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Asian Art Dialogue: Film Preservation and Cultural Memory in Southeast Asia

Event recording by Asian Art Dialogue (English subtitles available).

In 2001, film archivist Sam Ho argued that “The heritage of film in Asia is particularly fragile… not so much because of snobbish rejection of a new and popular medium but simply due to indifference” (Ho 2001, 2). Since then, the global film industry has been revolutionised by digital technologies, transforming how screen media is produced, distributed and exhibited, but also how it is preserved.

Over the same period, Southeast Asian cinema has become increasingly prominent within global art cinema, famous for its daring auteurs, exciting genres and fusion of film style with contemporary art. These two entangled forces provide new opportunities for film archivists to share SEA film histories with new audiences across the world, but also new challenges to preserve media stored on increasingly volatile technologies.

This panel brings together film archivists from across Southeast Asia to address some of the challenges and opportunities in this new digital environment: what is the current state of film preservation in Southeast Asia? What role does film archiving serve in preserving national memory—especially among post-colonies? How do digital technologies impact their work? And what does the future of film preservation in the region?

This panel is presented by Asian Art Dialogue with the support of Asian Art Research (AAR) at the University of Melbourne.

Official event page is here. There is also a Facebook event for it here.

Still from Santi Vina (a recent restoration of Thailand’s first 35mm film) from Frame Cinema Journal

About the panellists

Chew Tee Pao has been with the Asian Film Archive (AFA) since 2009. As Archivist, he oversees the development of the film collection and helps to plan the Archive’s preservation strategies. He is responsible for selecting and overseeing AFA’s film restorations, and has contributed articles on film preservation and co-written a chapter on “Independent digital filmmaking and its impact on film archiving in Singapore” for the book Singapore Cinema: New Perspectives.  

Rosemarie Roque is an assistant professor at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and a research chief of its Center on Labor and Industrial Relations Studies. She represents the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA) in the National Committee on Archives (NCA) of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and is a member of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) and the South East Asia Pacific Audio Visual Archives Association (SEAPAVAA). 

Zakiah (Kiki) is a member of Trio Lestari Coy, a collective aiming to advance film preservation in Indonesia. A former Film Digitisation Manager at Indonesian Film Center, she also co-supervised the restoration of Tjoet Nja’ Dhien (1988), the first Indonesian film selected for La Semaine de la Critique Cannes.

Duncan Caillard is a PhD candidate in Screen and Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, where he is a member of Asian Art Dialogue. His research concentrates on contemporary Southeast Asian art cinema, with a focus on the works of Apichatpong Weerasethakul.