Fest exposes regional talent

Wee's Sarawak screens more than 40 films, shorts, docus

SYDNEY — There are lots more “tigers and dragons” lying hidden and crouching in Southeast Asia, according to Gregory Wee, referring to what he sees as a wealth of undiscovered filmmaking talent in the region.

Aiming to give some of those tyros a platform, Wee organized the inaugural Sarawak Millennium Film Festival in Kuching, Malaysia, last month.

The noncompetitive fest, staged by U of Malaysia Sarawak (where Wee is a lecturer), gave exposure to more than 40 films, shorts and docus. Entries — many of them shot on digital video — came from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Although the Jan. 21-23 event attracted only about 200 people, Wee was highly encouraged by the creativity and diversity of the works submitted, and the support the fest received from the film community and Malaysian orgs the National Film Development Corp. and the Multimedia Development Corp.

“We are basically looking out for new talents, content and themes which will (help) shape the cinema of the region in the years to come,” Wee tells Variety. “We are providing a platform to identify them as early as possible, before anyone else does.

“We could see some kind of movement in the regional indie scene, especially with the availability and accessibility of digital video.”

A parallel film conference enabled filmmakers, academics and officials to share their views on national cinemas and the problems confronting those industries.

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