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Friday, December 31, 2010

Thoughts on 2010, and its recap (part 2)



Pia Film Festival and Skip City D-Cinema Movie Festival happened. One in Tokyo, the other in Saitama.

I was happy to see Kazue Fukiishi at the premiere of Gegege Nyobo in Pia.

Director Takuji Suzuki speaking to Kazue Fukiishi. Gegege No Nyobo world premiere at the Pia Film Festival

She didn't see me, though.

My short film from last year, KINGYO, screened at the Skip City D-Cinema Movie Fest. At that time, ten months have passed since KINGYO had its world premiere at the Venice Film Fest, fitting that it would finally return to Japan for a screening.

KINGYO team (with temporarily adopted members) after screening in Skip City Film Fest
After the KINGYO screening

With Torigoe the Sound Guy
Torigoe the sound guy for KINGYO (and EXHALATION)

My other 2009 short film LOVE SUICIDES, also screened in the Fuji Television headquarters at Odaiba. Had a post-screening discussion with famed film critic Tadao Sato.


Returned to Malaysia.

Shot a 1-min epic short film for Prada called NOW starring Moon Lai from Tiger Factory, and Arika Lee from Love Suicides.

Directing fills me with angst

Moon Lai is pensive

Moon Lai and Arika, happy to finish the shoot

The 1-min short film can be seen in the Prada website. And various Japanese Prada shops.

I then went to Hong Kong for the InDpanda International Short Film Festival, my experimental short THE WHITE FLOWER (shot it in July 2009) was having its world premiere.

Me, pointing at the still photo of my film, THE WHITE FLOWER

Zhu Dan and Toru Inamura in THE WHITE FLOWER
Zhu Dan and Toru Inamura in THE WHITE FLOWER


Went to the Tokyo Game Show 2010.

Me with Rei Ayanami cosplayer booth girl

Graduated from my Masters.

My Masters Degree

Me, parents and Prof. Ando

My uncle, dad's youngest brother, suddenly passed away. My memories of him.


A one-minute extract of LOVE SUICIDES won the Special Jury Mention at the Filminute festival.

I went to Hamburg for the screening of THE TIGER FACTORY at the Hamburg International Film Festival.

in front of Kunsthalle Hamburg

My trip was sponsored by the Honorary Consul General of Malaysia in Hamburg, Datuk Edgar Nordmaan (seen here with his wife the Datin).

With Datuk Edgar Nordmaan, Honorary Consul General of Malaysia, and his wife the Datin

Alas, most of my photos in the Hamburg trip were lost when my comp died.

Returned to Hamburg, rested a day, flew off to Pusan for the world premiere of my short film, INHALATION in the Pusan International Film Fest.

With Former First Lady of Japan, Miyuki Hatoyama
With the former First Lady of Japan, Miyuki Hatoyama

Bowie Tsang with the INHALATION poster
Taiwanese actress Bowie Tsang with poster of INHALATION

With Taiwanese actress Zaizai Lin 林辰唏
Taiwanese actress Zaizai Lin

Princess Ubol Ratana of Thailand was also in the film festival.

Princess Ubol Ratana at the Thai Reception of Pusan International Film Fest 2010

Dancing with Juliette Binoche?

INHALATION won the award for Best Asian Short Film.

With Dad, after the Pusan International film Fest closing ceremony

Returned to Tokyo for the Tokyo International Film Festival where both THE TIGER FACTORY and INHALATION were screened.

With Vivian Hsu, before the Green Carpet event 2
Vivian Hsu

With Yoshino Kimura, Tokyo Intl Film Fest ambassador
Yoshino Kimura

With Sylvia chang 张艾嘉
Sylvia Chang

With Taiwanese actor Wilson Chen
Wilson Chen

Meeting Lin Zaizai again in Tokyo
Lin Zaizai again

Ming Jin speaks

In the end, THE TIGER FACTORY received a jury special mention.

My glamour pose after the Tiger Factory/Inhalation screening

I also found out a few days later that both of my short films, KINGYO and LOVE SUICIDES, won awards at the Doi Saket International Film Festival in Thailand. KINGYO for best editing, LOVE SUICIDES for best directing.

October was one hell of a month.


Bad case of food poisoning.

Spent most of the month working on the first draft of my feature-length screenplay.

I then headed off to Torino for the final session of the screenwriting workshop.

Me, on top of Torino

me, pitching 2

me, pitching

There were some major student protests during my last day at Torino. Even interrupted the closing party. Awesome.

Major student protest in Torino


Returned to Tokyo.

Less than 24 hours, flew off to Manila for the Cinemanila International Film Festival, where INHALATION and THE TIGER FACTORY were showing.

With godfather of Filipino films Kidlat Tahimik
Godfather of Filipino independent cinema Kidlat Tahimik

Me with Raymond Red
Filmmaker Raymond Red

Me and Tikoy before Inhalation/The Tiger Factory screening
Me with Cinemanila Film Fest founder before the screening of INHALATION and THE TIGER FACTORY

Returned to Tokyo.

A week later I headed to Dubai for the Dubai International Film Festival (recap of entire festival here). Two years ago, the Dubai Film Fest was the very first film fest I attended as a director.

The view from my hotel room
Me. 2008.

This time, it was for the premiere of EXHALATION. Finally.

Me, before the opening ceremony
Me. 2010.

Casting my shadow over the red carpet

Me and Hou Chi-Jan

Festival ended on December 20. I came back. Ten days have passed.

It's now 8:03am. I now click the 'PUBLISH POST' button.

Tell me about your year if you want to.

Here's to a great 2011.

Thoughts on 2010, and its recap (part 1)

It is 5:39am, 31st of December, 2010 as I am writing this. Less than 18 hours left for the year. I guess I'll just take a bit of time to reflect on the past year and make some sense out of it.

My life is probably defined now, by my filmmaking career. Ever since I started actually directing in 2008, I had derived a lot of joy from creativity, to be surrounded by like-minded people, to indulge myself in films, to further my own craft. My last tweet was laced with some sort of irony-induced nostalgia.

A year ago today. I wrapped the shoot of Exhalation. How great it was then, to be surrounded by like-minded people. So 2010 ends quietly

- about 11 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

That is why I constantly have to get into a film shoot, to do something creative, to create. Otherwise I am reduced to depression, or a state of existential melancholy.

I looked at my thoughts on 2008 written two years ago, and I cannot help but smirk at how some things had remained the same, how some thoughts had remained unchanged.

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 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.

- December 30, 2010

What I thought then, I think the same now. Does that mean that I have remained in a stagnant state of existence?

Last month I even allowed my own memories to stretch back to an incident during my last few moments in primary school, yes, when I was 12, and remembered how angry I had felt, fourteen years ago, when after witnessing classmates share a tearful goodbye on the bus, I said goodbye to one of them, and I was given a nonchalant "oh, bye".

I spoke to a number of friends of mine back from primary school, former classmates who had long forgotten that incident.

"Why, why did she cry saying goodbye to him, when all I got was just an "oh, bye"?" I said.

"You do realize that we were only 12 then, right?" Jasmine, my friend, said.

"Yes, but I was already a sensitive soul then, despite the fact that I was some fat ogre who looked like Shrek. I don't hate these people, and I was never in love with that girl who said "oh, bye" to me, I hated the idea of double standards, that the guy would get a tearful goodbye without really doing much, while all I could get was "oh, bye", and walking past me. I clung on to this resentment, so I could dedicate my life into doing things that no one would have ever imagined that I could achieve." I said.

"You did that, and more." said Yee Ping, a primary friend of mine. "Time to, er, let go?"

"Here's the dilemma, if I let go, what is there to drive me? Or motivate me?" I replied. "Now, I say again, I don't hate these people, but I hated the idea they represented, I hated the feeling I had then, of feeling neglected. And so I throw myself into my work, to prove that they were wrong to just "oh, bye" me!"

Finally, Lydia, also from my primary school, but not in the same class, said this to me. "You are really a nice person at heart, but you generally crave for affection/ love/ attention, so you end up feeling bitter when you don't get it."

"Eh? That kinda sums up the actual core of my being!" I said, slightly amazed. Or maybe I always knew that and I found it funny that it took another person to point it out to me. Or maybe she wasn't right, and that I merely approved her statement because of the 'really a nice person at heart' bit, which assuaged my narcissistic thirst for approval, yes.

Ah, we narcissists often have this unexplainable exhibitionist streak. That's why I blog, I tweet, I use facebook, and most of all, I cannot seem to deal with the idea of creating something and then keep it to myself, without sharing it with another. It's not really adulation that I crave, but merely some sort of acknowledgement of my existence. Don't "oh, bye" me.

So I felt a little resentful towards old acquaintances who didn't watch the DVD of my films that I gave them after they asked for it. (to be fair, most times they could've just forgotten about it, instead of maliciously, deliberately trying to NOT watch the DVD, yet I stayed angry, and told myself "one day, ONE DAY, there comes a time when there is no way you can choose to overlook me." Then I proceed to dream and ponder, and think out ideas for a new film. Yup, that's me.

Why is it that a supposed recap of 2010 become some sort of psychological probing of my own self? Bah, I'm such a narcissist.

Now... if you are STILL with me.

Here's my recap of memorable moments of 2010.


I celebrated a real Japanese new year with Maiko the Producer's family in her hometown.

I also went to a GREEN DAY concert for free!

But really, most of the month was spent on me pouring my heart and soul into editing my short film EXHALATION.

[Exhalation] Naoko (Kiki Sugino) and Sayuri (Tomoe Shinohara) brooding
Kiki Sugino and Tomoe Shinohara in EXHALATION

(I would never have expected that it would be almost a year later before the short film finally had its world premiere.)


Returned to Malaysia for Chinese New Year.

Everyone eating merrily
Reunion dinner in Chinese New Year eve 2010

Kai Fai (in red), comes to my house every year for the Reunion Dinner in Chinese New Year, he had moved to Ipoh a couple of weeks ago. I feel a little melancholic knowing that I won't be back in Malaysia to celebrate Chinese New Year next February (I'll be in Rotterdam and Clermont Ferrand).

In February, I was also preparing with Ming Jin for the preproduction of THE TIGER FACTORY.


While writing our script, we were going around doing researches, interviewing people, auditioning actors and having rehearsals, all at the same time.


Spent my 26th birthday in a pig farm during the TIGER FACTORY shoot.



Interestingly, four people among the team celebrated our birthdays on successive days. Mine was March 6, Shalini the intern was March 7, Moon Lai the lead actress was March 8, then Ming Jin's wife Tomoko was March 9.

(my dad's birthday occurred a week later as well)

Immediately after the shoot of THE TIGER FACTORY, I went to shoot a little short film called INHALATION, which was a spin-off of THE TIGER FACTORY and had no relation to my previous short EXHALATION, aside from some thematic similarities. (I couldn't come up with another name)

Inhalation poster

I returned to Tokyo on the 17th of March.

A week later I headed off to Bratislava for a screenwriting workshop. First time in Slovakia, it was exciting.

Farewell, Bratislava

Bratislava castle at night

Me and my teammates: Anita from Slovakia and Alexis from Greece
My group mates, Alexis Alexiou of Greece, there to develop his second feature film, Anita of Slovakia, there to develop her first feature film script that she intended to direct


There were beautiful cherry blossoms at Toho Studios.

Dining under the cherry blossom tree

Received phone call from Ming Jin telling me that THE TIGER FACTORY had gotten into Cannes Film Festival. Elated. The biggest film fest in the world, the dream of many filmmakers, it had all happened.

I wanted to lay claim on the 'youngest Malaysian producer to ever get a film into Cannes Film Festival' tag to accompany the 'youngest Malaysian director to compete in Venice Film Fest' tag, but that would've been tastelessly disgraceful.

Nonetheless, the preparation for Cannes was... crazy.


My most trusted Maiko the Producer left for Osaka, she had gotten a job in NHK. Bye bye, Maiko.

With Maiko the Producer. Restaurant Acacia.

I then went off to the Cannes Film Festival. (you can read all of my recap here)

Me at the press conference

Me being interviewed

Fooi Mun, Ming Jin and I on red carpet

I even got to promote INHALATION during the press conference of THE TIGER FACTORY.



Went to Brignogan (France) for the second round of my screenplay workshop. (recap here)

Me at a Brignogan beach

Golden field of Brignogan 3

Lovely place.

UPDATED: Breaking the blog post into 2 because it's way too long!

Continued in PART 2
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