There Is a “Entrepreneurial” Spirit Among Filmmakers of Asian Region
There Is a “Entrepreneurial” Spirit Among Filmmakers of Asian Region

 

Alex Lee

Festival Director/Founder DocEdge NZ

 

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Alex Lee is the Co-director and Founding Trustee of the Documentary New Zealand Trust that runs the Oscar qualifying Doc Edge International Film Festival, Doc Edge Forum, Doc Edge Pitch, Doc Edge Schools, Doc Edge Goldies, Doc Edge Exhibition and other documentary advocacy work. Alex has taught film production in New Zealand and was previously Head of the Department of Performing & Screen Arts at UNITEC. He is the former Chair of Film Auckland Incorporated, a role he held since 2014. He directed an award winning short film Wong Cha Cha that played in international festivals. Alex has also produced other award-winning long form and short form fiction including independent theatrical fiction feature The Last Magic Show. Alex is an Edmund Hillary Fellow.

What inspired you to launch the DocEdge NZ festival?

What inspired you to launch the DocEdge NZ festival? We were challenged at a meeting of arts advocates to come up with an initiative that will be a legacy event that benefits wider New Zealand. In 2004, there were hardly any focus on documentary, lack of funding for documentaries and little opportunity to view independent creative documentaries. Both Dan Shanan and I committed to founding a documentary film festival to educate audiences and the documentary organisation to support the filmmakers and their projects.

When and why did DocEdge NZ decide to partner with Dhaka DocLab?

A few years back I had the opportunity to meet Tareq Ahmed. I was intrigued by the work being done to develop talent and content in Bangladesh. As an Oscar qualifying film festival and a leading event in the Asia-Pacific region, we are keen to find out more and support documentaries from Bangladesh. Additionally, Dhaka Doc Lab was also supporting filmmakers from the rest of South Asia, which made this very interesting for us. As our association developed, Dhaka Doc Lab also asked me to help with curating both NZ and Australia projects for Dhaka Doc Lab.

In your opinion, what are the strengths of Asian filmmakers?

There is a bank of wonderful stories from this region. Additionally, there is a “entrepreneurial” spirit among the filmmakers who are courageously learning the way around the international documentary industry as well as bringing the region’s own sensibility as to artistry and storytelling.

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What areas do you think Asian, particularly South Asian filmmakers, need to develop?

Impact storytelling is important and therefore, it is essential for more impact producing skills. Additionally, it is important to also nurture business skills as well as skills to manage the personal well-being of the filmmakers.

How do you think they can overcome these challenges?

It is important to network and find opportunities to collaborate with experienced filmmakers in the region. While it is important to support western practitioners looking to collaborate, there is magic to be made through regional co-production among the Asia-Pacific practitioners.

Do you have any plans to create collaboration opportunities between filmmakers from South Asia and the Asia Pacific region?

Yes, Doc Edge is committing with the help of the NZ Government and the City of Christchurch to make New Zealand the Asia-Pacific centre for documentary. We are looking to bring the Asia-Pacific industry together by the establishment of an Asia-Pacific regional industry organisation and a home for our filmmakers. Doc Edge will be a leading market for our documentaries and will encourage western filmmakers, funders, broadcasters, platform and sales agents to come to our region to seek content and collaborations.

What are your thoughts on creating a network between forums in the Asian and APAC regions?

We are committed to this idea and as mentioned look forward to establishing a Asia-Pacific regional industry organisation. As we move towards decolonising our industry, we must start developing our own narratives. With a united voice, we will be able to speak definitively and with authority with other bodies in other parts of our world.