Oz Asia Festival 2019: Emerging Asian Australian Filmmakers

What: Emerging Asian Australian Filmmakers

Who: Audrey Lam and Allison Chhorn

When: 24 – 25 October

Where: Mercury Cinema

The first of two nights showcasing the works of emerging Asian Australian filmmakers, saw a trio of very introspective and intimate pieces. While the two filmmakers’ approaches to such cherished subjects are vastly different, both approach their films in an almost documentary style but portray them as a narrative.

Looking first at the two shorts by Audrey Lam, shot with 50mm film, her more relaxed approach to capturing her vision of the film is evident. It’s slightly unpolished finish is intentional and adds to the charm of her work.

A River Twice (2017) reflects the saying of the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus:

“You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.”

This sun-baked, nostalgic tale is narrated by an elderly man sitting upon the shore while his daughter steers a red boat across a river. This river analogy represents a constant change and marks the passage of time.
During the Q and A, Lam spoke about how she wished A River Twice to be viewed in a storybook format, which I think this was how it was received by the audience.

Audrey Lam’s other work, A Pocketful of Song (2018) and perhaps the highlight of the showcase, was a portrait of her great-aunt who has lived in the same bustling streets of Hong Kong for forty-plus years. 
This slice-of-life of her busy, elderly relative is spliced together with disjointed audio and visual, is both a compelling aspect to the film and gives the impression of a collage.
While visually, her earlier work sweeps and flows with the direction of the boat, A Pocketful of Song consists entirely of static shots, which allows her subject to move organically in the frame.
As it follows her great-aunt through her stamp shop, and her little apartment littered with immaculate drawing of her surroundings, the direction was obvious casual and added to the authenticity of the film.
While A Pocketful of Song seems to contain little prompts for conversation or deliberately constructed shots, there is still a sense from her elderly relative that she is conscious of being on show, and she has an audience, which is affectionately depicted.

The final piece was from South Australian multidisciplinary artist, Allison Chhorn, her docu-fiction The Plastic House (2019).
The topic of the piece was incredibly close to her heart, borne from an urge to capture a feeling that resulted from the passing of her Cambodian migrant parents.
As the actor, director and editor of the film, it was evident that Chhorn wanted to depict what that was stirred in her when in her family farms greenhouses, specifically the sense of losing perception of time.
The Plastic House was longer in form and an amalgam of dash cam film, silky and cinematic shots, and home video. This strongly indicated a documentary style, and during the Q and A after the screening, Chhorn described filming in a documentary style but giving the film a cinematic edit, which I believed she executed well.
The power of the film lies in the sparse dialogue throughout, only really introduced in old home videos of her family talking, which had a lingering and eerie effect. Chhorn’s manipulation of soundscapes made the piece atmospheric and ominous.
This homage to her late parents depicts the cyclical nature of the greenhouse and captures the loss of time felt within its plastic walls, only indicated by the arrival of the sunset hues.

I recommend going to the final screening of the Emerging Asian Australian Filmmakers event tonight at 6:30PM at the Mercury Cinema for Matthew Victor Pastor’s feature film Repent or Perish! (2018). Tickets are only $10 and are available here

Milly Farmer

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