4 Things You Never Knew About the Asian Film Archive | Tenth Anniversary Special

[Original Link]
By Grace Hong, Art Hop

4 Things You Never Knew About the Asian Film Archive | Tenth Anniversary Special

The Asian Film Archive (AFA) turns 10 this year, but before we dive head-first into films and talks you can attend as part of the celebration, here are 4 facts to get you started.

  1. The Asian Film Archive is like the Indiana Jones of film—recovering and restoring important films from the past and present.

With a mission “to save, explore and share the art of Asian Cinema”, the AFA achieves this through its various projects such as Lost Films Search and Reel Emergency Project. In the latter, the urgency lies in the fact that many sole surviving copies of Asian films risk being misplaced or destroyed. Preserved copies are stored in a temperature and humidity controlled secure repository at the National Archives of Singapore, an archiving partner of the Archive.

However, films that do not face the above risk are also significant to the Collection, and Southeast Asian filmmakers are invited to build the collection by sending in their works to be archived. Collectors, companies, and even members of the public holding on to potential cinematic treasures are also encouraged to contact the AFA.

  1. Unlike Indiana Jones, the AFA shares its trove of films with the public.

With more than 1,700 titles and counting, more than 500 titles from the collection is available for public access at the library@esplanade, and through their online channel on Viddsee—an online portal that aims to showcase the best of short films in Southeast Asia.

AFA has the films of award winning Filipino filmmakers such as the late Lino Brocka, Mike de Leon, Lav Diaz, Malaysian filmmakers Amir Muhammad, U-Wei Hajisaari, Tan Chui Mui, and locally, Eric Khoo, Kirsten Tan, and Jack Neo, amongst others.

AFA is also home to the Cathay-Keris Malay Classics from the 1950s-1970s. These films have been inscribed into the UNESCO Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Register, a list of endangered documentary holdings, the archive world’s equivalent of the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing.

This is not only significant in promoting an appreciation of Asian films and giving Asian filmmakers a platform on the globe, but it also serves to inspire the next generation of filmmakers while presenting a wealthy resource for teaching and learning.

  1. The AFA also initiates programmes to help develop an appreciation and an understanding for the language, art, and industry of the film media.

This comprises of talks and workshops that cater to students, educators, and members of the public.

In May 2015, the Archive launched REFRAME—a series that encourages dialogue and examines topics surrounding cinema and the moving image. By presenting a critical re-look into trends and issues while asking hard questions, the series hopes to construct meaningful frameworks that evoke multi-perspective viewpoints and an increased appreciation of film and culture.

The first of its series, #NOSTALGIA, featured Singaporean sociologist Chua Beng Huat, filmmaker Tan Bee Thiam and film writer Ben Slater.

  1. The Asian Film Archive (AFA) is a charity organisation, and you can help support in one of these ways.

By giving

As the AFA is a registered charity and an Institution of Public Character (IPC), cash donations in Singapore entitle donors to receive tax deductions.

By shopping

Critical titles from the AFA’s collection are published in DVD formats, allowing greater access to un-published films. The AFA also facilitates the sale of other Asian film titles that are usually hard to find anywhere else in the world, and make great gifts for film enthusiasts! For some Asian filmmakers, AFA is the sole platform to sell their works, so each DVD you purchase goes a long way by encouraging these filmmakers to continue their craft.

By volunteering

Interested to have your work shown on a big screen to a theatre full of people? Perhaps a good place to start your film education is by volunteering at the Archive. Even for those who prefer to support in a less film-centred way, there are many opportunities available such as events or database management, photography, preservation and cataloguing.

Asian Film Archive’s Tenth Anniversary: Celebrating 10 Years of Collecting Tales

Sultan Mahmood Mangkat di-Julang (Asian Premiere)


Newly restored by the Asian Film Archive in 2015, Sultan Mahood Mangkat di-Julang is based on a 17th century folklore. Within a feudalistic society, political rivalry is strife as subjects struggle for recognition and power. After the protagonist successfully defeats plundering pirates, he is promoted by Sultan Mahmood to the position of Admiral. His subsequent marriage to a beautiful woman he rescues adds to resentment from a royal member of the court.

The Cathay-Keris studio was formed in 1953 and was one of the two key producers (the other being the Shaw Brothers) of its time. Sultan Mahood Mangkat di-Julang stands as one of the finest achievements in Cathay-Keris’ slew of historical dramas made during the golden age of Singapore cinema.

8pm, Thursday 29 October 2015
Gallery Theatre, National Museum
Free with registration at sultanmahmood.peatix.com


Fragment is an omnibus film celebrating the strength and diversity of South-East Asian independent cinema. Made up of a collage of ten stories, each story distinctively embraces the other’s subjectivities through the collective sentiments of vulnerability and fortitude.

The ten filmmakers are Kan Lume (Singapore),  Wesley Leon Aroozoo (Singapore), Sherman Ong (Singapore/Malaysia), U-Wei Haji Saari (Malaysia), Tan Chui Mui (Malaysia), Lucky Kuswandi (Indonesia), Phan Dang Di (Vietnam), Kavich Neang (Cambodia), Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit (Thailand) and Lav Diaz (Philippines).

The film is commissioned by the Asian Film Archive (AFA) for its tenth anniversary celebrations.

7.45pm, Friday, 30 October 2015
Green Room, The Projector
$15 per ticket (Post-show Discussion with Film Directors): Buy it here

4.30pm, Saturday, 31 October 2015
Redrum, The Projector
$12 per ticket (Repeat screening): Buy it here


Asian Panorama: The Fragments of Southeast Asian Cinema


With the surge of independent cinema in Southeast Asia came its increasing international attention and capitalisation of the notion of Southeast Asian Cinema. Accompanying issues range from the socio-political, cultural, historical and economics (in production, distribution, exhibition) related to the film industry and explored by artists.

Asian Panorama: The Fragments of Southeast Asian Cinema is interested to discuss the significance, usefulness, and relevance of the idea of a Southeast Asian Cinema and the different art forms that intersect with the film genre.

Some key discussion points on the impact of the growing development of a Southeast Asian identity are:

  • How has it shaped the perspectives of audiences and the response of filmmakers?
  • Has it unified or increased tensions amongst and within Southeast Asian countries given the subjectivities of different national experiences?
  • How does it affect the concept of identity (national, personal, gender, class, ethnicity)?
  • What is the impact on the “independence” of the independent cinema industry?
  • Is the construct of a Southeast Asian identity relevant to filmmakers?

The varied experience and backgrounds of the participating panellists, including filmmakers, programmers, curators, archivists, researchers and distributors, promises an interesting and robust dialogue exchange on the defining matters affecting what constitutes as Southeast Asian Cinema.

This programme is presented under the Asian Film Archive’s REFRAME series.

1pm, Saturday 31 October 2015
Redrum, The Projector
Free with registration: www.fragmentsofsea.peatix.com


For more updates on the Asian Film Archive, including images and videos — ‘like’ the AFA Facebook page as it celebrates its tenth anniversary!

About the Writer