This article was originally posted on YOMYOMF
The Adelaide Film Festival has come and gone, but there is some awesome news coming out from it. This year’s program was quite diverse with a lot of the international films coming from Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East. What is even more impressive is that Asian Australian films featured in this years ensemble. 3 films/series at least ( which I am aware of) are either directed and produced by Asian Australians and/or feature Asian Australian characters. I would safely say there were more Asian Australians acting or being part of the film crew for various films, but here are the few which stood out and is pretty much fully Asian Australian.
Well at the Adelaide Film Festival this year, episodes 1 and 2 were screened, and yes it was the world premiere of the first 2 episodes of season 3, so I am pretty bummed I wasn’t there for it! However, I am really proud of how well the series has done which is based on the life and book of my friend writer and personality Benjamin Law. The show and the actors/crew have won a sleuth of TV industry awards already, so this is a series which has become almost a staple on Aussie TV.
The next Asian Australian directed film which I am aware of which featured at the festival is ALLISON CHHORN’S – THE LAST TIME, which featured under the category of “Experimental Short”. The premise of the short looks really interesting ( and if she reads this, I would so love to write more on it). Anyways, Film Critic Australia did a review on it, and here is the plot of the short film via their article:
‘Last’ as in the previous, or the ultimate? That’s the question for a woman and man (Bianca Conry and Russell Lucas) who meet up in a car park: she waits in the vehicle, while he approaches, holding a dress that belongs to her. The sight and thought of that dress instantly trigger memories of touch, traces of intimacy, an everyday togetherness (enacted in that same park) now clearly dissipated, gone.
Sounds really awesome to be honest, and I definitely hope to check it out at some point. It is great to see an Asian Australian female creating such an interesting film and really putting her body of work out there. I am sure more to come of this soon.
Lastly, my friend and courageous filmmaker MATTHEW VICTOR PASTOR had his film Melodrama / Random / Melbourne! featured at the festival. Why I love this guy is because his film making has no boundaries and he will go to places not many people would dare to go. But you know what? That is what makes it so awesome and having seen a number of his short films, none of them have ever disappointed. Pastor also has a strong passion for Asian Australian representation and uses this as the focal point to all his work. As a Filipino Australian, his films reflect a little bit of himself and encapsulates his identity as well as feature Filipino Australian content, which really needs to be featured so much more.
I had a chance to have a quick interview with Pastor and asked him a number of questions about his film, his passions and about Asian Australian representation in film and TV. But before I get into that, here is the premise of his film Melodrama/Random/Melbourne! (via The Adelaide Film Festival website):
MELODRAMA / RANDOM / MELBOURNE! (the exclamatory upper case title fits the film) is a mesmerising low-budget creation, a millennial-modern kaleidoscope of the Filipino community in the urban jungle of Melbourne, where it battles with assimilation, alienation, racism and sexism.
A panoply of characters intersect: a feminist documentary filmmaker, a sex worker, a Filipino migrant mother, and various men who are either desperate, emasculated or arrogant. The gender and identity themes are current and relevant, and Pastor doesn’t shy away from presenting ugly situations and questionable characters.
But whilst the film’s main mode is a gritty realism, it also magically flips itself in an inventive way periodically, puncturing the “mean streets” of Melbourne with delightfully bizarre musical interludes, like a twisted Karaoke taking over.
So who is Matthew Victor Pastor and what is he all about?
In a few sentences (without providing spoilers) how would you describe the essence of “Melodrama/Random/Melbourne”?
It’s a nightmarish look into modern dating with all the digital noise, the fragments of our identity. It’s the last call for drinks under the neon lights of a Karaoke bar, watching the heartbroken and intoxicated vomit, while the chorus sings “My Heart Will Go On”, completely out of key. The film is like a triangle, 3 stories. Me and Celina Yuen (co-writer/actor) grew up in similar Filipino Australian environments, a world where we adapt, Asian / Aussie creating as we go, a running theme in the film.
You are known to take “risks” when creating your films, what motivates you to do so and why did you not decide to take the “safer” route in storytelling in your film-making?
I think I’m able to tap into these stories because of my upbringing. I grew up in the 90’s, in the 3174, Noble Park so my subject matter is closely tied to my upbringing. I try to find the beauty in the ugly, or risky subjects I present in my films. My body of work is consistent, and more recently attracting similar voices. I recently I was approached by AACTA nominated writer Llewellyn Michael Bates to direct his screenplay Fun Times, which is a confronting look at a dark incident in a suburban cul-de-sac. We were selected for the AFTRS/Screen Australia Diversity Talent Camp funding, which is encouraging. Also mixed race like myself, Bates of Indian Australian heritage is interested in presenting these topics, and I’m seeing more risks taken every day by POC filmmakers in the west.
How important is Asian Australian representation in mainstream film and TV? And more specifically can you talk a bit more about the importance of having more SE Asian faces and visibility in Australian film and TV?
It’s an encouraging time with all the amazing representation in the US, but for us down under it’s important to see more faces so it’s normalized. We also need more stories with authenticity! I feel I bring a Filipino Australian perspective, which is even less common in Australia. It’s important because we are the 4th largest migrant group, so I feel our stories do count for something.
I am sure there will be more to come from Pastor, who has told me he is now in the process of editing his next short film, so definitely keep an eye out!
To end this piece, I do just want to say that as someone who is not in the film or TV industry, I am passionate to see more representation, particularly in Australia. The tide is slowly changing, but I emphasize on the keyword “slowly”. It is important to see more than a token few make it to mainstream Australian TV and film, and if anything we need to invest more in finding where our Asian Australian peeps are – well that is my plan for sure.
Images credit to the Adelaide Film Festival and Matthew Victor Pastor