The George Town Festival is set to screen classic Asean films weekly during the month of August. As the name suggests, all the films are rooted in South-East Asia and display the relatively unheard of yet very versatile directing talent in Asean film.
Ma Rosa, directed by Brillante Mendoza from the Philippines, is a poignant and contemporary reminder of the hard lives most people in the Philippines struggle with, and the lure of drugs in such hardship. Ma Rosa feeds her family from a sari-sari shop in Manila but does not make enough to get by. To alleviate the lack of money the family turn to selling crystal meth to meet the family’s needs. Inevitably, she and her husband, Nestor, are arrested for their transgression and are asked for ‘bail money’ for their release. Now on their own, Rosa and Nestor’s children struggle with daily life and find a way to free their parents. Selected for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards, the lead actress, Jaclyn Jose (Ma Rosa), won best actress at Cannes Film Festival.
What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love, directed by Mouly Surya from Indonesia, tells the story of a group of teenagers at a school for the visually impaired in Jakarta. Diana patiently awaits the signs of woman hood; Fitri enters into a passionate love affair with a partially deaf punk rocker; and Maya dreams to be an actress, despite being blind from birth. However, the film as whole is greater than the sum of its parts – greater than these focused vignettes – and explores the ways in which these students find ways to communicate and collaborate in connecting with each other and the outside world despite their physical barriers. Studded with international awards, this is a must see of the Asean classic films.
Apprentice, directed by Boo Junfeng from Singapore, presents the unique challenge of a young man on his way to becoming a professional executioner. As this young apprentice’s relationship intensifies with his mentor at the prison, their backstories are revealed in greater and deeper detail. As the plot develops we see the difficulties of a young man working at a maximum security prison and how his desired job specification challenges his integrity and ethics. Another film showered in accolades for its narrative and cast, it won the NETPAC award at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards, “Best Narrative Film” at the Interfaith Awards of St. Louis International Film Festival, the Golden Orchid Special Special Mention for “Best Acting Ensemble” at Hawaii International Film Festival, Asian New Wave Best Film at QCinema International Film Festival 2016 and director Boo Junfeng won the “Rising Director” award Busan International Film Festival.
Dream Land, directed by Steve Chan from Cambodia, is set in Phnom Penh and tells the story of a young, female real-estate agent, Lida, in the country’s capital, selling property to the country’s nouveau riche and the emptiness such a vocation may consist of. With her relationship deteriorating, Lida finally escapes to the beach resort of Kep but is unable to escape mental anguish as ghosts from the past begin to haunt her, although sometimes in sublime ways. Chen’s Cambodian-U.S. production does offer a rare look at the state of things in Cambodia in the here and now, as a new set of problems emerge to haunt what some have described as the “post-genocide” generation, for whom go-getting capitalism looms much larger as a spectre than the nightmarish years of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979.
Cemetery of Splendour, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul from Thailand, is a revelatory and metaphorical look at personal and Thai societal issues. In it, soldiers with a mysterious sleeping sickness are transferred to a temporary clinic in a former school. The memory-filled space becomes a revelatory world for housewife and volunteer Jenjira, as she watches over Itt, a handsome soldier with no family visitors. Doctors explore ways, including coloured light therapy, to ease the men’s troubled dreams. Jen discovers Itt’s cryptic notebook of strange writings and blueprint sketches. There may be a connection between the soldiers’ enigmatic syndrome and the mythic ancient site that lies beneath the clinic. Magic, healing, romance and dreams are all part of Jen’s tender path to a deeper awareness of herself and the world around her. Another Asean film with many international awards to its name, is another must watch.
The venue for the Asean Classics film screening each week is Black Kettle, 105, Beach St, George Town and the start time is 8pm. The dates are:
Ma Rosa, 3rd August
What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love, 10th August
Apprentice, 17th August
Dream Land, 24th August
Cemetery of Splendour, 31st August
Please register in advance here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/asean-classics-film-tickets-35531066376