian movie, but though they account for only 5% of releases in the last decade, they earned 15% of box office revenues," he said.
Seemingly just as defiant was the Art of Freedom festival, which was decided upon only in October, quickly attracted 180 films submissions and took place in the last days of December. "We are in favour of media freedom and chose not to apply to the Censor Board for permission to screen our films," said Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, a poet and organiser of the festival. "We had no prior agreement between the festival and the government."
Gabriel KUPERMAN, founder and director of the Luang Prabang Film Festival, said that the two year old festival in Laos is actively providing media diversity to audiences and takes its selections on a roadshow to rural provinces. "We also provide training for the ministry and build up its administrative capacity," he said. "And with the ministry we also slowly advocate relaxation of censorship and promote freedom of personal expression." Kuperman, who said that he would like to be succeeded and replaced by a Laos national, said that the Luang Prabang also buys space in other festivals abroad to showcase Laos films.
Edward CABAGNOT described the divide between the Philippines' studio movies and its domestic indie scene and asked if it is narrowing. While he could not give a definite answer, he said that the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival of which he is a co-organiser, has dramatically changed the lot of independent film-makers. The festival not only provides an alternative showcase to the Metro Manila Film Festival jamboree of mainstream cinema held each December, it has also funded the production of dozens of local movies.
The alternate funding and distribution theme was one also picked up by Singapore producer TAN Bee Thiam 陳美添, who showed that Singapore cinema for the past decade has been dominated by director Jack NEO 梁智強, whose films consist of safe, gentle mockery of Singaporean domestic issues, and the market dominance of state-owned production and distribution combine Mediacorp Raintree Pictures Pte Ltd 星霖電影有限公司.
Tan proposed an ultra-low-budget model, combined with digital distribution. He chose to describe this as 'free cinema' as in free of financial and artistic constraints, rather than free of charge.