Much Ado About Nothing: Southeast Asian Filmmakers on Life with the 'Rona, Part 1


For some filmmakers, there is a sense of dread being on lockdown but for others, it is business as usual. They work from home most of the time anyway. In any case, while most of us are on lockdown, there is no need to feel like you are in a silo. The Italians bring their musical instruments to their balconies every evening and start a communal jam. We can do it here too! It is time to give our neighbours across the borders a shoutout to find out how they are spending time at home. From working on screenplays to watching Kingdom on Netflix, here is what filmmakers across the region in Southeast Asia are doing and watching while waiting for the 'Rona virus storm to pass. 

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Yosep Anggi Noen, Indonesia
Anggi is a producer, screenwriter, lecturer and filmmaker whose films, including ‘Peculiar Vacation and Other Illnesses’, ‘Solo, Solitude’, and ‘The Science of Fictions’, were all Golden Leopard nominees at the Locarno International Film Festival. Last year, ‘The Science of Fictions’ received a Special Mention at the Locarno International Film Festival. His latest projects 'Jilah And The Man with Two Names' and documentary 'Voice of Baceprot' are selected for the 37th Rotterdam CineMart and Pitching du Réel 2020, the international coproduction forum of Visions du Réel, respectively

What is your biggest concern right now?
My biggest concern is to stay sane and healthy. And here in Indonesia, the people are building a solidarity emergency response. Solidarity by donations and providing support to the medical officers. Also, the government is struggling to make the best decisions for this issue.

What are you watching or doing right now?
I am watching some classic films...  some post-WWII Japanese films. But of course some series. 

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
Maybe I will make a comedy film...


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He Shuming, Singapore
Shuming is a screenwriter and director who most recently completed his MFA in Directing at the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles, California. He is currently working on his debut feature film, ‘Ajoomma’, which recently won the top prize at the Southeast Asian Fiction Film Lab (SEAFIC) and the Best Co-Production Prize at IFFM Macau in 2018. Shuming was conferred the Young Artist Award in 2019 by the Singapore National Arts Council.

What is your biggest concern right now?
My biggest concern first and foremost is the health and well being of family, friends and colleagues. This crisis is unlike anything we've witnessed. We need to stay safe, and look out for each other. Of course, I'm worried about my film. We are not stopping work, but rather we are adopting a wait and see approach, and adapt accordingly.

What are you watching or doing right now?
I'm developing a web television series, and working on 2 separate projects that are shooting in the next 3 months. I started watching Kingdom on Netflix and Modern Love on Amazon Prime.

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
I'm looking forward to a lesser sense of uncertainty and continuing the work we need to do. I feel it's going to be a new era we will be entering!


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Nontawat Numbenchapol, Thailand
Nontawat is a Thai film director and television screenwriter, who is widely recognised for his documentary works which include ‘Boundary’, ‘By the River’, ‘#BKKY’ and most recently ‘Soil Without Land’.

What is your biggest concern right now?
I'm concerned that the situation in this world is taking longer than expected to resolve and I think all my plans this year may be stuck.

What are you watching or doing right now?
I have more time that I never had like this. I can concentrate well on my script for my new film Doi Boy, while staying at home with my mom, cat and dog. I'm watching many films everyday on Netflix, Vimeo, Mubi etc.

The films I am watching include Clash landing on you, Paris Texas, Stalker, Farewell my Concubine, Ash is Purest White, Selfie, Kingdom, Pornhub premium (for free)

Also, I am releasing my films on Vimeo on demand with a 70% discount. Soil Without Land is only available in Thailand. Finally, I am preparing for my solo exhibition in July.

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
Going for a massage and shooting Doi Boy.



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Benedict Mique, Philippines
With over 20 years in the media production industry in the Philippines, Benedict has written for more than 25 productions including films and TV series and has also directed several films. His most recent films include ‘ML’, ‘Momol Nights’, ‘Barbara Reimagined’ and ‘Two Love You’. Under his film company Lonewolf Films, he has a slate of films lined up for the year and beyond.

What is your biggest concern right now?
My main concern right now is the safety of everybody. An invisible killer and a pathetic government is not a good combination.

What are you watching or doing right now?
Right now I am watching anything on iwant and Netflix.

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
I want a safer world to live in, a far better government, and to make more films.


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Aditya Assarat, Thailand
Aditya is a film director and producer whose award-winning films include ‘Wonderful Town’ and ‘Hi-So’. He is also the producer of many Thai independent films including ‘Eternity’, ‘Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy’ and ‘W’. His most recent film ‘Ten Years Thailand’, a Thailand-Hong Kong-Japan co-production, premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Aditya is also the director of Purin Pictures, a film fund that supports independent cinema in Southeast Asia.

What is your biggest concern right now?
Health and safety of my family.

What are you watching or doing right now?
Netflix series.

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
Kingdom 3.



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Nadiah Hamzah, Malaysia

Born and raised in Penang, Malaysia, Nadiah started out as a copywriter in McCann Erickson. She then enrolled herself in film school and graduated with an MFA (Film & TV) from Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, training under some notable names in film, with one of them being Spike Lee. Her anti-bullying film for ‘Save The Children’, won a big following online and has earned her a win at the Adfest, The One Show, and a Cannes Lion. She released her debut feature film ‘Motif’, in 2019 and was hailed as “one to watch” by The Hollywood Reporter. 

What is your biggest concern right now?
My biggest worry right now is how the film industry is able to pick itself up and resume as usual. Filmmaking itself is collaborative in nature - we work in such close proximity for long hours on set. I do believe many would be wary to jump straight into production right away when the Movement Control Order (in Malaysia) ends, because even with extra precaution and safety measures taken, we can’t be 100% sure. But at the same time it’s also about how do we still put food on the table then? 

What are you watching or doing right now?
Honestly I imagined that I would finally be able to write, but with so much uncertainty it has been really difficult to be productive, creatively at least. I have been rewatching films like La La Land, nothing too heavy or intense (although I did finish The Invisible Man before). Other than that just a lot of cooking and spending a lot of time with my 5 year old. 

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
I’m bracing myself for days that we are able to create and work freely again. To enjoy films in cinemas again, for stalled projects to continue and new ones to start. This storm shall pass!



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Ray Pang, Singapore
Ray developed his passion for film at 18 years old and has made several award-winning short films which have travelled around the world, including ‘Break’, ‘You Are Only Young Once’ and ‘Closer to Me’. He is also a member of the “Producer & Director Network ASIA” in Japan. As much an entrepreneur as much as he is a filmmaker, Ray co-founded Premise TV, a tech & media startup that integrates crowdfunding and distribution while using data to market short content for filmmakers. Premise TV allows filmmakers to produce edgy content while they raise funds and audiences through the platform.

What is your biggest concern right now?
My biggest concern as a filmmaker is the lack of jobs and the investors' lack of financial interest in terms of the entertainment industry. 

What are you watching or doing right now?
I am watching Netflix, docu and series. I try to work and develop my first feature treatment. 

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
I look forward to the sudden demand in entertainment and marketing needs since most of it has been on hold or postponed. It's like a congested pipe, ready to explode.



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Tan Siyou, Singapore
Siyou is a Singaporean filmmaker based in Los Angeles. One of eight directors chosen for the 2018–19 Directing Workshop for Women at the American Film Institute, her thesis short film Hello Ahma competed at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Berlinale. Her previous short film 2200 Volts (2017) was mentioned in Variety and premiered at the Singapore International Film Festival 2018. She is developing her first feature, ‘AMOEBA’, which was awarded the Most Promising Project at the Southeast Asian Film Lab, and has been selected for the 2020 SEAFIC Lab. Also a visual artist with a printmaking background, her work as an art director has garnered a Cannes Lion, a Ciclope Award and the Jury Award at SXSW.

What is your biggest concern right now?
I'm concerned about my friends and family's health and safety. I'm concerned that tomorrow is going to be worse than today. I'm concerned that the global lockdown is going to erupt in some unleashed mayhem. Lots of things! 

What are you watching or doing right now?
I'm trying to write my feature script, but sometimes it feels a little futile, and instead I just read every article in the papers. Every night I try to watch a film on Mubi. 

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
I am looking forward to the sweetness of knowing that a hard-earned paycheck is on the way! But really, I'm looking forward to seeing people in flesh and blood instead of faces on screens. In spaces that I miss, like the cinema, a dingy bar.. 



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Rae Red, Philippines

Rae is a writer and director who wrote the Philippine entry to the 90th Academy Awards, ‘Birdshot’. Her first feature film, ‘Chedeng and Apple’ was a finalist at the 2017 Cinema One Originals Film Festival while her second feature and first solo directorial effort, ‘Babae at Baril’, premiered at the 2018 Cinemalaya Film Festival.

What is your biggest concern right now?
My biggest concern right now is how to meet all my writing deadlines while trying to maintain a sane mind. It’s hard to concentrate with the constant thought that things might not ever be the same again. So why am I still writing this sequence treatment or that storyline?

What are you watching or doing right now?
Currently watching HBO’s The Outsider and I’m about to catch up on The Wire. I try to watch in between my writing but most often I end up getting more watching done than writing.

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?
Going back to production work! All shoots are cancelled as of the moment. I miss seeing colleagues and friends.



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Judith Tong, Singapore
Judith is a Singaporean producer interested in broader collaborations with exciting new voices and diverse cinematic minds, especially from the region. Her thesis film, ‘Paper Roof’, competed in film festivals like Tribeca Film Festival, Busan International Short Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival. She is also an alumnus of Rotterdam Lab and Film Leaders Incubator by the Busan Film Commission.

What is your biggest concern right now?
The disadvantaged communities that fall through the cracks and are more vulnerable to the virus than most of us. 

What are you watching or doing right now?
I recently caught Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You and Sophie Deraspe’s Antigone at The Projector before its month’s long closure. The latter film blew me away. 

What are you looking forward to after this is all over?

Watching films in cinemas again, but more importantly for the world to come a step closer in being self-aware and see how toxic we can be as individuals to our environments and to other people.


Stay tuned.... part 2 coming soon. (Hopefully.)

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