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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Finishing up the RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS post-production in Bangkok

Teacher Lim (Zhu Zhi-Ying) and her merry band of student protesters

I have spent the last 12 days in Bangkok for the post-production of both films, Woo Ming Jin's SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES (which I produced and co-wrote) and RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS (which I directed), at White Light Post.

I wrote about the experience with SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES here.

Once Ming Jin left, they started work on RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS.

What an actual colorist can do to your film is amazing.

Professor Ando, who also happened to be in Bangkok for a few days, came to White Light Post for a visit. Sadly, I wasn't around that day, having gone off to do the sound mixing with Yossy the sound guy. :(

But Ando-sensei left me some of my most beloved Black Thunder chocolate bars, which I shared with the White Light Post folks the day after that. They loved it.

On Sept 18. I was more or less done. Kong the cinematographer and Yossy the sound guy were there too to watch the film, making notes on what has to be changed before we finalize the film and place it in DCP. After that, we went off for a great meal.

A few hours later, I headed off to the airport.

Posted about my thoughts on the entire experience:

"After 12 days, I'm finally back from Bangkok. Aside for some slight adjustments, the post-production work for River of Exploding Durians 榴莲忘返 is pretty much done.

I must thank Lee Chatametikool and the wonderful folks of White Light Post. Watching the colour grading and other things they did on the film the past week had been an inspiring and educational experience!

White Light Post is a postproduction company that has worked on a lot of award-winning films over the last few years, like Kongdej Jaturanrasmee's TANGWONG and P-047, Aditya Assarat's HI-SO and WONDERFUL TOWN, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit's 36 and MARY IS HAPPY MARY IS HAPPY. The list goes on and on.

All my life I have wanted to make a movie. I'm so glad that they are around as I head towards the end of this journey.

大家好! 经过了漫长的12天, 我终于从曼谷回来了。 《榴莲忘返》的后期制作也算是大功告成。 首先要谢谢Lee Chatametikool以及White Light Post后期制作公司里的队友们。 看着他们为我们的片子调色, 又加一些很棒的视觉效果, 我觉得自己好像上了一堂课, 很幸运的学了很多东西。

Lee是泰国知名的剪接师, 除了剪接经典鬼片Shutter之外, 也是剪接所有阿彼察邦·韦拉斯哈古的作品, 包括第63届康城影展金棕櫚獎得主的《波米叔叔》。 他公司也参与了很多很棒的泰国电影, 例如本人超喜欢的P-047(2010年入围威尼斯影展)。

虽然出道了以后拍了很多短片, 电视剧, 广告等, 我的童年梦想仍然是拍一部电影。 这梦想好像快要实现了。

Thursday, September 18, 2014

10 books that stayed with me in some way


Posted this on Facebook a few days ago.

(So I will post it here too, but with amendments. And links to previous blog posts related to these books. To help me remember.)

The rules: List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. They do not have to be great works of literature. Don't think too much of your choices. Tag 10 people, plus me so I can see your choices.

1) DRAGONLANCE CHRONICLES by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis

Read this when I was 12. In retrospect, these Dragonlance books are pretty bloody horrible. But they did introduce me to the fantasy genre, yeah. I read these before the Lord of the Rings books, His Dark Materials, Narnia etc.

But at that time, I was quite a fan. When I first got to use the Internet, back in 1997, the first website I tried to go to was "", I subscribed to Tracy Hickman's newsletter, wrote a fan mail to Richard A. Knaak (and was absolutely thrilled when he replied) Ah, the early days of Internet. I was so much simpler.


Read this even earlier. Probably one of my faves as a child. Loved this and Glass Elevator.

3) LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Read this 9-10 years ago when I was in Perth. When you were suffering from the pains of unrequited love, and then read about some guy who spent half a century pining after a woman, you realize things aren's so bad after all.

4) INVISIBLE CITIES by Italo Calvino
Also read this during my Perth days, thanks to my pal Justin. After so many years of fantasy and scifi stuff, this opened my mind about the possibilities of literature.


My first Murakami. Discovered it when I was in Perth too (I would say that those years in Perth during my early twenties was when I made the most discoveries) I was pretty bloody frustrated, reading this. Almost hated it. My relationship with Murakami til today had always been somewhat lukewarm. But I would continue reading his works, some I really loved (HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD, WILD SHEEP CHASE), some I enjoyed (NORWEGIAN WOODS, AFTER DARK) and some that disappear from my mind once I was done.


I'm going to make my amendment. While Wind-Up Bird Chronicles was my first Murakami book, my reaction to it was lukewarm at best. I don't think the book really stayed with me.

On the other hand, it was my favourite Murakami book HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD which continues to linger. I read this in 2010, in my hotel by the sea at Brignagon, France. I think I might have finished it in one sitting.

I was reading it from afternoon to evening, when the sun was about to set, and golden rays of sun enveloped my room, until it was night, when suddenly there were fireworks outside. It was never just the book, but also the experience of reading it, that makes these things so memorable.

6) PALM-OF-THE-HANDS-STORIES by Yasunari Kawabata

To me, the best stuff by Kawabata had always been his short stories. Read some of the shorts during my last few months in Perth (thanks to former guestblogger Justin, who posted about this book on this blog), and finished the rest of it when I just moved to Tokyo in 2008. Heavy influenced. Two Three short films I did were inspired by this. LOVE SUICIDES (2009), KINGYO (2009) and the experimental THE WHITE FLOWER (2010). Thanks to the festival exposure of the former two that gave me, I think my career owes a lot to this book.

Yeah, watch Kingyo here


It's actually four books. Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, Temple of Dawn and The Decay of the Angel, but to me, it felt more like one really long book separated into four parts. The first two books inspired my feature film RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS.

I read this after former guestblogger Justin (now a published author) posted his very detailed review of the books on this blog in 2006.

8) 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

In 2011. I decided to read this book. After the first chapter, I was hooked. Prepared some snacks and drinks, locked myself in the room, kept on reading for 24 hours until I was done with it. It was the literature equivalent of a movie marathon.

9) MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
I read this in 2008 (and then wrote excitedly about it). Also when I just moved to Tokyo. I was never the same again. Flashback to 2008, what I wrote on the blog post:

Yet for the first time ever, MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN caused me to think a little about what my first feature film would be like. For some brief moments, I mentally made vague outlines about its possibilities, like a lovesick man imagining how his son would look like.

Whether I were to shoot it in Tokyo, or in Malaysia...

"My first film would be something epic." I said solemnly to my little sister on MSN, earning a confused '0_0' from her in return. And by typing out my sudden pronouncement, the ghostly apparition of an idea faded away, just as expected.

Of course, it was just a spur of a moment thing. Just a person suddenly feeling very inspired because he had just read a great book. Understanding my own situation, I added, in equal solemnity, to my sister (over the MSN):

"Yup. Finishing a great work of literature can be so inspiring at times."

As I am typing this. 6 years have passed. I am now waiting to watch my first film RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS in a post-production house, finalizing it. 6 years after declaring I would make an "epic", I ended up doing something as ambitious as I wanted. I don't think the 24-year-old me would be disappointed with the 30-year-old me.

10) SOUL MOUNTAIN by Gao Xingjian

Read this in 2012. My most vivid memory of it was reading this a few hours after midnight in a McDonald's at Shinjuku, as I was hanging out there with someone after missing the last train home. She had fallen asleep. I was mesmerized by both the languorous prose and her visage.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

15 movies that will always stay with me


Recently, there had been a couple of memes spreading around on Facebook where people challenge one another to name 15 films that will always stay with them, within 15 minutes. (other iterations of this meme include literature, video games etc. which I will post some other time)

For now, I will elaborate upon the 15 films that I named off the top of my head.

Laputa: Hayao Miyazaki

My first Hayao Miyazaki film. Watched it on VHS when I was 8. Fell so utterly in love with it that I watched it over and over again, in three consecutive nights. This film is like first love, even though the other Miyazaki films had all been amazing, unique experiences, the feeling of first watching Laputa was different.

Casablanca: Michael Curtiz

When I was 14, the American Film Institute came up with its list of top 100 greatest films of all time. I decided to watch the first few films on the list. Casablanca was my favourite. I watched it almost every weekend, memorizing its lines, getting my heart broken again and again when Rick sacrificed love for the greater good. We'll always have Paris.

The Mission: Johnnie To

In one of those school holidays in 1999, my cousin sister and I watched lots of Hong Kong films on VCD. One of them was Johnnie To's THE MISSION. At that time, my cousin told me that his films were "interesting" (I didn't realize then that he was the director of numerous Stephen Chow and Chow Yun Fat films I grew up watching).

Once I reached the iconic shopping mall scene. I knew this was something unlike anything I've ever seen before.

8 1/2 : Federico Fellini

Borrowed this from the university library when I was in Murdoch. My first Fellini film, the black and white was glorious, it was black and white, but it was vibrant with life.

City of God: Fernando Mereilles

Saw this also when I was in Perth. It was 2006. I finally started to study filmmaking, pursuing a lifelong dream. Like many of the films on this list, I watched it repeatedly in a span of few days. I cannot exactly remember the first time I watched it, but I remember bringing it into the editing suite in university just so I could experience the film even more.

I knew this film was something when a Buddhist nun I knew was raving over it too.

San Soleil: Chris Marker

I watched this in its entirely around 2008, during one of my first few weeks in Tokyo. Bombarded by images, and poetic voiceovers/ philosophical musings, it was my first experience with an essay film. It would later inspire me to do something similar with a short film. Also influenced my editing style quite a lot.

Yi Yi: Edward Yang

My first Edward Yang film happened to be his last. I watched this not too long after his death in 2007. Its novelistic scope was something very new to me then. This memorable scene, where the father met his ex-flame and recounted their previous love, while intercutting with scenes of the daughter's first date, was absolutely memorable.

I would later try to employ this editing style on Ming Jin's WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER.

Chungking Express: Wong Kar Wai

This might have probably been the first WKW film I watched, because it was always showing on TV back in the day. But I didn't really fall in love with it until I was in my early twenties. When I finally understood his films more.

Stalker: Andrei Tarkovsky

My first Tarkovsky film, in 2009. He would become a filmmaker I'm most influenced by. (although no one would really detect the influence)

Mirror: Andrei Tarkovsky

My second Tarkovsky film. Watched it immediately after Stalker. Its depiction of fragmented memories influence me until today.

Brighter Summer Day: Edward Yang

I watched this also in 2009. I was intoxicated by its sheer ambition, and the vivid characterization.

Satantango: Bela Tarr

Since I could survive a 4-hour film like BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY, I decided to try a couple of other long films, like Bela Tarr's 7.5 hour SATANTANGO and Fassbinder's 10-hour BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ. The latter was actually more a TV miniseries. SATANTANGO, however, was an actual movie. With memorable long takes. And 15-minute intense speeches.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Michel Gondry

Because of this film. I didn't want to see Jim Carrey in a comedic role again. This scene will stay with me.

Hirokazu Koreeda: Distance

This wasn't my first Koreeda film (Hana was), but this was the first Koreeda film I watched when I became aware of who he was. Atmospheric, mysterious and wonderfully acted. I am reminded of scenes where a wife had to tell a husband she had joined a cult, of someone who was about to betray his cult etc.

Goodfellas: Martin Scorsese

I saw this only two years ago. Can you believe it? Late 20s. Already knew about Scorsese all my life, saw all of his post-2000 output, aware of his greatness, was one of the sole defenders of THE DEPARTED. But in 2012, I slowly decided to revisit his earlier masterpieces like Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull.

Goodfellas became my favourite Scorsese film.

Almost wished I've seen this earlier in my life.

Finishing up the SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES post-production in Bangkok

I came to Bangkok almost a week ago to finish up the post-production for both SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES (which I produced, co-wrote and edited) and RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS (which I directed).

We were in a hurry because SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES, directed by Woo Ming Jin, will be making its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival in early October. Colour grading had to be done, then sound mixing, before we finalize everything into a DCP (Digital Cinema Package), which is used in most film festivals and cinemas these days.

Here's the Facebook page for SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES.

Bangkok, of course, is known worldwide for its top-level postproduction services. In fact, Wong Kar Wai's last few films, namely 2046 and THE GRANDMASTERS were done here.

So, the postproduction of SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES was done at White Light Post, a postproduction place headed by Lee Chatametikool, the multiple award-winning editor of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films (and also a director himself, his debut film CONCRETE CLOUDS premiered in Busan last year and he's been busy the last few days preparing for the nationwide release of this film)

Watching our friends in Thailand work on these films is quite an educational and inspiring experience. After spending so many months seeing the raw footage of the film in its flat and desaturated form, it was mindblowing to see the film in how it was supposed to be seen on the big screen.

Having owned the Blackmagic Cinema Camera for a year and a half, SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES was the first time we shot our film on Raw instead of on Prores, so I never got to witness the camera at its full power until now, and this wouldn't have happened if the colour grading process was done at the hands of lesser people either. I used to do my own color grading for the films I shot on DSLR (Last Fragments of Winter, Exhalation, Inhalation etc.), but a Blackmagic Cinema Camera-shot footage is an entirely different thing altogether. Makes me yearn to learn how to use Da Vinci Resolve (the color grading software).

Looking forward to the film's world premiere at Busan in October.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Woo Ming Jin's SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES (I co-write and produced) is going to Busan International Film Festival 2014

The Busan International Film Fest lineup came out yesterday. So I can announce it now. Woo Ming Jin's new film SECOND LIFE OF THIEVES, which I co-wrote and produced (and, of course, edited) will be having its world premiere there. Quite an honour, being one of the three Malaysian films there. The others being Liew Seng Tat's LELAKI HARAPAN DUNIA (which just premiered in Locarno and will go to Toronto in a few days) and Bradley Liew's (no relation) short film XING.


由本地导演胡明进执导, 杨毅恒(我)编剧/制片,本资深演员钟国强,联同李承运Berg Lee、陈美君MayJune Tan、林佩琦Emily Lim Pey Chi、丁仕匀JiYun Teng、叶良财Steve Yap主演的剧情片 Second Life of Thieves《偷.情》 成功入围第19届釜山影展“亚洲电影之窗”( A Window on Asian Cinema)观摩单元。


马来西亚作品本次共有3部作品在釜山影展亮相,除了《偷.情》,刘城达执导的 Lelaki Harapan Dunia 也入围了“亚洲电影之窗”( A Window on Asian Cinema)观摩单元。而Bradley LIEW执导的的《Xing》则入围亚洲短片竞赛(Asian Short Film Competition)。

It's been a long journey. This film. I can still remember working on the script around early 2012, shooting it on late 2013, doing some reshoots in June...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Photos from a promo short film I was shooting

Two weeks ago, I got a sudden phone call from an old high schoolmate (primary school as well), asking me to help shoot a little promotional short film for an event his company is organizing in October.

I swiftly put together the production, the short film stars Joseph Germani and Sarah Lian and it's tentatively titled THE WAY OF THE FUTURE.

It also co-stars 5-year-old Estellis.

Here are the photos taken by the cast and crew during the shoot. (
Thankfully, we were also followed by a group of film students documenting our shoot, so there were even more photos from them as well. Film shoot these days are very different from before, it's not difficult anymore to look for production photos.)

From the first day, mostly in an apartment.

Second day, I was trying to capture the sunset again.

Of course, I also had plenty time for ice-cream.

Now I have one week to edit this.

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