Southeast Asian creatives gather to champion women in entertainment

!hola - MJ Marfori - The Philippine Star
Southeast Asian creatives gather to champion women in entertainment
Filipina director Marla Ancheta (second from left) and the rest of the Reflections of Me panelists are joined by Amy Kunrojpanya, Netflix vice president of public relations for APAC (leftmost).
STAR / File

“Now, she’s being brave through the jungle without having to find somebody to make her happy again because being herself is enough for her.”

Just like this quote from the Netflix show Dear David, being themselves were exactly how the five topnotch Asian creatives were at this week’s Netflix International Women’s Day celebration, leading the streaming platform’s event dubbed as Reflections Of Me, which happened in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Asian regions were very much well-represented. Before we met them, we were greeted by two empowering experience zones in Senaya Square that very much affirmed how women empowerment and Women’s Month have come a long, long way. One had mirrors and pens where you could write your thoughts on what makes a woman and how strong women are today. There were quotes from Netflix shows, said by strong female leads, which were plastered on the wall. The other experience zone had sticker walls with positive adjectives such as powerful, kind, fierce, loving and the like.

Going back to the panel, one of the powerful women who led the conversations about the situation of women in creatives was Anupama Chopra. She is a film critic and award-winning author from India. She is the chairperson of the Film Critics Guild and director of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. Joining her as well was Vietnamese-Irish screenwriter Eirene Tran Donohue, who has sold TV and feature projects to multiple outlets including Lionsgate, ABC Studios, Freeform, Disney, Netflix, Lifetime and Hallmark.

This writer at Netflix's International Women's Day celebration in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Indonesia-based filmmaker Kamila Andini is a Silver Bear awardee at the Berlinale International Film Festival 2022. From Thailand was actress, director, writer and producer Manatsanun (Donut) whose notable project is the Thai Cave Rescue. Of course, representing the Philippines was director, writer and producer Marla Ancheta of Doll House and Finding Agnes.

They were the highlight of the event, telling us the situations of women creatives in their respective countries. Anupama was saying how she grew up being the one to push for women in the Indian entertainment scene that she now scouts the next best creative storytellers who happen to be women, too.

“In some way, the conversation around storytelling and representation impact the way you see women on screen,” she said.

For Eirene, who is set to premiere a new project called A Tourist’s Guide To Love starring Rachel Leigh Cook, her goal is to show a Vietnam to the world that hopefully could move past its ever war-connected history, which is depicted almost every time in Western cinema. She said, “Vietnam is much more than the war that happened.”

For direk Marla, even though she has male protagonists in her films, oftentimes a creative team decision, she sees to it to put strong women figures surrounding the male lead. “You’re following the journey of the lead guy but throughout the journey, there are many women… and in the end, he develops his character because of those women,” she said.

After the discussion, we spoke with direk Marla backstage in the event where she felt the need to collaborate more with women from the region. Hearing their works and story executions made her even more challenged and inspired to do more in her field, especially now that she has put up her own production company called Lucid Dreams Creatives with co-creator Aileen Kessop.

“Parang ang laki laki laki ng mundo, parang mas na-challenge ka to learn more about their culture at makilala rin sila and parang ang sarap mag-collab,” she said.

Direk Marla also felt the need to let her stories travel more across the Asian region to inspire other countries about our situation when she realized in the panel that the Philippines has somewhat of an upperhand when it comes to the number of women in the creative field.

“Hindi ko masabi sa atin na may discrimination, na may ganoon kasi marami tayo! Iyong ibang friends ko at maraming opportunity sa atin. So iyon lang sana mas madami pa ma-grab natin,” she said.

After this, direk Marla is set to film in Subic for a big drama project with Viva starring Cristine Reyes and Baron Geisler.

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