The Philippine Embassy in Pretoria jointly organized the inaugural ASEAN Film Festival (AFF) in South Africa which was held from 17 to 19 November 2023 at The Bioscope Independent Cinema in Johannesburg.
The Embassy took the lead in the preparations for this flagship cultural diplomacy project which was also participated in by resident diplomatic missions of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The AFF formally kicked off with a simple ceremony on 17 November 2023 which was attended by government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and the general public. The highlight of the program was the delivery of speeches by Ambassador Myint Swe of Myanmar on behalf of the ASEAN-Pretoria Committee (APC), and Director for Southeast Asia Raymond Medhurst of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) representing the South African government. The screening of Bad Genius of Thailand immediately followed the ceremony.
In true ASEAN style, participating missions took the opportunity to showcase their respective culinary heritage, with the Philippines serving puto (steamed rice cake) and pichi-pichi (grated cassava).
The Philippines’ Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes (The Two Mrs. Reyes) was the closing film of the AFF. Released by Star Cinema in 2018, it is a good representation of the emerging mainstream LGBTQI+ cinema in the Philippines. The film revolves around the themes of love, acceptance and forgiveness, which resonate well with the South African audience.
Members of the Filipino community in South Africa also attended the screening who appreciated the film’s modern and progressive view on gender and human relationships.
In his brief description of the film before the start of the screening, First Secretary and Consul Maurice A. Tiempo highlighted Philippine cinema’s independent and rebellious spirit. He remarked:
Philippine cinema is always about pushing boundaries. Since the country produced its first film in 1919, Filipino filmmakers have experimented with various themes, narrative structures, as well as visual styles and techniques. Filipino filmmakers are also not afraid to tackle polarizing or taboo subjects.
There is also that strong tradition in Philippine cinema to use the powerful medium of film as a form of social commentary. Through the years, the Philippine film industry has produced a significant number of films which convey the aspiration of the Filipino people for a more inclusive and progressive Philippines.
To the delight of the crowd, the Embassy ended the screening by giving away Philippine home decors and other Filipiniana items as raffle prizes.
Reflecting on the Embassy’s successful participation in the AFF, Philippine Ambassador to South Africa Noralyn Jubaira Baja said “The AFF offered a special platform for the Philippines and other ASEAN countries in showcasing, sharing and honoring the diverse and rich cinematic cultures of the region. Film has the transformative power to enhance cultural and people-to-people understanding between South Africa and the ASEAN region”.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Philippines.