Presenting the best
> Astro highlights top regional directors in a new season of SEA Director Focus, featuring interviews and a selection of movies
SINCE February this year, filmmakers from around the region have been highlighted on Astro’s special in-depth interview programme SEA Director Focus, which airs on A-List (Astro channel 456).
Hosted by renowned film historian and critic, Hassan Muthalib, the programme kicked off by featuring nine awardwinning directors from Malaysia, and in its second instalment, nine other directors from across Southeast Asia.
In the third instalment, beginning next month, the show will feature six prolific directors who have been making a name for themselves both in their home countries and on the international film festival circuit.
They are Boo Junfeng (Singapore), Eric Khoo (Singapore), Garin Nugroho (Indonesia), Lav Diaz (Philippines), Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Thailand), and Riri Riza (Indonesia).
At an event announcing the upcoming line-up of directors, Teng Lee Yein, vice president for Astro’s acquisition & distribution, content group said: “Astro A-List is committed to elevating emerging talents in Asia and we believe that international cinematic talents from Asian shores should be given the opportunity to shine for their internationally recognised accomplishments.
“The six directors taking part in the third instalment of SEA Director Focus represent an eclectic mix of talents from across Southeast Asia who will provide an invaluable learning experience to our audience.”
The series will also feature a selection of films by these directors: Sandcastle by Boo; 12 Storeys by Khoo; The Blindfold by Garin; A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery by Diaz; Monrak Transistor by Pen-Ek; and Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2 by Riri.
Datuk Kamil Othman, director-general of the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) observed that the directors featured in this series concentrated more on local stories, local sentiments and local feelings, and translate that into something that the rest of the world can connected with.
He said: “More Malaysians should watch these films. When [young local directors] apply for Finas grants for movies, it should be for real stories, and not some half-baked ideas inspired by The Revenant or Transformers.”
One of the biggest complaints by local filmmakers is that their films are subject to strict rulings and guidelines. However, Kamil pointed out that classic European arthouse films were created during a time when they, too, faced a lot of restrictions.
“Creative filmmakers will find a way to say what they want,” he said. “The excuse that local filmmakers gave doesn’t hold. Imagination is limitless.”
Singaporean director Boo, who made waves recently after his film Apprentice was screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, said that things are getting exciting in his country’s film industry.
“There are many young filmmakers honing their craft by making short films, and they are currently shooting or developing their feature films,” Boo said. “I think for a long time, a lot of projects went into production prematurely. Now with more recognition towards the development phase of [filmmaking], hopefully the quality will be better.”
Thai director Pen-Ek, concurred: “Ten to 15 years ago in Thailand, it was either producing big commercial films for entertainment, or it was just [about] making more personal films. I think with the technology now, you have more filmmakers who can switch between the two. I think the industry has become stronger due to this.”
Speaking about the challenges faced by Filipino filmmakers, Diaz said: “I work in small setups and on small projects. The challenge is always on how to finish the projects, and for me, to create good movies.”
Garin said that times are interesting in the Indonesian film industry as other than commercial cinema, more and more filmmakers have been making “personal” (art house) films over the past few years.
Riri added that films are a source of national pride in Indonesia. “In the last five years, we had trouble finding a large audience for even the big films. At the same time, the number of productions have not decreased.”
(from left) Hassan, Kamil, Teng, Khoo, Boo, Riri, Diaz, Garin, and Pen-Ek at the launch of the third instalment of SEA Director Focus, which includes screening of films like (top, from left) Monrak Transistor; The Blindfold; 12 Storeys.