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Luang Prabang Film Festival 2017: REDHA wins Audience Choice Award

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The Luang Prabang Film Festival (LPFF) concluded its eighth annual event last week in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang, Laos, with the Audience Choice Award going to the Malaysian film, Redha.

The Audience Choice Award was decided by a 5-star online rating system, for which viewers could submit their rating of a film following its screening. This year’s winner, Redha, follows the story of Alina and Razlan, who discover that their only son is autistic and must confront the harsh realities of raising a child disabled by a condition they hardly know about. The film was directed by Tunku Mona Riza, who attended the festival for her screening and participated in a Q&A with the audience as well as a public discussion on Muslim Voices in Southeast Asia.

The festival, which has the mission of celebrating Southeast Asian cinema, ran from Friday, 8 December to Wednesday, 13 December. In addition to screening 32 feature films and four programs of short films, LPFF put on four public discussions and several performances.

Official selections are made by experts and critics from across Southeast Asia referred to as “Motion Picture Ambassadors,” and represent a carefully chosen collection of what they believe to be the finest contemporary films from their respective countries. By identifying great curators with inside understanding of their community’s film scene, LPFF is able to produce a unique program that ensures in the inclusion of the strongest voices from across Southeast Asia.

Not only is LPFF a celebration of the finest Southeast Asian cinema, it has become well known as a unique forum for regional film professionals to network internationally and to exchange diverse ideas and experiences. In LPFF’s commitment to accessibility, all screenings and activities of the festival were free and open to the public.

LPFF’s four programs of short films included: a selection from the 2017 Vientianale Short Film Competition that showcased budding talent in Laos; Thai shorts to complement the festival’s SPOTLIGHT country (see below); the top films from a Youth and Agroecology Short Film Competition held by LPFF and the Agroecology Learning alliance in Southeast Asia; and recent award winners on Viddsee, an online video platform featuring short films from across Asia.

There were also several major public discussions this year for visitors of the festival, including the aforementioned discussion on Muslim voices in Southeast Asia, featuring Harlif Mohamad and Nurain Peeraya, the Bruneian directors of Rina 2; Sheron Dayoc, the Filipino director of Women of the Weeping River; Tunku Mona Riza, the Malaysian director of Redha; and Kong Rithdee, LPFF’s Motion Picture Ambassador for Thailand and writer of The Island Funeral.

Rithdee also hosted this year’s SPOTLIGHT on Thailand, with a full day of programming devoted to screenings and discussion of the issues facing Thai filmmakers today. Delegates from the Royal Thai Embassy in Vientiane were in attendance and several Thai filmmakers participated, including Anocha Suwichakornpong (By the Time it Gets Dark), Sompot Chidgasornpongse (Railway Sleepers), Boonsong Nakphoo (Wandering), Laddawan Rattanadilokchai (The Couple), Sakchai Deenan (The upcoming Memories of New Years), and Sanchai Chotirosseranee (Thai Film Archive, representing Santi-Vina).
Also occurring during the festival was the second iteration of the LPFF Talent Lab for Southeast Asian filmmakers, led by the Tribeca Film Institute® (TFI), with 10 participating film projects from 6 ASEAN nations. The Lab, which focused on grant writing and project pitching and was extended to two days this year, included a pitching workshop led by Bryce Norbitz and Molly O’Keefe from TFI. Following the workshop was a pitch forum with feedback from a jury comprised of filmmaking professionals from around the world, including Jeremy Sim of Singapore-based media investment firm Aurora Media Holdings; Kenneth Lipper, the Oscar-winning American producer; Victor William of ROKKI, AirAsia’s in-flight entertainment provider; and Ho Hock Doong and Siti Helaliana Chumiran, both from the Malaysian distribution company, Astro.

After deliberation, the jury selected the Lao-Filipino collaboration Raising a Beast to attend the TFI Network market, which will take place in New York City at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival®. There, TFI will arrange meetings for the filmmakers with editors, distributors, and financiers. TFI will then mentor the Raising a Beast team through the completion of the project. Written and directed by Xaisongkham Induangchanty (Laos) and produced by Abigail Lazaro (Philippines), Raising a Beast tells the story of two Hmong siblings, Ying and Neng, who are blessed with beautiful voices and dream of moving to the city to become singers one day. When their father refuses to sell the family’s prized bull to help pay for Neng’s education in the city, Ying becomes a bull trainer to cover her brother’s expenses.

Another big winner at the Talent Lab was the Filipino project Cat Island, pitched by Siege Ledesma (director, writer) and Ang Alemberg (producer). Jeremy Sim and Aurora Media Holdings selected the project to receive its Aurora Producing Award of $10,000. Cat Island follows Catherine, who after dedicating almost two decades of her life to the care of her asthmatic, albeit feisty and cat-loving mother, finds herself alone and purposeless when her mother dies. On the eve of her 40th birthday, the ghost of Catherine’s mother returns to ask for Catherine’s help in completing her “unfinished business”: have her remains cremated and scattered over Cat Island, Japan. With a renewed sense of purpose, Catherine travels to Japan to complete her mission on the rural island.

A new addition to the festival’s program this year was a documentary production workshop organized by the US Mission to ASEAN and the American Film Showcase. Renowned Filipino-American filmmaker Ramona Diaz (Imelda, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey) and Patrick Shen (Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality, The Philosopher Kings) led a five-day workshop with 14 participants from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. At the end of the workshop, four short documentaries made in small groups by the participants throughout the week were presented following a screening of Diaz’s most recent film, Motherland.

LPFF offered five live evening performances on its main stage before headline screenings at its Night Venue, the Handicraft Market at the main intersection in town, including concerts from popular Lao singers Touly and Ola Black Eyes. These performances are an opportunity to nurture young talent, and offer a platform for these performers to showcase their talents to an international audience.

22 of this edition’s 32 feature films had directors, producers, writers, or actors in attendance, all of whom participated in Q&A sessions after the screenings of their films. Between screenings, filmmakers and other industry professionals mingled in the Beerlao Director’s Lounge on the top floor of Indigo House, where they could enjoy complimentary Beerlao Gold and take in the view of the Night Venue.

On display was an exhibition of photographs from Myanmar from the lauded Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project, accompanied by an exhibition walk-through by the initiative’s founder, Philip Jablon. As a reprise to his trip there over five years ago, Jablon spent February and March of last year researching and photographing movie theaters in Myanmar, a nation experiencing an overall rebirth of cinema-going.

Once again, the festival was proudly supported by its biggest sponsor, the Lao Brewery Company with three of their brands coming in at the Platinum Level: Beerlao, Pepsi, and Tigerhead.

Other generous supporters of the 2017 festival were the US Embassy Vientiane, the Asia Foundation, the Bennack-Polan Foundation, Chillax Productions, Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in Laos, Exo Travel, Sofitel Luang Prabang, the Nam Theun 2 Power Company, Princeton in Asia, the Royal Thai Embassy Vientiane, Indochina Productions, the Delegation of the European Union to Lao PDR, DK Lao, Theun-Hinboun Power Company, NP Service & Design, Final Draft, and the Asia-Europe Foundation.

For more information on the festival, visit lpfilmfest.org or stay up to date at facebook.com/lpfilmfest.

(reported by Gabriel Kuperman / Founder & Director of LPFF)

Luang Prabang Film Festival 2017 poster

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Tribal Music Asia – An online source for traditional music, ceremonies, and culture of the ethnic groups of Southeast Asia

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Created by American researcher, documentarian, and musician Victoria Vorreiter for over a decade, Tribal Music Asia is the home of the Resonance Project, a dynamic multi-media archive that aspires to record and preserve the traditional musical heritage of the indigenous peoples living in the mountains of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and China, who have depended for millennia on “the mother tongue method” to transmit their ancestral knowledge, history, and beliefs. Numbering over 130 groups and subgroups, most of these communities continue to live close to the earth, to practice animism, and to maintain a vital oral tradition. Culturally and sonically, this is one of the most extraordinary places on the planet.

Xob Lwm Vaj and Friends
Performing the Qeej at the New Year Festival
at Ban Tan, Phongsali Province, Laos
December 2005.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

By interweaving a variety of visual, aural, and tactile components, the Resonance Project spotlights these highlanders’ astonishingly rich soundscape—springing from a vast repository of songs, chants, invocations, and instrumental music—to demonstrate music’s vital role in charting human emotions, celebrating cycles of seasons, marking the arc of life, and animating ritual enactments. It is hoped that in giving voice to cultures that may seem remote, this project contributes to an awareness of our world that transcends borders.

The Resonance Project first produced the Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle multi-layered project (April 2009), consisting of the Songs of Memory Book, Compact Disc, and Multi-media Exhibition of photographs, films, musical instruments, artifacts, and textiles for a family (father, mother, son, and daughter) of the six major ethnic groups in the region: Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Mien, Hmong, and Karen.

“Songs of Memory”, front cover of the book.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

The Songs of Memory collections have been hosted in such prestigious venues as the East-West Center, Hawaii; the Jim Thompson Center, Bangkok; the University of Mandalay, Myanmar; the Golden Triangle Gallery, Chicago; the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center; and numerous international conferences at Chiang Mai University, Thailand.

In recent years, the Resonance Project has specifically delved into Hmong traditions, producing the Hmong Songs of Memory: Traditional Secular and Sacred Hmong Music archive, based on the Hmong Songs of Memory Book and Film (December 2016), which offers readers, viewers, and listeners an in-depth experience of Hmong music and its primal role in propelling their rites.

Cover of the “Hmong Songs of Memory” film.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter.

To bring the book and film alive, the Hmong Songs of Memory, Hmong Threads of Life Exhibition was launched, providing visitors with a variety of integrative components—photographs, film, a comprehensive collection of Hmong musical instruments, artifacts, detailed text panels, and full textiles of the four major Hmong subgroups in Laos and Thailand.

“Hmong Songs of Memory”, front cover of the book.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

The Tribal Music Asia website provides access to recordings of Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Mien, Hmong, and Karen music, various publications and reviews, photo galleries, and layouts of recent and previous exhibitions. It is possible to directly order books, CDs, note cards, and documentary films.

Lahu Shi Man and Grandson
Celebrating the Harvest Festival at
Wan Kong Pyak Tae, Keng Tung, Myanmar, 2005.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

An important book: “Cultural Property and Contested Ownership”

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We rarely present new books on this blog (simply because there are so many), but there is one recent publication not only art and museum curators, but also archivists and librarians should be aware of. The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property concerns not only “ancient” works of art or cultural heritage, but also material which could be of a rather recent date. The Convention is not only relevant in regard of collection or acquisition, but also when cultural heritage material is being displayed publicly or made available through digitisation, for example.

The book Cultural Property and Contested Ownership, edited by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Lyndel V. Prott (London & New York: Routledge, 2017) provides long awaited insights and experiences from an interdisciplinary point of view by professionals working with cultural heritage material.

The publisher’s description of the book says the following:

“Against the backdrop of international conventions and their implementation, Cultural Property and Contested Ownership explores how highly-valued cultural goods are traded and negotiated among diverging parties and their interests. Cultural artefacts, such as those kept and trafficked between art dealers, private collectors and museums, have become increasingly localized in a ‘Bermuda triangle’ of colonialism, looting and the black market, with their re-emergence resulting in disputes of ownership and claims for return. This interdisciplinary volume provides the first book-length investigation of the changing behaviours resulting from the effect of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The collection considers the impact of the Convention on the way antiquity dealers, museums and auction houses, as well as nation states and local communities, address issues of provenance, contested ownership, and the trafficking of cultural property. The book contains a range of contributions from anthropologists, lawyers, historians and archaeologists. Individual cases are examined from a bottom-up perspective and assessed from the viewpoint of international law in the Epilogue. Each section is contextualised by an introductory chapter from the editors.”

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is dedicated to the theme Plunder, trafficking and return, and includes contributions by Keiko Miura on Destruction and plunder of Cambodian cultural heritage and their consequences, Alper Tasdelen on Cambodia’s struggle to protect its movable cultural property and Thailand, and Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin who discusses Looted, trafficked, donated, and returned: the twisted tracks of Cambodian antiquities.

The second part deals with Profit, authenticity and ethics, and contains contributions by Mai Lin Tjoa-Bonatz on Struggles over historic shipwrecks in Indonesia: economic versus preservation interests, as well as by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Sophorn Kim on Faked biographies: The remake of antiquities and their sale on the art market.

Part three of the book looks at Negotiating conditions of return, and includes contributions by Barbara Plankensteiner on The Benin treasures: difficult legacy and contested heritage, by Anne Splettstößer on Pre-Columbian heritage in contestation: The implementation of the UNESCO 1970 convention on trial in Germany, and finally by Sarah Fründt who gives insights in Return logistics – repatriation business: Managing the return of ancestral remains to New Zealand.

In addition, there are an introduction by the editors and an epilogue. Each article is accompanied by a detailed list of references which are useful for further study of the entire topic.

Front cover of the book “Cultural Property and Contested Ownership” (ISBN 978-1-138-18883-9)

 

Symposium “Reframing the Archive: The Reuse of Film and Photographic Images in Postcolonial Southeast Asia”

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1 June 2017, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

This symposium will explore the ways in which colonial and postcolonial film and photographic archives have been rearticulated within a range of Southeast Asian political and aesthetic contexts. How have artists and filmmakers sought to subvert existing power relations through the use of colonial images? To what extent have archival materials and technologies allowed for an investigation into the emancipatory potential of the lens? How have these techniques been utilised by diasporic populations? Though preference will be given to submissions which focus on Southeast Asia, papers that draw comparisons with other postcolonial contexts are also welcome.

The symposium will be accompanied by screenings of two feature-length films by Cambodian filmmakers and a series of short films by emerging filmmakers from Southeast Asia. This programme, we believe, will provide a further opportunity to address the themes raised by the symposium.

The conference and screening programme are organised by Dr Joanna Wolfarth, Dr Fiona Allen, and Annie Jael Kwan independent curator, The Asia Projector.

To submit a paper, please send paper titles, abstracts of c. 500 words and a 2-page CV to reframingthearchive@gmail.com

The deadline for abstracts is 31st January 2017.

For more detailed information, please view the symposium homepage.

 

 

Panel on Southeast Asian Manuscripts Studies, ASEASUK Conference London 2016

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The next Association for Southeast Asian Studies in the United Kingdom (ASEASUK) Conference, to be held 16-18 September 2016, is being hosted at SOAS, University of London. This conference provides a major venue for the dissemination of research on South East Asia in various disciplines for academics both from the UK and abroad.

ASEASUK is now calling for papers to be presented in about 40 accepted panels. A listing with descriptions of the accepted panels and additional information about the conference can be found here.

We would like to draw your attention to panel 27a on “Southeast Asian Manuscripts Studies”, which I co-convene with Dr Mulaika Hijjas from SOAS London. The panel aims to provide a collegial and stimulating forum for researchers working on diverse aspects of manuscript studies. Topics may include the codicology of manuscripts, including research on illumination and illustration, bindings, inks and paints, calligraphy and palaeography; philological studies of texts in vernacular or sacral languages; and the overlap between manuscript studies and epigraphy, looking at inscriptions in wood, stone or metal. Historical, literary or cultural studies based on manuscript materials will also be welcome, as well as researches on the production and use of manuscripts in historical perspective. I would like to invite you to contribute to this panel if you are currently researching or working with Southeast Asian manuscripts.

The deadline for paper proposals is 15 April 2016. Please note that only one paper per person is permitted for this conference.

Conference registration opens on 1 April 2016 and early bird rates apply until 30 June. Online registration will close on 12 September. The full conference fee is payable from 1 July. All paper presenters must register in advance. Paper presenters who are not members of ASEASUK must additionally register for a one year membership of ASEASUK.

If you consider proposing a paper for the panel on “Southeast Asian Manuscripts Studies”, please contact me directly at jana.igunma AT bl.uk (for mainland Southeast Asian manuscripts) or Dr Mulaika Hijjas at mh86 AT soas.ac.uk (for maritime Southeast Asian manuscripts).

Elephant treatise, British Library Or.13652

Elephant treatise, British Library Or.13652

 

End of Empire – Online initiative by NIAS Press

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An online initiative with the title “End of Empire – 100 days in 1945 that changed Asia and the world” by NIAS press was launched recently to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Asia.

The initiative publishes day by day ‘real-time broadcasts’ of what happened in Asia at the end of World War II. The site combines daily events with commentary, photographs, maps, personal accounts and other material plus links to resources found elsewhere.

Aiming to balance the focus on European events in global public discussions and reminiscences of World War II, the project focuses on a brief, 100-day period at the end of the war across a broad sweep of eastern Asia – a time when the Indonesian and Vietnamese revolutions were born, the fragile wartime truce between Communists and Nationalists in China began to fray, and the first steps were made in Japan towards a new democratic order.

The website is part of a radical, multi-faceted project to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war’s end and its immediate aftermath. This is done not just via the website but also in printed and electronic publications plus via social media. Nor does the project simply present existing scholarship. It also actively reaches beyond the academic world to encourage non-academics to come forward with primary source material unknown to historians and often limited to their own private circles.

Here, perhaps, is a model for scholarly publishing and learning that both exploits new technologies and retains traditional standards.

One of the great merits of this website is the way it conveys a sense of the fast pace of events in mid-1945 and their interconnectedness across the region at the time.

Those who may find the website difficult to navigate may want to consult the Facebook page for the project.

The outcome of the initiative is due to appear in published form as End of Empire: 100 Days that Changed Asia and the World edited by David Chandler, Robert Cribb and Li Narangoa.

(reported by Gerald Jackson and Inga-Lill Blomkvist)

Endangered Archives Programme – Call for applications 2015

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The Endangered Archives Programme has been running at the British Library since 2004 through funding by Arcadia, with the aim of preserving rare vulnerable archival material around the world. This aim is achieved through the award of grants to relocate the material to a safe local archival home where possible, to digitise the material, and to deposit copies with local archival partners and with the British Library. These digital collections are then available for researchers to access freely through the British Library website or by visiting the local archives. The digital collections from 144 projects are currently available online, nearly 5 million images.

The Endangered Archives Programme is now accepting grant applications for the next annual funding round – the deadline for submission of preliminary applications is 6 November 2015 and full details of the application procedures and documentation are available on the EAP website.

The Programme has helped to preserve manuscripts, rare printed books, newspapers and periodicals, audio and audio-visual materials, photographs and even rock inscriptions. Since 2004 approximately 270 projects have been funded, ranging from rare books in Armenia to Cham manuscripts in Vietnam.

To find out more about the Programme and previous digitisation projects, visit their Endangered Archives Blog.

(reported by Cathy Collins, Endangered Archives Programme at the British Library)

Locations of previous projects of the Endangered Archives Programme in Asia

Locations of previous projects of the Endangered Archives Programme in Asia

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