Weekly Radar

Weekly S.E.A. Radar: Low Fat Art Fes; “The Vagina Monologues” in conservative Myanmar; “Sex in Georgetown City” gets policed

ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts 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. Here’s a round-up of content from this week, scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms, and brought together in one article for convenient reading.


The Clock: Spirit Awakening tells the story of a French woman who commits suicide during the French colonial period in Cambodia around 1945. Many of the movie’s scenes will be filmed in Phnom Penh’s remaining colonial buildings, and will feature many vintage props that are hard to find in Cambodia. Photo supplied

Will this film finally attract global audiences to Cambodian cinema?
The Phnom Penh Post

With a French actor and actress in the leading roles and a script inspired by the famous Hungarian composition Gloomy Sunday (also known as the Hungarian Suicide Song), one Cambodian film director has invested huge resources and time into producing a high quality local movie that he hopes will earn the Kingdom’s cinema long missing acclaim on the international stage.

Hailing from Kampong Thom province, Leak Lyda is a self-taught film producer and director that has been in the entertainment industry for more than a decade, producing films spanning the horror, romance and comedy genres.

But his new film project is far different from what he has done in the past, significantly expanding in terms of budget, story, screen writing, casting, editing and marketing.

The 37-year-old director, who was elected as a Motion Picture Association of Cambodia (MPAC) deputy head in December last year, tells The Post about how he reached this point: “In 2011, I directed and produced a local hit called Ab Wears a Helmet. The film was very famous and helped contribute to the revival of Cambodian cinema.” [Read more…]

A Director of Photography (DOP) is briefing crews during the filming for the film “Sin” on the production set at the Historia Cafe in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Hollywood studios and global cinema chains are funding a new golden age in Indonesia’s movie industry as box-office receipts soar and new screens open at a rate of two a day. Photographer: Dimas Ardian

Hollywood Finds a New Golden Age of Cinema in Indonesia

Hollywood studios and global cinema chains are funding a new golden age in Indonesia’s movie industry as box-office receipts soar and new screens open at a rate of about two a day.

The resurgence of Indonesia’s movie industry, which had slumped since its heyday in the 1980s, is being driven by three factors that have come together in the past few years: the opening to foreign investment in 2015, rising wealth, and a push by major film studios and distributors to make more content for international markets.

“There’s been a change in lifestyle,” said Catherine Keng, corporate secretary of Cinema 21, Indonesia’s biggest owner of movie theaters. “We have more muscle to expand.”

In 2015 Indonesia sold 16 million cinema tickets. In 2017, the number had jumped to 43 million. And that’s still barely a quarter of the number sold in the U.K., which has a fourth of the population of the Southeast Asian country. [Read more…]


A Radio Program Puts Vietnamese Poetry in the Limelight With Bilingual Readings

Lanterns Hanging on the Wind” features 18 poems read in Vietnamese and translated into English that span themes, styles, time periods and locations to give listeners a broad introduction to the nation’s rich literary traditions.

Originally broadcast on public radio in America, the Melodically Challenged program takes its name from a poem by Tuyet Nga in which the speaker notices: “The sky is just above our thoughts, dreams as lanterns hanging on wind… I suddenly see colorless flowers.”

The grace and power of these lines is heard throughout the poems by literature luminaries including Tuyet Nga, Luu Quang Vu, Xuan Quynh, Nguyen Quang Thieu, Bui Hoang Tam, Tran Quang Quy, Giang Nam, Ngo Tu Lap and Nguyen Bao Chan in part 1 of the show; Ly Hoang Ly, Le Huy Mau, Mai Van Phan, Hoang Viet Hang, Nguyen Trong Tao, Huu Viet, Le Anh Hoai, Dang Nguyet Anh and Vi Thuy Linh in part 2 of the show. [Read more and listen to the broadcast…]

‘Thonburi: a place’ makes people’s stories part of artistic experience
The Jakarta Post

Thonburi, specifically the neighborhoods near the Princess Mother Memorial Park, Wat Anongkaram and Lam Thong Salt Factory, is the site of the third Low Fat Art Festival, a multidisciplinary art festival held every two years bringing international artists to Thailand to collaborate with local ones.

The festival, like low fat milk, only has the bare minimum in terms of funding, resources and support, and yet promises to keep the essential nutrition, which is healthy creativity and experimentation.

Art, normally confined to galleries, theaters, art centers and closed spaces, has always been the privilege of the few. A cloistered universe of like-minded denizens speaking in a language only they can understand.

Around the world, there is no lack of artists. To make art more relevant, however, there is a clear need to grow the audience. The question that bugs Wayla Amatathammachad, the director of Low Fat Art Fes Volume 3, however, is “how can we attract a bigger audience and where are they?” [Read more…]


Once unspoken, ‘vagina’ gets stage debut in Myanmar
Channel NewsAsia

YANGON: “Papu, pi pi, sapat” – the slang for female genitalia elicits giggles during a rehearsal for Myanmar’s first-ever Burmese-language “Vagina Monologues”, as the country’s conservative image is shaken up on-stage and online.

This week a production of Eve Ensler’s famed feminist play opens in Yangon and includes two showings in the local language. Its exploration of issues around sexual consent, body image and genital mutilation made it revolutionary in the ’90s when it premiered in New York and interpretations have spanned the globe since.

In Myanmar, where sex is still a taboo subject, co-director Nandar told AFP she hopes to “normalise conversations about women’s bodies” even if it makes people uncomfortable. “Women grew up here without cherishing their bodies because they were mainly taught their body is like a disgusting object,” the 24-year-old from northern Shan State says. “This play is very powerful as women are telling stories about themselves.” [Read more…]

Sex and creativity is still a no go in New Malaysia. Here’s why.
Mashable Southeast Asia

On May 9, 2018, Malaysians elected a new government for the first time in their history.

The 62 years of Barisan Nasional’s reign ended when Pakatan Harapan was voted into power. Back then, those who stifled with people’s freedom to express were those in power.

The then government.

Post May 9, with a seemingly more progressive government, many Malaysians are beginning to realize the harsh truth: that the power to control the freedom to express had always been in their hands all along.

Fa Abdul, a local playwright and director decided to stage a play that was tongue-in-cheek and educational at the same time. The topic: sex.

In Malaysia, a country which has seen a rise in teenage pregnancies, the topic is ironically considered a taboo. [Read more…]

Director of the Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum Nguyen Anh Minh presents the painting on Ha Long Bay to a representative from the Lao Kaysone Phomvihane Museum (Photo: VNA)

Vietnam helps Laos restore artworks
Vietnam Plus

Hanoi (VNA) – The Vietnam National Fine Arts Museum helped Laos’ Kaysone Phomvihane Museum to restore four important paintings and returned the artworks at a ceremony in Hanoi on February 28.

According to the Vietnamese museum’s director, Nguyen Anh Minh, the support came as part of the agreement signed on December 4, 2017, in Vientiane.

The restored paintings, which had previously been quite severely degraded, were gifts presented to Laos by heads of state with significant historical meanings.

They include three portraits of the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castrol, first leader of the Soviet Union Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and Lao Prince Souphanouvong. A silk painting of Vietnam’s world heritage site Ha Long Bay was also one of the restored pieces. [Read more…]

About the author(s)

Kathy Rowland is the Managing Editor of ArtsEquator.com, a registered charity that she co-founded with Jenny Daneels in 2016. The site is dedicated to supporting and promoting arts criticism with a regional perspective in Southeast Asia. Kathy has worked in the arts for over 25 years, working in the areas of critical writing and arts advocacy, with a special interest in media platforms for the arts. She is the Project Lead for ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asian Arts and Culture Censorship Documentation Project, launched in 2021. She has written extensively on censorship of arts and culture in Malaysia. She was a member of the International Programme Advisory Committee of the 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture, 2019.

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