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Documentary Film Festivals

The Centre has since 2006 organised a range of film festivals on different topics, including the situation of youth in East and South-East Asia, urban transformations, and memory and trauma. We have also organised many individual film screenings and discussions, sometimes with invited film directors. The screening of documentary films has been integrated with teaching in many of our courses. The pandemic halted plans for a film festival in 2020 and 2021 but we hope to organise one again in the future. In September 2021 we also started our new MA-level course on documentary films in East and South-East Asia.

This workshop brought together scholars, activists and filmmakers from Asia and beyond. The participants discussed their different views of and experiences with film, including using films as a research tool, documenting and engaging with social issues, developments and injustices in and through film, and appropriating film as a form of witnessing and activism. At the workshop a number of recent documentary films focusing on developments in Burma/Myanmar, Indonesia, China and Japan were screened.

Documentary film can play an important role in helping to retrieve repressed memories and to commemorate painful, violent, and forgotten events. The films we have selected for screening show how difficult it can be to express and deal with individual and collective memories of conflict, violence, and disaster. This is especially the case when these memories are deliberately ignored, suppressed, or distorted in official history writing and contemporary politics and popular culture.

The films dealt with very different events, the Great Famine in China 1959-1961, the violence against communists in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, and communal violence in Mumbai, India, in 1992-1993, but what they had in common is the fact that none of the events have been fully acknowledged by the authorities and seldom are addressed in public debates. The films explored the intersection of individual and collective memories, how and what people remember of painful events, what, how and why they choose to forget, and why some are forced to forget and suppress their memories while others have the power to re-write history and suppress others’ memories. The filmmakers have chosen different ways and methods to evoke and document memories, ranging from more personal stories and self-revelations, direct observation and interviews, to re-enactment and cinematic interventions. The films tell us as much about the filmmakers’ own wishes and reasons for wanting to retrieve memory as it does about the local communities’ memory-making practices.

Two documentary film projects based in China respectively India were introduced and nine films from and about China, India, and Indonesia were screened with the directors present for Q&A.

In December 2010 the Centre organised its second documentary film festival. This time the theme of the festival was urban life in Asia. Through a series of documentary films by mainly local filmmakers we explored the bustling life of Asian cities such as Mumbai, Lahore, Singapore, Tokyo, Yokohama, Shanghai and Beijing.

The festival began with a lecture on 7th December by the well-known Chinese scholar Lu Xinyu. During 8 and 9 December a total of 14 different films were shown at Kino. Tickets were available free of charge upon request at Kino. Several of the film directors were available for Q&A after the films shows or at the seminar on the 10th.

On 10th December a one-day seminar on Cities and the Visual: Ethnography, Documentaries, and Image-based Research was organised. At the seminar some of the film-makers gave presentations of their work and other scholars working on different types of projects documenting or studying urban issues from different perspectives will also present their works.

Focus Asia in November 2006 took the form of a documentary film festival with the theme Young in Asia. The film festival showcased ten films that reflected the different challenges, choices, and dreams of young people in Asia. The situation of young people in Asia mirrors developments in their respective societies. But the films also revealed the great differences that exist both within and among Asian societies due to poverty and social and cultural customs.

Many young people in Asia live lives not much different from those of young people in Sweden. They listen to the same kind of music and buy the latest fashion and other consumer goods. Middle class youth in Shanghai and Delhi probably have more in common with young people in Sweden than they have with their peers working in sweat-shops in Shenzhen or having to sell themselves into prostitution in Bachara.

The films told a number of moving stories about ordinary young people in Asia, ranging from North Korea, Japan, and China to Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

Throughout the fall the Centre also arranged public lectures on Youth in Asia;

  • 14 September, "Attitudes and Values of Chinese Youth: The Contradictions and Interactions among Internationalism, Nationalism and Materialism Amid Changing State-Society Relations" By Professor Stanley Rosen, Director, USC College East Asian Studies Center,  
  • 26 October, "Japanese Youth: Hope of the Nation or Threat to Society?" by Dr. Monica Braw,  
  • 2 November, "The War between Vietnam and the USA: An Intergenerational Perspective" by Assoc. Professor Helle Rydström, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies

Two of the film directors also gave public lectures, on 9 November Folke Rydén director of The Tsunami Generation gave a talk on documenting a tragedy and on 17 November, Micha X. Peled, director of China Blue discussed his film project.