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An interview with SAFF 2015 winners, on their winning projects

The Southeast Asian Film Financing (SAFF) Project Market will return this year (in conjunction with ScreenSingapore 7-9 December 2016) to match promising feature-length projects with a global network of media financiers, distributors, and collaborators who can bring these projects to fruition.

 

And while submissions pour in for the second SAFF, three winners from last year have been kept busy with producing their prized entries.

While Mattie Do’s (Laos) team is developing for the script for “The Long Walk”, William Lim (Singapore) and Bront Palarae (Malaysia) have begun filming for “The Happiness (R)evolution” and “One Two Jaga” respectively. These Asian producers shared that SAFF Project Market 2015 gave them the chance to meet with the right industry players who helped kickstart their projects.

Mattie Do, Director, The Long Walk (Gateway to Digital Award)

The only Lao woman to ever direct a feature film, Mattie Do entered the film industry without any formal training, with hopes of helping Laos develop its own unique content and voice in cinema that differed from its sister countries in Asia.

 

For years, she has resolved to open the relatively closed Lao culture to film audiences through her works.  And she does it again with the “The Long Walk”, which tells of a subsistence farmer living on the fringes of rural Laos who develops an obsession with the amnesiac spirit of an accident victim who haunts the dirt road where she died.

 

The project is a sensitive examination of Lao cultural and social development, framed against the underpinnings of spiritual belief.

 

A deeply personal story for Mattie, this film is an expression of her experiences and thoughts after mother’s passing – Lao ceremonies, all-night vigils, feverish dreams where her mum needed to be rescued. These left her waiting for some sign that there was an afterlife, and led to questions about what remains after a person’s physical self deteriorates.

 

Mattie’s life may well be a film in itself too. In 1975, her family fled Laos to escape political upheaval, and after a three-year wait in a Thai refugee camp, they resettled in Los Angeles, California. Thirty years later, after the death of her mother, Mattie’s father immigrated back to Laos and invited his children to join him. Mattie and her husband returned to Laos in 2010, and have spent the last five years permanently based in Vientiane.

 

She hopes that her contribution to Lao cinema culture and arts would keep it vibrant and alive. In the years to come, she looks to develop many co-productions and foreign productions where filming and collaboration take place in Laos, moving the nation’s film scene from its infancy stages towards maturation.

 

For Mattie, SAFF Project Market 2015 connected her the right people for her film. She got to meet investors, producers, and distributors from Southeast Asia and beyond, and also found mutual support in fellow competitors who understand the struggle and reality of creating something special and outstanding for Southeast Asian cinemas.

 

 

William Lim, Producer, The Happiness (R)evolution (Silver Media Award, RED Cinema package, RED Education course)

Another film that sheds light on a relatively lesser-known nation is “The Happiness (R)evolution”, a documentary on Bhutan’s journey in pursuit of Gross National Happiness.

 

Bhutan remained in isolation for centuries. When it finally opened up and began its planned development, it boldly rejected Gross Domestic Product and adopted Gross National Happiness as its economic model. While the idea was to initiate a human-centred development that would protect its rich Buddhist culture and pristine natural environment, materialism and consumerism have also equally grown. As the Buddhist kingdom continues to modernise and open up to the world, will the 'happiest country in the world' continue to remain contented and happy?

 

“The Happiness (R)evolution” – together with another feature drama set in Bhutan – gave its producer, Singaporean William Lim, the opportunity to satisfy his curiosity about the nation’s efforts to age-old tradition and values, while opening up to the world.

 

In the same way his curiosity fuelled his documentary, William’s passion led him to join the film industry. Formally trained as an architect and subsequently a film editor, there was a time when he was designing houses in the day and editing videos at night. The instant creative gratification of the editing process subsequently got the better of him and he decided to enter the film industry full-time.

 

Speaking about his experience at SAFF Project Market 2015, William shared that it gave him exposure to external funding and the global market. Unlike other markets where Asian content is not the highlight, he enjoys the fact that SAFF’s focus is on Asian content.

 

Filming for “The Happiness (R)evolution” is in progress, and William hopes to complete the film by 2016.

 

Bront Palarae, Producer, One Two Jaga  (RED Cinema package, RED Education course)

Over in Malaysia, Bront Palarae and his team have also begun filming on “One Two Jaga”.

 

The story revolves around two police officers in the elite unit in charge of immigrant control, who encounter a migrant worker and his illegal immigrant wife. Even though the two pairs are on different sides of the law, they are actually faced with the same pressures of survival. Their paths collide and their fates converge, with tragic consequences for both cops and the immigrants they are supposed to control.

 

Despite placing a spotlight on the controversial topic of corruption in the police force, Bront successfully secured funding from FINAS (National Film Development Corporation Malaysia) and logistical assistance from Malaysia Police Force. This surprise added to his delight upon winning at SAFF Project Market 2015. Bront shared that his team had we submitted the application, simply to test it among the international & regional film community, and did not think it would beat 140 other submissions from around the world.

 

For the Malaysian-based actor-producer, he hopes to see more co-productions between Asian nations. So for “One Two Jaga”, there will be a collaboration with Indonesian actors and composer (Tony Setiaji).

 

Bront looks to again participate in SAFF Project Market 2016, as the last edition was a priceless experience for him. He encourages fellow producers to do the same, as this could be a launch platform to kickstart their projects.

 

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About Editor

Chatelin Bruno
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