A celebration of ASEAN cinema

|     Parinyaporn Pajee     |

THIRTY films from Southeast Asia as well as China, South Korea and Japan are all set to celebrate Asean Cultural Year at the 5th Bangkok Asean Film Festival, which kicks off tomorrow at Paragon Cineplex and SF World Cinema.

The festival, which continues through July 8, opens with Indonesian drama Memories of My Body by veteran director Garin Nugroho, who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Nugrohoo’s movies combine Javanese tradition and aesthetics with socio-political messages and sometimes poetic language and offer a fascinating overview of the visible and invisible transformation of Indonesia in the past three decades.

Memories centres on Juno who was abandoned by his father as a child. Growing up in a Javanese village, he joins a Lengger dance centre where men shape their appearance and movement. But the physicality that comes from dance mixed with the violent social and political Indonesian environment, force Juno to move from village to village.

And while he receives attention and love from his dance teachers, his weird aunt, his old uncle, a handsome boxer and a Warok, he is alone in facing his battles. The screening is by invitation only.

Organised by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the National Federation of Motion Pictures and Contents Association as well as other state agencies and private partners, and programmed by Pimpaka Towira, the Asean Competition section will feature 10 films, two from Thailand – Kraben Rahu or Manta Ray and Hope Frozen, two from Cambodia (Funan, Last Night I Saw You Smiling), one from Indonesia (Ave Maryam), two from the Philippines (Gusto Kita with All My Hypothalamus, Balangiga: Howling Wilderness), one from Singapore A Land Imagined), one from Malaysia (Fly by Night), and one from Vietnam (The Third Wife).

Memories of My Body from Indonesia
A Land Imagined from Singapore

Funan, the only animation in the competition, is a collaboration between Cambodia, Belgium and France and is set in 1975 during the Khmer Rouge revolution. Fighting for her own survival, Chou, a young Cambodian mother, looks for her four-year-old son who was taken away from her by the regime.

Three prizes are up for grabs – Best ASEAN Film, Jury Prize and Special Mention. The first sees its director take home a trophy and USD10,000 while the other two receive trophies and USD5,000 and USD2,000 respectively. A panel of three will judge the 10 films in the competition, namely filmmaker Phan Dang Di from Vietnam, Curator and Coordinator of the Brave Talk from the International Film Festival Rotterdam Muge Demir from the Netherlands and filmmaker Anucha Boonyawatana from Thailand.

Sixteen more films will be screened in the showcase section including blockbuster Thai movie Friend Zone and Malila (The Farewell Flower), the Thai animation Ramavatar Murals Brought to Life, The Only Mom a Myanmar film directed by a Thai filmmaker, Surau dan Silek from Indonesia and Song Lang from Vietnam.

This year’s Classic Film segment shows Moon Over Malaya from Malaysia and Singapore; Genghis Khan from the Philippines and Ai Tui from Thailand. Audiences can also enjoy Every Day a Good Day from Japan, China’s Running to the Spring and A Boy and Sungreen from South Korea.

Despite the wide variety and earlier screenings, Thai films are proving the most popular this year with several of them already fully booked, namely Friend Zone, Manta Ray, which won Orizzonti award from the Venice International Film Festival last year, and Hope Frozen – an award-winning documentary about two-year-old Einz, who became the youngest person in the world to undergo cryo-preservation. After her death from brain cancer, her family stored her remains in an American lab. Her head and brain now rest inside a tank in Arizona. Hope Frozen follows the family who made this unorthodox decision. The girl’s father, a laser scientist, yearns to give Einz the opportunity to experience a rebirth inside a regenerated body.

The opening ceremony will take place today at Infinicity Hall, Paragon Cineplex, while the award ceremony and closing event will be on July 8 at the Sky Lobby, SF World Cinema. Another highlight is a programme called Roundtable, a talk and workshop series organised by Purin Pictures Foundation featuring sessions with leading filmmakers from the region. Some of the highlights are the female cinematographer’s eye, Path Forward for Documentaries and a spotlight on Phuttipong Aroonpheng and his eight-year journey making the film Manta Ray.

The roundtable will take place at the auditorium of Alliance Francaise Bangkok from tomorrow to July 7. – The Nation Thailand