Forget Boring Summit and Head to ASEAN Film Fest

A still from Burmese horror film “The Only Mom.”

BANGKOK — Though we couldn’t join world leaders at last week’s ASEAN Summit, us average Joes and Somchais can explore the region over the next two weeks through the annual Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival.  

The fifth and entirely free film festival is to hit silver screens again with even more to choose from than previous years, starting from July 3 at SF World Cinema, Central World and Paragon Cineplex.

This year’s fest will showcase an impressive roll of 30 films from ASEAN and some Northeast Asian directors, ranging from action, drama, comedy to documentaries – there’s something for everyone. 

This year’s headlining film is the Indonesian drama “Memories of My Body,” which explores the intricate knots between sexuality and conservative political conditions through the life of a legger dancer a male dancer whose art requires him to assume femininity. In doing so, the protagonist Juno begins to uncover his true sexual identity, but in negotiation with unbending social norms.

For thrill-seekers, Cambodia is sending its first-ever million-dollar action film “The Prey.” From Jimmy Henderson, the director behind “Jailbreak” the first Cambodian film to be streamed on Netflix the film follows the rush of an undercover Chinese agent who finds himself in a “human hunting game” in the middle of a Cambodian forest.

If even “The Prey” fails to get your adrenaline pumping, brave the Thai-directed but Burmese-starring horror flick, “The Only Mom”. A family moves into a remote town only to watch their daughter descend into eerie behaviour after she discovers an old photograph. 

Those who want something light can opt for comedies like “Ada Apa Dengan Rina 2” from Brunei and Laos. Following the success of the first installment Brunei’s second-ever feature film “Rina 2” follows two Brunei lads whose friendship is put to the test when they fall in love with the same woman while on a work trip in Vientiane. 

Contrary to the common belief that film festivals only feature films for nerds and critics, Thailand’s blockbuster “Friend Zone” will also revisit theaters. The rom-com from GDH, the studio behind internationally-acclaimed “Bad Genius,” follows a pair of long-time buddies who grapple with one of them falling into the “friend zone.”

Regional classics such as “The Moon Over Malaya” (1957, Malaysia-Singapore) and “Genghis Khan” (1950, the Philippines) will also enjoy rare screenings. Meanwhile 10 recently produced films will compete for a festival crown, including “A Land Imagined” from Singapore, “Funan” from Cambodia, “Manta Ray” from Thailand, and “Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus” from the Philippines.

The details of other films and the festival schedule can be found online or at participating cinemas.

“Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival 2019” will run from July 3-8 at SF World Cinema, Central World, and Siam Paragon’s Paragon Cineplex. Every screening is free and will include Thai and English subtitles. Tickets can be obtained until 30 minutes before the screening time.