We chat to Asia House’s festival director Sumi Ghose and artistic director Alison Poltock…
Asia House is a well respected non-profit organization dedicated to promote the cultural collaboration between Europe and Asia. In that prospect, the Pan-Asia Film Festival represents one of their two main pillars to promote the Asian cultural productions towards the UK-based audience, British but also international, the other one being the Asian Literature Festival.
The Pan-Asia Film Festival embraces all the countries of Asia, and is maybe one of the few specialized festivals to really cover such a wide area, from Iran to Japan. It also clearly attempts to mix rising directors and talents with already established masters. 2013 represents their 5th edition and includes some films by very influential directors such as Takeshi Kitano (Battle Royale, Zatoichi), Takeshi Shimizu (The Grudge) and Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Last Life in the Universe), making it the highest profile of selection to date.
The festival opened with Gf*Bf by Ya-Che Yang, which received numerous awards at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Taipei Film Festival, and even nominations for all its actors at the Asian Film Awards. It will close with Poor Folk by Midi Z., another very talented Taiwanese film director whose first film, Return to Burma, was nominated at the Hong-Kong, Pusan and Rotterdam Film Festivals – the three most prestigious ones for Asian films. Poor Folk was nominated at Rotterdam and Hawaii Film Festivals.
Having the opportunity to meet with the festival director, Sumi Ghose – former Public Programmes Manager at the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and now Director of Cultural Programmes at Asia House since 2009 – and the artistic director, Alison Poltock – appointed in 2012 and also working for the East End Film Festival since 2007 – we asked them a couple of questions on their selection of films and their ambitions for the festival:
Brice: You have a very eclectic selection of films for this year’s edition, including some by three famous genre directors, how that came into being?
Sumi Ghose: I would say it was both a practical and artistic choice. In the UK, there is a lot of competition from the Edinburgh and London Film Festivals, which are often chosen as the main venues to premiere a film. We usually come third on the list, if by chance (for us) none of the two mentioned festivals picked it. Also, this year, that was the first time we decided to include genre films, especially Tormented (J-horror), Outrage Beyond (yakuza movie) and Headshot (Thai action thriller) which are very appealing to the audience as they correspond to a common idea people have from films from those countries. It is an opportunity for us to attract fans of those specific genres who prove very enthusiastic.
Alison Poltock: We usually showcase films which are unlikely to get UK distribution – so that the audience value the opportunity to see such films even more. That is the case for a film like Tormented. The exception might be The King of Pigs (distributed by Terracotta).
Brice: Yet, the rabbit in Tormented could remind British people of local hit, Donnie Darko.
Alison: Yes, that is exactly what came to my mind too. (laughs)
Brice: The East End Film Festival, for which you are also artistic director, includes a section for South East Asian films. Are there cross-overs between the two festivals?
Alison: There is for sure some cross-overs. But the type of films we select differ in a way that audiences do. The audience of Asia House is slightly older while the one in East End is more arty and used to more genre and independent styles.
Brice: Does the type of venues you select vary accordingly? In East End, you have screened some films in restaurants and bars.
Alison: The audience in East End is more casual and used to such atmosphere, while for the Pan-Asia Film Festival; it’s safest to stick to traditional venues, the movie theaters themselves.
Brice: Why did you also include a South African/British and American films?
Sumi: The African/British film is about the Muslim community in South Africa while the American film is directed by an Indian American director, which allows opening up to the diversity of Asian communities across the globe.
Brice: Why did you spread out the schedule so much, and when is the festival closing?
Sumi: There is only one screening per day yes, but it is easier for us to ensure the audience shows up. The closing ceremony and end of the festival will be on March 17th.
Brice: Thank you. We wish you the best success for this edition and look forward to comment more on various screenings.