On Cinema



For Benjamin

We met in 2004 at the Southeast Asian Cinema Conference. With Alexis et al. We met almost every year since. We should have met again in Ho Chi Minh this month. We did not. I was bogged down with work. You too. And now,  we will meet again, at a better place.

There are many things I will remember you by:

You, thanking Gaik for organising the first conference that brings scholars and practitioners of Southeast Asian Cinema together.

You, delivering your paper on the complexity of  archiving when I invited you to Singapore in 2005 for the Forum on Asian Cinema, AFA’s first public event that launched the organisation.

You, taking the lead to bring everyone to Kuala Lumpur in 2006. As usual, not everything went as planned but it was fabulous already. You delivered the best closing address, thanking everyone, the guests who came, every student who helped. Everyone. Except yourself.

You, coming to Singapore again for the Symposium on Southeast Asian Digital Cinema in 2007, joining Khavn, Mui, Mirabelle on the panel about film communities. You also helped to judge the student competition and again, helped to give the closing address to the symposium.

You, remembering Yasmin in your love letter for her.

You, sharing the same birthday as me but of course you live a much more charming life than I do, first as an actor, and later an inspiring teacher and writer.

Thank you for always thanking us and making us feel appreciated.

I was looking forward to Independent Cinemas in Contemporary Southeast Asia that you co-edited with May. I was looking forward to your essay too.


For he who leaps into the void owes no explanation to those who watch

The day before filming À Bout de souffle, Godard sat down to write his producer a letter:

Dear George de Beauregard,

It’s Monday, almost daybreak. The poker game is about to begin. I hope that it will bring a bit of money. […] I would like to thank you again for your confidence in me. I apologize in advance if by chance I am in a bad temper in the coming month. I hope that our film will be of a beautiful simplicity or of a simple beauty. I am very afraid. I am very nervous. Everything is fine. I am writing to you as I would to my parents, and I pass on to you as the first bet for the game that’s about to begin a motto of Guillaume Apollinaire: Tout terriblement.

J.-L. G.

When people ask me why we are preserving these Singapore films, I will explain how moving images are usually on fragile mediums (film, tapes, data) that require special care so it can last; how we take for granted that some things are here forever, but they disintegrate and decay. Like us. Like life. Every minute, it dies a little.

At a conference that I spoke recently, I realised they might have meant something else but were too kind to put an idealistic young man down. They meant to ask so what if they rot?

The Friday Girls were only together for one year in 1967. They cut a couple of records, appeared on television, and also performed at the National Theatre, accompanied by The Boys.

We will go to the sea

Chaisiri Jiwarangsan, lover, student, photographer and artist to Apichatpong, wrote on his facebook:

Joe decided to leave for Cannes at the very last minute. He asked me if he should go or not, with concerns about his family and his lover. I said, “Please GO FOR US”.

He got a new passport with help from the Ministry. The Italian embassy was the last place left opened in Bangkok to request the EU visa, just two hours before an infinite closing.

On the way to the airport hotel, Bangkok was burning. Dark smoke covered the sky, with sound of gunfire. Both the city and people were dying.

The silent night of curfew passed so slowly. We talked about shooting sets, about people we met and about ourselves; the future mixed with the past.

At the airport, Joe was going to Cannes while I came back to the North. I said, “Don’t come back if it is too dangerous here. He said “No, we will go to the sea”.

Joe never lied, but to say the truth, someone could kill him here.

We believe in art, film, poetry and freedom. Worth dying for.

An Ideal Distribution

(Godard when asked what’s his ideal mode of distribution)

“I really would have liked to have a boy and a girl be involved, a couple who had the urge to show things, who were kind of involved with the cinema, the sort of young people you might meet at small festivals. They’d be given a copy of the film on DVD, then be asked to train as skydivers. After that, places would be randomly chosen on a map of France, and they’d parachute down into those locations. They’d have to show the film wherever they landed. In a café, at a hotel… they’d manage. People would pay 3 or 4 euros to get in — no more than that. They might film this adventure, and sell it later on. Thanks to them, you get a sense of what it means to distribute a film. Afterwards, only you can make the decision, to find out whether or not it’s able to be projected in regular theaters. But not before having investigated everything for a year or two. Because beforehand, you’re just like me: you don’t know what the film is, you don’t know what might be interesting about it. You’ve gone a little outside the whole media space.”


Are you one of those young people, the kind one meets in festivals, willing to parachute down with dvds to organise screenings?