Quick Stop at the Asian Festival of First Films '09

I received a pair of invites to the Asian Festival of First Films Gala Awards. This is my first time to the Awards and I was bowled over by the glitziness of the event. It was held at the Raffles Hotel and had many distinguished showbiz personalities at the event. The only pity is not many local films are involved in the festival. So I owe it to the people who have put up such a lovely dinner event to share a better understanding of this festival to others.

Here is quick interview with Sanjoy Roy who is the Director of the festival.

Jeremy (J): Sanjoy, I understand you are from India, why did you decide to hold this Asian film festival in Singapore instead of your home country?
Sanjoy (S): Ummm ....I tend not to look at the world in terms of national boundaries specially as we work in so many countries. In singapore we are a local registered company working in the arts since 2001 and it was natural to look at this as the host city for the festival as in a sense singapore is the switzerland of asia - neutral and well 
connected with good infrastructure.

J: The whole festival is very well-put together and reflects a lot of effort and expenses put into it, yet it showcases first films which an average audience or even a discerning audience may have reservations about watching, what makes you take this risk?
S: As a company philosophy we believe in supporting and creating platforms for innvovative and emerging work through the art forms in music, theater, dance, film, visual arts and more. We do believe it is important and imperative to ensure that the voices of tomorrow find a platform to be heard and aired.

J: What kind or genre of films does the festival favour?
S: We accept all genres - this years festival selection for example included slash and horror, art house, romance and thrillers. the criteria that a film has to meet to be selected varies in different categories but finally its about the basics of making good cinema.

J: Out of the 700 submissions you receive, what's the breakdown like in terms of the nationalities from which the films originate?
S: We received films from over 26 countries with the majority from india, china, hong kong, usa, uk followed by the rest.

J: There are numerous first-time short films made in Singapore in the last 2-3 years because of the number of new film schools set up here. Do you receive many entries from them? How do plan to encourage more submissions from here? 
S: In year 1 we had one nomination in the documentary category ...this has grown to 4 nominations this year. The number of submissions too have grown in numbers.

J: How do you get submissions? Do you actually also travel to various countries to get screeners like some festival programmers do?
S: We announce the opening of entries each year around cannes - we send out emailers to existing film councils in different cpuntries and more. we also access markets including shanghai, hong kong, cannes, etc. We tend to track films which are being released and send information to them.

J: What are your aims for this festival in the near future?
S: We included pacific region two years ago - we wish to reach out next to africa, middle east and thereon to europe and usa making this a festival of 1st films.

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