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Also a contender for the Camera d'Or award, which will be announced over the weekend, Tiger Stripes is the work that impressed the jury of the Semaine de la Critique, a parallel section dedicated to discovering new talents, earning Amanda Nell Eu the Grand Prix, the most prestigious recognition.
Tiger Stripes is a courageous film centered around twelve-year-old Zaffan, her transformations, and the reactions of her small community. Nell Eu presented the film in its early stages in Locarno, as part of the international co-production platform Open Doors Hub, which selects eight film projects every year. On that occasion, Amanda emerged as one of the first significant discoveries in the focus on Southeast Asian and Mongolian cinema. It is no coincidence that the young director met her future co-producers for the film at Locarno: Fran Borgia from Akanga Film Asia in Singapore, and Yulia Evina Bhara (also an alumna of Open Doors) from the Indonesian company KawanKawan Media. Therefore, the Grand Prix recognizes a film that fulfills Open Doors' aspiration to enable the development of a vibrant and robust film scene in specific areas of interest, capable of sustaining itself and gaining international visibility.
The Early Steps at the Filmmakers Academy
Yet, there are further reasons that make Tiger Stripes' triumph an exciting milestone for the Locarno Film Festival. Before participating in Open Doors, Amanda was one of the many aspiring young talents who undergo the selection process for the Filmmakers Academy in Locarno each year. The academy offers masterclasses with renowned guest directors, networking opportunities, and a chance to showcase their first short films to the Locarno audience. Led by Stefano Knuchel , the educational project benefited from Amanda's valuable contribution in 2018, as she shared her insight into how the conditions of the film industry in her geographic reality could influence her journey and vision.
"In Malaysia, I see many young directors building their careers by directing TV commercials because there is demand in that sector, and the compensation is good. Unfortunately, the film industry in Malaysia is not as developed, and directors tend to be paid much less," she revealed. "We have to rely on international funds and grants in an extremely competitive world. My greatest sadness is that many of our award-winning films at festivals are not seen by the Malaysian people, either due to censorship or simply because the national audience refuses to watch local cinema."
We can only hope that the success achieved with Tiger Stripes will reverse this trend and generate local as well as international attention for one of the most remarkable film industries of recent years.