If you find yourself in Kuala Lumpur this month, you’re in luck — the city’s first-ever literary festival will take place. This is no exaggeration; festivals are in short supply over on this side of the world, and literary ones even less accessible. #Word is the first edition of the Cooler Lumpur festival series (running June 21 to 23 in various locations around Publika Shopping Gallery), and will focus on the written and spoken word through talks, workshops, readings, lectures and performances. Here’s a brief primer on what not to miss.
The Cooler Lumpur Lecture Series, Black Box
The festival curators have put together an incredible roster of personalities for their lecture series. In our top picks are Malaysian filmmaker Dain Said, who most recently directed the critically acclaimed film Bunohan, a Cain and Abel story of family and revenge set in the north Malaysian state of Kelantan. He’s also a brilliant and witty conversationalist, so we’re expecting good things from his lecture (June 21, 8:30 p.m.). Another anticipated speaker is Singaporean writer Alfian Sa’at, who is a keen (and funny) observer of Southeast Asian culture. His provocative plays, dealing with the intersection of race, religion and culture, have been read and performed across the world (June 23, 12:30 p.m.).
Readings @ #Word, June 22 and 23, 3:30 to 6 p.m., The Bee
Readings are a Kuala Lumpur institution — these monthly gatherings, where local writers, published and unpublished, read excerpts from their works, have been running for the last nine years. The sessions have featured local and international writers and recent award-winners Tash Aw (who won the Whitbread Book Awards First Novel Award for The Harmony Silk Factory in 2005) and Tan Twan Eng (who won the Man Asian Prize in 2012 for The Garden of Evenings Mists) have done their time here. The sessions will feature readings from Benjamin Markovits (named Best Young British Novelist in 2013 by Granta, a literary magazine), writer and poet Bernice Chauly and more. The Saturday session of Readings will also see the launch of a new issue of the quarterly literary zine, New Village.
Film Screening by Filemmakers Anonymous, June 22, 5 to 7 p.m., Black Box
Malaysian collective Filemmakers Anonymous has been making and screening independent films for seven years, organizing symposiums and running workshops with a number of organizations across the country. For the festival they’ll be presenting a collection of independent short films, followed by panel discussions. The films range from a story that takes a look at a university student’s most important highlights during that time in the 3 years in 3 Minutes in Shostakovich Op. 131 to Return to Sender, a story about a student who talks with a love interest on Facebook until he realizes why they have yet to meet.
Numinous presents A Spoken Word Special June 23, 5:30 to 7 p.m., Paradiso Lounge
Spoken word poetry is still a highly underrated art in the region, but the multidisciplinary arts event called Numinous collected some of the best regional poets from Singapore, Australia and around the country for this event. Local poet Melizarani will be performing, as well as the award-winning (and TedxKL, a TED Talk-like event, veteran) Jamal Raslan.
Photos courtesy of The Cooler Lumpur Festival