Happy New Year 2009! Some thoughts on 2008.

Happy new year, my dear readers! By the time you are reading this, I've already taken a train to Kyoto, and probably doing my New Year Countdown at Nara. This trip to the Kansai region came about just two nights ago. A sudden urge to go somewhere, see some sights, a brief break for myself since most of my Japanese friends had gone back to their hometowns.



There will be photos, and there might even be a video of my trip, even though I've grown to dislike carrying a camcorder around (these days I prefer seeing things with my own eyes and not through a tiny LCD)

As this trip is a spur-of-the-moment thing, i seriously have no idea where it'll take me. I only bought one ticket to Kyoto, that's it, the rest I'll decide after I'm in Tokyo. The trip is short, I have to come back by the 3rd of Jan anyway. Where can I go after Kyoto? I'm thinking Kobe and Osaka. I hope to go to Nagoya and then Nagano even though the latter is not along the way, all because I want to see the snow.

By the time I am writing this, it is only 6:19 pm (Japan time) on the 30th of December. Just a day away from saying goodbye to this amazing year of 2008. My train to Kyoto is tomorrow, 8:30am, New Year's Eve. This is the first time I've ever written a blog post that wasn't meant to be posted immediately.

Back to 2008. The year of the Rat, the year that marked the beginning of the second third cycle of the Chinese horoscope that I'm going through (I was born in the year of the Rat). My mother told me that prophecies from early this year said I would go through some breakthrough with my career, but would face disappointment in romance. I had scoffed in scorn, but now I can't help but feel slightly amused at its accuracy.

Of course, if I were to write about the hurricane of negative emotions I endure with my endless girl problems, this blog post would be even more emo than an angsty teenage girl's, so I'll leave it at that and focus more on the joys I experienced, which far outweighed the negative.

I will remember 2008 as the year where I went back to directing after a year-long stint of producing Ming Jin's works. Following 2007, a year in transition when I suffered some sort of burnout after returning from Perth, and seemingly lost all my creativity and direction after the creation of my student short, GIRL DISCONNECTED. After 2 and a half years in Perth, Malaysia was suddenly alien to me and I needed sometime to adjust. I declared loftily then that the majestic ocean of creativity in my mind had suddenly dried up (being a guy who calls himself 'Great Swifty', of course I am prone to self-aggrandizing)

I always feel some sort of desperation when it comes to creativity, feeling that time would never stop for me, and if I weren't going to do anything, life would just blitz by without notice. So when I was about to put CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY together early this year, I was more than a little excited that I could direct again, and I never became rusty as I've feared. The producing stint had been immensely helpful.

Making the film was a good thing for me not solely because of its subsequent awards and recognition, but because it was like therapy. Just one tiny step forward and the self-proclaimed majestic ocean of creativity was suddenly swirling within my oversized head again! (and more self-aggrandizement from Great Swifty, how classy!) I had so much joy in the filmmaking process, especially when I finally got to work with people who share my passion and whom I could trust. I just couldn't quit it, and it became some sort of addiction. That's why I got a little prolific, following CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY with two other short films, FLEETING IMAGES and LOVE SUICIDES.

I was once asked whether I enjoyed being a filmmaker solely because of the jet-setting lifestyle. To fly to film festivals all the time, basking in fame and glory. I immediately told the guy that it was bullshit, if I made films only for the sake of flying to film festivals, it'll be miserable. How can I not enjoy the process of filmmaking? How to pour my emotions into them if I were so detached? Filmmaking is a high-stress job, and at most times, it can be physically excruciating, especially for one as disorganized as I am who relies more on improvisation than diligent preparations, but I enjoy the thrills, and feel excited about its end product, hoping against hope that I could improve from before. So that's my own joy in filmmaking.

Tokyo is also a great place for creativity. Being in a new environment, meeting new people, learning a new language, trying to adapt to a new culture, how can I not feel inspired? And the trips to those film festivals... Hong Kong, Rome, and finally Dubai. To be surrounded by the real masters, to be united by the common love for films, how can one not feel motivated? I will remember 2008 as the year when, for the first time, I've received some sort of recognition for the quality of my humble works as a filmmaker myself. It's nice to be reassured that the dream I've been chasing after throughout my life was worthwhile. And it was great that my parents also got to see a hint of possibilities that my chosen path is leading me to.

Oh my, this must stop! By constantly looking back at 2008, I feel as if I've been tooting my horn more than a little too much! I always prefer to look forward, due to my love-hate relationship with the past. I occasionally enjoy the walk down memory lane, but I usually view the me from my past as 'inferior'. Afraid of falling into a stagnant state of existence, I constantly try to 'move on', to continue improving. One tend to say that we are defined by our memories and by the things we did in the past. Maybe. But I'll rather not cling to it. (that's why this is a recurring theme in my works)

I always feel conflicted when I meet people I haven't met since high school, I get to conjure fading memories of my life then, and superimpose their faces in it. And I'm being unfair, because immediately I assume that they are identical to how I remember them, without taking into account that people change, especially after so many years. That's the baggage of the past.

How I annoyed I've felt when I knew that they thought the same of me. To assume that the me of now is the same as the me from secondary school, and how can I be taken seriously when I was just an ugly fat nerd then? How can they even understand my passion for filmmaking when I never even bothered talking about it in secondary school (I was already very prideful and I didn't want people to laugh at my dreams) Why would they feel the urge to watch my films even if I've given them the DVDs when the filmmaker in their memory banks is the pimply-faced hideous fat boy who often made a fool of himself in school? But then, does it matter what they think of me now? I am fearful of a stagnant state of existence in my own life, but it isn't up to me to prevent the stagnancy of my existence in their minds.

But oh how I've rambled. How many readers have I lost already due to the incoherence of my thoughts? I don't know why I did that. Maybe I wrote this post to remind the future me not to be contemptuous towards the me from 2008. While the me of 2008 had made some mistakes, overall it's still been a relatively good year. I can only hope for a better one. Same goes with you all.

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