August 21, 2023
HONG KONG – The inaugural ASEAN Film Festival concludes on Saturday after hosting 21 screenings of 14 specially curated films from eight Southeast Asian nations over the past two weeks in Hong Kong.
The festival has successfully facilitated a deeper understanding between Hong Kong and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and has effectively strengthened the city’s ties with participating members from Southeast Asian nations, officials and experts said.
The nonprofit AFF was made possible thanks to close collaboration between the Hong Kong- ASEAN Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting mutual understanding and deepening ties between Hong Kong and ASEAN, and the consulate general offices of Southeast Asian nations in Hong Kong, as well as various supporting partners.
Over 600 local Hong Kong students and young people, along with ASEAN students studying in Hong Kong, were invited to various screening events featuring AFF movies, which were also attended by invited directors and cast members
Starting on Aug 4, the AFF this year featured acclaimed movies from eight nations — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — offering audiences a glimpse into the diverse cultures and rich heritages of Southeast Asia.
Among the movies screened were Before, Now & Then by Indonesian director Kamila Andini, which had its world premiere at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival in 2022, with actress Laura Basuki winning the Silver Bear for Best Supporting Performance; and The Legend of Muay Thai: 9 Satra, a 2018 Thai film which won two prizes at the 2019 Thailand National Film Association Awards.
Co-presented by M+ and the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, the movies were screened at popular cultural venues across Hong Kong, including M+ Cinema, Miller Theater at Asia Society, and Sky (Olympian City), to introduce ASEAN cinema to local audiences.
China and ASEAN countries have been trading partners for many years, and are connected through a long history of interaction and mutual learning, said Daryl Ng Win-kong, chairman of the Hong Kong-ASEAN Foundation.
“By fostering strong trade and cultural exchange, we can further deepen China-ASEAN solidarity and friendship,” Ng said, adding that he hopes that the AFF will serve as inspiration for young people to delve deeper into the rich cultures of the ASEAN member countries.
Ong Siew Gay, consul general of Singapore in Hong Kong, said that in addition to cultural exchanges, Hong Kong and ASEAN can build more cooperation in trade and commerce. The Belt and Road Initiative provides an opportunity to do so, he added.
The AFF provides a special platform to showcase, share, and honor the diverse and rich cinematic works, traditions, and customs of the ASEAN region, said Pech Puthisathbopeaneaky, consul general of Cambodia in Hong Kong. She added that she hopes Hong Kong and ASEAN countries will organize more such events to boost cultural exchange.
Cambodian director Kavich Neang said it was an honor to have had his film White Building shown at the AFF, introducing foreign viewers to Cambodia’s distinctive history and culture.
The acclaimed film tells the story of a 20-year-old man (played by Piseth Chhun) who faces losing his home in a decades-old building, and explores the themes of preserving cultural heritage and promoting community development. It premiered at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, where Chhun won the prize for Best Actor. It was also Cambodia’s official submission for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards.
Over 600 local Hong Kong students and young people, along with ASEAN students studying in Hong Kong, were invited to various screening events featuring AFF movies, which were also attended by invited directors and cast members.
The screenings were also attended by large numbers of local residents who purchased tickets to see the movies. Chaturont Chaiyakam, consul general of Thailand in Hong Kong, said that Thai films allow audiences to understand Thai society and culture beyond seeing Thailand as just a travel destination. He encouraged Hong Kong’s creative industries to explore opportunities in the ASEAN market.
Pham Binh Dam, consul general of Vietnam in Hong Kong, said the Hong Kong film industry could make good use of Vietnamese talent and stories, and this could be mutually beneficial.
Hong Kong is a gateway between the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world, and can help ASEAN access the large Chinese market, he said.
Muzambli Markam, consul general of Malaysia in Hong Kong, said that films can spark audiences’ interest in learning more about ASEAN nations and visiting them in person.
Cindy Mak, a Malaysian film producer residing in Hong Kong, attended a screening at AFF. In aninterview with China Daily, Mak expressed her enthusiasm for attending any Southeast Asian themed film festivals, saying that she has long sought opportunities to promote Southeast Asian film productions.
Among the Southeast Asian nations, Thai cinema tends to receive the most visibility globally, so festivals like AFF provide a valuable platform to showcase lesser
known cinematic works from other ASEAN nations, such as Cambodia and Laos, Mak said.