Last November at the Asian Television Forum, three broadcasters signed an agreement to create a competition seeking projects targeted at an Asian market. Calling the project The Asian Pitch, Japanese broadcaster NHK came together with Singapore-based MediaCorp and Korean public broadcaster KBS to put out the call for original docs telling stories from the region. The call was open to filmmakers with an Asian background, living and working in the area, and lasted from January until April 2007. In that time, over 130 proposals were submitted from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and the US. This past July, a representative executive producer from each founding broadcaster listened to pitches from the 15 finalists at the MediaCorp Caldecott Broadcast Centre in Singapore. From the finalists, three were selected and awarded full funding. One of the winners was director Faiza Ahmed Khan’s Supermen of Malegaon.
This doc follows a crew of Malegaons making a film called Malegaon ka Superman. The story contrasts the bleak socioeconomic situation in the region with the chaos of producing the film, and shows the importance of the escapism of films to the people who live there. The intent is ‘to rise above their exploitative milieu,’ but Ahmed Khan found the result is only an escape from reality through film.
Malaysian filmmaker Justin Ong Tat Tiong’s winning pitch tells the story of an ancient, yet impeccably functioning irrigation system in Bali. The film – titled Subak after the name of the irrigation system – follows the region’s move in the 1970s from a system that was deemed by some as ‘near perfect’ to a new system under the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Remembering the introduction of the Bali Irrigation Project and its detrimental effect on farming, the doc follows the community’s efforts to bring back the old Subak system.
Like the other winning filmmakers, director Agung Mulya Setiawan pitched a story revealing social customs and the economic atmosphere of the selected community, in this case the Toraja people in Indonesia. Entitled The Mummy Theft from Toraja, this doc looks at a funeral rite called Rambu Solo that is causing people to go into poverty because of its great expense.
NHK head of international program development Fumio Narashima says The Asian Pitch was launched as a way to share the stories of Asia from the point of view of the local people. ‘Through these programs we will be able to convey an Asian perspective and enable the world to understand Asia more,’ says Narashima.
The broadcasters will retain copyright of the winning programs, with a share of the distribution revenue going to the directors once the investment costs are recovered. The finished docs will be launched at MIP 2008.