Interviewed and profiled on the Asian Film Archive, in Asia Express, 27 February 2012

Article available here: http://www.asiaexpress.it/interviste/interviste-altro/984-kenneth-tan.html


Google-translated from the original in Italian:


Interview with Kenneth Paul Tan

Kenneth Paul Tan is an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National Univerity of Singapore, where he has taught since 2007. He has always been involved in the fields of culture and film, and heads the Board of Directors of the Asian Film Archive, an independent organization which deals with the conservation of Asian film heritage. We interview him precisely in relation to the activity of the archive.

The Asian Film Archive (AFA) works in many areas, from film preservation to educational and educational programs. What is the main objective of the institution? The Asian Film Archive was founded to give a home to those Asian films not kept in any archive. Most of the film archives are in fact specialized in national productions. The AFA, on the other hand, has an “Asian” approach to cinema, transnational, and we recognize a growing international interest in Asian cinema. The conservation work of the films is slow and constant, with all its load of difficulty. It concerns, for example, intense and specialized laboratory processes that may not be immediately grasped by the common user. Many Asian films are physically vulnerable and deteriorate quickly if found in an "inhospitable" environment. Saving these film works before they disappear forever is an urgent task. However, preservation without making these films accessible would not make sense, which is why the AFA has a public reference collection. We promote film literacy and appreciation through our highly regarded workshops and seminars which are based on films from our collection. It could be said that conservation and accessibility are united and together represent our main goal. How was the AFA founded? The AFA was founded in 2005 by Tan Bee Thiam, a young graduate of the National University of Singapore, the same university where I am a professor. He invited me to be head of the board of directors, which I accepted without hesitation. I was very impressed by his vision, his passion and his entrepreneurial instinct to set up an organization that was necessary, but, and he knew well, not easy to sustain. However, we have received great help from directors, scholars, government agencies, volunteers and archivists from around the world, who have understood the value of independent and regional archive for Asian films. The AFA, in fact, continues its activity thanks to the passion and dedication of many volunteers and sympathizers who share its vision and sense of urgency in preserving our artistic heritage. Briefly, our tasks are: (a) to preserve, in a permanent collection, the acclaimed works of still living Asian filmmakers; (b) allow access to the library; (c) promoting the cultural value of Asian films through research, educational programs and publications; (d) nurture a film community and encourage ever new audiences through well-curated screenings; and (e) facilitate the marketing and distribution of Asian films, especially those by independent directors. the acclaimed works of still living Asian filmmakers; (b) allow access to the library; (c) promoting the cultural value of Asian films through research, educational programs and publications; (d) nurture a film community and encourage ever new audiences through well-curated screenings; and (e) facilitate the marketing and distribution of Asian films, especially those by independent directors. the acclaimed works of still living Asian filmmakers; (b) allow access to the library; (c) promoting the cultural value of Asian films through research, educational programs and publications; (d) nurture a film community and encourage ever new audiences through well-curated screenings; and (e) facilitate the marketing and distribution of Asian films, especially those by independent directors. The AFA is affiliated with the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and the Southeast Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Archive Association (SEAPAVAA). What are the AFA's international relations with other similar organizations in Asia and the world? I am thinking, for example, of institutions such as Europa Film Tresaures, Cinémathèque Française, British Film Institute, Hong Kong Film Archive or Korean Film Archive, as well as international festivals. The Archive maintains working relationships with international archival institutions and festivals in many different ways. We share our operational experience in contracting, organizing screenings, connecting authors and distributors, facilitating film lending, participating in juries and cooperating in events such as conferences and training seminars. Among the institutions we have collaborated with, just to name a few, are: the Hong Kong Film Archive, the Korean Film Archive, the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia, the Vietnam Film Institute, the FOCAL International, the Berlin festivals , Rotterdam, Pusan ​​and Hawaii. How many films are kept in the AFA? What is, in your opinion, the most interesting part of the collection? The total number of titles in the collection, as of January 1, 2012, is 1,607 films. There are many films that have particular significance and for a variety of reasons: a) The Cathay-Keris Malay Classics Collection collects classics such as Hang Jebat (Hussain Haniff, 1961), Mat Bond (Mat Secntul and M. Amin, 1967) , and Sumpah Pontianak (BN Rao, 1958). Hang Jebat , for example, is considered by historians to be one of the most important films of the Golden Age of Singapore cinema, in the 1950s and 1960s. The film was at the center of a controversy, as the warrior Jebat, who turned against the Malacco Sultan, was portrayed as a hero. b) Evolution of a Filipino Family(Lav Diaz, 2004): with a duration of 11 hours, it is one of the longest films ever made. The director's next work, Melancholia (2008), went on to win the Garn Premio of the Orizzonti section at the Venice Film Festival. c) Blink of an Eye (Mike de Leon, 1981): the masterpiece of the dark genius of Filipino cinema. d) Manila in the Claws of Neon (Lino Brocka, 1975): for some critics, Lino Brocka was one of the greatest Filipino directors ever. And this film is his masterpiece

 and) The Arsonist (U-Wei Haji Saari, 1995) was the first Malaysian film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

 f) The Big Durian(Amir Muhammad, 2003) was the first Malaysian film to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

 g) The Da Huang Pictures Collection and the Woo Ming Jin Collection document the works of Malaysian new wave directors such as James Lee, Tan Chui Mui, Liew Seng Tat and Woo Ming Jin. How is the purchase of the titles for the collection organized? And the consultation? The AFA identifies Asian films that need to be preserved. In particular, we look at those works that are not preserved by any other archive or institution. We talk to the authors and rights holders. Before an archiving agreement is signed and then the material sent to the archive, it must be cataloged. Rights must be established. The archive has a public collection which can be consulted at the Library @ esplanade in Singapore. Space is granted to the AFA through its partnership with the National Library Board of Singapore. We also have a catalog available online on our website, at the page: www.asianfilmarchive.org/Collection/SearchFilms.aspx . Is loan and consultation possible for international scholars or institutions? We have had a lot of loan requests and have tried to help with it as best we can. We handle each loan request on a case by case basis, as we strictly adhere to the terms of use we have stipulated for each individual film. The AFA also gives the opportunity to carry out internships and internships in-house. How many interns do you have at the moment? What are their duties? The last intern finished his internship in December 2011, so we don't have any at the moment. Interns are selected after an interview and based on their skills, if required by the archive. Our interns range from secondary school students (15-16 years), junior college students (17-18 years), undergraduate and graduate university students, and professionals in related fields. They are given responsibilities that expose them to various aspects of the AFA's business so that they interface with the difficulties and challenges of conservation, fundraising and administration. They are also required to actively participate in all events, as well as to work on a personal project that can implement the activities of the Archive. What are the main projects for the next future? As a non-governmental organization, the AFA must look to financial challenges. Fundraising to support our activities is always the main "project". Subject to availability of funds, we hope to restore some titles from our collection that would not be accessible due to the format and condition of the film. Other activities such as film literacy and film appreciation programs for schools are some of the main projects for this year. She is also a member of the Arts Advisory Panel of the National Arts Council (Singapore). What is the current situation of cinema and art in Singapore, from an international perspective? I am very optimistic today about these two points. In 2008 I wrote a critical volume entitled Cinema and Television in Singapore (Brill, 2008), in which I stood against the double knot of ultra-commercialization and excessive state control of the reborn Singapore film industry. Today I am truly heartened to see that many filmmakers and artists have been successful in finding and also creating their own opportunities to create high quality, world-acclaimed, innovative, and often challenging work. These works can stimulate the imagination and critical sense as well as entertain the viewer. In my speech, as a keynote, at the National Museum of Singapore, I observed that “the film scene in Singapore today is very promising. You also sit on the Board of Directors of the non-profit theater company The Necessary Stage, founded by Alvin Tan in 1987. What is your role within it? The Necessary Stage is a well established and socially conscious Singaporean theater company with a really good portfolio of work that continually challenges the viewer while touching their heart and soul. I have been a member of the board of directors since 2003. Over the years, in addition to usual board duties, I have written and performed the music for some of the company's productions. I also helped promote research and studies on their business. I have published academic articles on their "colorful" history. And finally, I helped connect my students with many of their projects.




1 view0 comments