Sunday, March 30, 2014

Salaya Doc 2014: Awards for Singapore, Red Wedding and Behind the Screen

 Cambodian director Lida Chan accepts the special mention award for Red Wedding.

Myanmar's rich cinema history blended with family heartbreak in Behind the Screen, which was named the winner of the Asean Documentary Competition at the fourth Salaya International Documentary Film Festival, which held its closing ceremonies on Saturday at the Thai Film Archive.

Special mentions were To Singapore, with Love and Cambodia's Red Wedding.

Directed by Aung Nwai Htway, the tear-jerking Behind the Screen, looked at the broken marriage of the director's parents, two of Myanmar's popular film stars of the 1960s, Burmese Academy Award-winning actress Kyi Kyi Htway and actor Aung Thein. Beautiful, vibrant clips from the actor couple's old films gave voice to the sad reality that off camera, the marriage wasn't working out. As a boy growing up in a broken home, it broke the director's heart.

"It shows how fiction can find the way to the truth," said jury member Iv Charbonneu-Ching, director of the documentary Cambodia, After Farewell. Other jury members were Final Score director Soraya Nakasuwan and Indonesian producer Meiske Taurisia (Postcards from the Zoo, Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly).

The special mention winners also had a strong sense of history, underscored by archival film footage and family photos.

Tan Pin Pin's To Singapore, with Love featured interviews with political exiles from Singapore, among them communist freedom fighters who took up residence in southern Thailand and ardent activists from the 1970s and '80s, feeling homesick and out of place in London.

Red Wedding brought forth a legacy of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge era, during which some 250,000 women were forcibly married. Rice farmer Sochan was one of them, and with an international tribunal established in Phnom Penh, she decided to break her 30-year silence and come forward. Courageously, she sets about to find out which of her neighbors ordered her "marriage" to a stranger, another Khmer Rouge cadre, who then raped her. Featuring famous archival footage of Khmer Rouge Brother No. 1 Pol Pot and a horizon full of black-clad laborers building his agrarian utopia, the film is produced by Rithy Panh and dovetailed nicely with another Salaya Doc entry, Panh's own The Missing Picture.

Lida Chan, who co-directed Red Wedding with Guillaume Suon, was the only filmmaker present to receive an award. She dedicated it to the brave farmer-turned-sleuth Sochan.

Other competition entries were two Thai short docs, the sweet ode to motherhood Homemade by Sivaroj Kongsakul and Wichanon Sumumjarn's profile of a product-presenting model in Pretty Woman Walking Down the Street. Romance was in the picture with Jazz In Love by the Philippines' Baby Ruth Villarama and the painful Vietnam War memories surged forth in the poignant Mrs. Bua's Carpet by Duong Mong Thu.

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