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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yoyogi Park during Autumn Twilight

Almost exactly two years ago, I headed off to Yoyogi Park to look at the golden ginkgo leaves, I was unable to forget their beauty. Since then, I made a mental note to myself that I would always visit the place when the leaves were turning.

When I had an appointment with someone yesterday evening, I decided to go to Yoyogi Park first. To my consternation, the sky was already turning dark at 4pm. Nonetheless, the golden ginkgo leaves were still there.

Ginkgos at Yoyogi Park

Autumn at Yoyogi Park

Ground carpeted with ginkgo leaves

Golden ginkgos of Yoyogi Park


I was losing light, so I tried to take as many decent photos as possible.

Meanwhile, someone was playing the saxophone in the park.


Video of the saxophonist

Sky of golden ginkgo leaves


Finally, the last lights of the sun were gone.

Yoyogi Park illuminated by lone light


I walked back to the park entrance, and suddenly remembering, against my will, a picnic I had in summer more than a year ago. Felt like the occurrence of another life.

As I continued trudging through. From the corner of my eye, I saw a young couple dancing under a tree, to the music playing from a radio they brought over.

How tragic it would be, if a woman were crazy enough to dance under a tree with me. Then I remembered that I cannot dance.

Autumn twilight at Yoyogi Park entrance

Stalls outside Yoyogi Park

Stalls outside Yoyogi Park 2


And then, I made my way towards Harajuku station, where the melancholic sight of falling leaves were concealed by groups of people, by the constant flood of lights that came from the passing traffic and lampposts.

I hurried my steps, into the autumn twilight, making sure not to be late.


Video

Monday, November 22, 2010

Red Pepper Girls (Korean twins) performing in Shinjuku

I met up with old high school friend Sebastian yesterday evening in Shinjuku (he and his family were on a family trip in Japan and dropped by in Tokyo for two nights). After we had dinner, he left and I walked off to catch the bus.

As I walked past the Shinjuku Station West Exit, our conversation swirled in my mind, people from high school, those who had just gotten married, those who had just gotten engaged, previous loves, our careers in film (Sebastian works in RHYTHM AND HUES and had just made a short film called Hashshashin's Revolt, it was a valiant attempt), and the like.

Perhaps time was indeed passing me by, I thought in slight melancholy. Ah, memory, a constant source of pain.

It was Sunday evening, Shinjuku was characteristically crowded. Yet I walked in solitude, past the crowds of people, past lovers whispering sweet nothings to each other, past tourists mesmerized by the bustling energy of Shinjuku, past a pair of pretty twin sisters singing at the street, past a happy family, past a couple of homeless guys-

Eh?

I stopped, and looked back at the pair of pretty twin sisters.

Mai and Mami of Red Pepper Girls performing at Shinjuku


Then I looked at the provocative poster before them.

Red Pepper Girls posters

Red Pepper Girls new single


Red Pepper Girls. (their official website)

It had been quite a while since I've filmed a street performance. Last ones were Yui Ibuki the singer and Denis the tap-dancing painter, that was in May, just before I went to Cannes. Felt like a lifetime ago.

I didn't stop and watch merely because of their physical appearances, I'm not such a shallow, superficial person. I won't elaborate on their vocal prowesses because that's really not the point either, however their showmanship cannot be denied!

Mai and Mami of Red Pepper Girls performing at Shinjuku 2

Mai and Mami of Red Pepper Girls performing at Shinjuku 3

Mai and Mami of Red Pepper Girls performing at Shinjuku 4


I later spoke to them after their performance and found out that they were actually from Korean. The one on the right is elder sister Mai, the other one is Mami. They labeled their music as E☆ROCK, I'm not entirely sure what does 'E' stand for. They then headed off to Shibuya for another gig.

This is a video I shot of their performance, featuring three songs, 'Summer Memories~水泳部でした', 'ハピ☆デラ' (Happy Deu?) and 'WONDERFUL WORLD'. They ditched their guitar and keyboard after the first song and danced in the second two, fun.


Video of Red Pepper Girls live in Shinjuku (Nov 22, 2010)


A number of their music videos (well, snippets of them anyway) are on Youtube, they dressed up as maids in some videos, and also showed openly affectionate display of sisterly love to each other in another video. Quite an eclectic collection. Yes.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nov 17, 18, 19... lots of birthdays of family members

Since my epic food poisoning last week, I continued my semi-retreat into a writing session of my screenplay.

So the entire week just came and went.

I just came to a realization that Nov 17, 18 and 19 are birthdays of many people I know. In fact, I have 3 different family members and relatives celebrating their birthdays on these three successive days.

Nov 17th was my mom's.

Mum before leaving Kamakura


It's also the birthday of numerous other people I know, from past to present. Here's the Facebook status update I posted that day.

Today's my mom, Chik Soon Come's birthday. Also primary school classmates Nicholas Tang and Yean Ping's; secondary school classmate Yan Yan Yeap's, current lab mate Aya Sunaoka's and friend/noted music legend Ywenna Carollin's.

(It was also another lab mate Kubouchi's birthday as well, didn't mention him cos' he's not on Facebook)

Ywenna is the pianist of the band Tokyo Blue.



(Back in 2006, I borrowed a song 'Dizzy' from Ywenna's earlier band RHAPSODY to use as the ending theme in my student short, VERTICAL DISTANCE, which since I uploaded on Youtube, had became a rally cry for men who are dating women taller than them, or women dating men shorter than them)

Nov 18th was my cousin Pooi Kuan's. She's the daughter of my mother's brother (my 3rd Uncle). She turned 23, in Facebook she calls herself 'Wince', I don't know whether that's an actual name or not.

Here's a 2008 photo of her with her brother, mother and our grandma.

3rd Uncle's Wife, cousins Foo Keong and Pui Kuan and Grandma


19th was my other cousin, Kian Tat's. He's the son of my mother's sister (my 4th Aunt). He turned 17.

Here's also a 2008 photo of him with his younger brother and his mom. Back then people used to note how he bore an uncanny resemblance to me. But since last year, he had gotten way skinnier (diet pills, I assume, because I am bitter and I don't believe people can become skinny that easily), so the resemblance is more or less gone.

4th Auntie and her two kids


It's very random, but I didn't realize that November 17, 18, 19th were all birthdays of my family until yesterday.

Of course, having so many relatives from my mother's side, things like that are bound to happen. (Mom has 7 other siblings, and all 8 have a total of 21 children, so I have 20 other cousins. Just my mom's side) Nonetheless, I still think it's kinda interesting.

I don't exactly want to sound like a Facebook sycophant, but I have to say, these birthday reminders are pretty much one of their most important features (okay, it was also in Myspace and Friendster too, but still...) The majority of my relatives are using Facebook. Even some of my aunts too.

I feel a strange sort of warmth when I see cousins of mine wishing one another happy birthday even though they live in different cities and such.

During my annual trip to Ipoh (mom's hometown) for Chinese New Year, I had lamented with my cousin Hing Yip about how, as we've grown up, we became rather distant from one another. We had gone our separate ways even though we were gathering in Ipoh. One would spend time with his girlfriend, another with friends, one would have other commitments etc.

Me and my cousins were pretty close during my childhood, going to Ipoh, or them visiting Kuala Lumpur, were one of the greatest sources of my joy then. When in Ipoh, the TV room was a place where all of us would gather to play video games. Back then it was my Super Nintendo, years went by and it became the Playstation 2, and the younger cousins became the ones playing.

Visiting Ipoh in the last few years, we would still laugh, chat, and talk about stuff, but briefly. Only during dinners when we sometimes sat together. Or when we were watching something on TV. But moments like that had became rare.

Cousin Mun Yoong had just became the first among us all to get married, and he will be a father soon.

We were children of the MTV generation, so I reminisce about playing the Super Nintendo and games like Mario Kart or Street Fighter or Secret of Mana or Final Fantasy 6 (it was multiplayer, something many people had forgotten, and also something recent Final Fantasy games should have had!). I find it a little amusing that video games would be something I feel nostalgic about. But it's undeniable that it was a communal experience for us then. But sometimes we watched cartoons together too, or anime.

Yup, that was me, and my cousins, when we were growing up.

I'm not implying that Facebook is something that will bring us together, or serve as a replacement for those previous experiences. Some things can't be replaced, these memories, mundane as they seemed then, were meant to be treasured. That's why this blog post, which I initially only wanted to remark about the three birthdays, suddenly became a remembrance of lost time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I haven't vomited since '05...

I felt that something was wrong two nights ago when I was suddenly afflicted with diarrhea. What could've caused it? The onigiri I bought in a convenience store for lunch? The bento from the nice elderly couple that I've had for dinner (a favourite of mine for the past two years)? The iced chocolate I drank two hours later during a meeting?

Not dwelling upon the issue, I quickly took the famed Po Chai pills. The discomfort lasted for two hours before everything subsided and I could sleep again.

When I woke up yesterday, I felt a little better, and assumed that I've recovered. I took a few gulps of water, then I was overwhelmed by a strong feeling of nausea.

Oh shit... was the words in my mind as I ran out of my room, hoping to reach the toilet in time.

I couldn't make it.

Immediately I vomited outside my door.

Meals from the day before sprawled all over the floor. I could see the rice, the vegetables, bits of eggs...

... covering my shoes outside my room.

It was disgusting.

I vomited again.

I heard the sound of door opening behind me.

It was the AFO (asshole fat otaku) staying adjacent to my room. I had given the AFO the silent treatment for more than a year because he had complained about the jazz music that I listened to at night. I generally listened to my music in a rather low volume, yet AFO was always the one complaining. I remembered how one night, last year, he slammed my door and screamed, and when I opened my door in fury, he was already gone. Then the next day, I was visited by authorities telling me about AFO's complaint.

Good morning, you fat piece of lard. I hope you like the smell of my vomit. I felt a little dizzy and was unable to turn around. I was still hunched over the contents of my vomit.

Then I vomited for the third time.

AFO closed his door.

I spent the next hour cleaning up the mess. I had to throw away some of my 100 yen umbrellas. My 3-year-old Nike sneakers, already worn out and filled with holes, also became a casualty.

I tried to think of the places this shoe had followed me to. I bought it in Perth in 2007, but only started wearing it around late 2008. It's been the same pair of shoes I've worn everyday and to numerous film festivals and other cities I've visited.

Dubai in 2009. Seoul in 2009. Venice in 2009. Pusan in 2009. Shenzhen in 2009. Bratislava in 2010. Cannes in 2010. Brest and Brignogan in 2010. Hong Kong in 2010. Guangzhou in 2010. Hamburg in 2010. Pusan again in 2010.

The shoes had a good run. I wrapped it up and tossed it into the bin nearby.

I was bedridden for an entire day.

The last time I vomited was 2005. That's half a decade ago. (Since I generally don't drink, I don't really get into a lot of puking incidents.)

To think that I haven't vomited for half a decade amused me a little.

Kong told me that the main culprit was the bento, since he also had diarrhea the day before from eating from the same bento shop. It's horrible, to think that the bento shop had been my favourite for the past two years, and the old couple had been so nice.

I also heard that someone else staying at my place had ended up in the hospital two nights ago due to food poisoning too, the bento was also a suspect.

"DON'T BUY FROM THEM ANYMORE!" Someone on FB chat suggested overzealously after hearing my plight.

"Easy for you to say. I've been a happy loyal customer for 2 years, It'll be stupid if I deprive myself of their wondrous bento just because of one incident." I could barely contain my annoyance.

Nonetheless, someone should tell the nice elderly couple about the incident(s), if they haven't been informed already. I hold no ill will towards them, but nonetheless, I'll probably need to take a break from eating their delicious karaage (fried chicken) bento for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A memory from primary school

Recently, during a Facebook chat session with some primary school friends (yes, we still keep in touch, someone was sweet enough to start a Facebook group for the class of 1996) and a certain incident started emerging from the deepest recesses of my memory.

Well, it's not as if I've forgotten about the incident in its entirety, just that I haven't been thinking about it that much until the past few days.

A school trip to Singapore was organized at the end of 1996, after we finished primary school. That was a great year for me, being able to, surprisingly, score straight 6 As (distinctions) in the UPSR. It surprised many, even myself, since I was barely the quiet, obedient model student expected to do THAT well.

For non-Malaysian readers (... which is pretty much 99% of my readers) UPSR is a national examination taken by all students in Malaysia at the end of their sixth year in primary school before they leave for secondary school. For a kid in our academic results-obsessed country, UPSR pretty much decides one's fate. I remember classmates who wept hysterically for scoring 5 instead of 6 As. Great education system we had, yeah.

So, there was a trip to Singapore, and I went with most of the people in my class. The funny thing is, I cannot remember most of the trip, just some fragments. Like being at Sentosa Island, going to a haunted house in the theme park where we had to sit around a long table, listening to ear phones, I also remember 4-5 of us in a hotel room, and I slept between two single beds, on the floor. I felt comfortable though.

Yet one moment that stuck most vividly in my mind then was during the bus ride home. Many were sleeping, and me, being the usual bookworm I was, was sitting at the corner, reading a book.

That was the beginning of my fantasy geek phase, and I was reading 'DRAGONLANCE: TEST OF THE TWINS' by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. I was reading almost towards the end, the badass anti-hero wizard Raistlin Majere was sacrificing his own life to seal the portal from the evil goddess Takhisis (yes, I am slightly embarrassed that I still remember the names), a noble act from a guy who spent all his life being overlooked because of his much handsome and popular, and sociable, and charismatic older (twin) warrior brother Caramon.



Suddenly I heard the sounds of crying. And I realized that one of the more popular guys in my class was crying (he was tall, fair-skinned, large eyes, brilliant academically, polite etc. everything I wasn't), along with a couple of female classmates. They were saying goodbye, and got too emotional about it. They didn't know what life would be like after primary school, when all of us were going to different secondary schools... separation is always a pain.

"But life goes on." Our class monitor said with mild exasperation, his voice was drowned mostly away by the crying.

They wept on, and I felt slightly annoyed. Perhaps in truth I was annoyed by the attention he got from the other girls. I was 12 then. I was insecure.

I tried to continue reading, and finally finished the book, it left me with a sense of melancholy.

The bus reached its destination, which was my primary school. We all got off the bus.

As I left, I saw one of the crying girls standing nearby. So I said goodbye.

"Bye." She replied nonchalantly, looking at me for a mere millisecond before walking off.

I continued my way, feeling a little heavier than before. Perhaps it was my heart. No, I didn't feel anything for that girl at all, I didn't have a crush on her. She was just a classmate. But the huge contrasting treatment I got bothered me a lot.

So he cried, and many cried with him... all these attention he could command...

And me? Just a (rather dismissive) wave. Of course, I was the bespectacled fat ogre, good to hang out with for a laugh, for a taste of my snarky humour, but not one dreamy 12-year-old girls would swoon over for.

Yes, I was jealous. And I also romanticized myself to share the same fate as the badass (AND OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD) antihero wizard Raistlin Majere from the book that I've just finished reading. Often overlooked because I wasn't the 'white knight' of fairy tales, the embodiment of all things good and pure... I was just an outcast.

Step by step, I walked past my primary school, and I spotted my mother, waiting for me in her car. There was a slight bitterness in my mouth, even though I smiled and said hi to her.

Would the 12-year-old me ever imagined that 14 years later, this moment would still stick with me?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Kamakura with Mom

22nd of September 2010, two days after my graduation ceremony, and 2 days before receiving news of my uncle's sudden passing. It was Mid-Autumn Festival.

No mooncakes or lanterns though, just me bringing mom to Kamakura to visit the Big Buddha.

In the morning, mom, dad and I had breakfast at Doutor Coffee.

Mom and Dad at Doutor Coffee


Then mom and I went on our way.

I was in Kamakura back in January. That was winter.

It was rather warm when we reached Kamukara. Neither mom and I could stand the sunlight.

So we decided to hang out in a restaurant for some lunch first.

Nice beef slices

Mom taking photo of our lunch

Delicious rice


I remember it was a great meal.

The dessert was exquisite too.

Banana crepe

Ice cream crepe


Hanging out in the restaurant for nearly two hours, it was about to empty out. The Boyz 2 Men album they were playing had looped twice.


The restaurant in Kamakura

Mum in the Kamakura restaurant


So we went on our way again.

Mum at the streets of Kamakura

Mum walking through the streets of Kamakura


And finally reached the Big Buddha.

Mum in front of the Kamakura Big Buddha


Then we returned to the Kamakura station to catch a train back to Shinjuku.

Mum before leaving Kamakura


It was a Mid-Autumn Festival without mooncakes and lanterns, just a peaceful afternoon in Kamakura, and after that, dad rejoined us for dinner.

Waseda Festival 2010

Yesterday was the Waseda Festival 2010. (read about Waseda Festival 2009)

Not much about the fair though, since the highlight of my day was clearly this:

With Tao Sha (in maid costume!)


Although I was quite amused by the folks at the Bodybuilding Club too. A group of muscular dudes were in the university campus, flexing their muscles, letting people touch them, while they hand out flyers.

Bodybuilding Club at Waseda Fair


Very manly.

I like the dance performance too, but mostly for the dude screaming in the background and not for the dance itself.


video page


And then, the Waseda Ballers performed too.

This one, I'm genuinely impressed.


video page


video page

Waseda Ballers


I was only at the fair for barely half an hour.

Then I got interviewed by the maid.

With Tao Sha (in maid costume!)

Friday, November 05, 2010

Re-introducing my short film, AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY

The Bratislava International Film Festival begins today.

My short film, AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY, will make its world premiere in competition. It is the only Asian entry among the selected short films.

Grace in AFTERNOON RIVER EVENING SKY


The problem about being too prolific is that you know some of the films you've made will fall by the wayside, and not necessarily because of its lack of quality. For me, in an attempt to constantly top myself, I usually launch into another project barely after one is completed. (I technically have five 2010 short films: THE WHITE FLOWER, INHALATION, my Prada 1-min epic NOW, AFTERNOON RIVER EVENING SKY and also the upcoming EXHALATION, which I will talk about in another post)

And as this continues, you look at the film you made before your last one (or second last one), and realize that you, and many others, have forgotten about it.

AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY is such an example. (my experimental short, THE WHITE FLOWER, is another)

This is actually my follow-up to KINGYO. Because KINGYO was such a large-scaled production (only for me, to the Japanese it's actually quite a microbudget short film), I thought I needed to go back to basics and make a 'smaller' film. Note the 3-men skeletal crew.

Shooting AFTERNOON RIVER... by the river


The short film is divided into two sections (or 'chapters'), AFTERNOON RIVER (read description of my shoot, which i shot one day in April 2009 here), and EVENING SKY, which I shot one day in September 2009 (I chronicled the shoot here), immediately after I returned from the Venice Film Festival.

It was my first attempt at shooting a short film with a DSLR. I used a Nikon D90 (I would later switch to Canon 7D for all my subsequent films). It's also like a prototype for INHALATION, with me using an improvisational method for the very first time (I didn't have a script, so I figured out scenes and the story progress on the spot. I also encouraged actors to ad-lib... but I've always done that).

This film also helped me discover Klang. I would later shoot INHALATION and my 1-min Prada short film, NOW, there as well.

As I made a number of shorts since AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY, it got lost in the shuffle. So it feels a little strange that this film is actually premiering AFTER INHALATION!

Here's a synopsis.

A short film divided into two parallel stories. In Afternoon River, Grace, a waitress in a Bah Kut Teh (Malaysian-Chinese pork stew) restaurant tries to go through her mundane everyday work while ignoring the incessant ringing of her cell phone. In Evening Sky, the tomboyish Lai Fun seeks justice from an illegal DVD peddler who impregnated her best friend.

Well, I hope there will be people enjoying this little short film of mine too.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My films, LOVE SUICIDES and KINGYO receive awards at the Doi Saket International Film Festival

Now, this is a surprise!

Just received news that I won two awards at the inaugural Doi Saket International Film Festival (facebook page here). The festival actually ended on the same day as the Tokyo International Film Fest (Oct 31st), but the folks were so busy that they didn't announce the results publicly until few moments ago.

I won a Best Editing Award for KINGYO (2009).

kingyo poster
KINGYO


Thanks! This is the first time I've ever won an editing award! KINGYO was definitely difficult to edit, with all these split screens and stuff. Spent weeks editing it, glad that the efforts weren't wasted!


Kingyo trailer


Aside from that, I also won the Best Director Award for LOVE SUICIDES (2009).

[Love Suicides] The girl (Arika Lee) plays with the red balloon
LOVE SUICIDES


Thanks! Directing a child is difficult!


Love Suicides excerpt


By the way, this is a much-delayed announcement, but a one-minute iteration of LOVE SUICIDES (which I titled as LOVE SUICIDES: PROLOGUE) had also received a Jury Commendation at Filminute in early October.

I shot LOVE SUICIDES in Sept 2008, and KINGYO in Jan 2009. Both films felt like a lifetime away, yet I'm very honoured that they're still being enjoyed by audiences around the world.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The last day of the Tokyo International Film Festival 2010

31st of October.

I headed to Roppongi to wait for the Green Carpet event prior to the closing ceremony. I was at the TIFF Movie Cafe with Prof. Ando.

Tokyo Film Fest Movie Cafe

Tokyo Film Fest Movie Cafe 2


With Liao Jiekai and his producer.

With Liao Jiekai and his producer


With Shin Su-Won.

With Korean filmmaker Shin Su-won


We then headed to the green carpet.

I spotted a photo of myself and Ming Jin (and Israeli filmmaker Leon) from the opening ceremony.

Spotting a photo of myself at the opening ceremony


After walking the green carpet, Prof Ando and I left our autographs for the film fest.

Professor Ando's autograph


During the Closing Ceremony, awards were handed out.

Shin Su-Won got her award for Best Asian Film, in the Winds Of Asia section.

Shin Su-Won receives an award


And then the jury member and film director, Akira Ogata mentioned that they wanted to specially mention THE TIGER FACTORY as a special mention of the jury.

After that, awards for the main competition section were handed out.

98-year-old legend Kaneto Shindo received a Special Jury award for POSTCARD, which he said will be his last film.

Kaneto Shindo speaks


Video page


The Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix went to INTIMATE GRAMMAR by Nir Bergman.


Video page

Orly Zilbershatz and Nir Bergman receive Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix


He's a second time winner of the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix, having last won in 2002.

I was then whisked off to the press conference.

You can see me appearing on the 2:40 mark of the video.



I then autographed a few of the Tokyo International Film Fest books.

Me autographing the Tokyo Film Fest book


The best Japanese film award went to HOSPITALITE, produced and starring my friend Kiki Sugino. Here's me and her, with Eri-chan, who made her acting debut in the film. (Kiki will be seen in my upcoming short film EXHALATION, which she produced together with Maiko, more on EXHALATION later.)

With Kiki and Eri-chan


Here's Eri-chan and her new little friend.

Eri-chan and her new little friend


Video page


Then there was the closing reception. Here's me with my nice attendant Aiko.

With Aiko before the closing reception


With Rob, film critic of METROPOLIS magazine, and actress Maria Isabel Lopez. I first met Maria in Pusan, then I met her here again, she's in the film called WAYS OF THE SEA (HALAW).

With Rob and Maria Isabel Lopez


While chatting she asked whether I've seen Brillante Mendoza's films, I said I've only seen LOLA at the Venice Film Fest last year.

"Not KINATAY?" She asked, referring to the film that Mendoza won the Best Director award in the Cannes Film Fest last year. (Yes, he was prolific and had a film in Cannes, and then Venice merely 4 months later)

"Nopers."

"I was Kinatay! The prostitute who got killed and cut into pieces!" She said.

"Whoaaaaa!" I keanu'd.

Best Actor award winner Wang Qianyuan.

With Best Actor Wang Qianyuan


Shin Su-Won joined in.

With Wang Qianyuan and Shin Su-Won


After the closing reception there was an after-party for the WINDS OF ASIA participants.

Teng Fei, who served as assistant for INHALATION (for the scenes shot in Japan) and also designer of the film poster, arrived.

With Teng Fei at the after party


A celebratory toast.


Video page


I spoke.


Video page


It was a great night.

The WINDS OF ASIA after party
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