From a new film festival in Kuala Lumpur to Myanmar movies on General Aung San
Aung San's biopics
Aung San Suu Kyi has already been the subject of a movie based on her life, and now it's her father's turn.
The Myanmar Times reported that a new film called Kaye Sin Maw Kon (A Record Star), by director Pangyi Soe Moe, is undergoing post-production in Myanmar. The film tells the post-World War II story of the Burmese army and its fight to end British rule in the late 1940s, and naturally, the principle character is General Aung San, the inspirational fighter who led the struggle.
It sounds like a big film with a strong nationalistic theme and government approval.
Pangyi, however, told The Myanmar Times that his plan to recreate many epic scenes, including Aung San's final speech at Yangon City Hall where 10,000 people gathered, had to be scrapped due to budget constraints. Actor Pyae Phyo Aung will play Aung San.
There is also a second biopic of Gen Aung San planned. Currently in its early stages, the project has been conceived by Zaganar, the well-known actor, activist and ex-political prisoner who recently visited Thailand.
Zaganar told The Myanmar Times last month that he had started casting actors to play the general and his wife.
In Luc Besson's 2011 film about Aung San Suu Kyi, entitled The Lady, Gen Aung San's assassination is portrayed briefly at the beginning before the story shifts into his daughter's life.
With the two films in the pipeline, hopefully we'll get to see more of the life of the man known as the Father of Modern Myanmar. As the country slowly unlocks its own doors, we can hope that its moribund film-making activity will be reawakened and more Myanmar stories, kept hidden for so long, will be told and shared with the world. We'll keep you posted.
Kuala Lumpur steps up
Two weeks ago on the beach of Cannes, Malaysia's National Film Development Corp (or Finas) announced a new film festival in Kuala Lumpur scheduled for November 10 to 18.
Malaysia, a largely Islamic country with rigid censorship laws, is not known as a nexus of the movie industry, and Kuala Lumpur isn't on the calendar for film festival-goers.
"That will change," said Finas director-general Mohd Naguib Razak. Thailand should take heed, and maybe tremble.
Malaysia is determined to pull this one off with a bang. For a start, Finas has entrusted the right people to oversee the preparation of the festival (of which the official name is yet to be decided) that will put a focus on Southeast Asian cinema alongside a showcase of films from around the world.
The festival is co-chaired by Mr Naguib Razak and Lorna Tee, a well-known Malaysian producer.
The artistic director of the festival is Dennis Lim, a Malaysian-born, US-based film critic and lecturer who frequently writes for the The New York Times and teaches at New York University.
These names have already instilled confidence in the festival, although the organisers have state censorship to contend with as the list of "sensitive subjects" considered by the Malaysian censors is famously long, and includes topics from politics to homosexuality.
Finas, however, has vowed to work closely with the censors in order to plant a creative flag and make Kuala Lumpur a significant player in Southeast Asian film scene.
This means Thailand will soon be left behind. The government is still reeling after the bribery scandal surrounding the Bangkok International Film Festival, and no agencies wish to bankroll the city's namesake festival again. The only reliable event is the World Film Festival of Bangkok, a smaller, modest affair that takes place in November.
Thai movie fans may have to book a flight to Kuala Lumpur.
Indonesia's rebel archbishop
The big news from Indonesia last year was the release of the action film The Raid, a bone-cracking martial arts sensation that made huge money at home and got distribution in the United States _ a rare feat for a small film from this part of the world.
This year, one of the most eagerly-awaited Indonesian films is by Garin Nugroho, a respected figure in the Southeast Asian film-making scene. It's called Soejiga, and is the story of the first Indonesian Catholic archbishop during the Dutch occupation. The film will be released in Indonesia this week.
Nugroho is probably best known to international audiences on the festival circuit _ his films, sadly, have never been released in Thailand. He started making movies in the 1990s, and during the Suharto regime he faced the threat of censorship when he touched on several social issues. His 1998 film, Leaf On A Pillow, which looks at contemporary Indonesian society with an honest eye, was screened at Cannes. Nugroho also makes documentary films, including one about the devastating aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that hit his country.
According to sources in Jakarta, Nugroho's new film presents a rare perspective _ during Dutch rule, anti-colonial struggle came largely from the Muslim leaders, but in Soejiga, we'll see the story of a Roman Catholic priest who rose against Western rulers. In a country where religious issues can easily trigger tension, the film has been criticised by Islamic hard-liners even though it has not yet been released. The charge is that Soejiga represents a move to convert a Muslim country to Christianity. We'll see how the debate develops once the film is released.
By Kong Rithdee
06 June 2012
Luc Besson’s 2011 film The Lady.