By Katrin Sohns and Leyla Hoppe
I have been to many international film-festivals in recent years and I have always been asking myself: Where are the Vietnamese contributions?“, says a young Vietnamese filmmaker at a recent regional documentary film meeting organised by the Goethe-Institut in Hanoi. I guess I returned to Vietnam to find an answer, to look for a solution.
Nguyen Trinh Thi, another participant at the workshop, nods. She had a similar mission when she founded the DocLab Hanoi a few years ago – a small space in the middle of the old city center. It is one of the few locations in Southeast Asia which gives young filmmakers the chance to attend regular film-screenings, to rent professional cameras and to proceed with editing after the filming. Young curious minds fly in and out. Some are here for the first time, some are regulars who have been able to finish a number of films using these unique yet basic facilities. „We are trying to teach the art of documentary film making. It would be wonderful to see more Vietnamese contributions at the international festivals.“
The two young women are not the only filmmakers who see it as their obligation to foster the independendent filmscene in Southeast Asia and who have put their full dedication into this mission. In recent years, more and more filmmakers have been teaming up, to raise the local Southeast Asian voice.
„There are many films that are made about Southeast Asia – but it is from international filmteams. The voice of the region is missing“, confirms a Thai filmmaker at the same workshop. „You do see films from China, India, Iran or Taiwan but where are the Southeast Asian contributions?“, asks another participant.
After gaining independence and freeing themselves from the colonial ties, the Southeast Asian region, like most the rest of Asia, has seen great economic growth and enormous social, political and cultural changes in the recent years. Given the heterogenity of the region, these changes vary from country to country. Yet phenomenas such as a continiously growing population, increase of wealth combined with a widening gap between rich and poor, accelerated growth of megacities or changing life-styles are only but a few of the recent developments that can be observed throughout the region.
These rapid changes have led to a greater urge to preserve the past and present, to document what is being gained and lost and to reflect on the transformations. Many young people are chosing documentary film as their medium to report about the world they see, to provide information about changing landscapes, about everyday life and about people’s fates.
When looking at the general film industry in the region, there are a number of promising developments in the last years that have helped to attract international attention. A few countries, such as Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines have established a well-functioning film infrastructure helping to facilitate filmproduction for both local and foreign films. „In the past ten years, there has been a very powerful movement in independent cinema, especially in feature film in the Philippines“, highlights Filipino filmmaker Jag Garcia, who functions as the Deputy Chair of the National Committee of Cinema and Chair of the Digital Filmmaking Program at La Salle College Antipolo. „Also film labs now have much higher standards“, he continues. Even high-quality postproduction can be found within Southeast Asia now, a demand that before could only be met by neighbouring countries such as Australia, India or China.
(To be continued)
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