Southeast Asian Films (feature) @ Rotterdam

What I look forward to in Rotterdam 2010: Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, Pedro Costa’s Ne change rien, Benning’s Ruhr, Claire Denis’ White Material, Coppola’s Tetro, Kore-Eda’s Air Doll, Tsai Ming-liang’s Visage. I can’t wait to see the African programme that Gertjan spent months of travelling in the continent itself to put together. Above all, I can’t tell you how excited I am by the many Southeast Asian films screening there. And these are only the feature films.

15 Malaysia (Various directors, Malaysia)
Project of fifteen short films, made by the new generation of Malaysian film makers. In a couple of minutes, they posit their vision of today’s Malaysia. Among them is Yasmin Ahmad, who died suddenly in 2009, and who in her film comments on racial segregation.

Adrift (Bui Thac Chuyen, Vietnam/France)
In the big city chaos of Hanoi, two newlyweds have to come to terms with life before they can be together. Atmospherically filmed reconnaissance of the shadow world of lust and loneliness, passion and pain.

Ante (Alix Jr., Adolfo B., Phillipines)
Raw and intense drama about the Filipino family Domingo, each of the members of which try to survive in their own clumsy way and wrestle with dilemmas in an immoral society.

At the End of Daybreak (Yuhang Ho, Malaysia)
TV news report about two murdered girls form the source of inspiration for this crime drama by Ho Yuhang, who has previously been to Rotterdam with Sanctuary (Tiger Award candidate) and Rain Dogs. A modern Malaysian film noir about the illegal relationship between a 23-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl.

Aurora (Alix Jr., Adolfo B., Phillipines)
In the heart of the jungle, the social worker Aurora is kidnapped by a group of Moslem rebels. Her name means ‘first light of day’, but it remains the question whether she’ll ever see it again. The productive Filipino Adolfo B. Alix Jr tackles a political subject for the first time.

Cameroon Love Letter (For Solo Piano) (Khavn de la Cruz, Philippines)
Musical and experimental film maker Khavn noticed that Filipino film makers are highly regarded in Cameroon – thanks to a popular Filipino soap series. He was grateful to exploit this as he made his portrait of this country. And he also wrote some real ‘soap’ into his story.

Engkwentro (Pepe Diokno, Phillipines)
Story of two brothers who fight in a Filipino slum against ubiquitous gangs and government supported death squads, which summarily execute dozens of teenagers every year. Raw and realistic first film.

Flooding in the Time of Drought (Sherman Ong, Singapore, Malaysia)
A full-length feature with many documentary elements follows eight immigrant couples in Singapore who play scenes from their lives, often shot in their small dwellings. These immigrants are the basis of Singapore’s success, but get the hardest knocks when things go wrong.

Independencia (Raya Martin, Philippines)
Clever and ingenious film that imitates the style of early Filipino cinema: shot in the studio with painted sets as background, in black-and-white and beautifully melodramatic. Ideally suited to tell the story of the American occupation of the Philippines in the early twentieth century.

Malaysian Gods (Amir Muhammad, Malaysia)
Ten years ago, after the dismissal and the arrest of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the first protest movement emerged in Malaysia. Amid Muhammad visits the locations where people demonstrated and investigates what has changed since. Cannot be screened in Malaysian cinemas.

Manila Skies (Raymond Red, Phillipines)
Based on a true story: a Filipino hijacks an aircraft and then jumps out with a home-made parachute. What drives someone to something so absurd? Realistic portrait, filmed with the very sharp Red One system, in reaction to the grainy, hand-held style of Filipino independent cinema.

Memories of a Burning Tree (Sherman Ong, Singapore Malaysia, Tanzania)
A film maker who makes friends quickly settles in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Because he can’t afford to pay any actors, he teaches his new friends to act. Because he hasn’t written the screenplay, he asks his new actors for stories. Because he can film, the result looks great.

Mundane History by Anocha Suwichakornpong (Thailand, 2009)
Scriptwriter and director Anocha Suwichakornpong’s short film Graceland (2006) became the first Thai short film to be included in the Official Selection at Cannes Film Festival. Her feature film début Mundane History is a family drama about a paralyzed son, an elusive father and the male nurse hired to take care of the wheelchair-bound patient. Suwichakornpong’s second feature project By the Time It Gets Dark is selected for CineMart 2010.

My Daughter by Charlotte Lay Kuen Lim (Malaysia, 2009)
Charlotte Lay Kuen Lim worked for numerous TV commercials after completing her studies in broadcasting and was an assistant director for various films. She directed several short films, such as Escape (2008), screened at IFFR 2009. Her feature film début My Daughter is an intimate study of the mutual dependence between a slovenly hairdresser and her insecure teenage daughter.

Nymph (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand)
Hallucinating film by the Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang (6ixtynin9, Last Life in the Universe) that is largely set in a forest inhabited by female ghosts. The story is about a marriage that has cooled and then is shaken up when the man disappears into the forest for a brief period.

Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song (John Torres, Philippines)
John Torres films fragments and diaries. He set off and looked at his own country, the land outside the city, like an alien. He posed questions to himself about grand themes such as inequality and colonialism, but kept it personal. Read along with his diary.

Reincarnate (Thunska Pansittivorakul, Thailand)
In separate sketches, Thunska Pansittivorakul shows the homosexual love between a teacher and pupil more explicitly than ever. Several cryptic scenes refer to the oppressive Thai political situation. A clear reaction to the new law that subjected his previous film, This Area Is Under Quarantine (2009), to censorship.

Stone is the Earth (Mes de Guzman, Philippines)
Topical issue wrapped in a small family story: on the day when Vergel returns from the mines, the calm life of his little brothers and his sister is disrupted. When gold is then found on their agricultural land, his caring slowly changes to greed.

Woman on Fire Looks for Water (Woman on Fire Looks for Water, Malaysia)
Father and son wrestle with love in a small Malaysian fishing village. While father looks up an old lover he should have married years ago, his son faces a dilemma. Will he choose the girl he’s in love with, or the daughter of his boss?

* Synopses above from the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

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