Friday, June 27, 2008

Catching the sunset in Odaiba, and seeing Japan's Statue of Liberty

It's difficult to see the sunset in Tokyo, so I decided to go to Odaiba (an artificial island in Tokyo Bay) today to do that instead after a few recommendations from friends.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure

Poster of Standard Operating Procedure by Errol Morris


Managed to catch another film at the Refugee Film Fest last night, this one's a documentary about the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse called STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, by Errol Morris, director of the seminal documentary THE THIN BLUE LINE. I watched the latter two years ago when I sneaked into the lecture sessions of the documentary class while studying in Perth.

Being the only other film by Morris I've watched, I still notice that he retained his style for STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, which is driven entirely by the interviews of his subjects and some reenacted scenes. With a budget of 5 million USD, and a score by Danny Elfman, this is a documentary that features 'production values' of what you normally see in its Hollywood fictional counterparts, shots of playing cards showing Saddam and his sons faces falling slow-mo onto the ground etc. Along with some really beautiful filmmaking flourishes that you don't see often in a documentary, like the scene which shows the assembling of a forensic timeline using hundreds of Abu Ghraib photos taken by three different cameras.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

[Tokyo Refugee Film Festival] PRAYER OF PEACE: RELIEF AND RESISTANCE IN BURMA'S WAR ZONES / JUN-AI

the Pagodas of Burma


Right, so I said I was going to take a brief hiatus to force myself to write for my new short film. I might have underestimated my own writing skills since it took me only one night to finish what I need to write.

I went to the 3rd Annual Refugee Film Festival in the past two days (Friday and Saturday) and attended the screenings held at NHK Fureai Hall. The Tokyo Refugee Film Festival is organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and it screens films that draws attention to the human side of refugees (theme of the World Refugee Day's this year)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Brief Hiatus

Taking a break from blogging.

Anyway, production of my upcoming Japanese short film, Yuki, will be temporarily postponed.

Negotiations with my lead actress Kazue Fukiishi had gotten a little complicated. (kidding)


Kazue Fukiishi


There's supposed to be a June 30th deadline for me to beat, so I intend to whip together another short film instead. I won't say much about it, but it'll be something along the vein of Chris Marker's Sans Soleil. A video essay, an attempt on visual poetry, using unused video footages I've shot in the past, including my India travel videos.

Need to shut myself out to concentrate in writing. Normally a blog entry takes away so much from me that once I've updated it, I'm too drained to actually write something else. When it comes to creative endeavours, I'm no multi-tasker*. :(

* I mean, I'm normally a multi-hyphenate (director - writer - producer - editor), I don't mind juggling multiple tasks for one project, but to juggle a few projects at once lessens my focus.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY and KURUS screening at KLue Urbanscapes 2008 (28th of June)!



I first received a phone call from a lady from KLue sometime in late February (just a few days before I started shooting CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY). She told me that it was filmmaker and friend Tony Pietra who had given her my number, and the conversation was like that:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

[VIDEOS] 3rd Auntie's singing comeback at a fundraising concert for the Sichuan Earthquake.

I've mentioned before that my mom was once a singer. In fact, my parents were married mostly due to these circumstances (Mom was a recording artiste for a label that my dad was in, the tale of their courtship was in Sin Chew newspapers two years ago)

Mom's younger sister, my 3rd auntie, was a singer too. But she had gone on hiatus for nearly 15 years (or was it 20?), since opting the idyllic life of a housewife:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gave me mixed feelings

Saw this on Sunday immediately when it premiered in Tokyo. Here's a confession, unlike most, my best film memories in childhood weren't really the Indiana Jones films. Because, quite frankly, I can't remembe them much at all. I saw THE LAST CRUSADE when it first came out in theaters and I was only 6. Then I watched RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK a year later when it was screened in primary school for Children's Day, I remembered how the projectionist was being an ass by putting his hand over to projector during the kissing scenes to 'protect' the children's eyes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Chinese Program at the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2008

Fruit Chan's A+B=C a short film


Just as I've mentioned in my previous post, I returned to the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2008, this time for the Chinese Program that my friend, Cara Yuan (she organizes the mobile film festival in China) was curating.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Attending the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2008

I first heard about SHORT SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL from Cara Yuan, organizer of the mobile phone film festival in China (I met her when I was at the Hong Kong International Film Festival back in March). She has came over to Tokyo to curate the Chinese program for the Short Shorts Film Fest, which will be featuring short films by Wong Kar Wai ('THERE'S ONLY ONE SUN', I've seen it on Youtube before) and Fruit Chan. I'm attending that a few hours from now, after I wake up (it's 3:42am while I'm writing this).

But wanting to familiarize myself with the way to the film fest, I decided to attend another one of the programs yesterday afternoon, right after I finish classes. Each program is 110 minutes long and is a compilation of short films for a particular competitive category. The one I went to was a screening of short films for the ASIA and JAPAN Competition, along with one entry for the STOP! Global Warming Competition. Then there's also a special screening of Tadanobu Asano's 224466, a 25-minute long short film he directed and starred in. Since I've just watched Mongol yesterday, it marks the second consecutive day I saw an Asano film.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"I came to Japan to make porn."

Haruka Ayase


Since moving to Tokyo two months ago, the most often-repeated line I hear from male friends is:

"You should make porn in Japan."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Haunted by the interview of Akihabara knifeman's parents

The past few nights had been a non-stop coverage of the Akihabara Massacre and the killer, Tomohiro Kato. Not exactly the most uplifting stuff for a guy like me to watch when sick.

There was a TV interview with the parents of the killer last night. Their faces were obscured to protect their identities, only the father spoke during the 4-minute interview, the mother stood behind him, sobbing quietly, unable to manage a single word.

The father apologized for their son's actions, but it was the image of the mother collapsing onto the ground at the end of the interview that haunts me.

She was literally crawling back to the front door of her house where her husband was standing and waiting. I seriously thought it was heartbreaking.

I cannot imagine what is this like. To live with this for the rest of their lives. I think they are victims of their son's actions as well.

Monday, June 09, 2008

My First Experience In Pitching My Film In Japan

PITCH (filmmaking)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A pitch is a concise verbal (and sometimes visual) presentation of an idea for a film, generally made by a screenwriter or director to a producer or studio executive in the hope of attracting development finance to pay for a screenplay to be written. Pitches are usually made in person, although they can be made over the phone or, occasionally, pre-recorded on audio or videotape.

A good pitch is generally between five and ten minutes long and lays out the premise, hook and essential beats of the story, along with thumbnail sketches of the principal characters (often including the names of actors who might play the roles), and a clear idea of the genre, tone, likely audience, and budget level.

If an executive is interested in a pitch they may ask to see a treatment. If not, they will often follow up with "What else have you got?".

For this reason, a wise supplicant will be prepared to pitch a second and possibly third idea without hesitation.


I've been gripped by this vaguely familiar feeling of melancholy in the past few days. I wondered whether it had anything to do with the ELEPHANT AND THE SEA trailer I was editing, or the fact that my laptop adapter had gone crazy (laptop abruptly switches off by itself when it's plugged in, no problems when using batteries), or the awareness that I was going to get sick, or because I was stuck in limbo between productions, maybe none of them, maybe a little bit of all of them.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The 3 phone calls I received after the Akihabara (Tokyo) stabbing rampage

Assailant Tomohiro Kato held by police



The horrible stabbing spree at Akihabara this afternoon has already made international news. When that happened, I was actually at the MOS Burger near my dorm, having a production meeting with Maiko.

I didn't know anything until after the meeting ended and I was on my way to the Takadanobaba Station to catch a train. As I was on my way there, I got a phone call from Jason, my Hong Kong friend.

"Hey, where are you?" He asked.

"Taking a train to Shibuya." I said.

"Oh, then you're not at Akihabara then. There was a loony who went around stabbing at people with a knife. You better be careful." He said.

"Hm. I see." I continued walking, not aware of casualties then, just a little bothered that something crazy had happened at a place I visited just last Saturday.

Why I Think Knowing The History Of Cinema Is Important For Filmmakers

Tim Sharp, a classmate of mine during filmmaking classes in Perth sent me a really good article of his where he emphasized why a filmmaker should know his cinema history, and lamented that the lack of this awareness contributed to the sad state of affairs seen in the current Perth filmmaking scene. When reading his article, I felt that the issues he discussed are pretty universal. So I definitely recommend this to anyone who has anything to do with the film industry, or wants to do something with it.

Here are some nice quotes that I agree with:

Friday, June 06, 2008

THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA Trailer

I just woke up from my beauty nap at 2am and received an email from Todd at Twitch telling me that he had just posted up the teaser and new trailer of THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA on their awesome site (I visit them daily). Awesome, thanks, man! I haven't even actally posted the trailer anywhere else as I've just finished editing it yesterday. (hence the lack of blog updates)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Soundtrack Preview of THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA

Heya all, I've finally written my first post on THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA blog. Just as I've mentioned, my role for the upcoming film is associate producer, I joined in only during post-production (months after the film made its world premiere in Rotterdam Film Festival 2007) to help refine the film for Malaysian release. Shortening some scenes, and adding some music.

The video below is a preview of the film soundtrack.



So, what do you guys think about my first attempt in composing a film score?

(THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA is showing at Cathay Cineleisure Mall on the 21st of August 2008, it had been shown in more than 20 film festivals)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Kwak Jae-Yong's Cyborg She / My Girlfriend Is A Cyborg 僕の彼女はサイボーグ starring Haruka Ayase

film poster of MY GIRLFRIEND IS A CYBORG or CYBORG SHE


I'm not sure what is the actual title of this film. Some articles call it MY GIRLFRIEND IS A CYBORG (a literal translation of its Japanese title), while Wikipedia called it 'CYBORG SHE', prefer the former, it's catchier.

This film is directed by Kwak Jae-Yong, the Korean director of MY SASSY GIRL. It was said that this will be the last film of his 'Sassy Girl trilogy', after MY SASSY GIRL, WINDSTRUCK.

MY SASSY GAL is widely considered a classic Korean romantic comedy, and (deservingly) made a huge international star out of Jun Ji-hyun, although I personally thought that Cha Tae-hyun's performance was a little underappreciated. It's one of my personal favourite Korean films, I've also seen Kwak Jae-Yong's subsequent films, THE CLASSIC and WINDSTRUCK. THE CLASSIC was a decent pure tragic tearjerker, while WINDSTRUCK was a mild disappointment, because it felt too obvious that he was trying to recapture the magic in MY SASSY GAL. By doing that, I felt that he was recycling his old tricks, instead bringing in something new. After all, Park Chan-Wook's films from his REVENGE TRILOGY are pretty different from one another, why can't Kwak Jae-Yong do the same?