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SEAxSEA Film Festival Returns, a Many-Headed Demon of Its Own

December 6, 2019

This coming January, the Southeast Asia Center will be hosting its third annual installment of the Southeast Asia x Seattle Film Festival, a two-day festival in which we screen and discuss films from Southeast Asia and its diasporas. We receive hundreds of submissions every year, and are incredibly excited to share them with you all. The 2019-2020 SEAxSEA Film Festival will be taking place on January 9 and 10, 2020 in Thomson Hall 101.

Now entering its third year, the SEAxSEA Film Festival was originally organized and curated by Desiana Pauli Sandjaja, a senior lecturer in Indonesian at the University of Washington. In 2017, due to unforeseen circumstances, Sandjaja was unable to organize the festival, and the Southeast Asia Center’s graduate student assistant at the time, Adrian Alarilla, expressed his interest. “I had previously been working at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival,” says Alarilla, “and wanted to bring my knowledge and experience to the Southeast Asia Center.”

The first day of screening for the 2017-2018 SEAxSEA Film Festival

Originally, the Festival didn’t have quite as snappy a name as SEAxSEA, and Alarilla says he got the idea for renaming the Festival from American Ethnic Studies professor Rick Bonus. “I had originally thought of calling it something boring like the SEAC Film Festival,” says Alarilla, “but Professor Bonus suggested calling it Southeast Asia x Seattle, or SEAxSEA. It was catchy and made so much sense, and kind of sounded like South x Southwest (SXSW).” According to Alarilla, the name of the Festival is also appropriate given the Festival’s primary goal: connecting diasporic Southeast Asian communities, specifically in the Seattle area.

Each year, the SEAxSEA Film Festival has a theme around which the submissions and films are organized. In its inaugural year, the films featured in the Festival interrogated traditional and contemporary problems in Southeast Asia, many concerning human responses to both natural and unnatural issues. Quite a few of these films centered water, water rights, and rights to life, so we might even be able to call the theme of the first SEAxSEA Film Festival as the sea itself. Last year, the Festival’s theme was “Connections.” Filmmakers were tasked with uncovering meaningful connections between Seattle and Southeast Asia,¬†and many of them made connections with the past, recalling traditions both forgotten and preserved, and compared them with our present moment to see how useful they can still be in modern times.

This year, we focus on “Fighting the Many-Headed Demon.” All over Southeast Asia, we observe indigenizations of the Ramayana, a traditional Indian epic. The Ramayana is a story that moves beyond simply thinking about time and space, and is still relevant in many Southeast Asian narratives today, and the films that have been selected for this year’s festival tackle some of the following themes: dominance, state oppression, and militarism; environmental degradation and decimation of species; gendered violence; labor exploitation, human trafficking, and slavery; and resilience and resistance. In tracing the intersections of these themes, we hope to connect all of them to their common roots in Southeast Asia.

Poster for the 2018-2019 SEAxSEA Film Festival

We are incredibly excited to bring some insightful and masterfully artistic films to all of you this January, and we hope to see you at SEAxSEA next month! Admission, popcorn, and drinks are all free, and we would love to have you enjoy these films with us.