Melaka, 29 September – The 2019 SeaShorts Film Festival wrapped on Sunday with a ceremony at Panggung Bangsawan Melaka, handing out eight awards totalling RM40,000 in prizes.
Ballad of Blood and Two White Buckets picked up the coveted best of the fest SeaShorts Award. In this visceral drama by Indonesian director Yosep Anggi Noen, shifts in religious beliefs imperil the livelihood of a couple who eke out a marginal existence selling a foodstuff that some see as nutritious and others as haram.

Amanda Nell Eu came out tops among her Malaysian peers with Vinegar Baths collecting the Next New Wave Award. Her idiosyncratic take on a vampire folklore places the feared fiend in the modern day as a harried nurse manning a maternity ward.
Choosing the winners out of a 26-strong shortlist was no easy feat, and on this occasion the decision laid on the shoulders of the who’s who of industry players. Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner Lav Diaz (Philippines) headed the SeaShorts Award jury alongside actor Fatimah Abu Bakar (Malaysia) and curator Gertjan Zuilhof (Netherlands). His Indonesian counterpart Garin Nugroho meanwhile led judging duties for the Next New Wave Award with director Shireen Seno (Philippines) and artist Sherman Ong (Malaysia).
Commenting on the nominees, Garin said, “In the ten films, all with such different themes and styles, we saw an impressive capacity to tell stories in a short time. The quality was quite even across the board, but there were certain films that really had a rare courage to tackle sensitive issues.”


From left to right: Artist Sherman Ong (Malaysia); director Garin Nugroho (Indonesia); Next New Wave Award winner for Best Cinematography, Lim Kean Hian; Next New Wave Award winner for Best Film, Amanda Nell Eu; Next New Wave Award winner for Best Sound, Anwar Johari Ho; Lumix Regional Digital Imaging Specialist, Cliff Pek; and director Shireen Seno (Philippines)

The evening capped off a successful five-day run, as the historical city of Melaka was transformed into a hotbed for cinema enthusiasts celebrating storytelling from Southeast Asia and beyond. The third edition of the annual festival comprised more than a hundred short films spread over ten countries across the region. Premieres both internationally and locally lined the programme, which also included talks, forums, masterclasses, workshops, and an exhibition by participating guests.
Tan Chui Mui, Festival founder and director, said, “The competition section is an impactful demonstration of the vibrancy and diversity of Southeast Asian filmmaking. I applaud each director for their boldly distinctive work and hope that SeaShorts can help focus even more attention from our audiences to look inwards rather than towards foreign productions for their movie viewing options.”

The event was made possible with the support of The Japan Foundation Asia Center, FINAS, the State of Melaka and Melaka Tourism Promotion Division, Film Development Council of the Philippines, Purin Pictures, Da Huang Pictures, Sinema Media, SINdie, Panasonic, Aputure Imaging Industries, Deity Microphones, Zoom Corporation, Epson, and CK Music. More than RM10,000 was collected through a fundraising campaign on pitchIN to help filmmakers attend the Festival.

And the winners are:

SEASHORTS COMPETITION (Overall)
SeaShorts Award for Best Film:
Ballad of Blood and Two White Buckets by Yosep Anggi Noen (Indonesia)
Synopsis: A couple selling congealed blood find their livelihood endangered by shifting religious beliefs.
Jury remarks: Mature and well-balanced, Ballad of Blood and Two White Buckets stands out as a powerful film on the bloody currents of society.

SeaShorts Award for Best Cinematography:
Vinegar Baths by Amanda Nell Eu (Malaysia)
Synopsis: A tired and overworked nurse at the maternity ward finds joy when she is alone roaming the hospital corridors at night. It’s the time when she can finally eat.
Jury remarks: Vinegar Baths is utterly defiant; a wholly original and unafraid work that creates its own vivid universe.

SeaShorts Award for Best Sound:
Blessed Land by Phạm Ngọc Lân (Vietnam)
Synopsis: Past and present converge in the search for a grave.
Jury remarks: Blessed Land puts poetry in motion, beautiful and mysterious as it builds its space with a delicate attention to sound and picture.

Amanda Nell Eu (second from right) receives the Next New Wave Award for Best Film

NEXT NEW WAVE COMPETITION (Malaysia only)
Next New Wave Award for Best Film:
Vinegar Baths by Amanda Nell Eu
Synopsis: A tired and overworked nurse at the maternity ward finds joy when she is alone roaming the hospital corridors at night. It’s the time when she can finally eat.
Jury remarks: An enigmatic film that offers a complex and delightful universe of satire, myth, and the complexities of human nature; Vinegar Baths boldly puts forth a statement about the female form as an agent for social commentary.

Next New Wave Award for Best Cinematography:
Langit Budak Biru by Lim Kean Hian
Synopsis: Two teenage boys grapple with bullying at their school.
Jury remarks: In its portrayal of two male students at an Islamic boarding school, Langit Budak Biru offers a multi-layered interpretation of a rare and courageous theme. Its development of the space as a character is commendable, efficient, and effective.

Next New Wave Award for Best Sound:
Forget Me Not by Anwar Johari Ho
Synopsis: A transnational romance between a Malaysian and a Chinese mainlander, told in three parts.
Jury remarks: Forget Me Not’s nuanced treatment of sound allows its silence and whispers to speak volumes, with its use of sound and space offering an insight into the passage of time across geography.

Next New Wave Award for Most Promising Filmmaker:
To Work by Jeremy Emang Jecky
Synopsis: Mr. Elisah dreams of a better life beyond his rural upbringing, but past troubles still haunt him.
Jury remarks: In dauntlessly combining supernatural and science, micro and macro, physical and metaphysical, To Work exhibits strong courage and potential.

Next New Wave Award for Most Promising Filmmaker:
The Life We Live by Loh Din-Yung
Synopsis: A woman leads a simple existence in a sinking harbour city.
Jury remarks: In a poetic expression, The Life We Live poignantly presents the personal life, social alienation, and tragedy of living in an industrial city.

Advertisement
Ever since I watched Takeshi Kitano's "Hana-Bi" for the first time (and many times after that) I have been a cinephile. While much can be said about the technical aspects of film, coming from a small town in Germany, I cherish the notion of art showing its audience something which one does normally avoid, neglect or is unable to see for many different reasons. Often the stories told in films have helped me understand, discover and connect to something new which is a concept I would like to convey in the way I talk and write about films. Thus, I try to include some info on the background of each film as well as a short analysis (without spoilers, of course), an approach which should reflect the context of a work of art no matter what genre, director or cast. In the end, I hope to pass on my joy of watching film and talking about it.