Tom Hern & James Napier Robertson

AUCKLAND. Filmmakers. Civic Theatre.

What do you tell a friend to convince them to watch an independent film?
‘This film is lifechanging. Do me a favour: trust my recommendation, go see it, and then you can abuse me afterwards if you don’t agree.’ [laughs]

For filmmakers, what does it mean for your film to be screened in foreign film festivals?
Screening at international film festivals is such a pleasure. Festival audiences are generally emotionally open and hungry for quality storytelling. They are generally lovers of film and are braver (i.e. interested in films that aren’t the “norm”). I’m so grateful film festivals are part of our cultural landscape, and love attending as an audience member as much as I do as a filmmaker.


Amanda Lee Koe

NEW YORK. Writer. IFC Center.

What’s the best conversation you’ve had about an independent film?
One of the best conversations I’ve had about an independent film was after I watched Tsai Ming-Liang’s Stray Dogs with my partner at last year’s New York Film Festival.

At the last scene (the longest take without cuts I have ever seen, with no dialogue, maybe about ten minutes), I suddenly (yet gradually) started crying very badly. By the end I was more or less sobbing and I really didn’t know why, because there wasn’t emotional manipulation or even a traditional linear narrative where I think it’s easier to haze a viewer towards a certain intensity.

After we left the theater we went for supper in a Polish deli and tried to unpack what caused my Stendhal syndrome. Film is such a seduction.


Michelle Chang

LOS ANGELES. Artist. Fox Westwood Village.

What happened at your first film festival?
The first time I was introduced to SGIFF, my friends and I were the diehards who would watch three movies a day. I remember being groggy from being in the cold dark cinema for half a day, but it didn’t stop us; I was, and still am, in search of the bizarre, the weird, the sexy and the mad.

Which independent film did you watch that sparked a lively discussion?
Searching for Sugarman. After the movie, Chance and I spent hours googling more about not just the singer but also the director. We found out that after winning the Academy Award, director Bendjelloul committed suicide a year later and we went on to learn how he made this documentary. He ran out of funds but it didn’t stop him and he finished it using his vintage 8mm camera and iphone. Relentless. We started discussing why the director had killed himself; what compelled a man to decide he cannot live a second longer? Chance and I talked about our dreams, what we want to achieve and how Time – while it waits for no man – is also on our side; as long as we run alongside it, we should not lose track of it and let it slip by unnoticed. It is films like this, that will stay with you forever.

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Sandra Rodriguez

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts. Independent Documentary Director. Landmark Theatre, Kendall Square.

As a filmmaker, what does it mean for your film to be shown at foreign film festivals?
I’ve been amazed by the different reactions my films could get in different countries. Some laugh at jokes you thought were only funny to you (fantastic)! Some remain silent even at your best pun (uh-oh). Others listen without a peep while the rest prolong the Q&A for hours.

The best part? Every encounter allows you to learn. To see your own film with different eyes, from different cultures and gain so much more from the experience.

What’s special about watching a film at a film festival?
Watching a film at a film festival is an experience like no other. Not only do you get to discover films you would otherwise not be able to see (foreign, independent, premieres), in a surrounding energized by the presence of curious and passionate members of the public, but you also get to meet directors, producers, craftsmen and women that actually made what you see possible. And you can even ask them questions or talk directly to them after the projection to learn more about how they got to do it. If you’re lucky, you might even learn a secret or two in the process. In other words, it’s like seeing a rare film and its bonus features with the occasional presence of the crew. What more would you want?


Elias Ribeiro

CANNES, France. Film Producer. Palais des Festival.

Why do you watch independent films?
Because they usually are braver and more interesting than studio content produced for the masses. As an audience I like to be challenged and inspired to question the status quo and the world around me.

What’s special about watching films at a film festival?
There is something very special about watching a film with a full house; I love the fact that most screenings at film festivals are sold out. I love the Q&As and the opportunity to meet the talents behind the pictures.

When choosing which films to watch at a festival, the honest answer is I hardly ever read a synopsis, or know much about a film before going. I love being surprised.


Epy Quizon

MANILA. Actor. A non-descript mall with a cinema.

What is a common misconception/myth about independent film?
A film is a film. When they say “independent film”, some people usually misconceive it as elitist, too intelligent. But when you come to think of it, it’s just really about telling stories. When you say “independent”, it just means it’s independently produced, but a film is a film whichever company produces it.

What’s the best conversation you’ve had about an independent film?
I am a fan of short films, so when I’m at a festival, I would always look for the short film categories. I love the conversations after. I appreciate how the director can take you to another world, even with such a compressed time frame. I enjoy how every brief moment, every shot, every word counts in telling the story.

Photo credit: Kelly Fan for Unlucky Plaza


Pauline Tran

BEVERLY HILLS, California. Marketing. Laemmle Music Hall.

What is a common misconception/myth about independent film?
A common misconception is that indie films are dark, nostalgic and have no concrete ending. In my opinion, indie films are very thought-provoking and inspire you to think outside of the box and feel a variety of emotions that you would not otherwise feel when you watch a mainstream action-packed blockbuster. Contrary to misconceptions, many indie films can be both funny and sad at the same time, not just the latter.

What’s special about watching films at a film festival?
Attending a film festival is special because of the community. I love attending the Q&A sessions and the closing night events for the last film, because that’s when you can celebrate with the festival team and all of the volunteers, filmmakers, actors and audience members that made everything possible. You can feel success in the air.