Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: FCCT-NETPAC Asian Film Festival

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, in association with the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) will screen six NETPAC award-winning films over the next three months. The movies are from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

NETPAC, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is a group of Asian filmmakers, screenwriters, festival programmers and academics. The organization is perhaps best known for its special jury panels at 23 film festivals, including the Bangkok International Film Festival.

It has previously organized conferences on Asian Cinema Heritage and Culture in New Delhi in 2007 and Kuala Lumpur in 2008.

NETPAC also holds the annual Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival in Indonesia.

In collaboration with Australia's Asia Pacific Screen Awards, there's the APSA NETPAC Development Prize, worth US$5,000 to an emerging Asian filmmaker.

NETPAC was also instrumental in the development of AsiaPacificFilms.com, a digital film library that streams artistic and culturally significant films from Asia and the Pacific.

NETPAC has also supported books on Asian cinema.

Many of these now-classic NETPAC award-winning films in the FCCT series will be screened during NETPAC's 2010 Imaging Asia conference in New Delhi from August 19-22. It includes a great line-up of films, among them Uruphong Raksasad's Agrarian Utopia (2009) and Nonzee Nimibutr's ghost romance, Nang Nak (1999), both NETPAC award winners.

The FCCT's film series starts on Thursday, July 22 with Mr. and Mrs. Iyer from India.

The opening was to have been in April, but was postponed because of the red-shirt protests that took place at the Rajprasong Intersection near the FCCT's penthouse club in the Maneeya building at the Chitlom skytrain station.

Admission for non-members is 150 baht and 100 baht more for anyone wanting the food or wine tastings that will offered by the various embassies and sponsors. Here's the line-up:

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, India The NETPAC winner from the Locarno International Film Festival in 2002, this drama was noted for its "courage in raising an issue of burning relevance, in a work of cinematic density". Helmed by actress-director Aparna Sen, with cinematography by director Gautam Ghosh, score by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and a dynamic cast, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer was commercially successful in India and won awards around the world. It screened at the 2003 World Film Festival of Bangkok. A love story set against a background of religious fundamentalism and violence, Mrs. Iyer (Aparna Sen's daughter Konkona Sensharma) is a married conservative Brahmin woman who is travelling with her child by bus to meet her husband. She encounters Raja (Rahul Bose), a young wildlife photographer on the bus. The passengers and their different ages, backgrounds and religions, present a cross-section of India's multi-cultural society. The tenor of the proceedings changes when the bus is stopped by Hindu militants and the bus passengers become divided. Mrs. Iyer discovers that Raja is Muslim and in a panic, she calls him "Mr. Iyer" and they pose as husband and wife while they look for a way out of the violence. Before the screening, India's new ambassador, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, will provide a grand feast. Thursday, July 22, 8pm.

Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky), Sri Lanka Directed by Prasanna Vithanage, who's considered the pioneer of Sri Lanka's New Wave, this is the winner of multiple awards, including the NETPAC Award at the Granada Festival in Cines del Sur, Spain, last year for "its strong portrayal of female characters whose lives, regrets and new beginnings are depicted in a delicate yet convincing way." The doyenne of Sri Lankan cinema, Malini Fonseka, portrays Sandhya, an ageing movie star who rents a room in her home to movie "artistes", most of whom use it for their trysts. Scandal erupts when a young married actress (Dilhani Ekanayake) is caught with her actor-lover in her own home. Shalika the moves into Sandhya's house and the two become close friends. Suddenly, someone totally unknown and unexpected from Sandhya’s past reappears. Fonseka was a nominee for last year's Asian Pacific Screen Awards for her performance. Thursday, July 29, 8pm.

Eliana, Eliana, Indonesia Director Riri Riza's 2002 drama won the NETPAC Award at the Singapore International Film Festival as well as a Dragons and Tigers special citation at the Vancouver festival. Eliana (Rachel Sayidina) arrives home at the end of a day in which she lost her job and kicked a man in the groin to find her mother (veteran actress Jajang C. Noer), whom she has not seen in five months. Her roommate, Heni (Henidar Amroe), is missing. So the mother and daughter go searching while they work out some of their own issues. Thursday, August 5, 8pm.

Nang Nak, Thailand Winner of the NETPAC Award at the 2000 International Film Festival Rotterdam, Nang Nak was among the films of the "Thai New Wave" that signaled a resurgence of the Thai film industry as it sparked a new popularity for Thai films with domestic audiences and found a legion of fans and acclaim overseas. Directed by Nonzee Nimibutr from a script by Wisit Sasanatieng, it's a reworking of the famous ghost story "Mae Nak of Phra Nakhon", about a woman who dies in childbirth while her husband is away and when he returns he is unaware that she is a ghost. Inthira Charoenpura and Winai Kraibutr star as Nak and Mak. The screening is courtesy of Cinemasia and NETPAC. Thursday, August 26, 8pm.

Bakal Boys (Children Metal Divers), Philippines Winner of the NETPAC Award at last year's Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, director Ralston Jover's docudrama is the heart-tugging story of children who scavenge for scraps in the murky waters of Manila Bay, often risking their lives in the process. The screening is courtesy of Queen Bessie LLC, Apogee Films and NETPAC. Thursday, Septmeber 23, 8pm.

$ELL-OU7! (Sell Out!), Malaysia This musical satire won the NETPAC Award at the 2008 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival "for the consummate artistry with which the director satirizes business and media glitz, and his successful attempt at the presentation of the Malaysian context to an international audience, thus generating much optimism for a wider acceptance of Malaysian indie films". Director Yeo Joon Han skewers contemporary Malaysian culture, reality television and even pokes fun at independent-film directors and film festival awards. The story has struggling television presenter Rafflesia Pong (Jerrica Lai) stumbling on an idea for a reality-TV program that records people's dying words. Meanwhile, a young inventor at the Fony Corporation has developed a bean-curd machine that is turned down by the hilarious pair of pointy-haired bosses because it has too many useful functions and is too durable. $ELL OU7! also screened at the 2008 World Film Festival of Bangkok. The screening is courtesy of Amok Films & NETPAC. Thursday, September 30, 8pm.

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