ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia Radar features articles and posts about arts and culture in Southeast Asia, drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region. In the weekly Southeast Asia Radar, we publish a round-up of content that have been scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms.
Here is this week’s Southeast Asia Radar:
Traditional shadow puppetry with a modern twist revives dying interest in Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR: Princess Leia bends down and slips a disk containing the plans for the Death Star battle station into R2-D2.
And next comes C-3PO, bursting onto the scene looking for the astromech droid. Startled, Princess Leia leaves in a hurry.
This classic Star Wars scene was reenacted recently at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, except that the characters were portrayed in traditional wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) style and were conversing in Malay.
Their names were also given a localised twist – Princess Leia was known as Puteri Leia, R2-D2 as Ah Tuh, and C-3PO, Si P Long.
Indonesian Film Culture in 1970s and 1980s Malaysia
One of the fond memories I treasure of growing up in my home town of Sungai Petani in the northern state of Kedah, Malaysia, in the 1980s is my early encounter with Indonesian cinema—the cinema I grew up with and still care about, alongside Malaysian, Indian, Hong Kong and Anglo-American films. During my early years, I viewed many Indonesian films either in cinemas, on television, or via rented videocassettes. I was particularly struck by a range of sights and sounds, many of which remain evocative even today. Paramount among them were elements of gore, the grotesque, and mysticism. I recall the whoosh accompanying gravity-defying stunts, enhanced somewhat dramatically by laser-light special effects that became the hallmark of countless horror, fantasy, and action-adventure films. I recall films highlighting the youthful fervour of adolescence, featuring high school and college adolescents embarking upon their first romantic dalliances. A frequent feature of some melodramas, the mournful, haunting sound of Idris Sardi’s violin had the capacity to break the most stoic viewer’s heart. In stark contrast, the dangdut song on the soundtrack of the eponymous film Cubit-cubitan [Pinch] would likely get one’s toes tapping and hips gyrating.
The passage of time has not diminished the plethora of film titles that I have committed to memory, not only beautiful sounding titles, for example Seputih Hatinya Semerah Bibirnya [As White As Her Heart, As Red As Her Lips], Mawar Cinta Berduri Duka [Love Rose with Sorrow Thorns], Secawan Anggur Kebimbangan [A Cup of Indecisive Wine], and Kabut Ungu Dibibir Pantai [Purple Fog at the Shore], but also sleazy, sexually suggestive titles; for example, Atas Boleh Bawah Boleh [Above Allowed Below Allowed], Depan Bisa Belakang Bisa [Front and Back OK], and Maju Kena Mundur Kena [Neither Back nor Forward].
Teater Garasi’s ‘Multitude of Peer Gynts’ wins Ibsen Scholarship
“Multitude of Peer Gynts”, a collaboration project among Indonesian, Vietnamese, Japanese and Sri Lankan artists, has been awarded a 2019 Ibsen Scholarship.
Five projects were named winners of the scholarship after the competition saw 149 applications from 60 countries. Along with Indonesia, the projects came from India, France, Lebanon and China. The total amount of the scholarship program is 2 million krona (US$ 229,000).
Initiated by director Yudi Ahmad Tajudin and playwright Ugoran Prasad of Yogyakarta artist collective Teater Garasi, the project is adapted from Peer Gynt by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.
‘Thưa Mẹ Con Đi’ and the LGBT Films at the Forefront of Vietnamese Cinema
Starring two handsome actors, Thưa Mẹ Con Đi (Goodbye Mother), directed by Trinh Dinh Le Minh, is a gratifying movie that earns its place among the better of Vietnam’s recent LGBT films.
The movie, one of two Vietnamese entries shown at Busan International Film Festival this October, captures the tension between a gay couple, who are returning home to Vietnam after living in the US, and a typical patriarchal Vietnamese family.
The head of the family — widowed mother Hanh (played superbly by actress Hong Dao) — welcomes her only son Van home after he completes his studies in America. Hang tries to act as a matchmaker and find a partner for Van in the hope that he will get married, have children and carry on the family lineage. Unfortunately for Hanh and everybody else, Van (played by Lanh Thanh), has a confession to make.
Artfully shot and with a simple and tight script, Goodbye Mother builds a reasonable pace through numerous dramatic sequences towards the ultimate moment of truth in which the mother learns of and has to reconcile with the fact that her son will love no one but his boyfriend Ian (played by Vo Dien Gia Huy).
Songs of the Silent Age: ‘19-Kopong-Kopong: This is Not a Silent Film Fest by Khavn’
MANILA, Philippines — It’s not often that the opportunity to watch Duchamp in a cinema presents itself. “19-Kopong-Kopong: This is Not A Silent Film Fest by Khavn” did, with a live score to boot. The silent films were culled from avant-garde cinema of the 1920s, which has remained highly influential. Its echoes continue to reverberate in movie houses through the decades. Just ask David Lynch, Ari Aster, or Guillermo Del Toro.
The title is a play on the slang “kopong-kopong”, referring to a time so old, it has nearly been forgotten — which is a fitting turn for the said phrase, whose meaning remains obscure for the younger members of the audience. Co-curated by filmmaker Khavn De La Cruz, Stefano Galanti of the Across Asia Film Festival, and Philippine Cinema scholar Dr. Jose B. Capino, the three-hour screening was presented by Kamias Overground with the UP Film Institute, Across Asia Film Festival, Contagious Inc., and RCW Foundation Inc. at the UP Cine Adarna on Sept. 19.
The selection of films exhibited myriad ways of approaching the filmic language. Some questioned cinema by breaking form under a surgical knife, while others dove deep into the subconscious. Other filmmakers doused narrative conventions with kerosene and set them on fire altogether, but not without forgetting to send them off with a kiss. Much of the technology we have today hadn’t existed back when they were shot, but the spirit of rebellion and reinvention already did.
S’pore Films Wet Season, A Land Imagined Score Golden Horse Awards Nods
Two homegrown films, Anthony Chen’s Wet Season and Yeo Siew Hua’s A Land Imagined are up for a few honours at next month’s Golden Horse Awards. Congrats!
The nominations were announced yesterday (Oct 1) in Taipei.
Wet Season stars Ilo Ilo’s Yeo Yann Yann as a Chinese language teacher struggling to conceive a child, and Koh Jia Ler (who plays Yeo’s son in Ilo Ilo) as a student she forms an unlikely friendship with. The cast also includes Christopher Lee and stage veteran Yang Shi Bing.
The film, which had its world premiere at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, landed six nominations — Best Narrative Feature, Best Director, Best Actress (Yeo), Best Supporting Actor (for Koh and Yang) and Best Original Screenplay.
Novel ideas at Book Expo Thailand
It’s that time of the year again when local bookworms cannot sleep for excitement. Book Expo Thailand, a paradise for book lovers, returns, offering thousands of books, new and old, rare and familiar, at discount prices, all under one roof.
The 24th edition of Book Expo Thailand sees the event take place in new surroundings. Forced to move away from its traditional home at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (which is temporarily closed due to renovation), this year the fair is being held at Impact Challenger, Muang Thong Thani, from tomorrow until Oct 13.
The decision to move both Book Expo Thailand and the National Book Fair & Bangkok International Book Fair to Muang Thong Thani has not been without controversy.
Cambodia’s first gay dance troupe upends centuries of tradition
Gold jewelry glistening, six male dancers from Cambodia’s first gay “Apsara” troupe swirl in unison on a dimly lit stage, their production a radical shake-up of a ballet form performed by women for more than a thousand years.
“Some people say LGBTQ people are born abnormal,” 23-year-old dancer Chan Sory tells AFP during a rehearsal in Phnom Penh.
“So our goal is to use art to change their mindset.”
He is part of Prumsodum Ok & Natyarasa, an all-male Apsara company trying to alter perceptions of the gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in Cambodia — which is still plagued by prejudice.
Universal Music Opens Southeast Asia HQ Betting on Rap
SINGAPORE—Korea brought the world K-Pop. India, the music of Bollywood. Could the chaotic, fast-growing region of Southeast Asia be a new hotbed for hip-hop?
Vivendi’s Universal Music Group (UMG) is hoping so.
The unveiling of its Southeast Asia headquarters in Singapore on Tuesday came with a performance from six newly signed rappers, whose bleached hair, gold jewelry and baggy clothing jarred somewhat with the business hotel backdrop.
“We are making a bet on hip-hop but I think it’s a pretty safe one,” said Adam Granite, who oversees UMG’s market development in Asia.
“Hip-hop is often about struggle and the streets and Southeast Asia has some challenging components. You have poverty in places … some difficult living situations, and where you see hip-hop really resonate is when it can be as authentic as possible.”
Of the artists signed to UMG’s flagship hip-hop label Def Jam, Thai rapper Daboyway is the most well-known locally with 1 million followers on Instagram.
Hanoi art exhibition colors ‘Endless Inspiration’ of female nudity
The “Endless Inspiration” exhibition, held September 26-29 at the art gallery of Vietnam University of Fine Arts, has 64 works by 30 Vietnamese artists.
This is the first time that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has approved an exhibition of nude paintings in Vietnam.
“People think that nude art is a sensitive topic, but the majority of art students are familiar with it. They all learn about it at university because the human body is the most wonderful thing on Earth,” organizer Pham Huyen Kieu said at the opening ceremony of the exhibition.
ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia Radar is compiled every week. All sources and credit belong to the original publishers and writers. Click here for past editions of Southeast Asia Radar.