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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How KINGYO actress Luchino Fujisaki took Venice Film Fest by storm

Despite enduring some of the worst crises in recent memory (the untimely demises of two hard disks in mere weeks, losing some raw data of my short films, even the new, unreleased ones like AFTERNOON RIVER), I have SURVIVED (re-edited AFTERNOON RIVER from scratch, now in the midst of completing my newest, EVENING SKY). So of course I'm in a better mood, though I'm still disconnected from the rest of the world to get my things done.

I will now continue my recount of the Venice Film Festival.

(Note: some photos below are taken by Lia the Artist/ Assistant Director/ Production Designer)

9th of September, both of my actresses, Luchino Fujisaki and Amane Kudo, along with my executive producer, Professor Ando, had joined us at the Venice Film Festival for the second screening of KINGYO.

Prof. Ando, Maiko, Kudo Amane, Luchino Fujisaki having sitting for drinks

Prof. Ando having a conversation with actresses Luchino Fujisaki and Amane Kudo

Before the screening, technical producer Linto took photos of Luchino.

Linto takes photos of Luchino

The second screening of KINGYO had a reaction that I never expected. People actually applauded twice, once when the film faded to black, and again when the end credits ended. The reception was even warmer than the previous screening's, I wondered whether it was my own team members who instigated the clapping. When we walked out of the hall, many congratulated me, shook my hands, and told me how much they enjoyed the film. It was surreal, considering that most of my previous films were never that warmly received (I flashbacked to 3 years ago when my student film GIRL DISCONNECTED was screened at Central Market Annexe, I was the only filmmaker in the screening no one had any questions to ask)

Then... the photographers came.

Mobbed by photographers

Many requested to take photos with Luchino as well.

A woman wants to take photo with Luchino

I finally started feeling the glitz and glamour of being in a film festival. The positive energy when you have your entire team with you! The camera flashes were blinding!

... of course, half of the time, I was asked to step aside so they could take solo photos of Luchino. My feeble "what? you don't want photos of the director? :((( " protests were disregarded.

My blog post title is misleading. Many approached Amane too for conversation because she speaks fluent English and could totally promote KINGYO.

We headed for lunch after that. Look at how the others in bus were staring.

Luchino in a bus

Luchino in a bus

We had a feast.

The wine jar reminded us of the fishbowl in KINGYO.

Luchino and wine jar

Here's a postcard-like photo of Luchino when we hit the streets again.

Luchino at the streets

Luchino poses

Taking photos with my actresses in the middle of the street

We returned to the movie village again for a lengthy interview. Once it was done, and we returned to the same spot for some coffee, Maiko was flustered by the attention we had gotten that day. Or maybe she was talking about something else while I took the photo, I can't remember.

Coffee in the evening

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The KINGYO screening at the Venice Film Festival

Lots of distractions had occurred in the past two days. My hard disk died suddenly, and I lost a couple of short films I made since KINGYO (as in, AFTERNOON RIVER, 3PM, and bits and pieces of EVENING SKY that I've just edited). Since my backup had already died couple of weeks earlier, I've pretty much lost two hard disks in a space of two weeks. Can't exactly say that I'm in the best of moods, but I will be hiding at home re-editing AFTERNOON RIVER (with its DVD as reference), familiarizing myself with Adobe Premiere Pro again. I wanted to weep but my eyes had gone too dry.

So I'll recount the KINGYO screening at the Venice Film Festival back on the 7th of September. Wow, has it been 18 days already?

The day started with me eating breakfast at a restaurant near my hotel. The Italian restaurant was owned by a Chinese family. I had cappuccino and pizza.

A place where I have breakfast

Next to my table was an elderly couple, the romantic side of me wondered how nice it would be to hang out here with a loved one everyday in the morning, at this beautiful place. Of course, what crazy woman would want to spend her days at such a beautiful place with one like me? I thought with bemusement.

A blissful elderly couple

In a place as romantic as Venice, I could only think, with slight melancholy, the string of failed romantic conquests that were littered throughout my life. I remember the book DEATH IN VENICE, which I read in Perth 5 years ago, and wrote a paper on (I minored in English literature), how Gustav von Aschenbach was overwhelmed by his unbridled passion for the teenage boy Tadzio, and how it turned to confusion and degradation, ultimately turning him into a grotesque figure, ultimately ruining him. And thus I tried to shake away the melancholy that, for a moment, laid its cold grip upon my heart. Since when did I become such a lovelorn fool? Oh, right. Always.

Then I took the bus to the movie village where the film festival was.

Entering the Venice Film Festival

I walked in and left a couple of KINGYO flyers on the box-office counter... which wasn't entirely necessary since the ticket sellers told me that tickets for the short films had already been sold out. But the KINGYO flyers were popular, I would return to the counter moments later to see that all flyers were gone.

kingyo flyers at the box-office

Maiko the Producer and Linto the Post-production Technician looked sharp before the screening.

Maiko and Linto before the screening

Me? Not so much.

I fear the lion

The screening started at six in the evening, after I went through an interview with the Japanese press (the first of a few I had throughout my days in Venice). After entering the hall, the names of each of the film delegates for the short films were announced, and we stood up to wave at the applauding audiences.

The short films started, but not everything were smooth. Korean filmmaker Kim Kwang-Bok's musical Umma-e Uga was screened without subtitles due to a technical glitch, the audiences protested, Kim was sitting next to me, and he wasn't too happy with what happened. I was a little horrified, feeling a little bad (the Dubai Film Festival screening of CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY last year was pretty bad, my DV tape was in bad condition so it was stuttering, and because the first scene and the second last scene of CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY were the same, they screened... the ending first, so I could totally feel for Kim), and fearing that the same fate would befall upon my film.

Thankfully, KINGYO's screening was smooth, just that the audio was a little too loud. Yet it was greeted by a somewhat rapturous applause, which I felt happy since it's not everyday that I would see my own film so warmly received.

When the screening ended, all of us (film delegates) headed to the Excelsior Hotel for dinner and drinks. I liked how the festival looked, at night.

Venice Film Festival at night

After the KINGYO Screening

I even took photos with two of the child stars from the Norwegian short film, STILL BIRDS.

With the two child stars of the Norwegian short film STILL BIRDS

Some were amused that I drank water instead of wine.

They drank wine, I drank water

At the party after the KINGYO screening

When everything ended, we left the Excelsior and noticed an interesting art installation in a dark room just outside the hotel.

Next part, I will tell you how the arrival of my two actresses from KINGYO, Luchino Fujisaki and Amane Kudo, on the following day took the festival by storm!

... but before that, I'll go back and angst over my dead hard disk.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My newest short film EVENING SKY is a pseudo-sequel of SLOVAK SLING and AFTERNOON RIVER

It all started as a joke. I was on MSN talking to my regular cinematographer Lesly (he shot all my Malaysian short films like CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY, LOVE SUICIDES and the still-unreleased AFTERNOON RIVER) just days before I flew off to the Venice Film Festival. We were discussing the possibilities of shooting another short film after Venice, and before I return to Tokyo (on the 22nd of September, I came back to Tokyo yesterday).

I thought it would be difficult, since, after Venice, I would have to rush off to the Singapore Short Film Festival, and after I return from Singapore on the 20th of September, I would only have ONE DAY before flying off to Tokyo again.

Lesly said that one day's doable, considering that AFTERNOON RIVER was made under similar circumstances (shot that on the 11th of April, also one day before returning to Tokyo).

So I was like "sure, we can make an AFTERNOON RIVER sequel or something, or a spin-off, like following the point of view of the guy who kept on calling Grace in AFTERNOON RIVER." (in AFTERNOON RIVER, the character played by Grace was constantly ignoring phone calls from an unknown caller, until she finally answers it towards the end of the film and utters the only line of the film). And since I don't like to repeat my tricks, while KINGYO is entirely in split screens, I will go for 'DUAL SCREEN' with this! Use two TVs or screens to play AFTERNOON RIVER and the companion piece side by side and the events will actually synchronize with one another!!!"

It was an over-the-top idea, but then, seconds later I thought I might just pursue it! I wrote to Ming Jin (who was still in Seoul that time), threw him the idea, he said he liked it and would help me as producer again. Then I went to Venice and told Maiko and Lia my idea, they both seemed to like it too (not that they were involved, but of course their input's invaluable), thus I was already preparing, and when Ming Jin joined me in Venice, we discussed a little about the story.

I returned from Venice and in the two days before I headed off to Singapore, I tried to put things together. Contacted Chee Wai (who acted in Ming Jin's short film SLOVAK SLING, and also in WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER) about the shoot, he said yes, and I asked him to help me find an actress for the film as well, and he did (Chee Wai directs TV shows, so he knows many people). He got me TV actress Lee Layfun.

(Chee Wai plays the DVD seller in this short film)

Despite setting up the cast and crew (Lesly ended up being busy because he had to do a short film, so I asked Kenny Chua, who assisted Lesly when we shot last year's LOVE SUICIDES, to help me instead), I HAD NO SCRIPT! I decided to stick to the spirit of its predecessor AFTERNOON RIVER by not developing a clear script and letting the actors improvise as much as they can.

That is the excitement of such a shoot. Instead of being carefully controlled and planned, it was more about reacting and improvising, I had to be instinctive! I had a rough outline of a plot (young woman seeks the bastard who may have possibly impregnated her best buddy for JUSTICE!), but nothing else. I only decided the shots and scenes on the spot, and then decide the direction of the story based on the way the characters were played by the actors. The actors were professional so they were able to make something special despite the situation I've thrown them in. The character Chee Wai played is same as the one in Slovak Sling, so making my new film EVENING SKY not just a companion piece to AFTERNOON RIVER, but also to SLOVAK SLING as well!

I've never met Layfun prior to the shoot, but she was a good sport too, since she would have to adjust and adapt quickly based on what I wanted. I mean, if I were an actor and the director would say "Oh yah, your next scene will be a crying scene, get ready for that", I would've gone nuts. So I'm glad Layfun didn't go nuts.

Unfortunately, because I was so busy with the shoot, I forgot about taking actual stills of the film... again. So here are some screenshots.

[EVENING SKY] Lay Fun makes a phone call

[EVENING SKY] Chee Wai and Lay Fun

Oh, but Chee Wai did take... a photo of Lay Fun. So no, no actual stills for the film.

Lee Layfun in EVENING SKY

I will edit EVENING SKY in the next few days.

By the way, including LOVE SUICIDES (which I shot last year, but only finished its final edit early this year) and 3PM (which I might not be sending around for film festivals because it's more like a course practice), EVENING SKY is the 6th short film I shot this year...

Friday, September 18, 2009

My experimental video FLEETING IMAGES premieres simultaneously at Singapore Short Film Festival and CON-CAN Movie Festival

Nicole Tan AKA Nicolekiss in FLEETING IMAGES

I never really expected this to happen, but the experimental video I assembled last year, FLEETING IMAGES, is finally making its international premiere simultaneously at two film festivals on the 18th of September. One is the 5th Singapore Short Film Festival (where it's selected for competition), the other is the Tokyo-based online film festival, CON-CAN Movie Festival.

"One day, I received an email from him…" A young woman narrates a series of letters from an old friend meditating on time, memory and mortality. He is seeking life’s meaning throughout his travels in India and Japan, but ends up finding beauty in some fleeting images of everyday life that he had previously overlooked.

Part documentary, part travelogue, maybe a love letter.

FLEETING IMAGES was made quite a while ago, back in July 2008, shortly after I went to Tokyo. (It was done even before LOVE SUICIDES!) I've kinda kept the film to myself because it is, after all, more an experimental video, or a video essay, than a short film, and I was unsure of its artistic merits back then.

This film isn't everyone's cup of tea, and it definitely ain't KINGYO. Some has even derided it as a cheap attempt to put something together to pass off as a film. In the end, after some pondering, I thought the condemnation towards FLEETING IMAGES was a little unfair, since the efforts I put in sifting through many hours' worth of unused stock footages and vacation video, and writing the voiceover narrative, and supervising the recording of said voiceover narrative, weren't exactly the easiest thing to do. Especially when I myself actually took a camera from uni and ran off to Odaiba and certain areas of Tokyo to shoot additional footage.

Whether the end result is good enough is up to audiences to judge. But I will definitely object to any accusations of this being a 'cheap attempt to do something that passes off as a film'.

Anyway, I'm few hours away from heading off to Singapore for the Singapore Short Film Festival, to present the film in the evening. There's also a radio interview in the afternoon. I've more or less recovered from my flu (ah, the magic of Panadol!), so I'm in pretty good shape, and excited about the trip.

I used to go to Singapore almost every other month, that was before I went to Perth and then Tokyo, so I had always been more familiar with, say, Orchard Road, than KL's Bukit Bintang, but these days my visit to Singapore had gone more and more infrequent.

For the rest of you, well, you can watch FLEETING IMAGES here on the CON-CAN website (members only, but registration is free, so some support is appreciated). Vote it based on how you feel about the film, and leave a review too!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

LOVE SUICIDES competing at the Split International Film Festival... today

Erica sits by the sea

There are actually five different film festivals playing my short films this month, now that Venice Film Fest is over, there are still four more.

At this very moment, my short, LOVE SUICIDES, is supposed to be playing at the Split International Film Festival in Croatia, where it was selected for competition. Hopefully the screening will go on smoothly.

Suddenly felt that I should have gone straight to Croatia from Venice to attend this festival. Never thought of it earlier. However, I will be going to the Singapore Short Film Fest over the weekend. Would be nice to see some old friends again. Or hearing the voices of old friends telling me they're too busy to meet me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Venetian waters

Actually, I didn't take that many photos of Venice compared to the others in my group. I was too, ah, busy. Nonetheless, I have taken some videos, and for this post, I will share with you photos and videos of the Venetian waters. Frankly, unlike my team, I never really had the time to explore Venice much as I was in the festival most of the time, doing interviews with the Japanese press. The film festival is held on the Lido, which is a separate island.

I relished the small moments when I got to see some parts of Venice, parts of something so much bigger. When I return again, I will definitely explore more.

But I'll start with a photo of the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport, which we stopped by on our way to Venice.

At the Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport

I have no reason to post the photo above except to show that it was the place where Maiko the Producer played Katamari Damacy on the iPhone.

Once you reach the Marco Polo airport in Venice, you have to take the water taxi to other parts of Venice. I enjoyed the ride.

Lido is known for a beach. Although this looked like the beach from the Luchino Visconti film, DEATH IN VENICE (which I wrote a paper on back in Australia, those were the days), it isn't. The beach in DEATH IN VENICE is a private beach in front of the Des Bains hotel.

The video above was shot on my first day in the festival. On the last day of the festival, when Ming Jin joined me. We took more photos there.

Ming Jin at the lido beach

me at the Lido beach

I looked good in black.

Venice looked good during the twilight.

Venetian twilight

I took a solitary boat ride during the night as well. The sounds of water were soothing, in the 45-minute boat ride, I found myself slipping in and out of consciousness.

Felt as if I was the only one in the world.

A night later there was a party by the beach.

I never realized that I would have so little time to explore Venice.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

ANG LEE!!!!!!!

Just reached Tokyo. Only staying for a night. Flying back to Malaysia tomorrow morning. Next stop, Singapore Short Film Festival, where my little-seen experimental video FLEETING IMAGES is competing.

11th of September. Didn't go anywhere during my last day at the Venice Film Festival. Wanted to explore Venice with the rest of the KINGYO team, but there were screenings to go to, things to settle, people to talk to, so I ended up staying in the festival instead.

The last film screening I went to was THE HOLE, because it's not everyday you get to see a 3D film in a film festival, let alone the Venice Film Festival. I won't comment much on the film itself, but before the film started, I was already excited because I spotted Ang Lee.

So when the film ended, I hurried towards Ang Lee (with Ming Jin) and spoke to him, introducing ourselves as Malaysian filmmakers with films competing in the festival (Ming Jin's WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER was a last-minute surprise entry under the Orrizonte section, which means that I actually had not one, but TWO films at the festival, one as director, and one as producer!)

Of course I told Ang Lee I really loved his films, and he said "thanks", then I asked to take a photo with him, and here it is!

With Ang Lee after Joe Dante's The Hole screening (Venice Film Festival 2009)

I lament the fact that I didn't explore Venice more. But I don't think this will be the last time I'll be in the Venice Film Festival. But to see my hero Ang Lee, whoohoo!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Venice Premiere (The Star, 9th of September 2009)

Internet access is limited (I only get it at the film festival place, not my hotel), so haven't been giving people as many updates as I wanted.

One more hour before the second KINGYO screening in Venice. My two actresses, Luchino Fujisaki and Amane Kudo had just arrived last night, so they'll be present for today's screening. Hope the reception will be as warm as the one I got two nights ago.

I'm on THE STAR today as well, in an article written by Allan Koay. I like the photo of myself because I didn't look fat. (it helped that it was a self-portrait)

Self-portrait (with KINGYO poster)

Venice premiere

After making a few successful short films, filmmaker Edmund Yeo finally hit the big one as his Japanese short film, Kingyo, is competing at the Venice International Film Festival.

YOUNG filmmaker Edmund Yeo is a little concerned about the Venice International Film Festival, where his short film, Kingyo (Goldfish), is competing.

He’s a little amused by the attention he’s been getting lately. He’s shy about the large contingent his university, Waseda in Tokyo, is sending to Venice.

The university is so proud of his achievement that it’s sending practically everyone involved in the film to accompany him at the festival.

And the latest is that a British documentary crew will be following him around in Venice, as part of a documentary that they’re doing about filmmakers who are in competition there.

But he says there’s no pressure, only elation at the chance to share the stage with the world’s best.

“After all the effort my cast and crew had put in with me for Kingyo, I cannot ask for a better world premiere to thank my team,” says Yeo. “So yeah, it’s more like a jamming session with filmmakers from all around the world, than a competition.”

Yeo is not exactly new to this kind of exposure. Anyone who’s followed his career so far would know that he has even appeared on a local TV show to talk about video blogging.

Apart from being among the few Malaysians doing video blogging, Yeo is also a producer with Woo Ming Jin’s Greenlight Pictures, and has worked on Woo’s award-winning The Elephant And The Sea, and the director’s various TV movies, including Kurus and Cinta Tiga Segi.

Yeo also won an Honorable Mention for his short film, Chicken Rice Mystery, at last year’s BMW Shorties competition. And this year, a bunch of his short films have been invited to various festivals. And this year, he produced Woo’s Woman On Fire Looks For Water, which will also be screened in Venice.

He’s definitely one to watch for. And Yeo is only 25.

In all his short films, Yeo has shown a penchant for the poetic. Kingyo is perhaps a culmination of all his attempts at visual poetry in shorts like Fleeting Images and Love Suicides.

A few months ago, he kindly sent me a copy of the film from Tokyo, and it proved to be a mature and moving piece of work. It is an adaptation of Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata’s 1924 short story, Canaries.

Love and memories: Stage actress Amane Kudo is one of the actors in Edmund Yeo’s Kingyo, which is based on Yasunari Kawabata’s 1924 short story, Canaries.
Kingyo tells of two former lovers who meet again, only to discover that they share a certain guilt linked to a bowl of goldfish.

The Venice festival describes it as “delicate and refined”, a more than accurate take on the 25-minute film that cleverly uses split screens to portray the mental and emotional connection between its two leads.

After he moved to Tokyo last year Yeo was eager to make a short film there. It seems that everything he does, every place he goes to, he sees an opportunity to tell a story.

His Fleeting Images is composed of images from his time in Japan and India. After he went location scouting for a Greenlight Pictures project in Klang, Selangor, he came back with another short film, Afternoon River. Fleeting Images will premiere at the Singapore Short Film Festival and then at the CON-CAN Movie Festival in Japan this month.

During a brief break in Malaysia earlier this year, Yeo made Love Suicides (which premiered at the Paris Cinema International Film Festival in July), which is also inspired by a Kawabata short story.

“So, I thought I would go for another interpretation of the famed writer’s works, and set the film in his native country, while making use of certain filmmaking styles that I wanted to experiment with,” says Yeo.

With help from his producer Maiko Itagaki, they sought the help of his professor and the university in terms of funding.

Then they got together a Japanese cast that included Rukino Fujisaki who debuted in the film Hellevator, performance artiste Takao Kawaguchi, and Amane Kudo, a stage actress who had a role in the film Babel.

The subjects tackled in Kingyo (Canaries is a two-page story told in the form of a letter) are no lightweight stuff – a love triangle, people burned by painful memories and guilt. Being so young, how is Yeo able to tackle such a mature story?

“Kingyo isn’t autobiographical, but some emotions of the film are drawn from personal experiences and maybe, my own world-view,” he replies.

Read the rest of the article. To have an article and my screening on the 9/9/09. How awesome is that!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Arriving at the Venice Film Festival

Yup, I'm in Venice now. Screening of Kingyo is only 5 hours away. I'm a little excited.

Took a lot of videos yesterday, but alas, not that many photos. Will post videos when I return to Tokyo.

Here are some photos of me, Maiko the Producer and Rinto the Technical Producer / Postproduction Technician in the water taxi from the airport to Venice's Lido, where the film festival is held.

Maiko in the water taxi

Linto in the water taxi

Me in the water taxi

We arrived at the festival just when there was a 3D screening of UP. Saw Carl and Russell (from UP) and I think I caught a glimpse of John Lasseter, Pete Docter and Brad Bird. (they were all supposed to receive Lifetime Achievement Awards from the festival) I caught that on video too, will upload some other time.

Venice Film Fest

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Off to Venice! Here's a cute baby!

I'm heading off to the airport this evening. It's a 7pm flight, but I'll be busy packing and buying stuff I need, so doubt I'll be updating the blog until I reach Venice.

Here's a cute baby girl I met last Saturday, she seemed to be a major computer fan when I was in a restaurant, and I noticed her peering over my shoulder at the Macbook i was borrowing from Sebastian to do some video editing. Of course, like any normal manly men, seeing such a cute baby immediately made me squeal "eeeeeee, soooo cute!", so I took out my camera and snapped photos of her. I would like to thank the baby's dad for asking her to smile for the photo shoot.

Really cute baby girl

Cute baby girl smiling

Friday, September 04, 2009

Sneak preview: kingyo's opening scenes

She (Rukino Fujisaki) looks at the goldfish

One more day before I head off to Venice. Here's a sneak preview of the opening scenes from my short film, KINGYO.

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