one week on ::
Blogpost by Juliana Montgomery :: 2010-2011 Henry Luce Scholar | Singapore. Juliana is participating in a 10-month fellowship hosted by the Asian Film Archive.
Singapore was recently graced with a visit from Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. What a gorgeous human being he is. He came 15th-17th January to support fundraising efforts for the Asian Film Archive. The visit included a Charity Screening of Apichatpong’s 2010 Palme d’Or, Festival de Cannes winning film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and a post-screening discussion. Events rounded out with a New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia and Nanyang Technological University Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information co-sponsored Masterclass. During the Masterclass, Apichatpong shared excerpts from some of his films and installations as well as offered insights into his methodology and sources of creative inspiration.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a magically mystical poetic film that moves between the past, present, physical and metaphysical realms. The man known to the audience as Uncle Boonmee, faces his impending death brought on by acute kidney failure. In the process, Uncle Boonmee experiences memories and individuals from his past that hearken the transience of space and time in physical and non-physical spheres.
Apichatpong notes that this film honours the land. Its northeast Thailand setting, in this world at least, is at once the landscape central to Uncle Boonmee’s life and passage, and to Apichatpong’s youth. It is unsurprising that the film effectively spellbinds the audience because Apichatpong himself is similarly entrancing.
With Apichatpong’s help, and thanks to a great many who also made this effort possible, the Archive raised nearly SGD$18,000! This fundraising effort is aimed at supporting the Archive’s overall work and vision rather than a specific project. Accordingly, the post-expenses Charity Screening and Masterclass funds raised will go towards operational costs for the Archive's outreach programmes and preservation work.
In an article published soon after the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Apichatpong commented, “When you make a film about recollection and death, you realise that cinema is also facing death. Uncle Boonmee is one of the last pictures shot on film - now everybody shoots digital. It's my own little lamentation…” The representation of the extinction of a medium through Apichatpong’s Uncle Boonmee in some ways echoes the necessity for non-profits like the Asian Film Archive to continue to secure operational funds. As the Archive strives to share the art of Asian Cinema and to keep moving images alive, all within the thrust of the digital era, the relevance of this organization could not be timelier or more pertinent.
One week on, Apichatpong’s energy continues to resonate for us here at the Archive. It’s almost as though he’s still in town. Considering the film Uncle Boonmee is part autobiographical for Apichatpong, one might indeed still consider him to be here in Singapore, sharing his gifts with us.
<> <> <>Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives opens exclusively at The Picturehouse on 27 January 2011.
CHARITY SCREENING: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
MASTERCLASS: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Bitesize: Understanding Singapore Cinema
Blogpost by our intern, Kevin Goh.
On the 19th of June, Bee Thiam gave a talk on Understanding Singapore Cinema at the Esplanade under the banner of Bitesize,a year-long programme conducted by industry professionals to showcase different facet of the arts every month.
Bee Thiam spoke about Singapore’s film heritage chronologically from the early 20th century to the films of today,more than a hundred years later. His talk showcased the diversity of Singapore’s cinematic richness, from the cult classic They Call Her...Cleopatra Wong, to the comedic Malay films that had audience in stitches with their timeless brand of humor and camp, to the award-winning 12 Storeys and the documentary Match Made which made audiences introspect on current societal conditions.
After the talk, Bee Thiam held an impromptu session with members of the audience interested to speak with him. The crowd, ranging from a retired journalist to a fresh tertiary student, stayed long after the end of the talk to share their views of the current state of the local film industry.
For me, it was an eye opener that the local film heritage had such connections with big names such as Patrick Tse Yin during our golden film era. The partnerships with Malaya and Hong Kong to tap into the region were a pioneering example that the local filmmakers today are trying to emulate. I enjoyed the talk very much and learnt from both coordinating the event and the taking away of some precious anecdotes of film from days gone by.
"Singapore clearly played a pivotal role in the development of Asian cinema -- and Bee Thiam's thoughtful lecture provided a historical overview of filmmaking in this region. It is not merely a chronology, but places the changing tides of the industry within the context of the political and social history of the country. As with the Archive's premiere of the restored print of "Moon over Malaya" earlier this year and the accompanying curated exhibit, this talk was enlightening and reveals a long tradition of Singaporean cinema. I'm happy the Asian Film Archive exists to preserve that rich tradition for future generations. Bravo to Bee Thiam and his colleagues!"- Amos Ezra Katz, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Asia
Bee Thiam on films that have been lost and are unlikely to be recovered.
A lighthearted moment during the screening of clips.
Bitesize photos courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd.
Use of stills and film clips courtesy of Doris Young (They Call Her...Cleopatra Wong), Family of Ho Kian-ngiap (Moon Over Malaya), Glen Goei (Forever Fever, The Blue Mansion), J Team Productions (Money No Enough), Jacen Tan and hosaywood.com (Zo Hee), James Leong and Lynn Lee (Passabe), Lian Pek (Mad About English), Mirabelle Ang (Match Made), Raintree Pictures (I Not Stupid), Rajendra Gour (Labour of Love - The Housewife), Shaw Organisation (Seniman Bujang Lapok), Zhao Wei Films (12 Storeys, Be With Me).
"Me and My Friend Enjoy A Movie" @ Golden Village, Great World City
In conjunction with the events organised by MARUAH (Singapore Working Committee for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism) for observance of the 2009 International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3rd December, the Asian Film Archive curated a series of Southeast Asian short films for the Me And My Friend film screening at GV Grand on 14th of Dcember. The films screened were Français by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Lata At Tsinelas (Can & Slippers) by Khavn de la Cruz and Peter by Singaporean filmmakers Derrick Lui and Lee Chee Tian. It is hoped that these films will help to promote an understanding of disability issues and facilitate the integration of persons with disabilities within communities.
Clara Feng, co-chair of the Me and My Friend committee gave the opening address. I then gave a brief introduction to the films. More than a hundred people attended the screening and everyone stayed behind for the post-screening discussion that was moderated by Mr. Ravi Philemon. During the engaging discussion, many felt the films had addressed the adversities people with disabilities come up against, and many also spoke strongly on the advocation for the need to improve the benefits and rights to the disabled. A number of people in the audience expressed their admiration for Peter Loh from Peter, who graced the event and spoke on how his positive outlook towards life helped him pull through.
It is very heartening to see that the film screening has served its purpose for many in the audience, and that those who brought their friends along, were able to enjoy the films together.
(Photos courtesy of Lee Sze Yong)
In Conversation With Filmmakers on 22 Oct 2009
In commemoration of the UNESCO World Day For Audiovisual Heritage, the Asian Film Archive organized an In Conversation With Filmmakers session, on the 22nd October 2009. The purpose of this event is for the Archive to give filmmakers and film producers alike an informational talk on the issues of film preservation. It was attended by more than 35 people, including filmmakers like Jason Lai, Chai Yee Wei, Sherman Ong and Michael Wang.
The session began with Bee Thiam presenting the 2008 annual report on the Asian Film Archive, which can be downloaded here. Karen followed by sharing on different ways that film and video mediums deteriorate over time and how they should maintain and take good care of their films. There was a lively QnA session where Karen and Bee Thiam answered questions ranging from the technicality of preservation work, acquisition guidelines, clearance of rights and plans on restoration work. They also sought feedback on how the Archive can improve our work, as well as how the Archive can better support the community.From the feedback we received, most of the filmmakers appreciated the talk as they were not acutely aware of these preservation issues. After the talk, some of the filmmakers came up to us in appreciation of the service we've been providing and also to seek advice on how best to archive their works. We are glad filmmakers also take home the message that archiving their works should start early. We are most comforted that some filmmakers have stepped up to volunteer for the archive.
In a timely manner to raise awareness on the importance of film preservation, the Archive also launched an online campaign at the event. We presented two film clips (link) that I have prepared in conjunction with the UNESCO World Day For Audiovisual Heritage. At the event, we have distributed an updated brochure featuring Marrie Lee from They Call Her Cleopatra Wong. You can help us spread this message to other filmmakers!
- Nicole Midori Woodford, Filmmaker
"More filmmakers should be aware of this" (On examples presented of films being lost and destroyed)
- Lim Tingli, Film Producer and Audio Engineer
[A] very informative [session on] why it is important to preserve our films"
- Ken Ochiai, Postgraduate Student in Southeast Asian Cinemas, NUS
(Photos courtesy of Looi Wan Ping)
This event is supported by The Arts House.
Assembly Talks in August
During the month of August, Bee Thiam and I went to Temasek Junior College and Tanglin Secondary School on separate occasions to conduct the assembly talks on the history of Singapore Cinema. As it was the first time that I attended this talk, it was refreshing to know that students today are able to attain such focused knowledge outside of their curriculum, which was something I lacked when I was their age.
Despite the constraints in the duration of these assemblies, the main topics were covered, from the Golden Era of the Singaporean Malay Cinema to the 1970’s Bruce-Lee inspired cult films, and to the revival of the 1990’s by the films of Eric Khoo, Jack Neo and Glen Goei. A student from TJC initially guessed “45” was the grand total number of Singaporean films ever made before Bee Thiam introduced the Cathay-Keris, Shaw, and Kong Ngee film studios that flourished in the 1950’s. The students, including the teachers seemed more interested in the contemporary Singapore Cinema that include films such as Jack Neo’s Money No Enough and Eric Khoo’s 12 Storeys which spoke a different voice and identity compared to their predecessors, and which probably managed to struck a cord in their hearts.
While the lower secondary students from Tanglin Secondary seemed a little restless throughout the session, the upper secondary students were amused by the film clips that were shown. I for one, was rather intrigued to find out more about how Jack Neo may be inspired by P.Ramlee’s Bujang Lapok series.
It is always pleasant for me to sit and listen through of how cinema transcends over time and hopefully that opening snippet from Forever Fever that featured a pre “Deal or No Deal” Adrian Pang may have enticed some of these students to seek out these local films that may have already been forgotten.
(Photos courtesy of Looi Wan Ping)
Screening of Rainbow Troops (2008) on 27 Aug 2009
Based on a novel by Indonesian writer Andrea Hirata, the film tells the story of ten village children's life changing experiences after meeting two dedicated teachers, Miss Muslimah and Mr Harfan. The teachers and students faced threats of the school's closure, but persevered with their enthusiasm for education and knowledge. The heart-warming story unfolds on Belitong – what was once Indonesia's richest island – and is equal parts comedy and political critique.
Despite it being the best selling film in Indonesia's box office history, it is little heard of outside the international film festival circuit. We're glad that the audience members enjoyed the film. Some of them actually came to us to thank us for selecting this film for the screening!
Bitesize: Appreciating Film 101 (06 June 2009)
On 06 June 2009, the Archive was invited by Esplanade to give a presentation as part of Bitesize, a series of monthly talks and workshops conducted by prominent names in the arts industry. Our intern Pei Yee was there with Bee Thiam and she blogged about the session:
The Archive’s talk titled “Appreciating Film 101” took place in the Bay Room and was presented by Bee Thiam to an attentive and interested audience. With a focus on the appreciation of Asian film, Bee Thiam presented an overview of various Asian cinemas, namely China, Japan and India.
Tracing the historical development of each region, he interspersed his presentation with several film clips and analyzed the way a story was told in each clip. In doing so, it was highlighted to the audience how the subject matter and film technique of the various films have changed and developed over time to reflect different social concerns and conditions. For instance, the gritty look and the camera's matter-of-fact gaze in Zhang Yimou’s Old Well (1986) and Story of Qiu Ju (1992) which have storylines that take place during the Cultural Revolution was in sharp contrast to the Asian box office hit Crazy Stone (2006) that features snappy editing and the quirks of a contemporary and globalized Chinese society.
Following that, the audience was given a very brief history of the Japan film industry – one of the oldest film industries in the world – and was treated to a taste of the country’s cinema with Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1955). Giving a lesser known view of Indian cinema to contemporary moviegoers, Bee Thiam introduced the audience to important Indian directors which included Raj Kapoor (who often paid tribute to Charlie Chaplin in his films) and Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray and his award-winning debut film Pather Panchali (1955).
In all, Bitesize was a comprehensive two-hour overview of Asian cinema that gave the audience a good general understanding of the region’s culture, history as well as its film industry.
Here’s to hoping the talk sparked the beginnings of an interest in Asian films for some in the audience!
Bitesize photos courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd.