George Town Festival 2020 goes virtual this year, with arts, culture and social issues

'Armour And Skin 2019', a musical show by Hands Percussion and Gamelan Yuganada is part of the digital edition of the George Town Festival. Photo: George Town Festival

The George Town Festival (GTF) will stream online for the very first time since it started in 2010.

A digital edition of the festival will be go live via GTF’s Facebook page and Youtube channel (for free) from July 4-19.

It features nine programmes, including a series of showcases, talks, workshops and screenings. This online GTF edition offers new programming and is not a scaled down version of the original festival.

GTF 2020, originally scheduled for July 11-26, was cancelled in March due to the pandemic outbreak.

“A festival of this kind is important in a post-pandemic Malaysia as we are making the arts accessible to everyone – from the festival-goers to the art communities and the general public,” says Jack Wong, GTF festival director, adding the theme for this digital GTF is Everyone Everywhere.

“We also decided to carry on with an online edition of the festival in July to commemorate the listing of George Town as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The festival was inaugurated to honour this title," he adds.

It took two months - during the movement control order (MCO) - to curate this virtual festival, which includes homegrown and international artists.

Apart from a pre-recorded screening of Armour And Skin 2019 (July 5-11), a musical show by Hands Percussion and Gamelan Yuganada which premiered at last year’s GTF, all the other programmes will be performed live.

The digital GTF kicks off at 2pm on July 4 with The New Adventures In Sound Art By Kamal Sabran And Friends.

Perak-born multi-disciplinary artist/academic Kamal Sabran will be reimagining a set of classic Malay pop songs, playing remotely alongside a cast of experimental musicians from home and abroad.

In Absolute Penang on July 7 at 7pm, viewers can tune in to four Penang-based cultural performances, including a Teochew opera performance by Teochew Puppet and Opera House and a sitar and tabla performance by Pravinraj Premkumar Kumaran Rajanam.

A series of online talks (July 9 and 10, 8pm, and July 11 and 12, 2pm), will feature arts and culture reflections from GTF 2019’s featured acts such as Pichet Klunchun from Thailand’s Pichet Klunchun Dance Company and writer-director Saleh Sepas and interpreter-producer Amin Kamrani from Afghanistan’s Parastoo Theatre.

Penang-based caricature artist Azmi Hussin will be conducting a 30-minute coffee painting workshop on July 18 (8pm) and 19 (2pm) via Zoom. While the workshop is free, a pre-registration is required.

As a post-GTF bonus, a multi-disciplinary series called Moving Shadows, Chasing Light will be streamed on Juy 26 at 8pm. This series focuses on death and abuse in custody, with a live post-screening discussion on the role of the arts in giving a voice to the oppressed. The discussion panel includes Loo Que Lin (Suaram Penang), Tan Lay Heong (Plasticity Theatre Troupe), Goh Choon Ean (LUMA), Anna Har (Freedom Film Network) and Charis Loke (New Naratif) and it will be moderated by Prema Devaraj.

The three bonus screenings include a work-in-progress shadow play called Di Luar Bayangan by Penang-based collective Plasticity Theatre Troupe, in association with Suaram Penang and Eliminating Deaths and Abuse in Custody Together, a work-in-progress documentary film by Goh Choon Ean called Beyond Understanding about the human rights activist Loo Que Lin and an animation by Suaram and Freedom Film Network with illustrations by Amin Landak called Chili Powder And Thinner.

For more details, visit GTF’s Facebook page.

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