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From Authentic Characters to Systemic Change: Women in Southeast Asia’s Entertainment Industry Speak Out

From Authentic Characters to Systemic Change: Women in Southeast Asia’s Entertainment Industry Speak Out

Top women creators and talent from Netflix’s Southeast Asia titles gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia on Thursday to discuss the importance of representation on screen at Netflix's event, Reflections of Me, to celebrate International Women's Month.

Over 200 attendees from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, including press, influencers, and film communities, participated in the event either in-person or virtually.

The panel, moderated by Indonesian actress Marissa Anita (Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens) featured a lineup of speakers who shared their experiences as women in the industry and their journeys in reflecting strong, authentic female characters on screen.

From left: Panelists Marla Ancheta, Manatsanun ‘Donut’ Phanlerdwongsakul, Kamila Andini, Eirene Tran Donohue, Anupama Chopra and moderator Marissa Anita kicking off the panel discussion.

Filmmaker Kamila Andini (Gadis Kretek) reflected on the challenges of bringing authentic female characters to life.

"Women are expected to be something all the time, being the perfect mum, or the perfect wife, to live our lives for the sake of others, to be who others want us to be,” she said. “But I understand how difficult it is to try to be brave enough to make choices for ourselves. That’s why my characters are never black and white—they have weaknesses but also great qualities.”

Vietnamese-Irish screenwriter Eirene Tran Donohue (A Tourist’s Guide to Love) echoed Andini's sentiments, emphasizing the need to "embrace and give voice to the complexity that exists within women to be all versions of ourselves at the same time."

They also discussed the impact of having more women both in front of and behind the camera. Indian film critic Anupama Chopra believes that the conversation around representation and storytelling can eventually impact what is seen on screen.

And this conversation needs to start even at the writing stage. Thai actress Manatsanun 'Donut' Phanlerdwongsakul (Thai Cave Rescue) pointed out that Asian female characters in films or TV tend to be typecast as a conservative mother or a daughter who rebels against her family. It is important that the film producer and writer “decide that we can play more roles, not just stereotypes,” she explained.

Sakdiyah Ma’ruf, an Indonesian poet and comedian, shared her take on the significance of representation on screen through a highly emotive spoken word performance.

Despite the recognition and success of women in mainstream media, Filipino director Marla Archeta (Doll House) pointed out the challenges that come with higher expectations for female content creators. “We need to make better content, be more conscious of the biases people have of us so we can better represent our culture," she said.

This event aims to honor inspiring women in front of and behind the camera and celebrates diverse storytelling by, for, and about women.

"At Netflix, we believe that great stories can come from anywhere, and the greatest impact is creating empathy and understanding through the stories we tell,” said Amy Kunrojpanya, Netflix’s Vice President, Public Relations - Asia Pacific. “More people deserve to see their lives on screen, and we want to give power to the experiences of our audiences when they see themselves reflected in our stories."

Please download images here and watch the entire event below.

Vivien Tan

Publicity SEA