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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Heading off to the Jeonju Film Festival

I am now waiting for the airport limo at Four Seasons Hotel.

I'm flying off to attend the Jeonju International Film Festival. (3.5 hours away from Seoul via bus) where my short film EXHALATION will be making its Asian Premiere. Screenings are on the 1st and 4th of May. I will be there for the question and answer sessions, along with producer/ star Kiki Sugino. It's going to be fun.

Aside from that, there are numerous films I intend to catch at the festival: the 5 hour film HEAVEN'S STORY, the Bela Tarr film TURIN HORSE, the animated film THE ILLUSIONIST, another 5 hour film MYSTERIES OF LISBON (I caught an hour of it in Rotterdam), and those Jeonju Digital Project omnibus etc


Thursday, April 28, 2011

A melancholic dream about dying once

I thought I had a strange enough dream during my afternoon nap, but when I went back to my place and finally slept, I had a stranger dream.

I dreamed that I was back in Malaysia again, doing something mundane at home. Then my mother revealed reluctantly that I died once, in Japan, but they brought me home, and I was alive again.

There were brief flashes of images, like a quick montage. I saw myself collapsing onto the floor somewhere at the streets, and was hauled back from Japan to Malaysia in a white body bag.

I didn't remember how I came back to life. Everyone around me were polite and nice to me. Did they know what happened?

I went through the entire dream feeling incredulous that I had died once and wondering how I died before. I also wondered whether I was to die again. Or just fade away. There were so many things I have yet to do. It was a melancholic feeling.

In the end I decided that "perhaps i will live forever."

Or "perhaps I will just live on, normally, until old age. Or something like that. As if the first death was just a dream."

And then I woke up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A singer who became a Buddhist nun.

There are only two buses a day that go from Honjo to Tokyo, one at 11 in the morning, the other at 7:45 in the evening. Miss any one of them and I would have to take the Shinkansen train home (3200 yen for a ride). Obviously, I chose not to pay for such a fee (after taking one here two nights ago) after I was done with LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, I decided to wait it out for the evening bus.

I had already made backups with my hard disk, made a HDcam, burnt a DVD, it was 4pm. I headed to the lab for a nap.

Suddenly I was in the courtyard of a Buddhist temple, there were a number of monks and nuns before me. A nun was introduced to me by a monk, she had plain features, seemed slightly older than me, late 20s, or early 30s?

"She was once a singer." The monk said. "She sang a famous song called Huo Che (火车 "train" in Chinese)."

"Oh!" I nodded in recognition, but making a mental note that I would Google the song and check the name of the singer. I started reaching for my iPhone...

I then found myself in an old house, filled with narrow corridors, and grey walls. It was dimly-lit, the lightbulbs above me flickering softly. The me in the dream was immediately aware that I was in a house that was supposed to belong to my grandparents. I remembered it because my mother had told me that before, I tried searching through my memories to see when my mother had told me about this house, but it was to no avail, so as I continued walking, I started suspecting that I was in a dream.

I went on and saw a long-haired woman standing at the door, her back facing me.

As she slowly turned, my mind said:

You do NOT want to see her face, wake up now.

I opened my eyes, and found myself standing faraway from a house on a tiny hill, which, immediately, I knew was the house that was supposed to belong to my grandparents. I heard some noises and whirled about, then I saw two cars having been flipped upside down, spinning and spinning, like a top, they were in flames. I thought of tortoises.

A crowd had gathered, coming closer towards the spinning cars, witnessing the commotion.

And then people in colourful garments jumped out of the cars, and there was suddenly a carnival, filled with dancing people, a massive bustling crowd and the like.

I then found myself walking away from the carnival with my mother, and looking at the house on the hill again.

"You remember this house, right?" My mom said.

I nodded.

"Your poor grandmother. I was going to buy this house for her." My mom said, referring to her own mother.

I thought it was strange, since I was aware that the house on the hill belonged to my father's parents, whom I have never met. The house had nothing to do with my mother's mother...

Yes, I was still in a dream then.

Then I thought of my grandmother anyway, her Alzheimer's had gotten progressively worse in recent years, and she has had trouble recognizing me these days. Nonetheless many times I have seen her, she seemed happy.

"Nothing poor about her." I said to my mother.

I paused, and then asked my mom, who was a pop singer, about the nun I met at the temple courtyard earlier. A former singer who became a nun, who sang a song about trains?

My mother then asked me. "Do you remember a primary school teacher you used to have, whose name you always got wrong?"

"Miss Zhan?" Realization dawned upon me, there was a pulsating orchestra piece swirling about me.

"She died, you were just a child then, we didn't let you know. Maybe she became a nun." My mother said.

I tried to remember the face of the nun, and also the face of Miss Zhan.

Then I woke up.

For real.

On the couch of my lab.

My grandparents never owned a house on a scenic house.

I vaguely remember a Miss Zhan who taught my class for a few short months when I was in standard 4. She left to continue her studies in another state. But I had never gotten her name wrong.

Also, her face and the nun's was rather different.

I got up and headed to the computer, for an instant, I was thinking of Googling a song and the name of its singer.

Finishing the postproduction of LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER

I have just spent another night in the ARTS AND SCIENCE CENTER in Honjo, which has state of the art postproduction facilities and is where I was putting the finishing touches on my latest film LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER.

If I knew I were going to end up here for two nights, I should have brought my toothpaste and toothbrush, and extra clothes. As I am typing this, I haven't brushed my teeth nor showered for 2 days. It's a little gross.

So, the entire day yesterday was spent with Segawa-san and the folks of Sound Box for the sound design of my film.


Segawa-san bought me food that lasted for an entire day.

Food for me during sound mixing session

It was a session that lasted around 13-14 straight hours. We all forgot about dinners brought for us.

As they worked on the sound stuff, fiddling on the technical stuff that I knew nothing about, I ended up dozing off on this special director's couch.

My favourite sleeping couch in the sound mixing studio

It wasn't until evening when they started showing me their work in its entirety. And it was then that I could finally direct and supervise stuff.

Sound mixing session continues for LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER

Preparing to view the finished product

I amused myself when I realized how anal I actually am when it comes to this aspect of filmmaking. As opposed to my usual spontaneous, improvisational methods during a shoot.

"Fade out the sound just a second before she smiles, not TWO, one second!"

"eliminate the sound of her rustling clothes too."

"The wind in the background, can it become a breeze instead?"

"Let's layer the music with the sound of Malaysian densha (I was referring to the LRT trains). Hmm, not soothing enough, switch to Japanese densha then."

"I feel uncomfortable with the sudden motorbike sound in the background. Prolong it so it's less distracting?"

"I want to time the beat of the music with these cuts"

"Transition sound 2 secs before scene transition, kid is lost in his memory!"

Those were some of the adjustments I did during the session. It all turned out well and by midnight everything was done.

I returned to the couch and slept for more than 7 hours.

Right now I'm waiting for everything to be settled, making a master HDcam SR of the film, burning DVD screeners, then, perhaps I can go home.


Monday, April 25, 2011


After spending the whole night finalizing the editing of my film and preparing it for sound work, I am now in the sound studio, having just woken up from a brief nap (I didn't sleep much last night, and there isn't much for me to do now)

In the audio mixing room

Helping me with sound mixing is Mr Tetsuo Segawa, four time Japan Academy Award winner who did sounds for numerous major Japanese films, and even classics like Ashita no Joe (the anime, not the live-action feature that came out few months ago, along with AKIRA.

Yup, that seminal anime AKIRA. When I first saw the film at the age of 10, I never expected that 17 years later, I would be working with the folks behind its sound. It's a surreal feeling.

The sound effects are done by Sound Box, who had also worked on anime like COWBOY BEBOP and stuff. Well, I guess my new film isn't going to have bad sound.

Right now I'm still sitting at the corner of the room, looking all director-like, you know. But mostly to get out of the way as they do the, er, sound stuff.

Audio mixing stuff...

Guess they'll ask me for opinions if they need it...


I'm really going through 100 Years of Solitude

I ordered a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE two nights ago, then I received the book a couple of hours later on a Saturday morning from Amazon Japan. I started reading the book around 11pm, and before I realized it, the sun was already rising and it was dawn already.

I slept at 6am and woke up almost at noon. Then I resumed reading, and finished the book a couple of hours later. I didn't expect to finish this great literary work in almost one sitting, in a lazy eventless Sunday.

The following day, I was supposed to head to Honjo, which is in Saitama and more than hour away from Tokyo, to put on the finishing touches on my latest film LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER. State-of-the-art postproduction facilities are there. Many major films that Waseda University had provided technical support for were done here. (THE MAGIC HOUR, JAPAN SINKS, HIDDEN FORTRESS, MONKEY MAGIC, SUSPECT X etc.)

Honjo Arts And Science Center

So it was a good Sunday for me to rest up my energies, soak in ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, ponder about my own solitude which had seemingly lasted for a hundred years in the past week as I isolated myself from the rest of the world to finish my film.

It was evening and I headed off to do some grocery shopping. I had embark upon an epic quest to clean up my room during the weekend, the first time it had ever undergone one since the recent 2008.

When I returned to my room, the sky has darkened and I allowed myself to fall into a light nap while listening to Kanye West's MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY. Yes, a lazy Sunday indeed...

The nap lasted for one track before I was awakened by a phone call by Miyako (producer).

Bad news. Certain technical problems have happened at Honjo. It's complicated to explain (Malaysians shoot films on 25 frames per second, Japanese usually go for 24 frames per second. To go through their postproduction process, I have to convert stuff to 24 frames. Alas, some mistakes occurred during my conversion)

"You have to go to Honjo now." Miyako said.

"Now?" I was hesitant. Mostly because Honjo can only be reached via 3000 yen Shinkansen (bullet train) i looked at the watch, it was going to be 9pm.

But knowing that I had to go to ensure the completion of the film. I packed some bread and cookies and left my place. I knew it was going to be an all-nighter.

Two hours later, I reached the Art and Science Center in Honjo.

Corridor of Honjo Arts and Science center (Waseda University)

I was given a plate of curry rice. Which allowed me to save the bread and cookies for tomorrow.

Curry rice before an all-nighter

It's 2am now. I'm here in the editing room.

Editing lab at Honjo Art and Science center

Waiting. And waiting.

Waiting for Final Cut Pro

Editing is never really part of the hard work. Rendering and exporting your video into a file is. For a 25 min film, such processes run for an hour. And there is nothing else to do aside blogging, facebooking, tweeting, walking around, etc.


Friday, April 22, 2011

KINGYO receives Silver Horse from 19th Mediterranean Festival of New Filmmakers - Larissa

Last week, just a day before I left for Tokyo, and when I was undergoing this interview with China Press (the one mentioned in the previous post) I suddenly received an email from the Mediterranean Festival of New Film-makers in Larissa, Greece, that my short film KINGYO had received the Silver Horse. (Golden Horse went to the Greek short CASUS BELLI by Yiorgos Zois).

I'm very honoured. It's been nearly two years since KINGYO (trailer) world premiered in Venice. Knowing that it is still being played before appreciative audiences is a joy, and it also validates the fact that the efforts put in by my cast and crew were totally worth it.

This morning, I finally received the trophy and certificate they sent me.

Silver Horse trophy for Kingyo from Mediterranean Festival of New Film-makers - Larissa 2011

Certificate for Kingyo from Mediterranean Festival of New Film-makers - Larissa 2011

It's kinda strange, but this is actually the first ever award I've received from a European film festival. And to come from Greece too.

2 years ago, my short film CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY was invited to Naoussa International Film Festival, it was the first ever film fest in Europe to actually invite any of my shorts. And Naoussa is also in Greece.

I guess it's some type of 'Yuanfen' I have with the Greeks! ('Yuanfen' is a Buddhist-related Chinese concept about how fate binds two parties together due to previous incarnations, it's also similar to Carl Jung's concept of synchronicity)

楊毅恆:電影是家人共同語言 Edmund Yeo: Film is my family's common language

It had been raining the last few days, all traces of cherry blossoms are gone, aside from some petals scattered on the ground.

Ever since I came back to Tokyo, I had been working around the clock to finalize the editing of my new film, LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER. Professor Ando (executive producer!) had hired the services of professional (and legendary) sound mixers and sound effects companies for the post-production, I'm very blessed.

Two nights ago, I was made aware by a former schoolmate of mine that the Malaysian Chinese paper China Press' interview with me (and my mom), which I did just a day before I left Malaysia, was available online (Chinese only).

楊毅恆:電影是家人共同語言 (中国报 2011.04.03)

It was a nice article that mentioned briefly about me picking up the Azusa Ono Memorial Award from Waseda University (being the first foreigner and all), my foray to Japan since 2008, the influences my parents had on me regarding my passion for films etc.

Of course, most interestingly, my mother was interviewed too.

(Although I don't mention it much, but some of you might know that my mom was a pop singer before her marriage, retired after that, kept a low-profile since then. Growing up, those who were aware of who my mom was wrongly assumed that I inherited her singing talents. They were disappointed. Alas, I never became a superstar singer.)

I'm flattered by the recent media coverage, it's good to shed some light upon Waseda University, Professor Ando, and the films that my cast and crew had poured their heart and soul into. I'm here today because of them anyway.

I would like to point out though that not everything is that glamourous, and it's really not about the glamour. Look at it this way, while a nice newspaper article about me had just came out in Malaysia, I am here in Tokyo, thousands of kilometers away, undergoing a solitary confinement of sorts in the editing room, with minimal face-to-face human interaction, with my eyes fixed upon the computer the whole time as I adjust my shots, doing colour correction, waiting for the rendering, the exporting etc. Editing, as much as I love it, can sometimes be a rather arduous task. And lonely too, when you don't have anyone anymore (like, say, a producer) to come and check your progress.

Nope, I can assure you, my dear readers, being a filmmaker is really not just about sitting there and yelling "action!" and "cut!".

Now I switch to Chinese.

大家好,昨天上『中国报』了。 荣幸, 但也只可以带这平常心。 我回了东京后都不停地为新作品『冬天, 最后的碎片』赶后期制作。 单独的待在剪接房, 对着电脑, 也很少机会跟任何人沟通, 真的变成宅男了。 拍片并不是一件简单的事, 这几天的辛苦也算是成功的代价, 当然, 也不敢说自己是成功的, 只是坚持走自己的路, 希望可以再次拍一部好作品, 不辜负班底还有演员们对我的信任, 这就是我身为一个小导演的责任。 好, 继续剪接。

以下的就是那文章。 ( 原文在此。)






楊毅恆:電影是家人共同語言 (中国报 2011.04.03) 2


“2008年獲得獎學金,有機會在東京的早稻田大學讀電影碩士。那時候有點依依不捨,因為從澳洲回到老家馬來西亞,剛認識了我現在的拍檔胡明進,進入他的一人公司(通行電影GREENLIGHT PICTURES),當了他的製片。一年不到,就要去日本,必須拋開自己的事業,重新開始學生生活。”


















楊毅恆:電影是家人共同語言 (中国报 2011.04.03) 3









Friday, April 15, 2011

At least there're still some cherry blossoms around

A couple of days ago, I tweeted a sudden desire to quote the ending monologue of my short film INHALATION delivered by Mei (played by Susan Lee Fong Zhi), even though I generally don't quote stuff from my own works due to my own modesty.

But then, I lamented the fact that I would miss the cherry blossoms this year. Ever a bittersweet sight for me, sweet due to its indescribable beauty, bitter because it signals the end of winter (my true love).

Thus the quote:

"if I were still in Japan, I could probably see the cherry blossoms. Petals drifting rhythmically in the air. Then they fall soundlessly. What a lovely sight it could have been."

(part of the actual monologue is in the trailer)


So I reached Tokyo late last night, and made it back to my place after midnight. Everything was dark, darker due to recent attempts at energy conservation, I couldn't see my surroundings at all.

When I woke up this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were still a little bit of cherry blossoms left on the tree outside my room.

I left and walked past Kanta river, the place where I shot the ending of Inhalation.

Kanta river lined with cherry blossom trees

I saw a koi fish and wondered whether it was the same one that appeared in the film.

Some cherry blossom petals floating through the river

Hours later, I went to Toho Studio to see the progress of the sound mixing for my new film.

At the nearby river, I saw some nice little flowers as well.

Nogawa river

How much longer are they going to last, these cherry blossoms?

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms 2

Catching a glimpse of them today, I think it's enough to last me for another year.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A feast before returning to Tokyo

I'm now at the LCCT airport waiting for the plane back to Tokyo.

Had a lavish meal yesterday evening with family and aunt and cousin Weesuan and cousin-in-law Timothy. Naturally we had something that I ain't getting in Malaysia. Yummy stewed duck and clams...

And Fuyong egg too. Despite the intimidatingly large amount of food we ordered, we finished them all effortlessly.

I ate like a king yesterday, but it's back to being a peasant again in Tokyo. (where I usually skip meals, or eat minimally )

I'm returning to Japan mostly to finalize the post-production of my new film LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER.

Need to wait another 20 mins before boarding, bored out of my skull, sleepy too

Location:Jalan Sungai Merab,Kajang,Malaysia

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I was on NTV7 News (10th of April, 2011)

I was interviewed by NTV7.

Just went through an interview at NTV7  on Twitpic

It was for the Mandarin news at 9:30pm. It's not everyday that I get to see myself on TV, when the news was on air two days ago, I did what a normal person with an iPhone would do: film the news with my iPhone.

Aspect ratio made me look all squashed up and fat. I'm usually rather gorgeous and less fat.

Actual video here.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


Maybank nasi lemak

I always thought that it is a cliche for a Malaysian staying in another country to lament about the lack of mamak stalls, yet alas this is what I'm going to do.

Not that I intend to whine about its absence when I return to Tokyo next week, but more on how fond I really am of these places right now as I am chilling, for a brief while, in Malaysia.

Original Kayu

The whole act of asking old friends out, going to a nearby mamak stall, ordering my favorite iced milk tea (occasionally I go for iced lemon tea), chatting our butts off about nothing can sometimes be such a mundane, yet strangely endearing lifestyle for us. I can never really understand why.

Location:Jalan Semangat,Petaling Jaya,Malaysia

首名外國學生獲小野梓藝術獎‧導演楊毅恆揚名日本 Filmmaker Edmund Yeo becomes first foreigner to receive Ono Azusa Memorial Award for Art

首名外國學生獲小野梓藝術獎‧導演楊毅恆揚名日本 (星洲日報‧2011.04.03)

When your internet connection at home is so bad, it's demotivating to even go online, hence the lack of blog updates in the past few days. (aside from occasionally checking emails, and Facebook, I've been mostly kinda "off the grid", for the sake of reducing frustration and agony over crap Internet connection. I remember having faster internet connection during my dial-up days)

Anyway, I was on Sinchew Daily 3 days ago, on the 4th of April (Monday). It's basically an article about me receiving the Ono Azusa Memorial Award on the 26th last month.

One amusing thing when I went through the interview last Saturday was that I had difficulty trying to translate my recent favourite mantra "Anything less than awesome is failure", somehow the word "awesome" escaped my limited Mandarin vocabulary. So the translation ended up becoming "Anything less than perfect is failure" which made me sound even hardcore, or crazier. At least I had an easier time with "99 percent is still NOT 100 percent".

Anyway, I have posted the entire article below, (original article here, which has a funny little typo that I will not draw any attention to)

Now, I will switch to Chinese.

大家好, 我前几天已经在Twitter分享了被星洲日报刊登在早稻田大学获奖的事情。 如果你错过了, 以下就是那天的文章。






























Saturday, April 02, 2011

Buddhist ceremony for Qingming Festival

Tomorrow is Qingming Festival, also known as Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day. It is the day when people enjoy the beginning of spring (doesn't apply to tropical Malaysia) and tend to the graves of their departed ones.

A week-long Buddhist praying ceremony is held at the Cempaka Buddhist Lodge (I shot my new short there two weeks ago) that my mom had been attending. I've been to the place a few times in the past few years during the annual ceremony and I always liked how the praying hall is decorated.

Prayer hall decorated for the Qingming ceremony

Prayer hall decorated for the Qingming ceremony 2

Prayer hall decorated for the Qingming ceremony 3

Prayer Hall decorated for Buddhist ceremony 4

There was a table for my ancestors, grandparents, and my recently departed uncle.

Table for my ancestors and other departed ones

This year, a makeshift altar had also been added for the victims of the March 11 Sendai Earthquake and Tsunami, along with a donation drive.

Altar for the victims of the Earthquake and Tsunami victims

Altar for the victims of the Earthquake and Tsunami victims 2

Mom lighting up an incense for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund

Location:Jalan 20/13,Petaling Jaya,Malaysia

Friday, April 01, 2011

Tan Chui Mui's YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER (Berkelana) press screening

I went to the press screening of Tan Chui Mui's sophomore feature YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER last night, which was held outdoors at the fields of Sri Petaling school.

Guests at the press conference were (aside from Mui the director): James Lee the executive producer, Liew Seng Tat the producer, Azman Hassan the Actor, Azmyl Yunor the composer and
Pete Teo who served as sound designer, etc.

Azmyl Yunor performed a song prior to the screening.

Asst director Fei Ling (bottom left) was busy as usual.

Tan Chui Mui's YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER press screening

Mui and Seng Tat the producer gave a short speech.

Tan Chui Mui's YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER press screening 2

The film then started screening. It was an interesting experience, to have an outdoor screening. Reminded me of the closing screenings at the Pusan (now Busan) International Film Festivals.

Tan Chui Mui's YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER press screening 3

Speaking of Busan, that's where I first saw YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER. I personally liked it more than Mui's debut film LOVE CONQUERS ALL (more than 4 years ago, before I became an actual filmmaker and was writing film reviews for this blog, I wrote something about LOVE CONQUERS ALL here), especially the cinematography from the first half was quite nice.
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