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Age of Anxiety: Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan

2019-04-26 - 2019-08-31

Age of Anxiety: Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan
Time:2019.04.26 - 2019.04.28
Venue:Film Studies Center Theater, 3rd Floor, HA Building 2, National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu
** Free Admission **
In contemporary Malaysian cinema, themes about “anxiety” appear time and again. Embroiled in the wavering identity between citizens and the abandoned, race and the Other, tradition and modernity, beliefs and non-beliefs, gender and nation, no one can escape from anxiety in this age. There are people anxious about losing control, their rights, identity, language or positions; there are also people anxious about losing a place to live, a will to survive, or a future to imagine. These uncertain threats, like the wandering ghosts, continue to haunt the society, thus making the horror/thriller films –Malaysians’ favorite genre—a metaphor in the age of anxiety.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (when he was still the “former” prime minister) once complained that horror films hinder the progress and development of a modern nation. He further called on Malaysians to find more scientific ways to solve problems, but not indulging in superstitious, backward thinking. Dr. Mahathir led the nation with a commitment to science, modernization, and developmentalism, but horror films have precisely challenged this kind of linear development.
Local traditional cultures, spiritual beliefs, and deranged time-space are misplaced in the discourse of modernity and developmentalism. Different genres of films seek to unveil voices in the interstices, making an inquiry about the forms of living under such ideological trend, and thus arousing the emotions of suspense, agitation, excitement and anxiety.
“Age of Anxiety” is a diasporic Malaysian film festival that takes place in Taiwan. It goes beyond geographical, national and linguistic boundaries, hoping to connect Malaysian and Sinophone/Chinese cinema, uncovering the questions of cultural complexities in contemporary Malaysia. The film festival covers over 8 contemporary Malaysian feature films in different genres, post-screening discussions with 4 Malaysian directors, as well as panel discussions and lectures by film critics and scholars. Together we reflect on the various challenges in contemporary Malaysia and the possibilities and ways of intervening society through the arts.
Directors: Namron, Shanjhey Kumar Perumal, Tan Chui Mui, Tsai Ming Liang, Au Sow Yee
Scholars: Norman Yusoff, Khoo Gaik Cheng, Tee Kim Tong, Lim Kien Ket, Joyce C.H. Liu, Earl Jackson

Lecture (1) English lecture
Speaker: Khoo Gaik Cheng (Associate Professor, University of Nottingham Malaysia)
Title: Grappling with representations of tradition/modernity in Dain Said’s films Dukun (2018) and Interchange (2016)
Discussant: Zikri Rahman (MA student, Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies NCTU)
Time: 26th Apr (Fri), 1pm-3pm
Lecture (2) English lecture
Speaker: Norman Yusoff (Senior Lecturer, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia)
Title: Historicising Malaysian Cinema through Genre 以
Discussant: Au Sow Yee (artist)
Time: 27th Apr (Sat), 1pm-3pm

Director’s Talk (1) Lecture in Chinese with English Simultaneous Interpretation
Screening and Director’s Talk on I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone
Speaker: Tsai Ming Liang
Moderator: Lim Kien Ket (Assoc Prof, Dept. of Foreign Language and Literature NCTU)
Time: 26th Apr (Fri), 6pm-9:30pm
Director’s Talk (2) Lecture in Malay with English/Chinese Simultaneous Interpretation
Screening and Director’s Talk on Crossroads: One Two Jaga
Speaker: Nam Ron
Moderator: Tee Kim Tong (Assoc Prof, Dept. of Foreign Language and Literature NSYSU)
Time: 27th Apr (Sat), 6pm-9pm
Director’s Talk (3) Lecture in English
Screening and Director’s Talk on Jagat
Speaker: Shanjhey Kumar Perumal
Moderator: Joyce C.H. Liu (Professor, Director, Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies NCTU)
28th Apr (Sun), 12:30pm-3:30pm
Director’s Talk (4) Lecture in English
Screening and Director’s Talk on Year Without a Summer
Speaker: Tan Chui Mui
Moderator: Earl Jackson (Professor, Dept. of Foreign Language and Literature NCTU)
Time: 28th Apr (Sun), 6:30pm-9:30pm

Screening Schedule: https://tinyurl.com/y4643ee4
Film Festival Website: https://sites.google.com/view/ageofanxiety/
Curators: Show Ying Xin, Seah Jenn Yi, Zikri Rahman
Advisors: Lim Kien Ket, Joyce C.H. Liu
Organizer: International Center for Cultural Studies, NCTU
Co-organizer: Department of Foreign Languages & Literature, NCTU

Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan Lecture Series (1)
Grappling with representations of tradition/modernity in Dain Said’s films:Dukun (2018) and Interchange (2016)

Speaker:Khoo Gaik Cheng (University of Nottingham Malaysia  )
Time:26th Apr (Fri), 1pm-3pm
Venue:Film Studies Center Theater, 3rd Floor, HA Building 2, National Chiao Tung University
*Lecture in English
Speaker’s intro:
Khoo Gaik Cheng is Associate Professor of Film and Television at the University of Nottingham Malaysia where she teaches Southeast Asian Cinema, and Master’s seminars on postcolonial theory and posthumanism. Founder of the Association of Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference (ASEACC) which is now into its tenth year, she continues to take a keen interest in cinema and filmmaking in the region, most recently co-editing a book manuscript Southeast Asia on Screen: From Independence to Financial Crisis (1945-1997) with Thomas Barker and Mary Ainslie. Her publications include Reclaiming Adat: Contemporary Malaysian Film and Literature (2006), and various articles on Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian filmmakers and films in numerous journals and books. She also researches on food, identity and heritage. Her other current research projects include Korean migrants in Malaysia: modernity, temporality and happiness as well as the globalization of the durian. Gaik is also the Director of the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute where she has been busy organising a series of events on food, ecology and sustainability entitled “Forgotten and Future Foods.”

Discussant: Zikri Rahman (MA student, Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies)

Zikri Rahman has consistently embarked on collaborations with cultural activist groups in various socio-political projects. Buku Jalanan, a community-based cultural literacy and street library movement he co-founded, is a loose cultural and knowledge workers network focusing on decentralizing the modes of knowledge production.
He is also the festival director of the inaugural Idearaya, a festival of ideas dedicated to celebrating progressive discourses within the vibrant grassroots community of intelligentsia, civil society, and community organizers in Southeast Asia. With LiteraCity, he initiated a literary and cultural mapping project in the city of Kuala Lumpur. Currently pursuing his postgraduate studies in Social Research and Cultural Studies in Taiwan, Zikri is also a writer, independent researcher, and translator for various ephemeral platforms

This lecture acknowledges that Malaysian films struggle in the age of anxiety to engage with many socio-cultural and political issues, ethnic relations, gender disparity, the denial of human rights, freedom of expression and nationalist discourses. In an early essay, “Just-Do-It-Yourself,” I pose cosmopolitanism as a way to describe what historian Sumit Mandal terms “transethnic solidarities” among independent Malaysian filmmakers in their collaborative projects (Khoo 2007). While many of the films screened in this festival reflect this cosmopolitan attitude (having an openness towards the culture of others as reflected in sensitive portrayals of the racial Other, being influenced by global film styles), there have been significant changes in the film industry, technology and among independents that make the cosmopolitan framework difficult to contain and apply to all Malaysian films.  That said, this lecture will take up some of the festival’s themes, namely by addressing the discourse of Malaysian modernity in the ‘Age of Anxiety’, through a discussion of two films by Dain Said set in the urban cosmopolis where the mystical exists.
I read the spaces of Dukun and Interchange via temporality and spatiality that gestures towards the idea of networked or circulating modernities, to eschew and deconstruct the often diametrically opposed binaries of tradition/modernity, past/present, colonial/postcolonial in favour of integrating the two and thinking of them as relational. As Walter Mignolo notes, modernity is conditioned on the presence of coloniality; so too has western modernity its dark side: colonialism (2011). While the resurfacing of ghosts, the mystical, beliefs in black magic and the monstrous feminine in Malaysian or other SEAsian films can be read positively as signs of pluralizing modernities, through positing “alternative” or “Asian” modernities, this gesture nevertheless returns the power of primacy to European modernity as the source of its planetary diffusion (Friedman 2015). Notionally the rendering of tradition in most Malaysian fantasy/horror reflects a postcolonial anxiety about our state of modernity, whether it’s ambivalence about the benefits of modernity (alienation in the family) or a sense of cultural lag that Malaysia is ‘not quite modern’, not quite scientific, not quite divested of its sometimes silly superstitions.
My analysis though hopes to make sense of the sleek modern architecture in Interchange that does not resemble the reality of a working class police photographer’s accommodations and the traditional blue and white buildings that are iconic of Malaysian police stations. The presence of the indigenous Borneo historical characters in the hypermodern city hearkens to the return to older layers of regional history: reminding Malaysian viewers of urban Malaysia’s deep-roots in the nusantara (archipelago). I will show how Dukun and Interchange do not only suggest that the past (in the form of the Sumatran dukun and the Tingang tribe of Borneo) haunts the present for colonial and postcolonial injustices that once addressed can be put to rest; but that the present and the past (and the future of the past) are deeply imbricated in temporal continuity. Thus, tradition and modernity are enmeshed and appear to evolve in new forms that may not be linear. Such a reading I hope can contribute to and enrich Friedman’s and Mignolo’s project of connecting local modernities.

Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan Lecture Series (2)
Historicising Malaysian Cinema through Genre

Speaker:Norman Yusoff (Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia)
Time:27th Apr (Sat), 1pm-3pm
Venue:Film Studies Center Theater, 3rd Floor, HA Building 2, National Chiao Tung University
*Lecture in English
Speaker’s intro:
Norman Yusoff is Head of the Centre for Postgraduate Studies, Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Malaysia, where he also teaches film studies. He obtained his PhD degree from the University of Sydney, with a thesis focusing on genre, gender and temporality in contemporary Malaysian cinema. Norman has published articles in the Asian Cinema and the International Film Guide. He is also a film columnist with the Malay-language daily Mingguan Malaysia and curates the fortnightly Wayang Budiman programme.
Discussant: Au Sow Yee (artist)
Au Sow-Yee, born 1978 in Malaysia, she now lives and works in Taipei. AU’s works focus mainly in questioning, exploring as well as expanding the relation between images, image making, history, politics and power, through video installation and other mediums. Sow-Yee’s recent works focus on re-imagined history of Malaysia, South-east Asia and it’s related region from perceptions and ideologies bounded by the Cold War. A finalist for the 2018 Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize and Han Nefkens Foundation - Loop Barcelona Video Art Award 2018, Sow-Yee’s works were exhibited in MMCA (Seoul), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), HKW (Berlin), Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum, Singapore Film Festival among others. Sow-Yee is a guest writer for online magazine No Man’s Land and co-founded Kuala Lumpur’s Rumah Attap Library and Collective in 2017.

During the golden age of Malaysian cinema in the 1950s and 1960s, two film studios – Shaw Brothers and Cathay-Keris – dominated film production, distribution and exhibition. In their efforts to attract audiences, both studios emphasised ‘product differentiation,’ a strategy that often took the form of ‘star’. However, there was ample evidence of the occasions on which ‘genre’ was also employed in their production marketing strategies. This lecture attempts to trace ‘genre’ of old films by historicising Malaysian cinema. In the process I argue that genres of Malay films had their own conventions due to their borrowing from – and adaptation of – various local, regional and transnational media and cultural forms. Although most of the films may not have been formulated within a Hollywood-style, generic framework, some entailed genre elements whereas others were unarguably genre films. The popularity of Hong Kong genre films in British Malaya, as well as cosmopolitan film practice (involving South Indian and Filipino filmmakers in the early phase), contributed to the influencing and shaping of Malay films’ genre and content. This lecture claims that early Malay film genres transcended the binary between realist and non-realist genres which is assumed in most Anglo-American film scholarship. Many Malay film narratives, which in the main were imbued with elements of magic and superstition, exhibited either non-sociological modes of the fantastic or anachronism that ruptured modern, homogeneous notions of time. As the lecture will suggest, this tendency alludes to the prototype of Malay film genres, purba films, a form of period film or costume drama that had its roots in theatrical forms (bangsawan and sandiwara) and folk literature (regional myths, folklore and historico-legends), which taken together could be considered ‘genre narratives’.

Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan Lecture Series (3)
Screening and Director’s Talk on I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone : Tsai Ming Liang

Time:26th Apr (Fri), 6pm-9:30pm
Venue:Film Studies Center Theater, 3rd Floor, HA Building 2, National Chiao Tung University
Moderator:Lim Kien Ket
*Lecture in Chinese (English Simultaneous Interpretation provided)
 I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone
Tsai Ming Liang / 2007/ DCP/ 115 mins/ Malay,Mandarin,Bengali/ English Subtitles
Homeless on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Hsiao Kang is robbed, beaten and left for dead; he is found and nursed by Rawang, an immigrant worker, who lives in an unfinished, abandoned building. Rawang's feelings for his patient may or may not be sexual, but there's lust in the eyes of Chyi, a coffee shop waitress, when they light upon the recovering Hsiao Kang. And so a triangle forms as a blanket of noxious fog settles on the city and everyone has trouble breathing.
Director’s Bio:
Tsai Ming Liang was born in Kuching, Sarawak in 1957, graduated from the Drama and Cinema Department of the Chinese Culture University of Taiwan. Before delving into filmmaking, he was involved in writing theatre plays and television dramas. Most of his feature films such as Rebels of the Neon God (1992), Vive L'Amour (1994), The River (1997), The Hole (1998), What Time Is It There? (2001), The Wayward Cloud (2005), I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006), Face (2009) were invited to participate in important international film festivals, thus made Tsai internationally renowned. Stray Dogs (2013) won the Grand Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival and the 50th Golden Horse Awards. In 2017, he completed the first Virtual Reality (VR) film, The Deserted, which premiered at the 74th Venice Film Festival. Collaborated with Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, Tsai’s latest film Your Face is a feature film with only 14 shots.。

Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan Lecture Series (4)
Screening and Director’s Talk on Crossroads: One Two Jaga : Nam Ron

Time:27th Apr (Sat), 6pm-9pm
Venue:Film Studies Center Theater, 3rd Floor, HA Building 2, National Chiao Tung University
Moderator:Tee Kim Tong
*Lecture in Malay (English/Chinese Simultaneous Interpretation provided)
Crossroads: One Two Jaga
Nam Ron / 2018 / DCP/ 83 mins / Malay, Indonesian, Tagalog/ English and Chinese Subtitles中英字幕
In Kuala Lumpur, when his sister Sumiati runs away from her job as a domestic helper, wanting to return from Malaysia to Indonesia, illegal immigrant Iman has to exhaust all his resources to get Sumiati illegal passage back on a boat. Meanwhile, policeman Hassan is always open to bribes from wrongdoers, whom he lets off with a caution. His new partner Hussein, on the other hand, has all the integrity and rigour of a rookie law enforcer. Although Hassan tries to hide the fact that he’s on the take, Hussein finds out, to his outrage. When these two groups of characters collide, all hell breaks loose for a thrilling climax.
Director’s Bio:
Nam Ron (Shahili Bin Adnan) was born in Kangar, Perlis. He is active in practicing theater informally since 1989 as an amateur actor while working as a car welder. Since then, Nam Ron founded several theater groups and collectives such as SEBATU, Alternative Stage and Rumah Anak Teater as a playwright and director while pursuing his studies in Akademi Seni Kebangsaan (ASK). Developing further in his career, transitioning from experimental and modern theater to film production, he establishes Ayaq Hangat Entertainment working as a producer, director and actor in various award-winning filmographies; Gedebe, Gadoh, Dukun, PSIKO: Pencuri Hati, Redha and One Two Jaga among others. The latest One Two Jaga (2018) won big at the 30th Malaysia Film Festival, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and others.

Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan Lecture Series (5)
Screening and Director’s Talk on Jagat : Shanjhey Kumar Perumal

Tine:28th Apr (Sun), 12:30pm-3:30pm
Venue:Film Studies Center Theater, 3rd Floor, HA Building 2, National Chiao Tung University
Moderator:Joyce C.H. Liu
*Lecture in English
Shanjhey Kumar Perumal/ 2015/ DCP/ 76mins/ Tamil/ English and Chinese Subtitles
Jagat is a coming-of-age story about a boy growing up in a community of Tamil immigrants in Malaysia during the 1990s. Appoy, a spirited kid who would rather watch gangster flicks and make prank calls than memorize his multiplication tables. Desperately trying to keep his son on the straight path, Appoy's hard-working father becomes increasingly abusive as the boy is inexorably drawn to the criminal lifestyle of his uncle, a henchman for a local Malaysian gang.

Director’s Bio:
Shanjhey Kumar Perumal is a Malaysian director and writer with over 13 years of experience in the creative media industry. He earns a Communication degree in Film and Broadcasting from Universiti Sains Malaysia. Over the years, he has been involved in a diverse array of media ranging from documentaries and short films to musicals and children’s programmes. His short visual essay, ‘Thaipoosam’, was screened at the 36th International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands. In 2009, his short film ‘Machai’ was awarded the Grand Prize at the BMW
Shorties Malaysia. Jagat (2015) is his first feature, which won the Best film in both Malaysian Film Festival (FFM) and KL Critiques award 2016.

Malaysian Film Festival in Taiwan Lecture Series (6)
Screening and Director’s Talk on Year Without a Summer : Tan Chui Mui

Time:28th Apr (Sun), 6:30pm-9:30pm
Venue:Film Studies Center Theater, 3rd Floor, HA Building 2, National Chiao Tung University
Moderator:Earl Jackson
*Lecture in English
Year Without a Summer
Tan Chui Mui / 2010/ 87 mins/ Malay/ English and Chinese Subtitles
Azam comes back to his village, to look for his childhood best friend, Ali. Ali and his wife Minah are overjoyed to meet this long lost friend, who had left the village thirty years ago. They had been following Azam’s news since he became a famous singer, although now Azam is over his peak. Ali and Minah invite Azam to their house. At night, Ali asks Azam to out fishing at the sea. They visit the Pulau Ular island. The whole night, the three of them talk about love, marriage, village folklore, mystic creatures, and the wild boar hunting once upon a time. As the night is ending, Minah demonstrates that she could hold her breath underwater for 3 minutes. Azam tries to do the same, but he never appears again…
Director’s Bio:
Tan Chui Mui is an independent filmmaker at the forefront of the Malaysian New Wave. The language of her films is calm, steady, and yet highly affective; her films often focus on cross-cultural issues as well as humanistic interactions. She has made numerous short films known for their respective unique styles. In 2004, she set up Da Huang Pictures with Amir Muhammad, James Lee and Liew Seng Tat. Her debut feature, Love Conquers All (2016), won the New Current Award at the Busan International Film Festival and the Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Her second feature film Year Without a Summer was released in 2011.

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