Between 2016 and 2018, Philippa Lovatt and Jasmine Nadua Trice led a project called the Southeast Asian Cinemas Research Network (SEACRN), which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK. They were joined by network partners Gaik Cheng Khoo (University of Nottingham, Malaysia) and Nguyen Trinh Thi (Hanoi Doclab).
Association for Southeast Asian Cinemas
The network emerged from the Association for Southeast Asian Cinemas (ASEAC). ASEAC began in 2004 in Singapore as a regional collective involving academics, filmmakers, critics, curators, archivists, and arts activists. It is a non-hierarchical initiative that anyone can join – and it meets every two years in a different part of Southeast Asia.
One aim of ASEAC is to theorize a regional cinema through understanding and supporting:
- the creation of spaces for dialogues among filmmakers working in diverse national industries and film scenes;
- the building of film institutions, collectives, and exhibition sites;
- the mobilization of filmmaking for political activism;
- and the tracing of myriad film histories that exist in both official and unofficial records.
We like to think of ASEAC as the “mothership," while SEACRN was kind of like a rowing boat that traveled around different places to continue the dialogue.
The SEACRN funding supported the 2016 ASEAC conference in Kuala Lumpur. Afterwards, we organised three symposia with the overarching theme of ‘Space, Time and the Visceral’. Each of these events was attached to an existing film festival.
- The first was in Los Angeles in April 2017, in partnership with the LA Asia Pacific Film Festival.
- The second was in November 2017 at Hanoi DocLab alongside the festival DocFest (as well as the uncensored sister programme – DocPhet).
- In March 2018, we worked with Glasgow Short Film Festival to hold a two-day symposium on the theme of ‘Archives, Activism and Aesthetics’.
This was a research initiative that was very much about collaboration – and part of this was connected to its being a curatorial project. For example, in Glasgow we curated film strands within the festival, but we also invited other people to curate strands for us. We programmed an overnight screening of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s short films, a retrospective of Nguyen Trinh Thi’s work, and a new installation called Everyday’s the Seventies. Meanwhile, Shireen Seno and Merv Espina's curatorial archival initiative, the Kalampag Tracking Agency, screened one of their short film programmes; we also screened a short film collection titled Death and Killing in Southeast Asia, programmed by Tan Chui Mui of Next New Wave, director of the Malaysia-based SeaShorts Film Festival.
Under the overarching theme of ‘Space, Time, and the Visceral’, we invited filmmakers, producers, archivists, curators, critics, academics, and media activists to explore how local understandings of spatiality and temporality, as well as ways of representing or manipulating space and time have influenced and shaped the texture, formal qualities, or narrative styles of Southeast Asian film. We also asked participants to reflect on how different strategies and practices of production, exhibition, and distribution have been able flourish despite (and perhaps even because of) restrictive conditions.
You can read about related events and publications at the links below:
- A journal article in Feminist Media Histories.
- A screening of Thi's Fifth Cinema.
- A panel on "Artists’ Moving Images in Asia" at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.
- A post on the Glasgow symposium by Jakarta-based media collective Forum Lenteng.
- A magazine article on the all-night screening of Apichatpong's films in Glasgow.
We hope to continue these conversations within this collaborative, online space. We welcome participation from anyone interested in exploring the rich range of film and media practices taking shape in Southeast Asia. To find out more about contributing, please contact Jasmine Nadua Trice at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are grateful for the contributions of our Research Assistants, Valencia Winata and Yunyi Li.