Jan 27, 2012

4A Presents Cinema Alley 2012: Double Vision

On the topic of Asian/Asian-Australian film distribution and the embracing of real multicultural diversity in Australia, 4A Centre For Contemporary Asian Art hold an annual film event called Cinema Alley. Held on Parker St, an alleyway in the heart of Chinatown only a short distance from the gallery's centre, Cinema Alley brings contemporary visual art from both Asian and Australian video artists into the setting of an urban landscape such as Sydney's city. The event hopes to generate and encourage discussions about Asian culture in the city.

 Cinema Alley packs a huge crowd!

This year, the event features the theme 'Double Vision'. Two screens will be spread across Parker St to show both double-channel and single-channel video formats. The two screens will 'create a layering and collision of images', and engage audiences in a new way of experiencing cinema.

 Hiwa K. 'Moon Calendar' (2007) still from video

Some of the artists featuring this year are Peter Alwast, Hiwa K, Kiran Subbaih, and Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba. The night also features two Chinese artists, Miao Xiaochun and Liang Wei. I've always thought of contemporary Chinese art as being refreshing given the context of China's rapidly changing landscape, so this is great to hear and I certainly can't wait to see what is in store at this year's event.

Amongst the list of artists is Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the highly controversial, contemporary Thai director who's latest film, the beautifully surreal Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) was rewarded the top prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2010, the Palme d'Or. His short film 'Faith' from 2006 will be screening at this year's Cinema Alley.

Apichatpong's 'Faith' (2006) stills from video

Cinema Alley is a free, one-night only event and is being held this Friday evening, February 3rd. While the event is unfortunately sold out, there is a waiting list which you can join and if upon the chance that places are withdrawn from then there is a chance to get in. 

The event coincides with City of Sydney's Chinese New Year celebrations. This will be my first time visiting the annual event, and I'm hoping it will be an enlightening one!

Cinema Alley 2012 - Double Vision
Friday 3 February
@ Parker St, HAYMARKET
8PM Screening / 7PM Bar Opens
Organised by 4A Centre For Contemporary Asian Art



Jan 26, 2012

Michel Gondry's Big ideas continue

Stumbled across this fantastic, crazy Japanese commercial for a clothing store directed by the one and only Michel Gondry. It features his signature giant body parts which featured in many of his music videos including Foo Fighters' Everlong and in his film The Science of Sleep (see below).

It's slightly maniacal, but also great fun and true to Gondry's hugely imaginative style. Whatever medium he chooses to work with, from feature films to short minute-long commercials, he's still able to bring to us a piece of his insanely colourful world with amazing style. See below for this wacky new Japanese commercial.

Jan 25, 2012

Notes on the Malaysian film industry: diversity and multiculturalism

I've been back in Malaysia for just about a week now, and it's been a quiet one. As you may have already heard, this week people have been celebrating Chinese New Year across the globe, and like most Asian countries, everything in Malaysia is 'on hold' for the entire week. The public holiday only applies for two days, but it is pretty usual to have businesses close for the rest of the week, and employees of all races take the 'unspoken' kind of annual leave.

I'm always curious to find out more about the film industry in Malaysia - how it works, what sort of funding filmmakers can apply for, what sort of films succeed at the box office, etc. While I haven't quite got all the answers to those questions yet, I've noticed a large number of cinemas that release country specific films. For example, cinemas in the city or popular malls will screen most of the Hollywood blockbusters and big international titles. What interests me is the ratio of Hollywood titles are to Asian titles (be it Malay-produced, or from Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, India or Japan).

Some of the films out in Malaysian cinemas. Top left, right: The Viral Factor (Cantonese), All's Well End's Well (Cantonese). Bottom: Nanban (Tamil)

In almost every cinema across the city (from larger mall-based ones to smaller), there is almost a 1:2 ratio of Asian titles to Hollywood ones. In some cinemas a little further outside the city, the ratio of Asian titles to Hollywood ones was almost 2:1.

The first thing this shows is how multicultural this country really is. Never-ending racial conflict aside, if there are cinemas that purely represent or favour the Asian communities over international/American titles, it really proves to you how the Malaysian film industry promotes diversity.

 A still from Sepet (2004), a Malaysian film written and directed by one of my favourite directors the late Yasmin Ahmad. The film is a modern-day, Malaysian Romeo and Juliet story with a twist on racial divisions in Malaysian society. This is one of my all-time favourites.

Understandably, Malaysia is a country where language can be a barrier for many different reasons, some geographical which may explain the different types of cinemas in Kuala Lumpur and outside of the city. A ratio like 2:1 in favour of Asian titles though, well, I think that speaks for itself.

If Australia is a multicultural country as it so often calls and bathes itself in, then why isn't there a similar level of treatment to diversity? In a country so full of Asian communities, why aren't there distributors helping to bring Asian-produced or Asian-relevant content to Australia to the same degree of crappy Australian-produced films? Why are Australian distributors turning a blind eye on Asian films, or Asian-Australian films when these are people who make up a good majority of communities across the country?

I do think that Australia needs to see more Asian films, or at least help to bring these films to communities with larger Asian/Asian-Australian population. I suppose that having said this, it is the reason why international film festivals such as Sydney Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival and even independent ones such as the Korean Film Festival in Australia are so fantastic in bringing films we would not have ever heard of, or will ever hear of again once the festival passes.

You would think that in a country that is so proud of it's multicultural approach and perspectives, people would at least practice what they preach.

Jan 12, 2012

The Wannabe 100th Post

I'd been saving this 100th post for a special entry, like a film review of a favourite film, or a preview of a new film I would shoot for the post - but instead, it has taken me almost three months to get something written!

Then I realise that this isn't my 100th post. It's my 96th, with four drafts in store. 
And then I realise again - I'm an idiot.

So, I'm going to carry on with what would have been the special 100th post, only just a little less special than what I imagine it could be. I thought I would write a quick post about the year that has ended, and of what I look forward to in this new year. I hope that this will start the ball running (yet again) for a long time to come.

Every year comes with its own challenges. 2011 was simply different. I went back to uni with a fresh mind, and with this came a fresh start to my future endeavours. The year and a half long hiatus away from the university life must have been the best decision I have ever made, and I don't think it is one I will regret. I did well in most of my subjects, and although I failed to make most classes in attendance, I managed to run away with results higher than the average student. I'm not one to boast about things like this, but I'd suddenly done miles better than I did when I first went to uni in 2008. That's got to prove something.

University life was no simple breeze this year. I juggled work with studies, and it is true what they say about doing so. It's no simple task. I cut down the number of subjects in my second semester to accommodate for full-time work at the Korean Film Festival, which was something I felt I needed to do and it had always been a desire of mine to do more for this young festival only in its second year. I substituted class time with over-time at the festival, and thankfully it didn't show in my end of year results.

I traveled around Australia more for film. And by 'more', I mean doing back-to-back trips to Melbourne, which is hardly anything. I saw more films at the international film festivals (Sydney and Melbourne), and for the first time traveled to a different city for work. Film had taken me to new places and new experiences in 2011.

I returned to Malaysia for the first time in a record (by my standards) two years, which was one of the best experiences I have had of my home country. It was refreshing and revealing of so many things I must thank for in life. It showed me a place in time that I'd forgotten, and wish not to forget any longer. It reminds me of how far I've come, and how time has changed everything. It's simply amazing how a place can cause such an experience to one's self.

2011 has taught me that in this industry, no matter the differences in cultural ethics between the companies you join, hard work is almost always left unnoticed. It's pessimistic of me to say such a thing, and having only been so immersed in the industry through internships, volunteer work and even the odd paid job (including the one I am currently in), I can assure you that all your hard work will often seem like it is never taking you anywhere. The number of hours you spend in over-time don't matter. The number of friends you lose from all those over-time hours don't matter. No matter how hard you work, you may always find yourself stuck in the same place without so much as a thank you or a pat on the back. The pessimist aside, I do still believe that there is hope to be seen some day. Such a thought can't be used as an excuse for working less hard, or striving to be the best. One day, it will all be worth the while, and I sincerely hope that this year will be the year when I see that glimmer of light. That light that says, 'Well, Raelene, you are definitely moving in the right direction.'

For now, in the early days of 2012, I await my new challenges. If I were to keep a set of resolutions (they are such a forgotten myth), it would be to teach myself patience. Everything will happen in time, and there will be as many opportunities in the future than there are in the present. They will be better, even. It will be better.

Hopefully I can look back at this post one year from now and be happy with where I am, in respect to where I was. It'd also be nice to look back at this post then and see that it wasn't my last post since forever!

So, here's to a new year, a new start and new challenges.