Films explore diverse culture

Mikayla Logue

For the first time ever, the University of Washington’s Southeast Asia Center put on a film festival called “SEA x SEA,” short for Southeast Asia x Seattle Film Festival.

The goal of putting on the film festival was to showcase the diversity of Southeast Asia and to highlight the under-represented communities and youth.

Over the course of three days, the audience watched a series of short films and two full length documentaries.

Each day had a different theme.

The first day was centered on war and conflict, the second day was about peace, and the third day focused on celebrating the culture of Southeast Asia.

All of the films came from different countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore and others.

The films were also diverse in their genres and content; some films were lighthearted, some were about prejudice, some were poetic and some were thrillers.

The creator of “SEA x SEA,” Adrian Alarilla, who is currently the programming manager for the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, was very excited to be a part of promoting and showing the life and culture of Southeast Asia.

“I’ve been helping organize small community film festivals, and I saw that the Southeast Asia Center did film festivals, but they were having a difficult time sorting out films, so I thought that I would help out with my experience and knowledge,” Alarilla said.

Alarilla’s background has been heavily influenced by film. “I studied film in the Philippines before I migrated to the U.S.

For some time, I felt very disconnected from film, but then I had an opportunity to make a film and submit it to the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, which talked about my own experience migrating to the U.S. It was very helpful for me personally, but it also opened me up to the local film community here.”

With his knowledge, Alarilla was able to submit a proposal to the Southeast Asian Center at the University of Washington to create a film festival, and once it was approved, he began searching for films to show at “SEA x SEA.”

“I sourced out the films through filmfreeway.com, which is an online platform that connects film festivals to film-makers all over the world,” Alarilla said. “SEA x SEA” was a huge hit on that website, and Alarilla, along with the rest of staff at the Southeast Asia Center, received over 250 films, which they narrowed down to 26. “It was a difficult process.

We had to weed out the ones that weren’t about Southeast Asia or by Southeast Asian filmmakers, and then once we had that, we specifically wanted films that weren’t mainstream, but films that were ideally student-made and explored ethnic and religious minorities.”

“We really wanted to showcase the diversity of the region. We received so many good submissions, and unfortunately we had to turn down some of them,” Alarilla explained.
Even though it was a difficult process choosing which films to accept, Alarilla and the Southeast Asia Center knew that they wanted their film festival to show the culture and diversity of the people, along with the conflicts and everyday life of Southeast Asia.

“I think because Seattle has a huge Southeast Asian community, we are so hungry for our stories, stories from our homeland,” Alarilla said.

“But I also think these stories are very relevant to American audiences as well because Southeast Asia is a region built with diversity, multiple ethnicities, multiple races, multiple religions, living with each other, trying to make it work. And I see a lot of that in the U.S. as well.”

If they are able to put on a second “SEA x SEA Film Festival,” Alarilla said he would like to have a bigger venue and more people, but he would not change the “wonderful, nurturing atmosphere that we experienced these past couple of days with audiences really enjoying the films, relating to them, and showing their appreciation.”

The Seattle Asia Center is very grateful for the opportunity to share the life of Southeast Asia through the “SEA x SEA Film Festival.”