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SEAxSEA Film Festival: Interview with Adrian Alarilla

December 7, 2018

This is the second year of the SEAxSEA Film Festival which Adrian Alarilla (MA, Southeast Asian Studies, 2018) conceived, organized, and programmed in connection with the Southeast Asia Center.  On January 10th and 11th, 2019, Adrian will take time away from his PhD program at the University of Hawai’i to run SEAxSEA II, the next installment of what we hope to be many festivals to come.  This week we talk to Adrian about the films you can look forward to seeing.

Pesan dari Buritan (Message from the Stern Deck) one of the films playing in this year’s festival

SEAC:  You began the festival last year with the explicit goal of exploring Southeast Asia in its diversity, emphasizing underrepresented communities.  We had around 70 submissions from Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian Americans this year.  Were there any filmmakers from last year who submitted new films this year?  Have you formed connections with any of the filmmakers thanks to the festival?

AA: Last year, we featured Umbilical, a short film by Wesley Leon Aroozoo, a Singaporean filmmaker and Lecturer on Broadcast Media at the Lasalle College of the Arts. This year, we are featuring works from two of his students, Balance and Asad. All three films seem to question connection and belongingness, in your family, your society, your nation. I’m very excited to see more works from Aroozoo and his students, and see how they evolve and hone their craft through the years.


SEAC:  Last year you noticed a consistent theme among a number of the submissions, that of War and Peace.  Did any themes emerge from the most recent submissions?  What’s on the minds of these artists that is expressed in their work?

AA: Last year, we didn’t source out films with an explicit theme in mind, it just happened organically. This year, we decided on a theme, “Connections”, to help narrow it down. And even then, “Connections” is a very broad theme. Some films were quite loose in their interpretation of this theme, but I’m really glad to say that a lot of them stayed true to this year’s theme. Some films talked about intercultural and international connections, migrant populations trying to connect with their adopted land (Asad, Aku Mau Skola, Kampung Tapir), or diasporic filmmakers trying to reconnect with their heritage (Nisai. Liefde, Ramadan). Some explored physical or romantic connections (Kun ‘Di Man, Gowok, .raw), while some went beyond the personal or individual to explore the bigger connections that the maritime nature of Southeast Asia provided for us (Unspoken War, Pesan Dari Buritan).


SEAC:  What can you tell us about some of your favorite films in the upcoming festival?

AA:  It kind of sounds like I’m being a mom when I say I love all of the films this year, but perhaps my favorite one this year is Pesan Dari Buritan (Message from the Stern Deck), a cinematic travelogue that retraces the perahu (boat) trade voyages in Eastern Indonesia. It’s beautifully and lovingly shot. At the same time, it engages the viewer to think about the issues surrounding not only Eastern Indonesia, but all the seas and islands in the world. I’m also taking a seminar on Water in History under Leonard Andaya, so everything we’ve been talking about this semester can kind of be encapsulated in this film. But really, all of them are wonderful films, and I hope people will get to watch and enjoy these films as much as I do.


The SEAxSEA Film Festival runs on Thursday, January 10th and Friday, January 11th, 2019, 5:00-7:30pm each day, at Thomson Hall 101. Admission is free, as well as popcorn and drinks. Drop by, watch films with us, and celebrate the diversity of Southeast Asia. For more details, please visit the film festival page here, or email us at