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Szu and Circe are drawn to the memory of Amisa and her short-lived career as an actress of a cult horror series, Ponti! I met Teo at the Sydney Writers Festival, where we spoke in the same panel and exchanged views on women, horror, and Southeast Asia. Ponti explore the rich cultures of Singapore and Southeast Asia while offering a fresh perspective on relationships between women, history, and screened memories. Prior to the U. In Indonesia she is called Kuntilanak, although we have a city called Pontianak, where the horror film director in Ponti comes from.
Lock up your boys and men! The Kuntilanak, Pontianak, Lang Suir and for that matter another Malay ghost, the toyol —all relate to societal anxieties and expectations around childbirth, childrearing and the female body, to me.
I think that figures of fear and horror are pariahs and ciphers for insecurity and fear—they reflect what is found, at the time, to be undesirable or repugnant. IP: Motherhood, friendship, and relationships between women are dominant themes in Ponti. Are there any assumptions about women and femininity that you wish to challenge? ST: Asian femininity, particularly under the Western gaze, has these icky Orientalist connotations of delicacy, elegance and restraint.
Like a demure madonna-whore dichotomy. The women in Ponti are mostly inelegant, occasionally unpleasant, and avid in their desires and fixations. They spend a lot of time on the outside looking in. Of course this behavior cuts across gender, but women are competitive and tender with each other in very nuanced and particular ways.
IP: In Ponti Amisa is often described by other characters as unusually beautiful and cold, almost inhuman, but we also see girls struggling with pimples, oily faces, sweat, and other mortal concerns. Asian femininity, especially under Western gaze, has these icky Orientalist connotations of a demure madonna-whore dichotomy. ST: I remember being told as a child that it takes just 7 seconds to form a first impression on someone.