Singapore Art Museum
Southeast Asian Film Festival 2015

Dates: 10 April – 3 May 2015
Venue: Moving Image Gallery, Level 2, SAM at 8Q
$10* for each film screening (concessions available) | $7.50 per screening with purchase of 5 SEAFF tickets and more
Tickets are available from SISTIC from mid-March 2015. For ticket availability at the door, please call SISTIC at 6348 5555.

The Southeast Asian Film Festival returns for its fifth year with an exciting presentation of the newest and most compelling cinematic work emerging from the region. This year’s Festival features films from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam; as well as post-screening discussions from emerging and veteran directors. A celebration of independent filmmaking, the Festival reflects the diversity and contemporary socio-political and cultural issues of the region through film genres such as action, comedy, documentary, drama, and more.

Download the Southeast Asian Film Festival 2015 booklet here.

  FILM Director YEAR COUNTRY RUNTIME RATING POST-SCREENING DISCUSSION
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World Premiere
International Premiere




The Last Executioner

Tom Waller, 2014, Thailand, 95 min
Thai with English subtitles, M18 (Mature content)


Friday, 10 April 2015 | 7.30pm Sold Out
Singapore Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Tom Waller

This film tells the true story of Chavoret Jaruboon, the last person in Thailand whose job it was to execute by machine gun. A wild rock-and-roller in his youth, Jaruboon becomes a state prison guard in a bid for respectability. However, when he is appointed executioner, he is plunged into a never-ending conflict between his morality and his duty. How is it possible to reconcile the good karma that comes from being a dedicated family man and employee, and the bad karma that comes from being a killer?

Tom Waller is Bangkok-born and of Thai Buddhist and Irish Catholic heritage. He has produced films for 12 years, including Soi Cowboy (2008), which was selected for Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival. His film Mindfulness and Murder (2011) was nominated for five Thai National Film Awards including Best Director and Best Film. His most recent film The Last Executioner (2014) premiered in competition at the Shanghai International Film Festival, where it won the Best Actor Golden Goblet for lead Vithaya Pansringarm.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

I first read about Chavoret Jaruboon in the Bangkok Post obituary in May 2012. What struck me was that he was clearly an ordinary man who led an extraordinary life. For a man who wanted to be a rock’n’roll singer, becoming a prison executioner would seem like an unlikely vocation. This is a person who went from holding a guitar to holding a gun – it was as if at times, he was living a double life. In his later years, he even became a minor celebrity in Thailand as a guest on game shows and chat shows, celebrated for performing his duties in taking the lives of 55 condemned prisoners. Perhaps for Chavoret, this was fame for all the wrong reasons. But yet he was a man who had led his life with a sense of duty, pride and diligence for his job, not once questioning why or how the condemned came to end up on death row. How does a man given with such a task of taking so many lives reconcile with his karma? This was initially what interested me most in making this film.

However, after speaking to his widow and family, I realised there were different layers to him. Not only was he a dutiful servant of the state but he was also a wonderful husband and a loving family man. After all, raising his family was, in many ways, the reason he became an executioner. It paid more bills than playing the guitar would, but it ultimately led to him living with demons inside his head. Often troubled by these ‘spirits’ that haunted him, Chavoret turned to monks for moral guidance, seeking to make amends for his acts of killing. Don Linder’s screenplay tells the story of Chavoret’s extraordinary life with much panache, illustrating his inner turmoil and conflicted efforts to reconcile with his karma.

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The Search for Weng Weng

Andrew Leavold, 2013, Australia/Philippines, 96 min,
English and Tagalog with English subtitles, PG13 (Brief nudity)


Saturday, 11 April 2015 | 5.00pm Sold Out
Singapore Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Andrew Leavold and producer Daniel Palisa
This film is part of the festival sidebar Action Asia: The Wild Wild Years of Asian Film Action.

Standing just under 85 centimetres, Weng Weng was a Filipino James Bond who was adept at karate chops, machine-gun wielding, and the art of wooing a woman. An enigma even to those who have worked with him, his cinematic reign as the midget Agent 00 was an outrageous novelty that plucked him from complete obscurity and then returned him to it just as quickly. An engaging history of Filipino B-grade cinema and the business of film, power and politics, this documentary features directors, producers, actors, stuntmen, dwarf waiters, and even Imelda Marcos herself, each with their unique place in Filipino cinema.

Andrew Leavold owned and managed Trash Video, the largest cult video rental store in Australia, from 1995 to 2010. He is also a filmmaker, author, researcher, film festival curator (for the Brisbane International Film Festival and Melbourne Underground Film Festival), musician, TV presenter, and fan of genre cinema. His debut feature film was Lesbo A Go Go (2003) and he is the co-writer of action script Blood Red Sea, and the co-founder of production company Death Rides a Red Horse. He is completing a book called Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys: A History of Pulp Filmmaking in the Philippines. Eight years in the making, The Search for Weng Weng is his latest film project.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

Back in the early 90s, watching a two-foot nine Filipino improbably named Weng Weng, as a miniature James Bond, punching someone in the nuts, and then running between their legs was, for me, one of those life-changing moments. Weng Weng and For Your Height Only hinted at a parallel universe filled with strange and exotic films just waiting to be uncovered. I was immediately hooked, but wanted to know more. Who was Weng Weng? Where did he come from, and what happened to him? Were there other Weng Weng films, and was he still alive? Not even the internet could shed light on what appeared to be a forgotten life.

The obsession grew until 2006, when I was invited to a film festival in Manila. I went with a video camera in one hand, determined to uncover once and for all the mystery of Weng Weng. Weng Weng’s story, it turns out, is even more extraordinary than I could have ever imagined: real life secret agent and international superstar who beat George Lucas at the box office. The rest of the story was equally heartbreaking, bizarre, and exhilarating. The Search For Weng Weng is part personal quest, gonzo travelogue, detective story, and Philippine B film history.

The Pinoy B film was understandably ghettoised by its own academics, filmmakers and audiences alike as an entirely disposable and nutritionally empty confection. I must admit I sensed a certain degree of resistance and puzzlement to my initial burst of blissfully innocent and self-absorbed enthusiasm for Weng Weng and his fellow B film contemporaries. This, I discovered, after immersing myself more fully in their collective consciousness, is akin to Australia's own 'cultural cringe', borne out of a post-colonial nation's need for serious currency in high art filmic dialogue. Lo and behold! Weng Weng was under their very nose, a two-foot-nine time capsule, who reveals far more about their own pop cinema history than they ever imagined.

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Fluid Boundaries

Mun Jeonghyun, Vladimir Todorovic and Daniel Rudi Haryanto, 2014, Indonesia/Serbia/Singapore/South Korea, 87 min
Various languages with English subtitles, PG13 (Some mature content)


Saturday, 11 April 2015 | 7.30pm Sold Out
Singapore Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with directors Vladimir Todorovic and Daniel Rudi Haryanto

In a series of video letters, a director from Indonesia, Korea and Singapore reflect on socio-political, cultural and geographical borders and share stories of people who cross them. Workers of different nationalities flock to Singapore to find a job, renewing their employment passes in Malaysia. Others find themselves frequently crossing the border demarcating East Timor and Indonesia. Desperate realities face an immigrant family in South Africa, while a person who left Vietnam for a refugee camp in Indonesia recounts his past. Another reminisces about tragic life of his uncle, who had to change his nationality from Joseon to Korean. What are the threads that tie these different individuals and their varied stories together? Through the lives of these people and the unpredictable twists of modern history, we witness the rigidity of borders melt away.

Mun Jeonghyun has been with P.U.R.N Production, an independent documentary production since 2003. His film Grandmother’s Flower (2007) won best documentary in the Busan International Film Festival and he was invited to the Berlin Film Festival Forum. His film Yongsan (2010), won an Award of Excellence in the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival.

Vladimir Todorovic is an Assistant Professor at the School of Art, Design and Media, NTU, Singapore. His short film Silica-esc (2010) won Special Mention for the category of Computer Art at the Japan Media Arts Festival. His debut feature Water Hands premiered at the Rotterdam International Film Festival’s Bright Future section in 2011. He released his second feature Disappearing Landscape in 2013.

Daniel Rudi Haryanto was born in Semarang, Central Java, 1978. In 1999, he helped to establish Cinema Society, an organisation focused on Indonesian cinema studies and research. His feature documentary Prison and Paradise (2010) won the Director Guild of Japan award at the Yamagata Documentary International Film Festival 2011 and a Special Mention at the 8th CinemAsia Film Festival 2015.

Read the Directors’ Statement here.

The three of us kept meeting in various festivals. We started thinking about possible topics and what we could do to facilitate the collaboration between the different countries where we live: South Korea, Singapore and Indonesia. After a while, we came up with the idea of using video letters that we would send to each other, and in that way, create a flowing narrative. We are interested to explore how our story changed based on the collective storytelling method we used. By doing this film collaboratively, we not only discuss and showcase the topic of ‘fluid boundaries’ and the life surrounding those people, but also in the process, create a fluid interaction between ourselves. We hope this will show and symbolise the way we interact across our own borders.

Print source:
CinemaDal Distribution Department (Hyejin Lee)
[email protected]

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The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014, Denmark/Finland/Indonesia/Norway/UK, 99 min
Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese with English subtitles, NC16 (Some mature content)


Sunday, 12 April 2015 | 3.00pm Sold Out
Friday, 1 May 2015 | 5.00pm Sold Out
Singapore Premiere

The 2012 documentary The Act of Killing was a troubling, surreal look at a forgotten chapter of Indonesian history: the killing of more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals following the overthrow of the government by the military in the 1960s. This film focuses instead on the perspective of the victims rather than the victors of history. Village optometrist Adi’s older brother was one of these victims, and as he quizzes his patients about their memories of this violent era, he discovers the story of how his brother was murdered, and that some of his killers are still in positions of great power. Adi decides to confront each of them, asking them how they can possibly live side by side with their victims’ loved ones.

Joshua Oppenheimer is an American based in Denmark where he is a partner at the production company Final Cut for Real. Recipient of a 2014 MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship, Oppenheimer has worked for over a decade with militias, death squads and their victims. His debut feature-length film, The Act of Killing (2012), won 72 international awards, including the European Film Award 2013, BAFTA 2014, Asia Pacific Screen Award 2013, Berlinale Panorama Audience Award 2013 and the Guardian Film Award 2014 for Best Film. His latest film, The Look of Silence (2014), premiered in competition at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, where it won five awards, including the Grand Prize of the Jury, the international critics award (FIPRESCI Prize), the European film critics award (FEDEORA Prize). Oppenheimer is artistic director of the International Centre for Documentary and Experimental Film, University of Westminster.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

The Act of Killing exposed the consequences for all of us when we build our everyday reality on terror and lies. The Look of Silence explores what it is like to be a survivor in such a reality. Making any film about survivors of genocide is to walk into a minefield of clichés, most of which serve to create a heroic (if not saintly) protagonist with whom we can identify, thereby offering the false reassurance that, in the moral catastrophe of atrocity, we are nothing like the perpetrators. But presenting survivors as saintly in order to reassure ourselves that we are good is to use survivors to deceive ourselves. It is an insult to survivors’ experience, and does nothing to help us understand what it means to survive atrocity, what it means to live a life shattered by mass violence, and to be silenced by terror. To navigate this minefield of clichés, we had to explore silence itself.

The result, The Look of Silence, is, I hope, a poem about a silence borne of terror – a poem about the necessity of breaking that silence, but also about the trauma that comes when silence is broken. Maybe the film is a monument to silence: a reminder that although we want to move on, look away and think of other things, nothing will make whole what has been broken. Nothing will wake the dead. We must stop and acknowledge the lives destroyed, and strain to listen to the silence that follows.

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Sparks

Giancarlo Abrahan, 2014, Philippines, 120 min
Tagalog with English subtitles, M18 (Sexual Scenes)


Sunday, 12 April 2015 | 5.30pm Sold Out
International Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Giancarlo Abrahan

Jimmy and Issey are professors who have been married for 25 years and are on the brink of separation. Jimmy’s research work is interrupted by an apparition who seems to be an ex-girlfriend, to whom he is equally haunted by and drawn to. Meanwhile, Issey goes on a creative writing retreat where she is mentoring young writers, and finds herself drawn to university student Gab. When one of Gab’s non-fiction pieces about his sexual awakening comes to widespread attention, a scandal ensues that puts everyone’s relationships under a spotlight. The virtuoso performances of Eula Valdez and Nonie Buencamino complement Abrahan’s deftly written, absorbing screenplay.

Giancarlo Abrahan is a producer, director, and writer. Primarily a screenwriter, Abrahan is noted for his screenplays for Hannah Espia’s Transit (Best Film, Cinemalaya IFF; Special Mention, Busan International Film Festival New Currents) and Whammy Alcazaren’s Islands (Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2013). His debut feature as director, Sparks, premiered at the 10th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, winning Best Director and Best Screenplay (for Abrahan) and Best Actress (for Eula Valdes). Also a creative director at production company TEN17P, he is also developing as co-writer-producer and writer, two feature films with the support of the Asian Cinema Fund Script Development Fund.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

Sparks enters the world of the university and examines how the true, the good, and the beautiful pull the lives of teachers and students alike. It is an intelligent world trying to make sense of the ‘outside’ world. It is filled with people who keep thinking and thinking of the many contradictions in their lives.

In the film, we see how even the most brilliant minds fail to comprehend this complexity, especially when love is in the picture. Love forces us to go against the world’s sense of what is moral. The more we think about it, and the more we feel about it, the more we are forced to be untrue to ourselves.

They say that it will all make sense with time. With Sparks, perhaps it is not about understanding. Years may pass, yet there are things that always remain a blur in our lives, like ghosts that never cease to haunt us at night. No matter how much we know of the world, there are pains that never make sense. It is the truth, it is a good thing, and it is beautiful that way.

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Vanishing Point

Jakrawal Nilthamrong, 2015, Netherlands/Thailand, 100 min,
Thai with English subtitles, M18 (Sexual scenes)


Friday, 17 April 2015 | 7.30pm Sold Out
Singapore Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Jakrawal Nilthamrong

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The starting point of this experimental drama is a disastrous car crash that took place more than 30 years ago. The film then follows two characters whose lives intersect in tangential ways: an idealistic young journalist who accompanies police to crime scene reconstructions, and a factory owner in a border town, who is experiencing some family problems. Along the way we meet his teenage daughter, a motherly sex worker, a dreaming monk, and the film slowly but surely reaches its denouement. Wending through visions, tall tales and strange sceneries, this meditative work always returns to the notion of the karmic cycle and the idea that every action taken and decision made affects the course of one or many lives. Vanishing Point won the Hivos Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2015).

View the trailer here. This trailer contains brief nudity. Viewer discretion is advised.

Jakrawal Nilthamrong is an artist and filmmaker. His work spans short films, documentaries, video installations and feature films. The themes of his work often relate to Eastern philosophy in contemporary contexts, and the local history of specific environments, so as to establish dialogue among multiple perspectives. His shorts, documentaries and video installations have been shown in international film festivals including Rotterdam, Berlin, Toronto and Yamagata, as well as exhibitions including the Taipei Biennial 2012 and SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul 2014. He is currently a professor at Thammasat University, Thailand. Unreal Forest (2010) was his debut documentary feature and Vanishing Point (2015) is his second feature.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

17 September 1983 was a seemingly ordinary day, except that it marked the moment when several lives in my family changed forever. It was the day that my parents were devastatingly wounded from a car accident. At that time, my father was a young military officer with a bright future ahead of him. He was driving back from a party one early evening to pick up the kids, with my mother sitting by his side. Inebriated, he stopped the car at a red light on top of one rail track where there was no barrier put in place. A train approached at full speed, hitting the car on the driver’s side and dragging what remained of the vehicle and its passengers for a long distance.

The opening image of Vanishing Point is the front-page picture from the newspaper report of my parents’ accident that day. I grew up with that news photograph and my father’s fading memory of the day before the accident.

After several months in recovery, my mother resumed her normal life and work. But my father suffered from severe brain damage, and he could no longer return to the life he used to have. His dashing career suddenly came to a halt. This abrupt change had a big impact on my family. I cannot imagine how my life and my family would have turned out had there not been an accident that day. But all these experiences have made me who I am today. I invoke the story of my father, and merge it with other tales inside my head, into a story of two men who are mirror images of each other. Actions lead to consequences, and the karmic force has a pull on all men just like gravity has to earth.

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Chasing Waves

Charliebebs Gohetia, 2015, Philippines, 92 min,
Visayan with English subtitles, PG (Some violence)


Saturday, 18 April 2015 | 5.00pm Sold Out
World Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Charliebebs Gohetia

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Young Sipat’s family lives in the remote Southern Philippines community Panyan where he has spent his entire life. However, they are forced by their landlord to leave the mountains to migrate to the unfamiliar landscapes of the seaside. Nervous but excited, Sipat is convinced that his greatest dream of experiencing the beach will be fulfilled. As he counts down the days to his departure with his best friend En-En, he is unaware of what the future will hold. The semi-unexplored terrain of Barangay Tamugan with its peaks, caves, falls and rivers forms a dramatic backdrop to the natural, unaffected performances by the child actors.

Charliebebs Gohetia started editing films in 2005 when still a university student, working on Brillante Mendoza’s Masseur, The Teacher, Foster Child and Slingshot. He has edited for Filipino filmmakers including Adolf Alix, Jr., Joel Lamangan. Goheita’s debut feature The ‘Thank You’ Girls competed at the Vancouver International Film Festival and became a cult hit in the Philippines. His sophomore film The Natural Phenomenon of Madness (2011) screened at the BFI London Film Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival and received five nominations at the 2012 Gawad Urian 2012 including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. His documentary, How to Make a Visayan Chopsuey (2014) won Special Jury Mention in October at the 1st Cine Totoo Philippine International Documentary Film Festival. His recent films are Love and Everything After and Chasing Waves.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

There is an unsettling contrast between the city-dwellers’ obsession with materialism, and the simple hopes of the people in the countryside. While urbanites thrive on achieving comfort, people in the rural areas are rooted to what is basic, never longing for any excess.

I have been to the mountainous regions of the southern Philippines where indigenous people live. They have a certain kind of sincerity that does not wither despite their lack of technology or civilisation, terms that are defined by urban standards. These people from the mountains, having no access to luxury, have simple dreams – like the story of these two children who have never experienced going to the beach. But they are being oppressed by greed from the otherwise civilised and ruling class. It is a sad reality, a continuous struggle.

It is apparent then that the class divide is still apparent even in dreams and aspirations.

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Garuda Power: The Spirit Within

Bastian Meiresonne, 2014, France/Indonesia, 77 min,
Bahasa Indonesia with English subtitles, NC16 (Some violence and gore)


Saturday, 18 April 2015 | 7.30pm
Singapore Premiere
This film is part of the festival sidebar Action Asia: The Wild Wild Years of Asian Film Action.

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An incredible journey into Indonesia's action films from their beginnings in the 1920s up to ithe latest international successes, this documentary is an insight into one of the less well-known cinematic action industries. This colourful history is closely related to the country’s own development, with the mythical heroes and spectacular set-pieces serving as escapism and indirect social critique while representing the popular desires of the tens of thousands of ordinary people who enjoyed them over the years. This film features hitherto unseen footage, rare images, unusual poster art and interviews with actors, directors and choreographers.

Bastian Meiresonne became interested in Asian cinema while studying film in Paris. He has written for many newspapers, magazines and collaborative works and has published a book about Japanese auteur Imamura Shohei. Meiresonne serves as consultant for several international film festivals, and is a long-time collaborator for the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema (FICA). Garuda Power: The Spirit Within is his first feature documentary.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

I have been involved with Asian cinema for many years now and Indonesian film in particular. More than just a simple dive into Indonesia's incredible movie history, Garuda Power is also intended as a portrayal of its people. I hope this first-ever documentary on this genre will be the starting point for many more exciting projects to come, while serving as an alarm call for a specialised part of cultural heritage that is fast-vanishing cultural heritage. I also hope you will enjoy viewing it as much as we loved shooting it.

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Aimless

Pham Nhue Giang, 2013, Vietnam, 87 min,
Vietnamese with English subtitles, M18 (Sexual scene)


Sunday, 19 April 2015 | 3.00pm
Singapore Premiere

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Leaving their village to earn a living in the big city, Tham and Quy’s relationship soon suffers in the face of their impoverished conditions. Depressed Tham falls for the charms of Thuat, an urbane and sophisticated man. When Quy discovers Thuat’s secret, he embarks on a desperate search for his wife. An examination about the choices and risks faced by women, the film presents the urban environment as a place where independence and agency can be pursued, but in the face of constant turbulence and temptations. Aimless won the Silver Kite from the Vietnam Cinema Association (2013) and the Silver Lotus from the18th National Film Festival, Vietnam (2013).

Pham Nhue Giang graduated from the Hanoi University of Cinematography and the Hanoi University of Architecture. Since her debut film, Le Petit Culi (1992), she has directed many award-winning TV series and feature films. Among them is The Deserted Valley (2001), which won the Silver Lotus Prize at the 13th Vietnam National Film Festival, the FIPRESCI Prize at the 52nd Melbourne International Film Festival, and Second Prize from the Vietnam Association of Cinematography. She has also won prizes for her 25-episode television series Hau Hoa (2007). The Real and the Ideal (2009) received the Golden Kite Award from the Vietnam Association of Filmmakers. For her film Mother’s Soul (2011), 12-year-old lead Phung Hoa Hoai Linh won the best actress award at the Dubai International Film Festival 2011.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

In modern society, money prevails in personal relationships, and people are lost in a pragmatic way of life.

Only true love will bring them back to the right track.

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K’na the Dreamweaver

PIda Anita del Mundo, 2014, Philippines, 85 min,
T’boli with English subtitles, PG


Sunday, 19 April 2015 | 5.30pm Sold Out
International Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Ida Anita del Mundo

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This film tells the story of one of the legends of the T’boli indigenous peoples of Southern Mindanao. A century-old clan war has separated the community into two villages on the North and South banks of Lake Sebu. K’na is her village’s dreamweaver, but her budding romance with childhood friend Silaw is dashed when her father arranges a marriage between her and the heir to the throne of the North so as to end the war. As the wedding date draws near, a revolution brews among those who do not believe in the joining of the two royal clans.

Ida Anita del Mundo has an MFA in Creative Writing from De La Salle University, Manila. She writes for The Philippine Star’s Starweek Magazine and has been a fellow of the Silliman University National Writers Workshop and the Iyas National Writers’ Workshop. Del Mundo has been playing the violin since she was three years old, and is a member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. Her debut feature K’na the Dreamweaver premiered at the 10th Cinemalaya Film Festival 2014 where it received a Special Jury Prize and the award for Best Production Design.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

K’na the Dreamweaver intertwines the T’boli tradition of t’nalakdreamweaving and the narrative of young princess K’na’s coming of age as she finds herself in the position to bring peace to her village and to put an end to an age-old clan war.

Though it may be interpreted as such, it is not intended to be a historical film, nor a political film, or even an advocacy film. It is a film made with sensitivity and reverence for T’boli beliefs and arts. At its core, K’na the Dreamweaver is simply an honest, sincere love story that becomes epic because of the vibrant T’boli culture and the majestic Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. With the seamless weaving of reality and fiction, the film evokes a fantasy world and aims to create a new Filipino legend.

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Fundamentally Happy

Tan Bee Thiam and Lei Yuan Bin, 2015, Singapore, 60 min,
English and some Malay with English subtitles, NC16 (Mature themes)


Friday, 24 April 2015 | 7.30pm Sold Out
World Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Tan Bee Thiam and Lei Yuan Bin

Thursday, 30 April 2015 | 7.30pm Sold Out
Featuring a post-screening discussion with directors Tan Bee Thiam and Lei Yuan Bin, and actor Joshua Lim

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Twenty years ago, Habiba and Eric were neighbours. When Eric revisits her home to find her still living there with her husband, what seems like a friendly reunion turns into the gradual revelation of a painful secret from the past. Winner of Best Production and Best Original Script at the 2007 Life! Theatre Awards, this chamber drama gets a film treatment by Singapore independents Tan Bee Thiam and Lei Yuan Bin, with the camera helmed by Christopher Doyle. An unflinching look at the consequences of abuse, Fundamentally Happy explores without judgment or condemnation critical issues such as trust, memory, relationships and consent.

Tan Bee Thiam is producer, director and editor with independent film collective 13 Little Pictures. He has produced Red Dragonflies (2010); Eclipses (2013) and SNAKESKIN (2014). He directed Kopi Julia, one of 13 short films selected by Apichatpong Weerasethakul for the Sharjah Biennale 2013. Founder of the Asian Film Archive, Tan edits the Cinemas of Asia journal and curates films for the Singapore International Festival of Arts. He has served as the jury at the Berlinale, Locarno and Golden Horse film festivals and in 2009, was honoured as a National University of Singapore Outstanding Young Alumni.

Lei Yuan Bin is a director and cinematographer. His directorial debut White Days (2009) has screened to international audiences in Berlin, Rome, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Bangkok. Lei’s sophomore feature, documentary 03-FLATS (2014) has been described as "an absorbing, almost hypnotically arresting treatise". As cinematographer, Lei has worked on As You Were (Liao Jiekai) and Haze (Anthony Chen). A founding member of 13 Little Pictures film collective, Lei was conferred the Young Artist Award in 2012 by the National Arts Council, Singapore’s highest award for young arts practitioners.

Read the Directors’ Statement here.

This is a film adaptation of Fundamentally Happy, a 2006 play by Haresh Sharma and Alvin Tan. We are greatly inspired by their work and feel strongly that the intersection of theatre and film can create new ways of experiencing both mediums.

Just like Ingmar Bergman’s chamber films, we find ourselves drawn to the use of theatricality in film to allow the audience to vacillate between immersing themselves in, yet resisting the screen illusion. The audience is kept engaged, but at a critical distance.

We are interested in how the film unravels in a dissymmetry of the characters, Eric and Habiba's respective recollections and recounting of what has taken place in the house. What is real and what is remembered are often mirror images – seemingly alike but also lateral opposites of each other.

In making this film, we hope to examine the complex issue of sexuality with the grace of love. 

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JALANAN

Daniel Ziv, 2013, Indonesia, 107 min,
Bahasa Indonesia with English subtitles, NC16 (Some coarse language)

Saturday, 25 April 2015 | 5.00pm Sold Out

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About 7,000 buskers roam the busy streets of Jakarta. Easy-going Boni lives in a sewage tunnel with his wife, tapping on city power and water supplies. Rare female busker Titi balances her religious family’s demands with her job, and plans to return to school. Dreadlocked Ho’s specialties are anti-establishment songs, but he is also looking for a stable relationship. With their original compositions as soundtracks, the film traces the three musicians’ elusive quests for identity, autonomy and love in a turbulent city overrun by the effects of globalisation and corruption. This film won best documentary at the Busan Film Festival 2013.

Daniel Ziv was born and raised in Canada, and has been living and working in Jakarta since 1999, where he documents urban life in Indonesia’s bustling capital city as a writer, magazine editor and filmmaker. He is the founder and editor of the monthly Djakarta! The City Life Magazine, and the author of Jakarta Inside Out and Bangkok Inside Out. He previously worked in international humanitarian aid and development agencies, including UNICEF, USAID and UN-OCHA, and has a MA in Southeast Asian Studies from the University of London. JALANAN is his first feature-length film. The film won Best Documentary at Busan International Film Festival and Special Mention at the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival, Indonesia (2013).

Read the Director’s Statement here.

I was drawn to the story of JALANAN not because of any ambition to become a filmmaker or a pre-meditated quest to find a ‘good topic’ for a documentary, but because one day on the streets of Jakarta, I stumbled across a gang of unique individuals whose amazing life story I could not ignore. It happened to contain everything a documentary filmmaker could ask for: contagious personalities; compelling social justice issues; individual struggles that shed light on universal issues; cheeky humour; a colourful urban subculture, and - as an added bonus – a built-in soundtrack of wonderful original music.

When I started out on this project, I thought I was going to shoot a short film about the busker community, their work, their world, and their music. But over time it became clear to me that by witnessing their lives so intimately, I was also being exposed to a fascinating and quite important story about Indonesia, a sort of snapshot of the post-reformasi era from the perspective of those caught in that very uncomfortable crack between two phenomena that we celebrate so often: democratisation and globalisation. My pengamen (street singers) were feeling both these things very profoundly, but benefiting from neither.

Although the film contains moments of sadness, struggle and injustice, these are far outweighed by moments of engaging humour, catchy music, beauty and hope. This isn’t the type of documentary that feeds off tragedy. The stakes are not as high as in some stories – this is not about thousands of lives being threatened, nor are people dying every day in this community. And although living conditions for these buskers are very basic, this isn’t even about the poorest of the poor. Rather, JALANAN traces the lives of a forgotten, marginalised community that slips through society’s cracks. The dilemmas and conflicts here represent a huge segment of urban population in the developing world, easily tens of millions in the case of Indonesia, certainly hundreds of millions more across Asia. This film is meant to give them a voice, to raise awareness for their conditions and struggle.

JALANAN aims to bring the audience into this colourful world as participants rather than merely gazing down upon it. Their story is also meant as a provocative mirror through which we, in the more affluent part of the world, can reflect on our own lives and values, learning from the day-to-day perspectives and wisdom of the characters in JALANAN. Ho’s favourite mantra – as he bids farewell to bus passengers after entertaining them (or outraging them) with his songs, is that “Life must be fully lived!”

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Jade Miners

Midi Z, 2015, Myanmar/Taiwan, 104 min
Myanma Bhasa with English subtitles, PG13 (Some coarse language)

Sat, 25 Apr 2015 | 7:30pm Sold Out
Asian Premiere

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Jade is a prized gem across Asia, and an important source is Kachin state in Myanmar. However, hostilities between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar army have led to hundreds of kilometres of jade mines ceasing their operations as they become a war zone. Despite the risk of arrest or physical danger from the chaotic landscape, workers from all over Myanmar still flock to these deserted mines to dig illegally for jade, desperately hoping to find a piece that will transform their lives. Shot with the aid of locals, Midi Z has complied a sober and intimate social documentary that focuses on the daily lives of these labourers.

Born in Myanmar, Midi Z trained as an artist in Taiwan. His graduation film, Paloma Blanca, was acclaimed worldwide. One of his first short films, Hua-xin Incident (2008), was produced by Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Ang Lee. Midi Z’s first feature Return to Burma (2011) was in the Rotterdam International Film Festival Tiger Competition and the Busan New Currents Competition. His latest feature, Ice Poison (2014), premiered at the Berlinale, won Best Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival and represented Taiwan in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars. Jade Miners is his first documentary.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

As soon as you turn on the camera, reality disappears. As for documentary, I do not believe in reality; instead, I believe that reality can never be easily conveyed via any media.

So in that case, why should I make a documentary? Perhaps it is a personal statement; it expresses what is hidden underneath these seemingly real images and what I have witnessed, including the never-changing nature of the game of survival that human beings have played since the dawn of time.

‘Civilisation’ for most people means nothing more than ‘a better life’. The lives of these miners around me are the epitome of a certain aspect of human history. Stories like theirs have been happening everywhere in the world, and the truth lies behind them is universal.

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Justice

Joel Lamangan, 2014, Philippines, 120 min,
Tagalog with English subtitles, R21 (Sexual scenes)

Sunday, 26 April 2015, 3.00pm Sold Out
Singapore Premiere

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Biring’s boss runs a human trafficking syndicate in Manila, and her job entails bribing the authorities to turn a blind eye to their illegal activities, which is not difficult when the bureaucracy is already corrupt. Even though her children refuse her money because of how it was made, Biring knows that in this line, it's better to see no evil, hear no evil and look after only yourself. However, when she is framed for murder, she starts on a spiral of ever-deepening reprobation. When she has to make the stark choice of whether to be a victim or a victimiser, her transformation becomes complete. This film features a complex, bravura performance by superstar Nora Aunor.

Joel C. Lamangan is a multi-awarded Filipino director who has trained and worked in the fields of film and theater in the Philippines and abroad. He acted and directed for stage and television and also took screen roles, before opting for film direction, making his debut in 1991 with Darna. Among his notable films are The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995) which won the Golden Pyramid award at the Cairo International Film Festival 1995 and Best Actress for Nora Aunor, Pusong Mamon (1998), Deathrow (2000), Hubog (2001), Huling Birhen sa Lupa (2003), Blue Moon (2006) and Deadline (2011).

Read the Director’s Statement here.

Justice is a story of how corruption has penetrated every part of the Philippine society. The film’s locale is Manila but it could very well be the story of the entire country. Corruption in the bureaucracy has penetrated from the highest to the lowest level of governance. Justice is a commentary on the social realities of the country through the female lead character embodying the different notorious personalities plaguing Philippine society. 

Nora Aunor, the legendary actress of Philippine cinema gives life to the character of Biring – the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, talk-no-evil character, exploited and victimised until she herself has become the victimiser. It is a portrayal of a lonely worker in the human trafficking industry seeking to rise from the muck and vice of the criminal world, but to what ends, it is not clear.

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So Be It

Kongdej Jaturanrasmee, 2014, Thailand, 85 min,
Thai and Hmong with English subtitles, PG

Sunday, 26 April 2015, 5.30pm Sold Out
Singapore Premiere

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Seven-year-old Thai-American student William becomes an overnight celebrity when he participates in a reality show that depicts his experiences in a Buddhist summer ordination programme. Meanwhile, 11-year old Bundit, who is from an ethnic minority hilltribe, starts on his own Buddhist journey as he is sent to a temple along with more than 2,000 children, where he chafes at the strict rules and being separated from his family. Both William and Bundit must learn in their own ways to pursue freedom of mind and self-control of spirit. The documentary-fiction hybrid film is a coming-of-age tale of two boys from vastly different backgrounds, who each have their own way of learning the meaning of Buddhism in daily life.

Kongdej Jaturanrasamee is a veteran filmmaker and scriptwriter, and the writer and director of Sayew (2003), Midnight My Love (2005), and Handle Me with Care (2008). His film P-047 (2011) premiered at the Venice Film Festival 2011 while Tang Wong (2013) premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival 2013. As a scriptwriter, he has won awards and written the most successful Thai films of recent years including Tom Yum Goong (by Prachya Pinkaew), Queens of Pattani (by Nonzee Nimibutr), and Me…Myself and Happy Birthday (by Pongpat Wachirabanjong). He is widely known for his two hits including The Letter (2004), a remake of the 1997 Korean film Pyeonji and the Tony Jaa action movie Tom-Yum-Goong (2005). Jaturanrasamee is a film professor at Assumption University in Thailand.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

What do we still need religions for?

Thailand has always taken pride in being a center of Buddhism. It is a country where temples are established plentifully in every province. But today, we are flooded with shameful news regarding Buddhist monks in our media, until we begin to lose our faith. Furthermore, we live in an age where social media obsesses us. Anyone could become the prophet himself.

In the film, there are two ‘borderland’ boys who spend their lives in temples. One is half Thai and half-American. Another is a descendant from a hill tribe family. The first one has many opportunities in his life, but instead he chooses to seek and understand Buddhism. But the second one has no such choices and he must stay in the temple in order to survive in his life. Temple and Religion have become the tools for seeking answers in the respective paths of life for these two different boys.

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SNAKESKIN

Daniel Hui, 2014, Portugal/Singapore, 105 min,
English, Rating to be advised

Saturday, 1 May 2015, 7.30pm
Asian Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Daniel Hui
Tickets are available from SISTIC from mid-April 2015.

It is the year 2066, and the sole survivor of an enigmatic cult recounts his country's traumatic history and the events that led to the rise and collapse of this cult. As he reminiscences, ghosts from 2014 and the years before appear as witnesses. Part dream documentary, part city symphony, this hybrid film traces the lineage of oppression as inscribed both in Singapore's physical landscape, as well as its collective unconscious. The narrative voice-over reflects on that which is forgotten, subjective, and polymorphic in history. This unusual film is a thoughtful look at the legacy and future of this strange Southeast Asian island.

Daniel Hui is a filmmaker and writer. A graduate of the film/video programme in California Institute of the Arts, his films have been screened at film festivals in Rotterdam, Hawaii, Manila, Seoul, Bangkok, and Vladivostok. Hui is also one of the founding members of the independent 13 Little Pictures film collective, whose works have garnered international critical acclaim. His debut feature film, Eclipses, won the Pixel Bunker Award for International New Talent at the Doclisboa International Film Festival 2013. His second feature film, SNAKESKIN, won the Special Jury Prize at the Torino Film Festival in 2014. He is also a contributing editor to the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) online journal, Cinemas of Asia.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

The 1950s is a fascinating era in Singapore’s history. It was a time when Singapore had the most vibrant film industry in the region. It was also a time of great political upheaval. Watching the cinema of this era, I have always found many parallels between its ideals and the ideals of activists and politicians at that time. Both wanted a racially-integrated society that is independent and egalitarian.

Unfortunately, a lot of this history has been either forgotten, erased, or rewritten. This film is dedicated to the people who have fallen through the gaps of history. Their ghosts remain with us, in our dreams, in our hallucinations, in our unconscious. In the deep of the night, when the ring of money has died down, we can still hear their voices warning us of the future to come.

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2030

Nghiem-Minh Nguyen-Vo, 2014, Vietnam, 98 min,
Vietnamese with English subtitles, M18 (Sexual scene)

Saturday, 2 May 2015, 5.00pm
Singapore Premiere

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Set in the vast and beautiful coastal regions of southern Vietnam, this dystopic film envisions a near future when water levels have risen to swallow farmlands due to global climate change. The Vietnamese people must now live in houseboats and rely solely on rapidly-depleting fishing grounds for food. As vegetables are now highly priced commodities, huge multinational conglomerates are competing to build floating farms. Amidst all this is fisherwoman Sao, who was briefly involved with visiting science researcher Giang before her marriage. However, when her husband Thi is murdered, Sao sets out to discover the truth and is forced to make a dramatic decision.

Nghiem-Minh Nguyen-Vo was born in Vietnam, and frequented his small town’s only movie theatre as a way to escape the atrocities of the Indochina conflict. Emigrating to France to study aeronautical engineering, he continued to the US where he became a physicist. In 1998, his passion for cinema led him to pursue a programme in screenwriting and directing, and his directorial debut, Buffalo Boy, was Vietnam’s entry to the 2006 Academy Awards. It won 15 awards around the world including the New Directors’ Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, the FIPRESCI Jury Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and the Youth Jury Award at the Locarno International Film Festival. His latest film 2030 opened the Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival 2014.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

The horizon, where the land and sea meet, is a curve that follows the surface of the earth. However, at a relative small scale familiar to humans, the horizon is also a straight line that becomes a reference for stability, something that we all cling to because we know how to keep balance in that space. It gives us comfort because it appears as the absolute truth in life. But the absolute truth is not always available in life.

Water plays a strong visual role in this film. The horizon, the intersecting line between water and the atmosphere, appears as the perfect horizontal line to the human eye. It appears prominently in the beginning as a metaphor for the absolute balance and truth in life.

The search for the absolute truth in global climate change is still going on. What causes the seawater level to rise? Many scientists have argued that it is due to the greenhouse effect, the consequence of the development of science and technology since the industrial revolution. Others disagree, arguing that the global climate change is caused by either a natural fluctuation in thermal balance or by the additional tilt of the earth’s axis from its normal position that has nothing to do with human activities. But the dreadful effects of this global change have been felt by many people with probably much more destructive power to come in the near future. Should we attempt to do something immediately to deal with the effect of the rising sea? Or should we do nothing while waiting for the absolute truth?

If we decide to act, it seems to be natural that science and technology play a role in offering the solution. Besides curbing of the emission of greenhouse gases that is a long-term solution, something else has to be done right away about the imminent shortage of food due to the loss of agricultural land and fresh water sources. Floating farms can resolve the shortage of land, and techniques such as desalination or evaporation can provide fresh water needed for cultivation. However, a lower-cost solution could be provided by manipulating the genes in food plants, allowing them to grow with salt water or even in salt water. Are these genetic engineered plants safe for human consumption? Throughout human history, we had developed and consumed a great deal of genetically altered foods. However, the change of food consumption had happened over many thousands of years where the body had enough time to adapt. The present change to modern genetically engineered foods is happening in a much shorter time and will stretch the limit of human adaptability.

Using chaos theory, one has to accept the implicit long-term unpredictability from the same initial condition. It means pushing the human mind to the limit of its intelligence. Ultimately, our ways of coping could change us, and there’s no way to know for sure. Yet we must forge ahead.

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Riddles of My Homecoming

Arnel Mardoquio, 2013, Philippines, 82 min,
No Dialogue, R21 (Sexual scenes and violence)

Saturday, 2 May 2015, 7.30pm
International Premiere
Featuring a post-screening discussion with assistant director Yam Palma

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One of the most experimental narratives yet to speak of the conditions of exploitation and poverty in southern Philippines, this film is a visual tapestry of evocative symbols, choreography and landscapes. Alfad’s dream is to work abroad. Swallowed by the sea, his soul returns to the island of his birth where he finds his memories on its shore. Aliya is a young girl who represents the spirit of the new day and the uncertainty of the future. When they return to their homeland, they find it destroyed and the people searching for a divine presence to save them, which emerges in the form of old Wahab, ruler of a strange cult. However, female shaman Mariposa and rebel woman farmer Mayka join forces to confront him.

Arnel Mardoquio was born and works in Davao City, Mindanao, in the Philippines. He has won the grand prize at the literary Palanca Awards, and was also awarded Best Director and garnered a nomination for Best Screenplay at the Gawad Urian for his films Earth’s Whisper (2008) and Hospital Boat (2009). His film Sheika (2010) won Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Editing at the 34th Gawad Urian Awards and received NETPAC awards at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2010. The Journey of the Stars into the Dark Night (2012) won Best Film at the Gawad Urian Awards 2013, Best Screenplay at the Young Critics Circle 2013 and the Grand Jury Prize at both the Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2012 and at Cinemanila IFF 2012. Riddles of My Homecoming (2013) won the Grand Jury Prize, Best Director, Best Cinematography at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2013. Alienasyon (2014), his latest feature, won the Jury Prize and Best Cinematography at the Gawad Tanglaw Awards 2014.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

I make films for my country, and when I say ‘country’, I am referring to Mindanao. This standpoint plays a very important element in my craft as a storyteller. In my earnest desire to contribute something worthwhile to our historical development, my films promote the identities of the Mindanaoans. The Poor-Deprived-Oppressed Mindanaoans play heroes and heroines in my stories. While my films promote the richness and diversity of our people and culture, it does not promote tourism and it does not talk about the beauty and the goodness of our region – my film speaks about the truth in Mindanao.

Riddles of My Homecoming is very rich in images. The narrative of the film is enveloped with many signs and symbols.  The theme revolves around the belief of Lumad (natives) about one soul that returned to his birthplace to serve as the place-keeper, a guardian to the land, mountains and waters. The film’s setting and time is not fixed, yet the characters meet at different times and realities in their lives. The dramatic timeline of this film is so complex that it is so immersed into the fantastic world of the Lumad, yet the film also tries to pull us into a homogenous time.  

In making this film, every time I peep in the camera, I don’t look for the ‘beautiful shot.’ I confirm the correctness of visual interpretation, or the manner by which one temporal reality is captured, according to the dramatic timeline that I have to fulfill.

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Wukan: The Flame of Democracy

Lynn Lee and James Leong, 2013, Singapore, 90 min,
Mandarin with English subtitles, NC16 (Mature content)

Sunday, 3 May 2015, 3.00pm
Featuring a post-screening discussion with director Lynn Lee

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Wukan, a village in southern China, captured international attention in 2011 when demonstrators took to the streets to rebel against decades of corrupt rule. When the village committee fell and democratic elections were announced, Wukan’s residents then found themselves grappling with the challenges of a new political system. Former rebel leaders now had to respond the demands of the electorate, and deal with provincial and county authorities. This intimate documentary of a rural Chinese community mirrors the complex mix of challenges, euphoria, hopes and hard realities facing fledgling democracies across the world.

Lynn Lee and James Leong are filmmakers who have spent the last decade making documentaries across Asia. Their first feature documentary Passabe (2005) was a grant recipient from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund and was acquired by ARTE. Their second film, Aki Ra’s Boys (2006), won two international awards, while their third, Homeless FC (2007), received the Grand Prize at the Chinese Documentary Festival. Their documentary The Great North Korean Picture Show (2012) has screened at film festivals across the world. Lee and Leong have also made numerous television documentaries, including Nowhere to Go, an investigative piece for Al Jazeera English, which won the First Prize at the 2013 Human Rights Press Awards.

Read the Directors’ Statement here.

We rooted for Wukan when we first learnt about its struggle: a fishing village in Southern China, rising up against decades of corrupt rule and illegal land grabs by its local leaders. Thanks to social media, breathtaking images of the revolt were widely circulated online – thousands of angry villagers waving placards and banners, chanting slogans, standing their ground even as authorities threatened a crackdown. News that they had ousted their Village Committee and won government approval to hold unprecedented democratic elections made headlines all over the world. It was arguably, one of the biggest stories to emerge from China in 2011, a story celebrating a people’s tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds.

But what happens after an uprising? In early 2011, as Wukan prepared to hold landmark elections, we ventured into the village to find out. What followed was a truly unforgettable year. For the former activists elected to the Village Committee, it was also a difficult one – fraught with risk, frustration and heartache. Democracy, we’ve all learnt, is a complicated thing.

We are grateful to Wukan’s villagers and their Village Committee for letting us witness their remarkable journey, for opening their homes and hearts to us. The story, we know, is still unfolding, and we plan to keep following it. Despite all the disappointment and disillusionment, we know that the struggle for a better Wukan continues.

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NOVA

Nik Amir Mustapha, 2014, Malaysia, 106 min,
Bahasa Malaysia and some English with English subtitles, NC16 (Some drug use)

Sunday, 3 May 2015, 5.30pm Sold Out
International Premiere

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Filmmaker Berg, obsessed with an unidentified blob he saw in the sky when he was a student, reunites his old friends on a whim, calling them to go on a road trip for old times’ sake, while capturing this alien spacecraft on film. Despite their doubts about Berg’s filmmaking abilities and drug habit, they all agree to go on this expedition, as each of them have their personal reasons for doing so. As they reminisce, tension arises as they start to disagree on what happened back in school. This chase for this elusive UFO becomes more than what it seems. A quirky genre mash-up of comedy, sci-fi and buddy movie, NOVA contains several homages to Malaysian cinema.

Nik Amir Mustapha was trained in engineering but became a filmmaker after pursuing training in the medium. His first feature film, Kil (2013) won Best Film, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress in the Malaysian Screen Awards 2013. The film also won Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best New Actress at the Malaysian Film Festival 2014. NOVA (Terbaik Dari Langit) is his second feature.

Read the Director’s Statement here.

After my first feature, I found myself wanting to make a film that focuses on matters close to my heart. I wanted to reflect my Malaysian roots in the film. Having spent my youth in a boarding school, I recalled the camaraderie that was formed and the way that friendships evolved. I was also at a point where I had my principles tested where I had to face the pressure to conform to society. At the time, I felt a need to have a voice in the local Malaysian filmmaking scene. With all these ideas in mind, I developed a strong will to explore these topics and that was how NOVA came into existence.

Personally I feel that having all these different genres in the movie inspired a lot of people working on the project. It sparked something in our film-making minds. The takeaway for filmmakers who watch it is that you can use anything and create anything as long as you make sure you do it with heart.

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