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Asia House Festival Gets Lucky

Get ready for kaleidoscope of cinematic fun as the Asia House Film Festival kicks off at the end of this week. The seventh of its kind, this annual event takes place in London and promises a whole host of newness. With the theme of New Generations, this year’s festival focuses on new talents, new styles, new landscapes and new modes of film production from and about the Asia Pacific region including Cambodia, Vietnam and Japan with a keen eye on Mongolia. Film Juice’s Janet Leigh was fortunate enough to snag some quality time with the director whose film opens the event, Lucky Kuswandi.

Your film, In The Absence Of Sun, is the kickstarter for this year’s festival, how exciting or terrifying is that?
The film explores very universal themes like loneliness and issues of identity. However, it is also very specific about Jakarta, the hometown I live in. So I am curious to see what the reaction of the film will be in England. Whether it will translate or whether things get lost in translation.

Is it a lot of pressure?
No. I’m just grateful that there’s a festival like Asia House that chooses to screen our film, especially as the opening film. It’s a big honour.

What excites you most about this year’s festival?
The selection is so diverse and unique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Vietnamese science fiction film [NUOC 2030 on 29th March], or listen to an underground punk music from Myanmar [Yangon Calling on 21st March]. I hope to get a very insider perspective on these countries from their own filmmakers.

It sounds like an eclectic collection. Aside from your own, what other films are you looking forward to seeing the most at the Asia House?
I’m interested in the politically charged films like Yangon Calling and The Last Reel [28th March with Director Q&A]. I’d like to see how filmmakers work within a constricting society and how they survive within the system.

In your own words what would you say In The Absence Of Sun is about?
The film is about an ever-changing city and its inhabitants that try to keep on living and thriving without losing themselves in the process.

Sounds powerful. Which of you’re main characters is most special to you and why?
Ms Surya is very special, because her character is based on my own mother. It’s a tribute to her.

Tell us about Ms Surya.
She is a grieving widow who finds out her late husband had been cheating on her. In the process of finding out who his lover is, she ends up exploring her own sexuality and finds her sense of freedom.

It sounds like some intense emotions will be explored. How do you think viewers will feel at the end of the movie?
It has a very bittersweet ending. There’s a glimmer of hope in the end.

What would you say to entice people to watch the film? What makes it special?
You get to see Jakarta from a very insider’s perspective. Not the touristy spots, but the mannerisms, attitudes, desperation and longing of its people.

Who inspires your filmmaking?
I currently teach film and my students really inspire me. It’s interesting to learn about their generation and what their perspective on life is.

What makes the Asia House Film Festival so important?
I live in Indonesia and you would think it’s easier for us to get access to films from our neighbouring countries. But I have to travel to London just to see a Mongolian or Cambodian film. Asia House is important because they aim to introduce and expose Asian cinema to the bigger audience. It’s also important to dispel stereotypical myths of what Asia is, through these courageous, truthful and honest films. Asia House is brave and edgy enough to focus on Asia and gives the region the spotlight it deserves.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I just finished a short film about sex, power and the military during Soeharto regime. It’s called The Fox Exploits The Tiger’s Might.

Where do you hope to be in five years time?
I choose not to focus on the future, but on the Now.

Asia House Film Festival 2015 runs from 27th – 31st March 2015 at multiple venues. Further details can be found here: http://asiahouse.org/events/category/asia-house-film-festival-2015/

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