Yuni Hadi, executive director of the Singapore International Film Festival, says South East Asian cinema contains exciting talent. And that the way forward involves cooperation with the video streaming platforms.

What have been the high and low points of the cinematic year for Southeast Asian cinema?
“There are some amazing short films and documentaries that show great potential in who to look out for the next few years. That’s really exciting. There are many film projects that have been workshopped in labs and programs with specific art house aesthetics and rhythms. Sometimes that may reflect in films and serve as a double-edged sword. Overall, there is great anticipation for new films from filmmakers whose first films have done well in recent years.”

Is the large and growing number of project markets, pitching sessions, bursaries etc helping the SEA industry? Or making it more subsidy dependent?
“The time for Southeast Asian films has never been better because there is an international spotlight on it, so people are looking to co-produce or get involved somehow.

“For SGIFF, we are in it for the long-haul because we want to build an audience for films from our region. It just doesn’t stop when the next trend comes along.

“Creating the ecosystem for that to happen is challenging. Collaboration with various partners from all over the world is important so that we can pull our resources together. That is why our Southeast Asian Producers Network this year brings together producers, funders and grant-givers to discuss what’s happening now, and what does it lead to tomorrow? We want to be able to steer our path so that there is a long lifespan for Southeast Asian content to be made and to be seen.”

Is film censorship growing in Asia? What are the causes?  
“With the changes in the political climate in any country, we often see these changes reflected in art, including in film. Sometimes the subjects dealt with by creatives are hot topics that are very new, and society or governments have not found a way or platform to have a discussion about them. When we look back in history, art often reflects what goes on in our society and allows us to not only record it from different perspectives, but also have a dialogue about what is going on, whichever viewpoints you carry.”

How do you evaluate the impact of (global and regional) streaming services on the SEA film business?
“In order for the films from this region to continue to keep being made, we have to ensure not only that there are resources for production, but also for the release, whether it is in the cinema or online. The consciousness of the film needs to reach the audience who have access to hundreds of films selected by algorithms for them on these online platforms. It allows for easy watching and referencing, but takes away the adventure of discovery that we all need to unearth hidden gems. We don’t want our audience to get lazy and take away that sheer pleasure of being able to discover new films they never knew they would like.”

How have the above affected the Singapore International Film Festival this year?
“In our Future of Cinema panel this year, this is exactly what we are discussing. There are many great film directors and producers who are working on series now. For us, that crossover is allowing the stories that these filmmakers want to tell to reach new audiences. Ultimately though, it is about good storylines and the art of visual storytelling. We saw that clearly in HBO Asia’s ‘Invisible Stories’ by Ler Jiyuan , who worked in the independent film scene. We really wanted a chance to present it at SGIFF before it goes on the channel. The screening allows the audience to have an up-close and personal dialogue with the director and cast after the screening and watch the rest of the episodes on HBO. SGIFF as a platform allows the audience and the creator to connect and create more interest in the creative process.

“It’s really been a pleasure to work with HBO Asia and Netflix this year as they both companies are also passionate about good storytelling though the visual medium.”