KLEX festival gets ambitious with far-reaching programme

Radish (Australia/Mexico) by Diego Ramirez will be showing at the Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film and Video Festival (KLEX).

Radish (Australia/Mexico) by Diego Ramirez will be showing at the Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film and Video Festival (KLEX).

The Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film And Video Festival (KLEX) revs up its programme with German cinema, Hong Kong rebellion and outsider music.

Experimenting is a difficult and not always appreciated step into the future. But its a neccesary thing, says Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film and Video Festival (KLEX) founder Kok Siew Wai.

Now in its fifth year, the grassroots international festival of experimental cinema is keeping it fresh with its theme “KLEX: The First Time” and moving out of its tradition home in The Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur to spread experimental filmmaking to the KL Chinatown district.

Kok says the festival will run from Nov 19 to 23 at three artist-run independent art spaces. The venues are Lostgens’ Contemporary Artspace, Findars and Gospel Hall Kuala Lumpur where experimental video screening programmes, Q&A sessions with guest curators, and audio-visual performances featuring local and international musicians will be held.

All the venues are within walking distance of each other. Unfortunately, the programmes set in the Petaling Street Art House, had to be moved to the Gospel Hall Kuala Lumpur after a recent rainstorm caved in the Art House’s roof and damaged its interior.

But the show must go on. The festival packs a smorgasboard of sound and vision, with experimental short films at the heart of this event.

German-born filmmaker Reka Bucsis Symphony No. 42 (2014) is one of the 10 films shortlisted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the upcoming 87th Academy Awards in the category of animated short films. It will be part of KLEXs programme.
German-born filmmaker Reka Bucsis' Symphony No. 42 (2014) is one of the 10 films shortlisted in next year's Oscars in the short film category. 

Kok reveals that this year, KLEX received over 170 submissions for its open call, with works coming in from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Britain, the United States and more.

The curatorial committee – composed of Kok herself, Andrew Stiff, Azharr Rudin, Chong Keat Aun – narrowed down the submissions to 37 experimental short films, which would be shown over the course of three KLEX Open Programmes.

The Open Programmes are titled: “Learning To Fly” (Nov 21), “Awe” (Nov 22) andThe Familiar Strange” (Nov 23). They will all be shown at Lostgens.

“There’s a different committee every year, but it’s consistently made up of people with different tastes and backgrounds. Like Andrew is a visual artist while Chong is a DJ, Azharr prefers narrative stories while I prefer novel approaches,” says Kok.

The catch with experimental is that what constitutes experimental?

“For us, the definition is a bit loose. Anything not so straight forward, whether fiction or documentary,” says Siew Wai, adding, “what I want is the artist’s intention to be clear and conveyed well”.

“If it surprises you, even better!” she says with a laugh.

No effort goes to waste though; Kok reveals that many of the submissions not used in the Open Programmes are instead shown at an on-going video installation in Findars. She notes that these pieces are better suited there as they are usually static images or silent.

The artist-run, grassroots international festival of experimental cinema, the Kuala Lumpur Experimental Film and Video Festival (KLEX) also complements indie movies with the works of musicians of a similar wave to do audio-visual performances.
KLEX also complements its film spread with the works from avant garde musicians as witnessed by its audio-visual performances.

Bringing an international touch to KLEX are the Berlinale Shorts from the 64th Berlin International Film Festival plus guest speakers from Hong Kong, France and Thailand.

“In Berlin, they have conventional films but also a culture of doing experimental films. Here schools are more into commercial film, rather than expermintal,” says the film studies lecturer.

“It’s good to have a broader path, maybe it’ll make viewers realise experimental film is important though it’s a minority voice,” she opines.

The local festival, which was founded in 2010, aims to serve as a platform to introduce contemporary experimental cinema from the region and worldwide to Malaysian audiences, and to introduce works from South-East Asia to other parts of the world.

Besides the screening film programmes, KLEX is continuing its tradition of hosting audio-visual performances, even having launched in May a performance series called Serious Play Improv Lab (SPIL) to facilitate exchange and collaborations among artists, musicians and performers.

“Musicians and videographers in the experimental field tend to cross over, since they share a similar grammar of textures and shapes. It’s easy for them to ‘get’ each other,” Kok believes.

KLEX will also be featuring a timely series of Hong Kong-centric programmes called Heart Attack Of Hong Kong. Though under the banner of KLEX, it is independently organised by Petaling Street Art House’s Chong Keat Aun.

“I felt the theme ‘First Time’ was a good fit with what was being brought by the Hong Kong artists. Their film N+N is the first to tell the story of the controversy involving Hong Kong’s largest farming village being flattened to make way for the LRT train in 2009,” says Chong.

The movie’s debut in Malaysia will be attended by the documentary-style film’s lead actor Angustine Mok and the film’s producer and script writer, Banky Yeung. The duo will be giving talks and hosting a workshop on Nov 19 in the Gospel Hall, and also at the Yi Circle Tranquility Space in George Town, Penang.

Chong explains that the title Heart Attack Of Hong Kong was inspired by the turbulent changes in Hong Kong after it was handed over by the British back to China in 1997.

“There were many changes to the Hong Kong’s community, from its freedom of media, having historic sites left behind from the British occupation being torn down and replaced with commercial buildings, to the mass exodus of China mainlanders to the island,” he says.

Chong felt the need to share Hong Kong’s tale given the recent political upheaval there. A frequent visitor, Chong had been in Hong Kong many times in the last three years, to take part in the Hong Kong Community Art Programme, where he shared about KL’s own Chinatown and the historic value of Petaling Street.

KLEX runs from Nov 19 to 23 at LostGens Contemporary Artspace and Findar at No 8, Jalan Panggung and the Gospel Hall at No. 3 on Jalan Hang Jebat, in Kuala Lumpur. Entry is by donation, with screenings starting at RM8, while audio visual performances are at RM10 and RM25. 

For more information e-mail info@klexfilmfest.com, or check KLEX’s website and Facebook page.

KLEX 2014