IN CELEBRATION of the 50th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) has launched a film festival which will show the best contemporary films from the region “in an attempt to talk about the state of the [film] industry [of the ASEAN],” said an NCCA representative.

The film festival was done not only meant to celebrate the anniversary of the region but to also expose Filipinos to films from ASEAN, as many Filipinos are unfamiliar with films from these countries, said Anne Luis, NCCA international affairs office head, during the Oct. 5 press conference held in Wayang restaurant in Pasig City.

The Tingin ASEAN Film Festival will run from Oct. 11-15 at the Shang Cineplex, Shangri-La Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City and will feature nine films from the region, with each film chosen by the member-states’ cultural and/or information ministries as films that “best represent their country and the state of its film industry,” said Maya Quirino, film festival project manager, in the same press conference.

“[The film selection] is a good portrait of Southeast Asia now, warts and all,” Ms. Quirino added.

Included in the official lineup is Indonesia’s Solo, Solitude (2016) written and directed by Yosep Anggi Noen, about the final events in the life of influential Indonesia poet and activist Wiji Thukul, who was forced to abandon his family and escape to Borneo after being targeted by the government as a dissident.

Malaysia’s Wayang (2008) by Hatta Azad Khan, is about a master puppeteer who becomes mentor to Melor and blind orphan Awi and how the students deal with reviving the dying art of wayang kulit (puppet shadow play) after their master collapses.

From the Philippines comes Ang Damgo ni Eluteria Kirchbaum (2010), a film by Remton Zoasola, about the titular Eluteria, an island girl who is about to leave home to marry a German national. The entire film was shot in a single take.

Singapore’s Ilo-ilo (2013), by Anthony Chen, is a film about a Filipina nanny and her relationship with her employers amidst the Asian Financial Crisis. Mr. Chen has said the film was partly based on his experiences having a Filipino nanny when he was younger.

The Island Funeral (2015) by Pimpaka Towira, is a Thai film about a woman who takes a road trip from Bangkok to Pattani, one of the three southernmost Thai provinces, to visit her long-lost aunt. She is joined on the journey by her brother and his friend as they travel to the politically unstable south.

Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass (2015) is a coming-of-age story of two brothers, written and directed by Vietnam’s Victor Vu who explores the dynamics between the brothers: with the younger idolizing the older and the older building an armor of confidence to hide his own insecurities.

Myanmar’s entry, Kayan Beauties (2012) by Aung Ko Latt, tells the story of three Kayan (a Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority) women who travel from their remote village to sell handicrafts in a distant city accompanied by a young Kayan girl who is kidnapped by human traffickers. The three women then launch a rescue mission to retrieve their young companion. Ms. Latt will be present during the screening for a short question and answer portion.

Lao PDR’s Khuan Nang (2017) by Somphong Phondy is the story of a woman who is separated from her lover and has to deal with her grief and heartbreak.

Finally, Victim (2017) by Chheng Sovanna of Cambodia, tells of a primary school teacher seeking justice in behalf of her student who was raped by her stepfather. A month before the teacher’s wedding day, she too is raped but hides the fact from her fiancée who then learns about it.

Ms. Quirino said Brunei Darussalam has not yet submitted its entry though they are hopeful they will do so before the film festival opens.

Aside from the official selection, a Tastemaker’s section will also be featured during the festival’s run. The four films were chosen by “Tastemakers” actor/producer Piolo Pascual (who is also an NCCA ambassador), screenwriter Moira Lang, and professor and Tingin film festival committee member Patrick Campos.

Included in this section is A Yellow Bird (2016) by K. Rajagoopal about an Singaporean Indian (a minority in Singapore) ex-convict who is trying to get his life back together and reconnect with his estranged family after getting out of prison.

Golden Slumbers (2012) by Davy Chou is a documentary about the birth of Cambodian cinema in 1960 and its eventual destruction at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in 1975 as told by the few survivors of this lost cinema.

Lao PDR’s Dearest Sister (2016) is a horror film by Mattie Do – the first Lao woman to direct a feature film – about a village girl who travels to the capital to care for a rich cousin who lost her sight but gained the ability to communicate with the dead. Ms. Do will be present at the screening to answer a few questions.

Finally, there is Jagat (2015), a Malaysian crime film by Shanjhey Kumar Perumal about a boy who is drawn to his uncle’s criminal lifestyle despite his father’s increasingly violent efforts to stop him.

The Tingin ASEAN Film Festival will also feature film forums every day at 3:30 p.m. which will tackle the state of “Contemporary Southeast Asian Cinema” as well as the “Future of ASEAN Cinema.”

Admission to the film festival, which will run from Oct. 11-15, is free on a first-come-first-served basis. For more information, visit the festival’s official Facebook page. – Zsarlene B. Chua