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Fest introduces Asean neighbors through cinema

K. Rajagopal’s “A Yellow Bird”

One of the best ways to familiarize ourselves with foreign cultures is through cinema. While there is an abundance of film festivals focusing on European countries, Southeast Asian cinema remains underrepresented on the current scene.

For precisely these reasons, the message of Tingin: Asean Film Festival, ongoing at the Shangri-La Plaza mall until Oct. 15, becomes all the more urgent.
Organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the fest gathers “genuine stories that represent” the region.

“Although so many film fests have mushroomed in Manila over the years, there’s still room for an event dedicated to Southeast Asian movies,” Maya Quirino, fest project manager, told the Inquirer. “We are exposed to a lot of Hollywood movies…this fest proves that we have an abundance of excellent films right here at home. We need to develop our palate for something different.”

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“All the films have a very strong sense of place,” explained Patrick F. Campos, a member of the fest’s steering committee. “They are utopian [because their] characters aim to restore or protect their integrity and dignity by struggling to turn the spaces they inhabit into ‘homeplaces.’”

Annie Luis, head of the International Affairs Office of the NCCA, clarified: “Cinema, as many other art mediums, tells stories of places, times, peoples and their cultures. A glimpse [into] the lives of our neighbors would give us a better appreciation of them…how different and similar we could be at the same time.”

Campos concurred: “These glimpses will allow us to reflect on our situation from a guarded distance.”

The NCCA invited the cultural ministries of each member state to pick a film, produced between 2000 and 2017, and the choices are widely regarded as “modern classics.” Among the films in this program are Pimpaka Towira’s “The Island Funeral” (Thailand), Victor Vu’s “Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass” (Vietnam), Yossep Anggi Noen’s “Solo, Solitude” (Indonesia), and Anthony Chen’s “Ilo-Ilo” (Singapore).

Anthony Chen’s “Ilo-Ilo”

Also part of the fest are Remton Zuasola’s “Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria Kirchbaum” (Philippines), Aung Ko Latt’s “Kayan Beauties” (Myanmar), Hatta Azad Khan’s “Wayang” (Malaysia), and Chengg Sovanna’s “Victim” (Cambodia).

Another lineup consists of films chosen by “Filipino Tastemakers” (actor Piolo Pascual, screenwriter Moira Lang and critic Campos): Mattie Do’s “Dearest Sister” (Lao PDR), K. Rajagopal’s “A Yellow Bird” (Singapore), and Davy Chou’s “Golden Slumbers” (Cambodia).

The fest was named “Tingin,” Quirino pointed out, because in Filipino, the word means “to look thoughtfully.” It can also mean perspective or opinion. “The festival presents or interprets Southeast Asia through the eyes of cinema.”

Luis noted: “While the Asean Economic Community has been launched in 2015, signaling Asean integration, there’s still much to be done in spreading awareness of Asean among the greater Filipino public.”

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Victor Vu’s “Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass”

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TAGS: “Ilo Ilo”, A Yellow Bird, Entertainment, news, Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass
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