See movies around ASEAN without leaving Bangkok at fest this week

‘Tiong Bahru Social Club’
‘Tiong Bahru Social Club’

More than 20 feature films and shorts from around Southeast Asia will pack theaters at two downtown malls starting Thursday.

With cinemas back in business, the Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival starts at 6pm Thursday with a short film competition before raising the curtain on the full program, including highlights such as Singaporean black comedy Tiong Bahru Social Club, which portrays an imaginative, data-driven project to create the happiest neighborhood in the world.

Recently winning at the Toronto International Film Festival and selected as Indonesia’s Oscar entry, Yuni is a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl whose personal dream is stifled by her conservative society. The movie touches upon several pertinent issues in a Muslim society including arranged marriages, mandatory virginity tests for female students, and a ban on music. 

After years on hiatus, Malaysian filmmaker Tan Chui Mui has produced a personal film inspired by her experience juggling work and parenting. Barbarian Invasion circles around divorced and retired actress Moon Lee, who decides to rejoin the acting world by leading a martial arts film to regain her confidence – only to see her ex-husband take a leading role. The movie is directed, written by Tan, who also stars.

As Myanmar’s coup and military violence against its own citizens continue to draw global attention, the country offers one classic for festival audiences. The Daughter of Japan is a black and white 1935 film about two Burmese pilots who fly to Japan, where one of them falls in love with a Japanese woman. 

Chosen to represent Cambodia for best international movie at the upcoming Academy Awards, White Building talks about Phnom Penh’s rapid urbanization through a story of a young man and friends who live in the titular, historic apartment block. Director Kavich Neang said he made the movie from his first-hand experiences: His family was evicted from the White Building in 2017 due to its planned demolition. 

The event is also a chance to finally see The Edge of Daybreak by Thai director Taiki Sakpisit (read our interview with him here). The movie about a dysfunctional Thai family torn apart by violence and trauma premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this year and brought back one of its most prestigious prizes for its “mysterious atmosphere and rich imagery.”

Admission is free. Moviegoers are required to reserve seats in advance.

The Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival runs Thursday to Monday at the SF World Cinema at the CentralwOrld shopping mall and Paragon Cineplex inside the Siam Paragon mall

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