ASEAN festival shows films for free

Five recent movies from Southeast Asia cover a spectrum of genres

The ASEAN film festival is entering its fifth year, and will show five films from members of Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This year offers a broad mix of genres, from horror to biography. The festival takes place at Lucerna cinema from Sept. 13 to 17, with screenings at 6 pm each day. Last year, some 1,600 people attended the festival.

ASEAN has 10 countries, but only five have embassies in the Czech Republic — Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Each of the represented countries will have one film in the festival and admission to all of the films is free of charge. Films are in their original versions with both English and Czech subtitles. The purpose of the festival is to promote broader understanding of the ASEAN members through cultural exchange.

The festival seeks to have a good balance of different types of films each year, and also to present multiple views of each country over successive years of the festival.

The festival kicks offs with a horror film from Thailand called Pee Mak. Horror overall has been the most successful genre from the region, as it is the most universal. Pee Mak is a bit unusual because it is also a comedy and romance. His Excellency Narong Sasitorn, ambassador from Thailand, praised the film for its multi-genre approach, which sets it apart from other horror offerings. The film retells a popular ghost legend from the middle of the 19th century. It was a huge success, selling a record 16 million tickets, mostly in Asia. It won multiple awards including the Scene Stealer prize at the sixth Siam Dara Star Awards.

Next up is Malaysia with a film called The Journey, which was also a box office success. Malaysia is a multicultural society, and this film looks at the Chinese minority, Malaysian Ambassador Nadzirah Osman said. The love story finds a young Malay-Chinese woman who has fallen in love with an Englishman while studying abroad. Her father, though, is not happy with the union. The main plot, which involves a motorcycle and hot air balloon trip, shows the barriers between the suitor and the fiancee's father being broken down.

The Indonesian offering was partly shot in Prague. Surat Dari Praha, or Letters From Prague, goes back in history to 1966 when Indonesian students became trapped in Prague due to the political situation back home. The main character is supposed to deliver and box and letter to someone in Prague, but the recent events make it more complicated than it should have been. Counselor Tribayu Deviputri Purwanti said the film will have special guests at the screening, including three former Indonesian students who have stayed in Prague since the 1960s.

A true story comes from the Philippines. The early life of boxer Manny Pacquiao is the subject of the rags-to-riches tale Kid Kulafu. The title refers a type of cheap wine consumed by the lower classes, according to Philippines Ambassador Victoriani M. Lecaros. In the film, the young Pacquiao discovers his talent for boxing and embarks on a journey that takes him from his mountain village to the streets of Manila, where he launches his career. The film has played in multiple festivals.

The final film in the festival is Yen's Life, from Vietnam. The life of a woman in a rural area is a platform to examine child marriage and woman's rights before 1945 in Indochina. The lead character is forced to marry a when she is 10 years old, to a groom who is only 9. Vietnamese Counselor Vu Van Minh said the film shows the strength of Vietnamese women.

Aside from films, the festival has a contest with prizes provided by Vietnam Airlines and Barrandov Studios.

You can read more about the festival at

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