Foreign films for free
The second ASEAN Film Festival in Prague offers high-quality action, romance
Posted: August 28, 2013
Bunohan. The Malaysian film, screened opening night at the ASEAN Film Festival in Prague, is a gritty kick-boxing tale complemented by a few mythical components.
It's not every day you get the chance to watch movies for free on the big screen.
With ticket prices soaring as cinemas now even offer the experience of watching a film in four dimensions (in May, a theater at Nový Smíchov became the first in Prague to equip itself in a way that allows the screening of films in 4DX, meaning you feel the action in your dynamic seat), and the price of admission adjusted accordingly, it is remarkable that free film festivals still exist.
The only exception has been Mezipatra's film screenings on the piazzetta next to the National Theater during the recent Prague Pride, where anyone interested could rock up and watch the film of the evening, but the crowds were big and the screen was rather small.
Five of the 10 countries that comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, organized their first festival last year and had nearly a full house every single night.
When: Sept. 3-7, at 6 p.m.
Where: Kino Lucerna
The cultural sections at the embassies of these five ASEAN countries have renewed their commitment to putting their cinematic talents on display to the Praguers who are always hungry for more despite the ever-growing list of festivals in the city. At this year's event, as in 2012, they will screen one film per country over a Tuesday-Saturday timeframe, Sept. 3-7, again at Kino Lucerna in the heart of the city.
Bunohan was one of the most popular (and most violent) Malaysian films of 2012. It refers both to the name of a village in the far north of the country, where the film's action takes place, and to a word in Malay that means "murder." Made by director Dain Said, whose first film, Dukun, had been banned in his home country - it combined elements of black magic with the recreation of real events - Bunohan looks at the world of kick-boxing and family drama, though it also incorporates some mythical elements. Nature, in particular, has a strong presence in the film. Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 6 p.m.
Himala is one of the most famous Filipino films of all time. Released in 1982, the film's treatment of religion and small-town life in the countryside of the Philippines, along with a widely praised performance by actress Nora Aunor, at the time in her late 20s, make this one of the highlights of Filipino cinema. The story involves a young woman who claims to see visions of the Virgin Mary, and while she is calm and her behavior restrained, the effect on the townsfolk is sweeping. This is certainly a major improvement on the amateurish propaganda piece Noy, screened at last year's festival. Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m.
Phan Quang Binh Nguyen's 2010 film The Floating Lives (Cánh đong bat tan) opens with a very violent scene in which a group of women savagely attacks Suong, a young prostitute whom they accuse of seducing their husbands. A teenage boy witnesses this violence and helps Suong to escape onto a boat that drifts down the Mekong River for the remainder of the film. The life on the river quickly takes on a very big role in the film. Thursday, Sept. 5, at 6 p.m.
The Raid: Redemption (Serbuan Maut) was screened in Prague exactly one year ago as part of the Fresh Film Fest and even played at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011. It is a high-octane martial arts film with lots of action and has its fill of blood and bullets, so if you're into that kind of thing, you will love this. The film received critical acclaim upon its release, and Welsh-born director Gareth Evans is currently finishing up production on the sequel. Friday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m.
The least well-known film in the lineup is the anthology film Seven Something (Rak 7 pee dee 7 hon), the result of three different directors. The "seven" in the title is important, as each story focuses on characters aged a certain multiple of this number. All three stories have romantic elements, but it is up to the viewer to decide whether this kind of storytelling is effective or just experimental. For those looking for something a little more subtle after all the blood and gore of many of the other films, this may be a good choice. Saturday, Sept. 7, at 6 p.m.
The films shown at the festival all have both English and Czech subtitles.
André Crous can be reached at