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Funny, Frightful Feminists! Southeast Asian films feature dark comedy in #SIFF2018

May 18, 2018

The largest film festival in the U.S. is back!  The Southeast Asia Center is happy to be partnering with the Seattle International Film Festival to bring films from across the globe into Seattle’s backyard. This year, there seems to be a running theme in the featured films from Southeast Asia, and it’s more than just beheaded men and magical women.

For her third feature, Marlina si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts), Indonesian director Mouly Surya (What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love) has created a dark, wickedly funny, feminist western that surprises in its unique mixture of haunting imagery, gallows humor, and gender politics. Recently widowed Marlina lives alone on the eastern Indonesia island of Sumba, but her precarious state of mourning is interrupted when a man shows up on motorcycle and lays out what’s about to happen: In 30 minutes, some of his friends are going to show up, take her livestock, eat her food, and have their way with her. Marlina methodically manages to take care of the gang by serving them a poisoned pot of chicken soup, then fells the leader with a machete, mid-coitus. With a decapitated head in one hand and the murder weapon in the other, Marlina makes her way into town to file a police report, but soon discovers that the rigid rules of this arid, rural island’s patriarchal system are hard to break. No ordinary revenge thriller, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts subverts several genres at once, every corner of the story dripping in irony and earthiness, yet paired with gorgeous cinematography and an instantly classic score by Zeke Khaseli and Vudhi Arfani.  Catch it at AMC Pacific Place on May 28 at 11 AM, or on June 1 at 9:15 PM.

We are also proud to sponsor Si Chedeng at si Apple (Chedeng and Apple), a film that’s part buddy-comedy, part lesbian-romance, and all-absurdist, yet dry, cutting humor. Retired school principal Chedeng is relieved when her demanding elderly husband passes away. She decides it’s time to come out to her remaining family and rekindle her first love, a girl named Lydia who she hasn’t seen in decades. Happy to help is Chedeng’s best friend Apple, who, in a fit of justifiable rage, murders her own abusive husband. Off with his head! …and into Apple’s favorite Louis Vuitton bag. Off they go across the country to find Lydia, only soon they are running from the law once the body is found. At least they still have his head in a bag. Hunted by Apple’s stepdaughter and Chedeng’s oblivious sons, the duo stumble, laugh, and step in dog excrement on their quest for Lydia, which leads to unexpected consequences. Perhaps there’s more to this lifelong friendship than either of them realizes. Unbending in its hilarity, audiences will find much to root for between these two criminals. Watch Chedeng and Apple at AMC Pacific Place on June 9 at 7 PM, and at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian on June 10 at 2 PM. Director Fatrick Tabada is scheduled to attend both screenings!

Other films include 分貝人生 (Shuttle Life), about a Malaysian youth trying to raise enough money to retrieve his sister’s body from the morgue and track down the driver who killed her (AMC Pacific Place, May 29 at 9:30 PM, and June 1 at 1:45 PM); Nervous Translation, about a little girl living in post-Marcos Philippines who owns a magic pen that can translate the thoughts of nervous people (AMC Pacific Place, May 23 at 9:30 PM, and SIFF Film Center, May 27 at 7:30 PM); and Yêu Đi, Đừng Sợ! (Kiss & Spell), a remake of the Korean hit Spellbound, about a superstitious magician who falls in love with a girl who happens to be haunted by her dead best friend (SIFF Cinema Uptown, May 23 at 9 PM, and Lincoln Square, May 25 at 9 PM).