Miserable weather have you making your third cup of hot Milo today? Don’t feel like leaving home just to get all soggy outside? If you are planning on staying home but don’t know what to do, may we suggest an impromptu movie night?
If you’ve never watched any movies from Southeast Asia aside from Singapore’s I Not Stupid and Thailand’s Shutter, then get ready to be surprised!
From classic horror like B. N. Rao’s The Curse of Pontianak to unusual documentaries featuring a domestic worker beauty pageant, like Sunday Beauty Queen by Baby Ruth, there’s no shortage on delightful surprises and spine-tingling entertainment!
That this movie even exists is a historic feat. Chanthaly is Laos’ first horror movie and Mattie Do their first female director. Chanthaly is about a sickly young woman who remains largely confined to her own home. Her only friend is her adorable dog and her father her only, albeit overprotective, caretaker. Lately though, she has been seeing visions of her dead mother. Could she learn the true story behind her sheltered life through her spirit? Though marketed as horror, Chanthaly is more of a slow-burn psychological thriller. To paraphrase Alfred Hitchcock on suspense, it’s all in the anticipation.
Fun fact: The dog in the movie is none other than the director’s own!
Watch Chanthaly here.
Did you know that Pontianak movies were a big hit in Malaya in the 1950s to 1960s? They were the region’s answer to England’s Hammer Horror Productions’ Dracula movies. Such was their demand that rival film studios Cathay-Keris and Shaw Brothers competed against each brother to make better Pontianak movies. Pontianak was the first and it was an instant crowd pleaser, leading it to be dubbed in Cantonese and sent off to the Asian Film Festival. Pontianak was followed up by The Curse of Pontianak, which became Singapore’s first wide-screen movie.
The movie also features the music of Zubir Said, the composer of Singapore’s national anthem.
Watch The Curse Of Pontianak here.
This documentary features the lives of Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong over a period of 4 years. Although the selling point is community’s beauty pageant, the movie also doesn’t shy away from the working conditions and the rich backgrounds of the central characters. Director Baby Ruth’s ability to gain access to the women is perhaps bolstered by the fact that her mother was once a domestic worker herself.
One of the women featured in the movie is Leo, a long-time organiser of the beauty pageants, who uses them to fundraise for domestic workers in need. There’s also Mylyn, who is the sole caretaker of an entertainment industry tycoon, an immobile man who lives alone. He comes to depend on her more than anyone else, despite him having several children and grandchildren.
Watch Sunday Beauty Queen here.
From Indonesia comes Our Mothers’ Land, easily the most visually striking movie on the list. A collaboration by Mongabay, a conservation journalism portal and the Gecko Project, an investigative journalism initiative, Our Mothers’ Land is about the lives of rural Indonesian women who are activists by necessity. You see, their source of food and water were in danger of being taken by government-sanctioned corporations. Think Coca Cola stealing the water of Indian farmers in the 2000s. Except this time, it’s in Indonesia and the Indonesian government is not only in on it but is not beneath deploying state resources against these women and their supporters.
Watch Our Mothers’ Land here.
The highest profile movie on the list, A Thousand Cuts premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last January and was later broadcasted on Frontline in the United States. By award winning director Ramona Diaz, A Thousand Cuts is about the fallout that ensues from a single inciting incident: the spate of murders that followed President Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to power. The murders were investigated by online news outfit Rappler, which then found itself in the crosshairs of Duterte’s administration, as evidence of a government-backed drug war emerged.
What will Rappler CEO Maria Ressa do, against the backdrop of legal threats and harassment, now that reporting itself has become dangerous?
Watch A Thousand Cuts here.
Now that you have all these movies to watch, you can settle in for a cosy movie night with your favourite snacks.
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