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Friday, November 21, 2008

Final thoughts on Rome trip and BMW Shorties

I suggest you read the following posts (or skim through the photos I painstakingly took) before you read this:

Rome Day 1 (Pt. 1) - Grand hotels, real Italian pizza and Via Veneto!

Rome Day 1 (Pt. 2) - the EASY VIRTUE premiere with Jessica Biel, the bittersweet fun at the International Rome Film Fest

Rome Day 2 (Pt. 1) - Unforgettable sights during the half-day city tour

Rome Day 2 (Pt. 2) - PRIDE AND GLORY premiere, Colin Farrell hides from me as I walk down the red carpet

Zahir Omar, me, Maha and Ide Nerina outside Grand Hotel Parco dei Principi before departure
Zahir Omar, me, Maha and Ida Nerina outside Grand Hotel Parco dei Principi before departure

It is now the 21st of November, Friday as I'm typing this. 2 weeks had passed since I came back to Tokyo. 3 weeks had passed since I returned to Malaysia from Rome, 4 weeks had passed since I returned to Malaysia from Tokyo to fly to Rome. 6 months had passed since CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY won the two awards at BMW Shorties, and gave me the trip to Rome.

As time stretches even longer between those events and the present, it feels increasingly vain to bask on long-ago glory and reiterate the experience of a long-ago trip. Yet closure is always necessary, even though I often favour ambiguity and open-endedness in the endings of my own films.

The Rome trip is fleeting, but fun. I left with the joy of seeing so many iconic sights, yet mingled with a slight twinge of regret that I wasn't there longer, and also bemusement at the long-held expectation that I was supposed to present my film at the Rome Film Fest and only to realize belatedly that I didn't have to do that, and that all I had to do was just to sit back, relax and enjoy the festival for what it is. Also, traveling with Ida, Zahir and Maha had been a pleasure (and having Mui for half of the trip added a lot of fun too), and this isn't some artificial butt-kissing statement just to garner some goodwill. I'm a loner by nature, so to actually enjoy traveling companionship is almost a rarity.

Now I turn my thoughts upon the BMW SHORTIES. Only in its second year, and despite its imperfection, I can see a lot of good about this competition and other similar short film competitions. They'll be constantly discovering new filmmakers, motivating the creation of new works, and maybe, most invaluable of all, the Malaysian public gets to learn and enjoy more of the underappreciated short film medium. Long being regarded as a 'lesser medium', I find the common prejudice against short films rather baffling. To me, a film is a novel, and a short film is obviously a short story. The latter isn't a lesser art, just a different medium asking for different sort of stories or experimentation.

One of my fondest experiences during my stay in Perth was attending the TROPFEST, a major nationwide short film festival where each year, 16 of its finalists are screened at Sydney, which is then broadcast live via satellite to venues in Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart, Melbourne and Adelaide. In each venue, thousands of people gather around to watch the films, admission's free. Whole thing's like a rock concert.

When asked for suggestions about what BMW SHORTIES should try next year, I suggested public screenings of the finalist films, mostly because of my nostalgia for Tropfest. One can say that having these films being streamed online is easier because anyone can watch it anytime and anywhere, but is it really? Most of the people I know had complained about the connection being too slow for them to load my film for viewing (of course, it was unfortunate that my film was nearly 20 minutes long). And I also belong to one of those old-fashioned types who think that the big screen experience can never be replicated, and that some cinematic experience is better enjoyed via the big screen, where the films are presented in a way where they are meant to be watched, and not through a tiny window where its video quality is compromised greatly by compression (and once again, it's also a matter of whether the video can finish loading when we have an internet provider as... reliable as Streamyx)

But will this be possible? Or is this just wishful thinking?

Ultimately, what BMW SHORTIES really is, in my opinion, is some sort of financial grant for new filmmakers, an opportunity to make an expensive short film with a budget of 75k (50k last year). People place themselves in consideration for this 'grant' by submitting their own short films. Last year, it was Zahir. This year, it's Nazim. Consequentially, they (BMW SHORTIES) have charged themselves with the task of choosing the most appropriate candidates to conjure a worthwhile project destined to travel extensively at major film festival circuits, and aiding the careers of these filmmakers. Let's make more of this happen then.

I had also said half-jokingly that maybe some cash prizes should be considered to accompany the nice trophies that they give out. Not because I prefer cash over a trip over a Rome trip, but mostly because I still think that some attractive incentives should be given to increase the amount of participants in future competitions. By adding more luster to this competition, the more participants they'll get, the higher the chances of seeing even better short films being made.

Perhaps the tone of this post is sickeningly idealistic, perhaps it's damnably daydreamy, which should be expected from its writer whose horoscope is Pisces. Even so, the Malaysian film scene is developing, not stagnating, so it's unsurprising if people start upping their ante considerably in the near future for BMW SHORTIES. The ball is in BMW SHORTIES' hands, it's just a matter of what sort of role they intend to play on the field. The possibilities are endless.