Yuni Hadi, the SGIFF’s executive director, explains what hot at this year’s festival. And why.

Variety: What’s new at the festival in 2017?
Yuni Hadi: The introduction of the Southeast Asian Producer’s Network is a natural extension of the Southeast Asian Film Lab. We have the closed-door session where it’s a full day session discussing the success and challenges of a project, analyzing numbers and ultimately, having working producers share information that can used to achieve wider distribution for Southeast Asian independent films. For our first year we have guest speakers who are commissioners of cable and Internet platforms like Astro, Catchplay and HBO Asia.

We also have Midnight Mayhem which is the new branding of our late-night films which started to have a real following- with the filmmakers of “Salvage: Malay Wild” and “Mayhem” in Singapore to bring different perspectives of genre films

Variety: What is new and noteworthy in the past 12 months in SEA cinema?
Hadi: In our campaign videos this year, we pair up Southeast Asian filmmakers discussing cinema. This is the future for Southeast Asian independent cinema – that collaborative spirit that sees us pulling resources together and finding ways to continue to tell our stories through film.

We have a lot of talent in Southeast Asia and our development programs such as our Southeast Asian Film Lab and Southeast Asian Producer’s Network is all about sharing resources, information and support. SGIFF is in the right place to do it and this is the right time. You can see with our anniversary screenings of “Flower in the Pocket” (Malaysia), “I’m Not Stupid” (Singapore), and “Talking Cock” (Singapore) how far we have come.

This is an exciting year for Indonesian cinema and we’ve really embraced that with our Focus section: Histories of Tomorrow – Indonesian Cinema After the New Order, shining the spotlight on the grassroots and community efforts that have brought cinema into town such as Purbalingga. Supporting that we are also celebrating the work of veteran filmmaker Garin Nugroho with by conferring him with our honorary award. We also present the works of festival favorite filmmakers Mouly Surya, Edwin and Kamila Andini. So, this spectrum allows us to really appreciate how far contemporary Indonesian cinema has come and be excited about what’s ahead.

Variety: What titles are you most pleased to have secured for the festival this year?
Hadi: One of my favorite parts of the festival is meeting all our competition filmmakers for both shorts and features. We spend the whole year watching all these films, and so getting to meet the filmmakers behind the film is a reward for us. We are seeing some exciting films from Iran and Georgia this year. I’m interested to see how audiences take to films such as “Scary Mother” (Georgia), and “Ajji” (India) with very strong and powerful female protagonists.

Denis Cote’s “A Skin So Soft” has its Asian premiere at SGIFF, a documentary exploring masculinity; “Sweet Country” (Australia) is an extremely relevant film – I would love to see Warwick Thornton and Mouly Surya (“Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts”) to have a dialogue session.
From our Classics section, I’m thrilled to have “Secret Spies Never Die!,” we have the rare opportunity to speak to Brian Trenchard-Smith who directed “The Man from Hong Kong,” a classic that has remained a classic for a reason.

This year with #thefutureis theme, we are further embracing technology with some of our post film dialogue sessions going Facebook Live. In our Future of Cinema panel this year we explore VR and how art of storytelling has been developing with this technology. The panelists we have selected are those with filmmaking background, two of whom had their first films screened at SGIFF in the past, Sandra Rodriguez from Canada, and Aaron Wilson from Australia.