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Sarawak gears up for ‘Woodstock’ film festival

March 5, 2013

The 20-hour movie marathon in the rainforest will showcase an array of films from Asean and the world.

By Joseph Masilamany

PETALING JAYA: Sarawak is taking centre stage this month as it kicks into high gear for the upcoming Asean International Film Festival and Awards 2013 (AIFFA 2013).

Slated to take place from March 28 to 30 in Kuching, the festival will showcase an array of films from Asean and the world.

Dubbed as the “Woodstock of Film Festivals” by U Wei Shaari, one of Malaysia’s most prolific directors, the festival will screen over 80 films throughout a 20-hour marathon screening – an experience that is new and has never been done before in any film festival – during its Movies in the Rainforest on March 28.

At RM18 per person, patrons of the opening day will be able to enjoy award-winning films that have never been screened before in Malaysia such as Thy Womb, the critically acclaimed film that has earned its director Brillante Mendoza many awards.

The marathon showcase of films will start with the screening of short entries at 12pm at the auditorium of the Sarawak Cultural Village. At sunset, the showcase expands to six other venues at the village to include a non-stop, all night screening of feature films till 7am the following day.

U Wei, who also heads the panel of jury for the festival, sees a much bigger potential in the festival, not only because it is new and independent, but also due partly to its stunning location.

“The idea of running a nonstop 20-hour movie marathon is just plain amazing. Like the name itself, Movies in the Rainforest has got a very promising start because of its ability to draw a crowd banking on just its location and concept.

“It is something I look forward to, the screening of films in an open-air surrounding. It’s very symbolic of our Asean culture, moreover watching them in a place that holds the status of a cultural enclave, Sarawak Cultural Village. Very distinctive,” he said.

Similar to the Rainforest World Music Festival which has attracted hundreds of thousands of loyal followers each year, AIFFA 2013 aims to position itself firmly within the hearts of filmmakers.

This creative sector helps to generate revenue and provide direct economic benefits to states and communities. A creative project like AIFFA is indeed a global property in its beginning. Bearing this in mind, Sarawak has got the potential and its state government is actively promoting it.

Stunning location

In a press statement, State Tourism Minister Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out the need to not only sell the state’s stunning location but to develop its local talents.

“As the Tourism Minister, I don’t just want to make Sarawak a destination, but also a centre where we can encourage the growth of the film industry,” he said.

Following this, the Asean film festival spearheaded by local Sarawakians becomes a platform, a valuable linking point to generate interest among filmmakers to shoot their films in the state.

Steven Bernard, a coordination consultant and project manager for many film festivals in Hollywood, has noted his appraisal for AIFFA 2013.

“Hollywood, as an industry, has always had one issue and that is finding new locations. You can only film a location so many times before it becomes ‘overplayed’ and Hollywood producers and writers are always trying to overcome this for their productions.

“Take the beautiful locales in Malaysia with the amount of filmmakers and crew available here in Sarawak and in the Asean region, it is a great combination for productions from around the world,” he says.

At the same time, the festival aims to create a network, bridging the gap between the Asean filmmakers themselves all the while linking them to filmmakers from other leading film industries – Hollywood and Bollywood.

As such, the second day of AIFFA 2013 will feature numerous seminars and exhibitions.

Keynote speakers include renowned Hollywood producer Gary Levinsohn, nominated for an Oscar for his work in Saving Private Ryan. Other Hollywood producers in attendance at the festival include producer Kymber Lim, whose credits include Tron: Legacy, 2012, Spider-Man 2, and also Christopher Chen who was involved in the production of Harry Potter and Deathly Hollows: Part 2 and Iron Man 2.

Several leading Indian filmmakers, including Ekta Kapoor of Baluji Studios, and Bollywood location scouts will be attending the festival to also explore future collaborations between Asean and Bollywood.

For more information, log onto its website, www.aseanfilmfest.com or call its toll free number 1800 88 96753 for ticket purchases.

This content is provided by FMT content partner The Malaysian Reserve.


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