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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Met old friends. I realized I had an eventful year.

The Japanese Golden Week had begun. I met up with three of my old friends, Ai, Iyo and Maiko. Not Maiko the Producer, but another Maiko, who, like Ai and Iyo, were friends I met during my Perth days in 2005, when they were exchange students.

With Maiko (Yoshifuji), Ai and Iyo (1st of May, 2010)
From left to right: Me, Ai, Iyo and Maiko (Yoshifuji)

Maiko lives in Kyoto, while Ai and Iyo are based in Tokyo. Unfortunately, I only get to meet them once a year, during Golden Week. (Both times I've actually written on this blog: Shabu shabu with Iyo and Ai on the 8th of May, 2008, Korean BBQ with Iyo, Ai and Noriko on the 4th of May, 2009) I guess the rarity of our meetings had to do with the fact that we were all busy with work, and mostly because I'm quite bad when it comes to keeping in touch with people.

Iyo and Maiko preparing to eat hot pot

The last time I met Maiko was November 2005, she actually went to Malaysia with me after finishing her studies in Perth, and made some kickass Oyako Don for my family and I.

It's been nearly five years. Meeting them, sadly, had became an annual event.

We had Chinese Hot Pot for dinner at Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku. (the restaurant is 小肥羊, literally translated as "little fat lamb")

Click here if you can't see embedded video

Having not met them for a year, of course we had to catch up, to give a summary on what had happened to us over the past 12 months.

And as I was trying to do that, I realized how different things had become in the past year.

What was I doing a year ago?

A year ago. When I met them, I was still editing KINGYO in Toho Studios.

I suddenly felt a little breathless, by this realization.

What an eventful 12 months it had been!

Ai, Iyo and Maiko eating

Delicious hot pot food

Maiko, Iyo and I, taking hot pot food

More hot pot food

Therefore, in May 2009, when I last met them.

KINGYO had yet to happen.

LOVE SUICIDES had just been confirmed for competition at July's Paris Cinema Film Festival 2009.

The sneak preview of an incomplete version of KINGYO at Fuyajo Movie Festival in Shinjuku Wald 9 (June 2009) had yet to happen.

Venice Film Festival in September 2009, which ended up screening not just KINGYO, but also the feature film I produced and edited, WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, had yet to happen.

All the subsequent media coverage received by KINGYO after its Venice Film Festival selection had yet to happen.

My two trips to Korea. One in Seoul to do the post-production of WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER in August 2009, and one in Pusan for the Pusan International Film Festival in October 2009 for WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER's 35mm premiere had yet to happen.

September 2009 was also the month when all four of my short films were screened in five different film festivals (KINGYO in Venice Film Festival, LOVE SUICIDES in Split International Film Festival, CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY in Calgary International Film Festival, FLEETING IMAGES finally making its simultaneous international premiere at the Singapore Short Film Festival and CON-CAN Movie Festival) had yet to happen.

Crazy December 2009, the month where I was fortunate enough to win four different awards for 3 of my different shorts (KINGYO receiving the Semi-Grand Prix and Best New Artistic Creator awards at Eibunren Awards Japan, FLEETING IMAGES winning the Grand Prix at CON-CAN Film Festival, LOVE SUICIDES winning the BEST DIRECTOR award at the China Mobile Film Festival in Shenzhen), a month that still seemed surreal to me.

And what about the short films I have made since KINGYO? AFTERNOON RIVER EVENING SKY was shot in April 2009 and September 2009 and completed in November 2009. THE WHITE FLOWER was shot in July 2009 and was completed in December 2009. EXHALATION was shot in December 2009 and was completed in March 2010. And the latest INHALATION was shot in March 2010 and completed... few days ago. All these had yet to happen.

March 2010 was also when I shot THE TIGER FACTORY with Ming Jin. The film that would then end up in Cannes Film Festival. That had yet to happen too.

March 2010, I headed off to Bratislava, Slovakia for the first round of a screenwriting workshop. That hasn't happened too.

May 2009. The last time I met Iyo and Ai. So many things had yet to happen. I remember clearly that I was saying that I might want to take a short rest from filmmaking because someone said that I was all about filmmaking and nothing else. (I did attempt to take a break after that... for a few days, but then I just went back to 'working mode'. I'm glad I didn't stop. And I lamented like an emo artist how much the someone was incapable of understanding me)

A year since our last meeting. May 2010, meeting them and Maiko, I could share the good news with them that I was about to go to the Cannes Film Festival in two weeks.

I first met Maiko, Iyo, Ai (along with Noriko, Yuko and Chimari) in February 2005. I was just a university student, with dreams of becoming a filmmaker. It was only my second semester in Murdoch University then.

I was still a marketing student, doing a minor in English literature.

Filmmaking was a distant dream.

I was suffering from painful pangs of unrequited first love. I was also wondering the possibilities of making a short film then. Maiko, Iyo and Ai were there when I was wondering how was it like to start out.

In their own ways, these marvelous Japanese friends of mine had supported me when I was chasing after this improbable little childhood dream of mine. No snide remarks, no cynicism, just words of kindness and support. Maiko even acted for me.

I shot birthday party videos then, I edited them by myself, and they were always my first audiences.

Click here if you can't see embedded video

"You know," I said to Maiko, Iyo and Ai while I was eating. "All these I'm doing, this dream I'm chasing, my determination to never give up, it's really about revenge."

I am a very resentful person. In the second last paragraph of my previous post, I mentioned that I usually fuel my motivation with this perverse pleasure of proving doubters wrong. These doubters could be real, could be imaginary. I just needed this sort of fire.

And that's why I'm such a resentful person, and so incapable of accepting mediocrity or conformity.

Of course, I should have actually told them that it was also out of gratitude for people like them, people who had been always supportive (or courteous enough to not be merely dismissive), that I continued doing all these.

But that would be sappy.

Maiko's present from Kyoto
Maiko's present from Kyoto