3 new films showing the real face of southeast asia

September 13, 2019

words by: Bere Wangge

Contrary to what Crazy Rich Asians is trying to show you, Southeast Asia is not all glitz, glam and grandeur. These three new films are here to show the world the real face of Southeast Asia.

Invisible Stories

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Making its premier later this year is Invisible Stories, an HBO Asia-produced drama series. The show is set in Singapore, more specifically in a Housing and Development Board (HDB) or housing estate, which is a common sight in the city-state. Although the HDB in Invisible Stories will be a fictional one, it's a fact that around 80-percent citizens live in public housing blocks⁠—instead of crazily rich mansions⁠—not unlike the one portrayed in the series.

Consisted of six half-hour episodes, the series is as a short film anthology that tells the untold stories of the often overlooked people living in the neighborhood and "their joy, their struggles, their sacrifice."

To depict the multicultural Singapore well, Invisible Stories also features a diverse cast hailing from other Asian countries, namely Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand.

Wet Season

wet season by singapore director anthony chen TIFF premiere.jpg

Anticipation is high for Singaporean filmmaker Anthony Chen's second feature Wet Season—and for good reason. Not only is the film the only Asian entry in this year's Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) Platform Competition, Wet Season is also the follow-up to Chen's debut, Ilo Ilo, which earned him the Camera d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Written by Chen and set in Singapore during the monsoon season, the film follows Ling, a Malaysia-born schoolteacher. Ling teaches Mandarin to rich high school students, who considers her subject a low priority. Her life at home isn't exactly flourishing either, with Ling undergoing IVF treatment without her husband's support and her having to take care of her ailing father-in-law. Her only consolation is one of her students, Wei Lun, with whom she develops a deep friendship and perhaps something more.

Wet Season is a tale of social class, gender and living as an outsider, disguised under of a story of forbidden love as slow-burn as a lazy downpour in the tropical Singapore.

The Kingmaker

the kingmaker imelda marcos documentary by lauren greenfield.jpg

Following its screenings at Telluride Film Festival and TIFF, The Kingmaker continued its successful festival run at Venice Film Festival.

Helmed by American photojournalist and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, The Kingmaker is a documentary about the infamous former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, as she looked to reclaim her family's political power by backing her son Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.’s vice presidential campaign at the 2016 election.

Many have already heard repeatedly about Marcos' notorious obsession with shoes, but the documentary still manages to offer something new and even more bizarre. Greenfield’s camera focuses on Marcos as she navigates her days being seemingly ignorant of her surroundings and, more importantly, her husband's 21-year rule's effects on the people. It's fascinating and disturbing at the same time, especially since it also serves as a harrowing reflection of what's been happening in Greenfield's home country and also some other parts in the world.

HDB’s image on thumbnail c/o Jnzl’s Photos