HOT on the heels of Japan’s high-profile film omnibus Asian Three-Fold Mirror, National Gallery Singapore is presenting an unprecedented collaboration with five award-winning directors across Southeast Asia in an effort to shed light on Southeast Asian art and it’s incredible heritage.
Aptly titled Art Through Our Eyes, the omnibus film will see the likes of Eric Khoo of Singapore, Apichatpong Weerasethakul of Thailand, Brilliante Mendoza from the Philippines, Malaysia’s Ho Yuhang and Indonesia’s Joko Anwar take on short films based on Southeast Asian art that has been exhibited by the gallery.
The directors chose Southeast Asian artworks from the 19th and 20th century as inspiration.
Singaporean filmmaker Khoo drew inspiration from Chua Mia Tee’s Portable Cinema (1977), while Malaysia’s very own Ho handpicked Aku, one of the earliest works by Malaysian virtuoso Latiff Mohidin featuring a portrait of Indonesian poet Chairil Anwar.
Mendoza on the other hand saw potential in the vivid portrayal of occupational era artwork Marketplace during the Occupation by Fernando Cueto Amorsolo that dates back to 1942.
Weerasethakul and Anwar were both attracted to ideas portrayed by pioneering Indonesian romantic painter Raden Saleh. Weerasethakul in the end chose two pieces — the violent Merapi, Eruption By Day from Merapi, Eruption By Night — while Anwar went for 1893’s Wounded Lion.
All of the filmmakers engaged for this project have made their own mark on the international festival circuit.
Thailand’s Weerasethakul won the 2010 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and is a regular at the festival, where Philippines’ Mendoza won the Best Director Award in 2009 for Kinatay. Singapore’s Khoo however had 2008’s My Magic and 2005’s Be With Me screened at the festival, but his involvement in SG50 anthology 7 Letters also garnered him strong praise.
Malaysian director/actor Ho Yuhang is known for his 2006 film Rain Dogs, which was screened at the Venice Film Festival. He last nabbed headlines due to a FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Award for 2015’s Trespassed, and is currently working highly-anticipated action-drama Mrs. K.
Aside from winning awards such as the Anwar’s A Copy Of My Mind too was featured at Venice and also Toronto, but he is also known for HBO Asia‘s cross-regional mini-series Halfworlds which debuted last year on the network.
Art Through Our Eyes was initiated by Singaporean filmmaker Khoo with National Gallery Singapore. When asked about the project, Khoo expressed pleasure in being able to bring together great Asian filmmakers to create something meaningful and shed light on the deep cultural and artistic values embedded in Southeast Asia.
All the shorts will be produced by these directors in their respective countries.
The monumental collaboration is also being supported by the Singapore Film Commission (SFC). Screenings and showcases are scheduled for later this year so be sure to look out for them in the near future.