Why and for whom do you write/work today?
Feature by: Alexis A. Tioseco

The question was simple, the answers varied, the intentions--which need not be stated explicitly--plural. Criticine asks a number of film critics, teachers and those working in the field of cinema the same basic questions:

Why and for whom do you write today?
Why and for whom do you work today?

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Vipavinee Artpradid

I had the option to listen but never listened. Now I work for those who want to listen but never had the option.

Perhaps we know so little because we don't listen. Perhaps we don't listen because we don't understand what's being said. Once we understand what's being said, then we listen, and then we realize we know even less than when we couldn't listen. Question is, do we continue listening or do we feel so insecure with what we know that we stop listening altogether?

I always understood what's being said, but I never listened. Translating for Criticine made me learn to listen, and now I can't stop.
---
Vipavinee Artpradid is Criticine's Thai-to-English translator. Her profile can be read here

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

May Ingawanij

I write about cinema out of a curiosity about how new film forms come into the world, and [I write] about Thai cinema to try to understand the country's film cultures, past and present. I'm beginning to realise that the most difficult, yet necessary thing, is to write as intervention–to help clear a space for a more critical and creative film culture. Hats off to those who exercise judgment and courage in holding this ground.
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May Adadol Ingawanij completed her PhD, entitled 'Hyperbolic Heritage: Bourgeois Spectatorship and Contemporary Thai Cinema' at the London Consortium, University of London. She has taught world cinema at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the University of East London. Her research interests include the return of modernism and the political avant-garde in world cinema, and the cinema's historical role in creating public spheres in Thailand.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Khoo Gaik Cheng

I am a lecturer who does research, teaches and writes on independent filmmaking in Malaysia. I have taught Southeast Asian culture and literature and Indonesian language at university-level in British Columbia, Canada and now, in Canberra, Australia. In my current department, Gender, Sexuality and Culture, Southeast Asian Cinemas is only one of the courses I teach. Other courses I offer include The Politics of Dance/Musicals, Transforming Culture: Race, Nation and Gender (which uses food and sport to talk about Australian multiculturalism) and Feminist Film Theory and Feminist Theory. Since I will not be offering the Southeast Asian Film course until July, I can't really talk about how my students feel about it. However, what I have done with my research on independent filmmaking in Malaysia is to try and use some of the material for teaching purposes.

For example, last year I taught an introductory course on cultural studies where we discuss culture jamming. I showed a Malaysian independent digital documentary, 18? to my largely Australian students as an example of how graffiti is still a politically subversive act in a country like Malaysia where numerous laws restrict freedom of expression. Although teaching abroad to mostly non-Southeast Asians, I am always excited to expose Malaysian and Singaporean students to their own history and contemporary culture. I find it gratifying to see how much more they derive from the material than other students who do not have personal ties to the culture.

I have also given campus seminars and guest lectures about the Malaysian indie filmmaking scene for colleagues in other departments like English (postcolonial literature) and Asian Studies (on Malaysian politics and culture).

I continue to do research on Malaysia and Southeast Asia in general even when it seems that most universities in the west are turning away from issues in this region to focus on China and other economically-vibrant countries. This is because I believe that first, there is still a lot of academic research to be done on contemporary culture, media and film here. Second, I truly believe that Southeast Asian filmmaking, film activities and film activism/education are growing due to our realization about the power of visual media. Southeast Asian Studies departments need to keep up with this trend, and not just focus on economics, politics and development. Film Studies departments should also look beyond India, Chinese, Japanese and Korean cinemas when offering courses and positions on Asian cinema. Such exciting activities need to be documented and analysed for what they tell us about cinema in general and our own art, societies and cultures.

Moreover, it is apparent that interest in Southeast Asian cinemas is growing as the third annual conference (14-17 Dec, 2006, held in Kuala Lumpur) attracted about 50 submissions and had more than 80 international and local participants, our largest yet. But the most noteworthy point is the strong sense of solidarity and cooperation among the participants from the region as we traded strategies, ideas and learned from each other.

Lastly, I teach and write to all audiences but honestly speaking, my ideal audience or readership would firstly be other Malaysians, then Southeast Asians and those who are interested in Southeast Asia. Partly this is because I feel we know so little about our own culture/filmmaking practices, let alone be able to appreciate it. (In fact, we are always comparing our local offerings with those of giants like Hollywood, Bollywood and Hong Kong).

At this early stage of introducing a Southeast Asian film curriculum in an interdisciplinary program, I anticipate that most Australian students will need background information regarding each country and its history of cinema before being able to fully appreciate the films. There will be discussions about the content and perhaps not as much on technique and film styles (though film students might be better able to engage with this aspect). Once this cultural foundation is laid, it will be easier to raise the level of discourse and to talk about film aesthetics, though with an understanding that both culture and film aesthetics are deeply interwoven.
---
Khoo Gaik Cheng is a Malaysian academic based at the Australian National University. Her full bio can be read here

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Benjamin McKay

The question Criticine has posed provides, indeed an interesting opportunity to both reflect upon my practice and ideas as well as to position that reflection more broadly in line with my projected work and my engagement with a number of interrelated disciplines.

I am a writer on Southeast Asian film, a historian of Malaysian cinema, as well as a lecturer and researcher in Film Studies at Monash University, Malaysia. I write for both the interest and engagement of a broad audience – both through academic papers and articles for scholarly journals as well as a critic and commentator for Criticine and the weekly online arts magazine Kakiseni in Kuala Lumpur.

I feel privileged to be able to address a wide audience with my writing and not merely address an academic readership. Indeed that sense of bridging the divide between the academe and the public is a philosophical decision based upon a profound belief in the responsibilities attached to being committed to broad intellectual engagement. I am lucky enough to be employed by a university that supports public intellectualism and public engagement.

While I believe I write for the public I also believe I write for the betterment of film scholarship and film criticism. I have identified a need for better critical and scholarly engagement with the rich traditions and contemporary practices of cinema in Southeast Asia. In recognizing that need it has been a privilege to also actively engage with film practitioners and film industry personnel in an active dialogue about their work and their industry that, again, attempts to break down the image of academics being cloistered within the safe cocoon of the ivory tower.

As a teacher I provide university students from both Malaysia and the broader Southeast Asian area with a strong focus on the fundamentals of Film Studies as a discipline as well as to encourage them to utilize their theoretical understanding of film with a practical and critical engagement with the medium. I am pleased that the department that I work in believes in a marriage between rigorous theory and critical understanding and a hands-on approach to film engagement. Many of my students have commenced work on short filmmaking and others have started to think about new ways of approaching film criticism when applied to the cinemas of their region.

I believe that as a writer and academic I am a part of the industry that I engage with. This sense of partnership needs to be constantly worked on and reinforced – as there is a natural skepticism in the industry about the motives and ambitions of both critics and academics. Having said that, I do believe that I write and teach in order to serve the betterment of film, and of Southeast Asian film in particular. Given the richness of the cinematic legacy of the region as well as the dynamic, original new and creative work being released here, the opportunity to serve film in some way is for me, a particular honor and privilege.

In a nutshell, I write to whoever wants to read about film, I teach to those who are in love with it and are passionate about it, and I hope that somewhere between those two activities, and in bridging all of my engagements with film and the film industry, I further serve the development of film culture. In the end I also do what I do because, quite simply I love it – it is actually as simple as that. I write, teach, watch films and engage with filmmakers out of love.
---
Benjamin McKay is a lecturer in Film and Visual Studies at Monash University Malaysia and is currently living in Kuala Lumpur. He writes on contemporary South East Asian cinema for Criticine and Kakiseni (Malaysia) and is completing his PhD in Malay film history through Charles Darwin University, Australia.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Hassan Muthalib

WHY DO I WRITE?
Because I am just passionate about movies! Need you ask?!

FOR WHOM DO I WRITE?
For anyone who wants to appreciate the power of movies–that while functioning as entertainment, film is capable of revealing aspects of the human condition in limitless ways. My purpose is not to educate but to inspire filmgoers to go on to discover film’s outer and inner meanings and its relevance to their own lives. My hope is that with a more film literate audience, a filmmaker’s work will then truly be done.
---
Hassan Muthalib is a writer, teacher and filmmaker. His profile can be read here

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Vinita Ramani

This question comes at an apt period in my life. Unfortunately, I have to answer it by a process of elimination (not the best way to establish why one chooses to do something! But there you go). In the past year or two, I have realized I do not and cannot write for industries / entities / companies or institutions that treat writing as though it merely serves a utilitarian, practical function and writers are basically factory workers churning out words.

In Singapore, the newspaper industry typifies this attitude. While the nature of the medium and its goal (mass distribution) justifies the need to learn a style of writing that can be understood and appreciated by as many people as possible, I found this reasoning was too often used to justify mediocrity.

When I say mediocrity, I mean it in two respects. One, it is tragic to treat language in a strictly instrumental, utilitarian manner, thereby killing any semblance of poetry or emotion in it. I recently read Ex Libris – Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. I am not a bibliophile by any stretch of the word compared to how Fadiman describes herself. But in her essays on how books have fundamentally shaped her life, she fills her own writing with poetry, wit, irony and pathos. That book inspired me and answers this question well. You write because writing moves you. It’s compelling, not obligatory.

Second, a mistake is made in assuming that any indication of an opinion or position implies lack of objectivity. The reality is that journalists cannot have opinions in Singapore and therefore, the industry has rationalized this inability to express opinions by associating it with the “objectivity” seemingly found in journalism. This, to me, is the worst way to write because you are lying to yourself as you do it. I write because I hope it is a form of “truth-telling”, insofar as I discover little truths about the world and myself as I do it and that truth always changes.

After all these experiences, I’ve finally come to realize that I write for myself. I guess you might then ask: so why not write in your journal? Why submit articles, or write to others at all?

To qualify my stand, when I say “for myself” I mean that I try to write in a way that will not irk my conscience or leave a bad taste in my mouth. The other side of that coin is that I write for and to people. I cannot write mass e-mails, for a start. If I must share the details of my life over intermittent periods, I have a different rendering of my life for each person, depending on who it is. So I guess I write to my friends and weave stories about my life for them too.

I also write for a community of like-minded individuals. Appealing to the masses is a task I don’t feel fully qualified to undertake as yet. To me, it is a particular skill learning how to use language to communicate complex or specialized ideas in a way that is understood by a large number of people. If you don’t nail that, you end up compromising and writing like a press release, which is something I loathe and fear because there isn’t a person behind those words, just an automaton (i.e. back to that factory worker thing I mentioned).

Everything translates with all its power when you do it for yourself first: in other words, when you are true to your instincts and you are clear on your motivations for undertaking the task. People can see and feel that. If they dislike what you’ve created after that, well, at least you don’t have to hate yourself for doing something self-compromising to begin with. That is how I see it.
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A dynamic writer and intellectual, Vinita Ramani served as publicist and writer for the Singapore International Film Festival. She is a regular contributor to Criticine.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Kong Rithdee

My reasons for writing about movies are very selfish ones: I write to satisfy my own curiosity and I write because it is a process which assists me in improving my understanding of the movies, the culture, and of myself as a person in relation to the values of the society and the culture. Shit, I sound serious. I write because as long as movies are still being made, I believe there should be professionals devoted to watch those movies with analytical attention, functioning as the interpreter of culture. Movies that go un-reviewed are like a life that goes unexamined. Wow man...

I have a complex as a writer who writes mostly in English in a country where most people have very limited understanding of the language. My audience is thus limited. But since Thai movies have gained more interest abroad, I believe my writing has some informative and critical values to readers outside of my own country. Not many Thai writers write in English about Thai movies, and I think it's important to have someone who shares the same cultural environment as the filmmakers to write about their works. If we happened to find large oil reserves in this country, we should at least try (successfully or not is another story) to build our own oil refineries before we quickly turn to ask foreigners to come in and dig. Am I making any sense?
---
Film critic Kong Rithdee is friends with most Thai filmmakers, even if he doesn't like their films. He writes a column on cinema for the Bangkok Post.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Prima Rusdi

Why, and for whom do I work today?

As easy as the question sounds, trust me, it is not too easy to give you a definitive answer. I would like to think that I work for myself. Though in general, I think, people should contribute to their surroundings if not the world at large. My parents raised my brother and I to believe in ideas. I’ve always believed that you can only work well if you are given the opportunity to do what you like best. And what I like best is stories, and writing them.

As a small child I always remembered how my parents loved going to the movies. I would stay up late to wait for them and asked them to tell me the story of the film that they just saw. My mom is a great storyteller (most women in my family are), so it was through her stories, I guess, that my fascination with films first emerged.

I remembered trying to talk to my parents about going to a film school (the only one in the country, IKJ). My usually open-minded Dad posed me a challenge, “The thing is,” he said, “…all forms of art are about life. It’s not so much about us wanting you to have an academic degree, but it’s important for us to know that you are absolutely sure about your choices, and that you allow yourself to live a life that enables you to finally do whatever you want in the end....” I pondered my options, and when I was accepted to the Faculty of Journalism in the University of Indonesia. I went there instead. And had a great time, I must say. And for sometime I even thought of having a career as a journalist.

Months after I graduated from the University of Indonesia, I got a scholarship from the Australian government and ended up spending two years in Canberra (1992-1994). Back then in my country Suharto’s regime was still powerful and censorship was still really harsh. I saw no point of working in the media. I did try though: for about four months I worked in a private television station before quitting and signing up with a multinational advertising agency instead. So, I started working as a copywriter in that agency.

The deadlines were always tight, but it gave me first handed experience of how to write for many different mediums. I was beginning to get restless because I could not find enough time to write stories or even to read books in my spare time; there were almost no spare times to speak of. And then came 1998. The country took a turn in a different direction when the Suharto regime fell from grace. Our agency could no longer afford hiring directors from abroad, so they began to work with local directors, and this was how I met Riri Riza and Mira Lesmana. It is fair to say that we clicked instantly. They had just finished shooting Kuldesak with Nan Achnas and Rizal Mantovani. It was a very brave move on their part to make the film since nobody besides Garin Nugroho could manage to make films during that era. We talked a lot about film, and I was not sure what got into me when I finally gathered the courage to tell Mira and Riri that I wanted to intern on their next film (Sherina’s Adventure). I remember Mira asked me, “What do you like most about films?” My answer was, “Stories.” Riri nodded and said, “Let’s talk a bit more, you can call us anytime.” He gave me his cell phone number.

It took me another six months or so to finally make the big decision: leaving my day job to join Mira and Riri. I finally handed in my resignation letter on June 2000, and immediately Riri and I worked on the script of Eliana, Eliana. While working on the script, I was also working as some sort on the crew of their other activities; to be specific I was working as on script continuity every time we had to shoot something (music videos, commercial, etc). I was also hired as a contributing writer for CosmoGirl Indonesia. One has to be realistic when she or he chooses to become a screenwriter in Indonesia. The money is not that big, so it is either you push yourself into writing television series’, or have several jobs at once so that you can support yourself. I don’t think I can write for television, so I’d rather earn some extra dimes writing articles or short stories while working on my scripts. By the time Riri and I finished with our 2nd draft of Eliana, Riri got a scholarship to do his Master’s in England. The project was put on hold, and the rest of us, lead by Mira, began to develop Ada Apa dengan Cinta? (English title: What’s Up with Love?).

When the shooting date of AADC approaching, hundreds of application letters came from all over the country. The success of Sherina’s Adventure gave young people the idea that an alternative way to learn about how to make films would be to intern on a film production. We ended up selecting about 10 applicants to work with us on the set. We realized that it was a luxury to make films, and not everyone could easily get into the almost non-existent industry. So in addition to our jobs as filmmakers, we also had to function as educators. It was t he least that we could do, to share our knowledge to these young aspiring filmmakers. The fact that up until today we only have one film school is not much of a help. This was also the idea behind Shanty Harmayn’s persistence to maintain JIFFest (Jakarta International Film Festival), as the festival has functioned as a school of reference to many aspiring filmmakers. In addition to this, filmmakers like Mira, Riri, Nan, Shanty and I myself at one point, also teach at IKJ.

When Riri came back from England in 2002, he and I sat down and went through our 2nd Draft of Eliana. Riri was thinking of shooting Eliana on DV. It was more realistic in terms of budget. We rewrote the script and shot it in 12 days (with less than 20 crew). The film did not achieve the same commercial success as the Sherina’s Adventure or Ada Apa dengan Cinta but it was accepted well in International and Regional Film Festivals.

By this time, I learned that to be able to continue to make films, or write for films I should say, one has to know enough about all the aspects of production. Because we didn’t have enough money just yet to resolve things in the editing stage, the script had to be viable for it to go to the next step; which is the shooting stage. My being involved in the pre-production and production stage has given me a lot of practical knowledge about the process that I can incorporate into my writing.

When I decided to become a screenwriter in 2000, a lot of people found that it was ‘odd’. Everyone else wanted to become a director. Even today, people often ask, “So, when do you get promoted (to be director)?” Although I must note, I’m glad to see that more and more people want to become screenwriters.

The biggest misconception people have is to perceive that making films is a luxury that can only be done by the elite. Such a notion is not true. As long as you have something to tell, you can make films. This was my belief when in August 2005 a group of friends asked me to join them as a mentor who would conduct a film workshop in a Juvenile Correctional Centre. About 20 kids between 11 to 18 years old were selected to attend the workshop. All of them came from very poor family backgrounds. They were being locked up behind bars for various kinds of violations: murder, drugs, robbery, etc. These children could not trust people easily. They had gone through a lot, maybe even too much for somebody their age. To win their trust was difficult. They do not speak the way we do, yet they are sharp and direct, and raw. If they didn’t understand what we said, they would shout or throw their pens across the room. We were told by their supervisor to put on a straight face at all times. And trust me, it is not that easy. We were not sure that they believed they could make their own films for they have been misjudged almost all their lives. So we began by asking them to write their own stories, so that we can select four out of twenty to make them into four short films. The clarity of their stories was overwhelming. These kids have no access to the today’s references such as MTV, etc; so every story was based on their own experiences. But they chose not to expose the downside of their lives to be made into films. After a lengthy discussion among themselves four stories were selected. For the next eight days, they went through the grueling experience of shooting their own films. With the exception of the editing process, everything was done inside the Juvenile Correctional Centre.

We managed to convince the Head of the Correctional Centre that the rights/ownership of the films should be registered under the children’s names. They agreed, partly because they were skeptical that the films were ever going to be made at all. The whole process of working with them taught me that our role there was only to assist these children to find their own voices and turn them into films. We did not really teach them anything. It was their lives that they turned into films, and it was a huge privilege for us to be let into them, ones that we might never be able to understand completely. Yet, to see these young faces filled with pride and joy upon seeing their own completed films was an experience that I will not forget. It was amazing to realize how making films could liberate the minds of these youths though physically their bodies were still being locked behind bars. These films were screened in many places, including the national short film festival in October (Konfiden), and the regional short film festival in November (Slingshorts).
***
Coming back to the question of why, and for whom, do I work today— I guess I still like to think that I work for myself, a long with other people who share this same vision (there is no way you can do this completely on your own): to continue moving forward and believing that together we can make something good out of what we have, and of the world we live in, by simply doing what we can do the best we can do it.

This might be one of the reasons why some of us decided to return the Citra Awards on January 3rd 2007, for we agreed that there are more important things that need to be resolved before we can sit back, relax and feel that we deserve to accept an award or two…but not until then. As per today, I think I am a work in progress.
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Prima Rusdi completed her masters degree from Canberra University in Australia. In addition to writing or co-writing several feature films, she is an educator and, most recently, a producer, for the omnibus film project 9808.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Ben Slater

Writing for me, is an alternative to things that are much harder to do. To make a documentary about Saint Jack (the Singapore-shot 1978 film that is covered in my first book, Kinda Hot), was just too difficult, slow and demanding a process, so I wrote a book instead. This was the moment when I realized that I was a writer, and it’s funny because I had never thought about myself that way, even though, that is basically what I'd been doing since university. After graduation, I wanted to start a theatre company, but it was so daunting, I started a magazine instead. Even as a film programmer, my favourite part of the job was writing copy for the publicity –that to me was really satisfying, compared to all the meetings, e-mails, calls and discussions that had led to the programme in the first place. I write for several reasons, and I think everyone does, sometimes there is a definite sense of mission—to reveal something that has been obscured, or to critique something that has been given an easy ride, but often I write just from the pleasure of exploring an idea in prose, working through my feelings, and enjoying the way a thought process can develop when you use words to articulate it. Mostly I write things that I would want to read, and in that way, the process of reading and writing are inseparable. If I have any kind of agenda about the people that read my stuff, it’s just to be as accessible as possible, without compromising the ideas. And to take pleasure in language.
---
Ben Slater is a writer, lecturer and curator who has been based in Singapore since 2002. He is the author of the book Kinda Hot, on the making of Saint Jack in Singapore.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Bee Thiam Tan

We have known accomplished Asian filmmakers, making important works for our community. To honour their contributions to our heritage, we preserve their works properly and make them accessible so our future generations can enjoy their cinema. We work to fill the important gap of an independent and grassroots-driven memory institution for films in Asia. To build the Asian Film Archive Collection, we invite contributions from filmmakers, collectors, companies and the public. Our emphasis is on culturally important works by Southeast Asian filmmakers. If there are films you feel are of importance and need proper preservation, contact us. If we can locate it, we will preserve it. If we can preserve it, we will make them available to this community that it is made for. All the films we collect are films we want to show people even 50, 100 years later because we believe great films can make a difference to people’s lives. We work for the future.
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A graduate of the National University of Singapore, Tan Bee Thiam is the founder and Executive Director of the Asian Film Archive.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Chalida Uabumrungjit

Work keeps me alive so I probably say that I work for myself. There are many things I want to see happen and I try to make it happen through my work. After ten years of working on independent films, now I will focus more on creating spaces for proper screenings for non-mainstream films. I would also like to return to my personal passion, which is to work more to support film preservation because films are really dying in our country and elsewhere. We already have a petition on saving the audio-visual heritage (http://www.petitiononline.com/filmnow/petition.html) [which is meant] to urge the government [to act] and we will have many more events to support this campaign.
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Chalida Uabumrungjit studied film from Thammasat University and film archiving from University of East Anglia,UK. Currently she is working as the project director of the Thai Film Foundation. She has supported independent film through Thai Short Film and Video Festival which she served as Festival Director since 1997. Anything to do with films in Thailand, you can always find her there.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Jan Uhde

Actually, I don't consider myself a critic in the conventional sense. I write mostly articles as a part of my film research. They may be called academic, although I prefer them to be accessible to readers beyond scholarly circles. I dislike the convoluted academic newspeak so widespread these days. That's why I appreciate the unpretentious yet eloquent simplicity of Ozu's film language so much.

I wrote a couple of books, including Latent Images: Film in Singapore which I co-authored with my wife Yvonne who is a Singaporean. More recently, we contributed chapters to books such as Fear Without Frontiers, Contemporary Asian Cinema, and journals such as Spectator (USC). I have written on Singapore film and on the Czech master animator Jan Svankmajer whose surreal movies I have loved since my student years. Recently, I contributed a chapter on Svankmajer to Horror International (Wayne State U. Press).

In 1993, I founded a semi-annual journal Kinema, published at the University of Waterloo. I have been teaching Film Studies there, my full-time activity. There was no program of Film Studies there, so I started one–I guess unexplored areas must attract me in some way.

People have been asking me what brought me to the subject of Singapore film. Twelve years ago. I asked my wife about Singapore movies and I realized that practically nothing had been written on film in Singapore, except a few scattered newspaper articles and two to three pages in books on Asian cinema. I realized that something should be done. I am happy to see some progress in Singapore's film scene.
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Dr Jan Uhde is Professor of Film Studies at the Fine Arts, University of Waterloo, ON, Canada. Born in Brno, Czech Republic, he moved to Canada in 1968. At the University of Waterloo, he founded a program of Film Studies. He is the co-author of Latent Images: Film in Singapore (OUP, 2000) and the Latent Images: Film in Singapore CD-ROM (2003). His publications include Vision and Persistence: Twenty Years of the Ontario Film Institute (University of Waterloo Press, 1990). Uhde's professional interests comprise Central European cinema, especially the films of the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, and issues of identification and distancing in film (metacinema). He is founding editor of KINEMA, a semi-annual journal for film and audiovisual media published at the University of Waterloo since 1993.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Noel Vera

Whom is easier; I write for the one person out there who might want to look beyond the cineplex, who wants something more than the bland, standard-issue Hollywood fare, cookie-cutter entertainment produced at minimum cost and for maximum profit, MTV-style flash-and-bang, all razzmatazz and no substance; I write for the one person out there who might prefer the simple and the heartfelt over the big-budgeted and thoroughly digitized; who values the name of an artist over the name of a celebrity; who thinks films can do more than make you forget your problems for a measly few hours, maybe put your problems in context, give you a whole new perspective on life—or some corner of it that you never thought existed.

I also write for the one Filipino or lover of things Filipino who is suspicious of all things Hollywood, who doesn't buy the conventional wisdom that Filipino films (or culture, or society) is inherently inferior to Hollywood movies (or culture, or society); I write for the Filipino who believes in the potential greatness of the Philippine artist, that he has done much and is capable of even more; that he is a creature of God, able to reflect His greatness as well as if not better than any other.

And who knows, there might be as many as two of them out there I'm writing for.

As for why—why, that's partly a function of my audience (such as it is); I write in part for whomever out there responds to my writing. I also write for my own inner satisfaction, that I am in some small measure helping contribute to the literature on Philippine cinema and its development, thereby uplifting it. I write, in short, for the satisfaction of others (or that one other, if you like) and of myself.

But beyond that, I write because I must. Because some mysterious urge compels me to do so. Because if I didn't, some inner artery in me will burst out of sheer need, and flood my brain with blood.

In the end, I don't really know why I write; I just do.
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Noel Vera is the foremost Filipino film critic of the last decade. His full bio can be read here and his blog can be found here.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

Zhang Wenjie

I work for the National Museum of Singapore as a programmer, and my work involves organizing and programming film screenings and festivals. At the same time, I also like to think that in some way, I work for the Singaporean filmmakers as well – in watching, screening and recommending their films. But most of all, the reason I do my work is for people like Toh Hai Leong, for whom film is not just a version of life on the screen in a darkened theatre, but something that is more than life itself, because that was how I was like once.
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Zhang Wenjie was the programmer for The Substation's Moving Images film programme from 2003 to 2005, and worked for the National Museum of Singapore as programmer for the National Museum Cinémathèque from 2005 to 2008. He is currently co-director of the Singapore International Film Festival.

The answers:

Vipavinee Artpradid
May Ingawanij
Khoo Gaik Cheng
Benjamin McKay
Hassan Muthalib
Vinita Ramani
Kong Rithdee
Prima Rusdi
Ben Slater
Tan Bee Thiam
Chalida Uabumrungjit
Jan Uhde
Noel Vera
Zhang Wenjie

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