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9 December 2018: Earth as History: Moving Images and Ecologies in Southeast Asia


Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn presents a programme of Southeast Asian films and moving image works as examples of alternative narratives to the Anthropocene – the interdisciplinary exploration of human and Earth's history. From land and jungle to animals and ocean, many of these works explore the relationship between the earth and the historical and political contexts of the region. Yet this aspect is rarely discussed, in comparison to other frameworks frequently associated with Southeast Asian cinema scholarship, such as the roles of gender, audience reception, and transnationality.

Exploring how these artists contribute to global dialogues in the study of the moving image and the Anthropocene, this programme weaves together ecologically engaged films from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Viewing these works through an ecological lens, the programme focuses on narratives and aesthetics in which Southeast Asian artists visualise the relationship between humankind and the world in an age of ecological challenges.

Curated by Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn for the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) at the University of Westminster.

Not a Soul
Jet Leyco
2013 | 13'50 min | B/W | Digital
Tagalog with English subtitles

A man hides out in the mountains after accidentally killing a priest. But the area, a battlefield for soldiers and rebels, is far from safe. The fateful location is visualised with a mixture of oppressive, moving and still, black-and-white archival images.

The Asylum
Prapat Jiwarangsan
2015 | 9 min | Colour | Digital
Thai with English subtitles

Thai artist Prapat Jiwarangsan’s tender film is about belonging. A pond becomes a sanctuary from the struggles of life for a refugee boy from Myanmar and a genial radio DJ who lost her job when all Red Shirt radio stations were closed after the 2014 coup d'etat.

Mars in the Well
Truong Minh Quy & Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine
2014 | 19 min | Colour | Digital
Vietnamese with English subtitles

In 2053, Saigon, Vietnam is submerged in water. People have to move to the higher places for survival. The Vietnamese government has tried more than once to carry people to Mars, but their attempt turns out to be just a bitter failure.

Mantis Tales
Chu-Li Shewring
2004 | 13'49 min | Colour | Digital

Part horror and part nature documentary, Mantis Tales arose out of a solitary night in the Malaysian rainforest. Capturing the fascinating, horrifying and sublime nature of the forest and its creatures, the film was made from mini DV camera, super 8 camera and spy-cam. Mantis Tales was the first work by veteran UK-based filmmaker and sound designer, Chu-Li Shewring.

An Extract from Railtrack Songmaps Project
The Migrant Ecologies Project
2016-18 | 20 min | Colour | Digital
Various languages with English subtitles

The Migrant Ecologies Project (MEP) is a collaborative initiative, bringing together long-term, interdisciplinary but field-grounded inquiries into questions of how to think and practice ecologically. Railtrack Songmaps comprises a cumulative series of collaborative works including film, multi-media, installation, art books, all evolving from explorations of relations between people and birds along the former Malaysian rail tracks at Tanglin Halt, a quarter of Singapore city that faces considerable social and environmental change.

Kamjorn Sankwan
Jakrawal Nilthamrong & Kamjorn Sankwan
2018 | 15'06 min | Colour | Digital
Thai with English subtitles

A short film about the life and work of the Kamjorn Sankwan, the film explores his work as a gaffer in the production of a Thai folk soap opera, a genre based on traditional Thai literature with Hindu cultural influences and fictional dynasties. The second half delves into Kamjorn's personal interests, centralized around the mercenary soldiers who fought in exchange for Thai nationality.

Invalid Throne
Jakrawal Nilthamrong & Kamjorn Sankwan
2018 | 9'04 min | Colour | 35mm
Thai with English subtitles

Set in Mueang Phayao, Invalid Throne examines the land and people who used to own property in the province. The disputed areas were overtaken by new feudalism and turned into a gold mine and an exclusive monastery, allowing only a select, elite few to enter its landscape. Shot on location in northern Thailand and in a studio (using a miniature landscape), the film weaves historical narrative with the personal memories of Kamjorn Sankwan, the artist and protagonist who was raised in that area, thereby raising questions to what constitutes as a national, collective history.

Total runtime: ca. 100 min

Image credit: Invalid Throne, Jakrawal Nilthamrong and Kamjorn Sankwan, 2018

The screening programme takes place in conjunction with Earth as History: Moving Images and Ecologies in Southeast Asia a free seminar exploring the same topic. The seminar will take place at Room UG05, University of Westminster, Regent St Campus on Friday 7 December 2018, 5-8pm.

The programme is supported by the British Academy’s Visiting Fellowships Programme under the UK Government's Rutherford Fund.

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