Saturday, November 7, 2009

WFFBKK '09: The Southeast Asian selection

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore are represented at the 7th World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Among the highlights is Malaysian-Canadian director Chris Chong's Karaoke, which premiered earlier this year in the Director's Fortnight at Cannes, which was shot on a Malaysian palm plantation Tropical Malady lensman Jarin Pengpanitch and cut in Bangkok by Lee Chatametikool. Hmm, maybe that's why people are saying it's so much like Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films. It also has one of my favorite actresses, Mislina Mustapha. The 35mm print DVD or digiwhatever is playing at 9 tonight and 11am on Tuesday.

Another 35mm feature is the nationalistic-sounding The Red and The White from Indonesia. By director Yadi Sugandi, it's a war drama about Indonesia's struggle for independence, and focuses on a group of cadets who bond under atrocities and become guerilla fighters for the rebellion. It's showing at 1 tomorrow and on Friday at 9.45pm.

Also from Indonesia is Garuda in My Heart, a childhood drama by director Ifa Isfansyah about a kid who has a dream to become a great soccer player but he has to find a way to overcome the disapproval of his grandfather. That's Wednesday at 8.15pm and November 15 at 11am.

From Singapore is the feature White Days by director Lei Yuan Bin, which involves three characters dealing with personal crises and "through a series of mordantly funny conversations, these young people gradually realize that what faces them is not the futility of life, but rather the transience and impermanence of it." Gosh, what is it about Singaporean films that are so existential? That's at 6 tomorrow night and at 11am on Tuesday.

Or how about this for existentialism? What if Singapore suddenly had no water? That's the question posed in Sherman Ong's 184-minute experimental fantasy documentary Flooding in the Time of Drought, screening at 3.30 on Wednesday and 1.30 next Sunday (November 15).

Another Malaysian feature is This Longing by Azharr Rudin and produced by Amir Muhammad, about a boy and his father "who both unknowingly cope with the sudden absence of a key female figure in their life. In a probable separate story, a boyish young woman returns to photograph the backdrop of her past." It's set in the border town of Johor Bahru. The literal meaning of the Malay title Punggok Rindukan Bulan is a Malay saying, "the owl misses the moon" a reflection of unrequited (and unconsummated) longing.

And there is Rememberance by Filipino director Seymour Barros Sanchez, "the story of three people who seem to have lost their lives until a fateful encounter in the southern Philippines." Thursday at 6 and next Saturday at 11am.

There are several documentaries.

Diamonds, featuring women from the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia, is about HIV victims from different backgrounds who champion for the rights of women HIV sufferers. Today at 3.30 it's paired with Green Rocking Chair from the Philippines, about Roxlee's search for Baybayin (Alibata), the written language of the Philippines before it was Romanized by Spanish colonisers. Green Rocking Chair shows again on Wednesday at 1.15 with Ahmad's Garden from Australia.

Another doc is At Stake, a hard-hitter from Indonesia about the rights of women and covering such hot-button issues in that Islamic nation as genital mutilation and what do unmarried women do if they need to visit the gynacologist. That's one of the first shows at 11 today, and again at 1.15 on Monday.

Also from Indonesia is Cin(T)a (God is a Director), about couples from different religious backgrounds. That's showing at 9 next Saturday night and 1.30 next Sunday.

And there are shorts, which are showing in the Short Wave and Guts Nouveau programs: Escape to Nothingness (Philippines/South Korea) by Richard Legaspi; Click In Fear (Burma/Thailand) by Saikyaw Khaing, about a Karen photojournalist who took photo of a peaceful demonstration by monks in Rangoon in September 2007; Kitchen Sink (Philippines) by Seymour Barroz Sanchez and Ginalyn Dulla; Until the Morning Comes by Lucky Kuswandy and Moonaya; Nekro (Philippines) by CJ Andluz; Kissing Faces (Singapore) by Wesley Leon Aroozoo and Block B (Malaysia) by Chris Chong Chan Fui.

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