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My Short Films

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nationalistic Pride?

I returned to Tokyo 3 nights ago and resumed my usual quiet, solitary lifestyle, kinda like Colonel Aureliano Buendía during the twilight of his years.

The original intention was to cut myself away from the world for the next few weeks as I dive into writing. When it comes to writing screenplays, I usually go through intensive researches.

These are the periods of time when I would be drowning myself into all sorts of films, music or novels that I think could help me with my inspiration. (Since I got back 3 nights ago, I finished the Margaret Atwood anthology 'WILDERNESS TIPS' that I bought 5-6 years ago in Perth, then I went through the discography of Shiina Ringo, who recently converted me into a fan, I watched Sono Sion's STRANGE CIRCUS, and Mika Ninagawa's SAKURAN because Shiina Ringo served as Music Director and I loved the OST album. I also watched the first episode of the anime HOUSE OF FIVE LEAVES.)

Then I would go through Wikipedia, reading up things that I needed to read about, then I would go through other links related to the same subject, and then more, through a labyrinth of information, until I end up wondering what I was researching for in the first place. Today I read about the Malayan Emergency that lasted from 1948 to 1960, then I read about the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation from 1963 to 1966, followed by 1987's Operation Lalang, I then tried looking through ancient folklores of my own country and revisited the Si Tenggang folk tale (it's about a poor sailor who sneaks off into a trading ship, becomes rich, marries a princess, owns his own galleon, goes back to his hometown but is too ashamed of humble origins and refuses to recognize his own mother. Old mama was pissed, curses him, when he sets sail, he turns into stone)

I think my history teachers from secondary school would've been proud of me.

Anyway, as I read about Si Tenggang, I stumble upon a 2003 interview with Malaysia's leading poet Muhammad Haji Salleh.

Muhammad Haji Salleh


The poet had a poem told through Si Tenggang's point of view that was meant as a metaphor of one moving away from his own cultural roots. This poem is a compulsory read in English classes for all secondary school students in Malaysia. (the poem is included in the link to the review)

What struck me was the following line by Muhammad Haji Salleh.

I have lived in many countries - Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, the U.S., England, Holland and Germany. These countries, their literary cultures, languages have seeped into my natural desire to get the best out of them. At the same time, being for a long time a foreigner, I had to always define myself – not only in ethnic terms, but as a citizen of a bigger world. One does not appreciate one’s uniqueness when one lives in the home country. But, when one lives somewhere else, especially in the former colonial countries, one searches hard for one’s uniqueness, difference, and possible contribution to the world. These are the more colourful aspects of the culture that one wears on one clothes, words and ways. They are one’s best sides to show off – or at least as a statement of identity.

I have always been traveling a lot since I was a child. I remember how annoyed I would get in a foreign country when someone told me they don't know where Malaysia was. In fact, it was quite a common occurrence then, during the early 90s, during my visits at the United States and Europe. (dad liked bringing the family along during his business trips) It was being in a different country that I would find myself speaking up for this little-known place called Malaysia.

In fact, until this very day, I get very irritable when Chinese people react in surprise by the fact that I could speak Mandarin.

There were conversations like this during my trip in Shanghai:

Me: Here's my business card. I'm from Malaysia.
Someone: Wow! But you have a Chinese name?
Me: (obvious scowl) Yes, because there are Chinese people in Malaysia too.

Me: Hi, I'm Edmund Yeo, a director from Malaysia.
Someone: Wow, you can speak Mandarin too?
Me: Yes, although we all live in treehouses, some of us are linguistic experts. Very cunning linguists.

Someone: OMG! You speak Mandarin!
Me: Yes, you ARE aware that there ARE Chinese people outside China, right?


Yes, I overreact, and was mostly being neurotic. I wonder whether there was a cure for neuroses.

When asked why is it so important to define oneself and find one's own roots. Whether it had anything to do with Malaysia's colonial experience or the post-colonial situation, Muhammad Haji Salleh answered:

"I think you have put your finger on two of the most important points. Firstly, as a colonised people, we were a conquered people, our land and ways were looked down as inferior. Our language was replaced. Our traditional works were not taught in school, and our civilisation put on ice.
It is also quite ironic that I was awaken to feelings of anti-colonialism in England, in the US, and also the Netherlands. In these countries, you find a greater freedom to think and act compared to what was granted to us when we were under them. Here people were almost equal, at least, or more equal. Here too voices against colonialism and repression were allowed and heard.
While in Malaysia I was taught that the greatest literature was English, but in England itself, through English I discovered other literatures as great – those of the Chinese, Indians, Japanese, and without prejudice, literature in the Malay-Indonesian languages. But, at the same time I was enthralled by the experiments of the Latin Americans, writers such as Borges, Neruda, Paz and Valenzuela. In England and western countries, I was dismantling the colonial superstructure built through colonial education in my mind and emotions. It was then I felt free and all the richer because I have crossed borders and found great literatures from less known countries. Ironically, I could do this because I knew English and could read the English translations."

I have to say that the same thing happened to me when I was in Australia. Vague feelings of anti-colonialism, and a newfound curiousness to discover other literature. I picked up a minor in English Literature (to combat the dryness of studying commerce for my Major), and found myself stumbling upon the works of Calvino, Eco, Thomas Mann, Kawabata, Murakami, Marquez etc. Literature from all over the world. Prior to that my only interest were in the sci-fi/ fantasy genre!

I felt disturbed too, when fellow Malaysian course mates were still gripped by feelings of colonialism when studying abroad. This twisted form of inferiority complex that made them believe in some sort of racial superiority.

Someone: Wow, look at them, these gwailos have such high production values in their works! We cannot compare at all! We cannot do what they're doing.

Me: Big deal. They cannot do what WE are doing too. (meanwhile, I thought: jeez, you're sure doing a great job boosting my morale)


My retort fell on deaf ears.

When I was on the plane back to Tokyo, I sat next to an Indian man who is working as a lecturer. He started chatting with me. We talked about films.

"Ah, so you do films!" He said. "Have you..."

"Seen Bollywood films?" I laughed. "Yup, a few. And yes, I knew you were going to ask me that. This is why I respect you guys. You guys are nationalistic, most Indian guys I meet, they always ask me whether I've seen any Bollywood films. I can definitely say that it is almost impossible for a Malaysian dude to ask whether you've seen our films, our literature, listened to our music etc."

Sadly, even I myself couldn't escape this. I did tell him a little about Malaysian Independent Cinema, but instead of enlightening him with the poems of Muhammad Haji Salleh, all I could do was to express my own enthusiasm towards the works of Rabindranath Tagore, and also the majesty of the Indian epic Mahabharata. I wondered whether I was another Si Tenggang as well.

-------------------

UPDATED (30th of June, 2011):

Having been gone most of this month, and now that I have returned to Tokyo, I haven't really been able to keep up with news back home.

So I was oblivious to Unggun Bersih, the new poem by another national laureate A Samad Said until commentator Dreamer Idiot mentioned it:



Unggun-bersih

Semakin lara kita didera bara -
kita laungkan juga pesan merdeka:
Demokrasi sebenderang mentari
sehasrat hajat semurni harga diri.

Lama resah kita – demokrasi luka;
lama duka kita – demokrasi lara.
Demokrasi yang angkuh, kita cemuhi;
suara bebas yang utuh, kita idami!

Dua abad lalu Sam Adams berseru:
(di Boston dijirus teh ke laut biru):
Tak diperlu gempita sorak yang gebu,
diperlu hanya unggun api yang syahdu.

Kini menyalalah unggun sakti itu;
kini merebaklah nyala unggun itu.

The Bersih Fire
(translation)

As the coals that molest us rage higher
we shout still the message of Merdeka
for democracy as bright as the sun
as pure as dignity our purpose is one

Deep is our worry – as democracy’s wounds
long is our sadness – as democracy’s woes
at arrogant democracy we scorn
for a strong free voice we dream

Two centuries ago Sam Adams decreed
in Boston was tea poured into blue seas
no need for riotous shouts full of ire
only for a truly heartfelt fire

Alight now the sacred fire
spread afar raging higher.

Clean Bonfire
(another translation)

Abused by embers, we're all getting ill -
to call out to the message of independence,
We manage still democracy,
as brilliant as the sun yearning for the desire of sincere self-regard.

We've long been restless - democracy is wounded;
we've long been wounded - democracy is ill.
A supercilious democracy, disgusted us;
A strong voice of liberty, we desired!

Two centuries ago, Samuel Adams exclaimed
(in Boston where tea was poured into the blue sea):
We don't need a loud fluffy cheerleading
What we need is just an eminent bonfire.

Let's light up that sacred bonfire;
Let's spread out that sacred flame.



You can listen to Samad's June 9th poem recital here.

Oh, by the way, two days ago, he was hauled off by the cops for questioning because the poem was 'seditious'.

Yup, poems are now a national security threat.

Viva la democracy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Korean movie LATE BLOSSOM left me a blubbering wreck

Me: I'm glad I wear sunglasses in the plane. I was watching this Korean film, LATE BLOSSOM (그대를 사랑합니다), during the flight and it made me cry like a little girl. Jeez.

Late Blossom


Me: It's this bittersweet love story with two pairs of old people, I hate watching old people being miserable and stuff. One even has Alzheimer's!


Music video


Me: It was ridiculous, towards the second half of the film, I was tearing up almost every single scene... I felt violated. Good thing the woman sitting next to me didn't notice.

Mom: You sure you weren't crying because you didn't come back with an award from Shanghai Film Fest?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Asian New Talent 2011 Award Ceremony

Yup, got back from Shanghai last night.

The Asian New Talent Award Competition was established in 2004 by the Shanghai International Film Festival for Asian filmmakers making their first or second film, kinda like Pusan's NEW CURRENTS competition, or Rotterdam's Tiger Awards.

The award ceremony was held on the 17th of June. (here are the results)

9 films were in competition this year. Iwai Shunji was the jury president, others in the jury were HK director Alex Law, Film Business Asia critic Derek Elley, Chinese actor Xia Yu and Taiwanese actress Guey Lun Mei.

It was only four years ago when I gushed over BLUE GATE CROSSING, a 2002 Taiwanese film. I was mesmerized by the lyrical beauty and subtlety of its simple love story, amazed by the performance of its lead, Guey Lun Mei, who was then some schoolgirl plucked off the streets to make her film debut (I think). Of course, after gaining wider recognition by pretty much stealing the entire show in Jay Chou's SECRET (2007), she had continued pulling off one memorable performance after another (the most recent being last year's STOOL PIGEON).

Filipino filmmaker Sheron Deyoc, Taiwanese actress Guey Lun Mei and me


Four years ago felt like a different life. It was amusing to read again that back then I watched BLUE GATE CROSSING because I was pondering over ideas for my supposed debut short film, which I ended up not making. (I made CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY almost a year later)

My friend Sheron Deyoc, whom I first met in Pusan International Film Festival last October, and again in Tokyo International Film Festival a week after that, had his film HALAW: WAYS OF THE SEA in competition at the Asian New Talent.

Asian New Talent Award ceremony 2011


He, along with the other 8 directors, were invited on the stage to talk about their films.


Video


2 out of the 3 awards went to Japanese films!

The jury prize went to Naoki Hashimoto's BIRTHRIGHT.

Naoki Hashimoto receives Jury Prix for "Birth Right"


I remember the film mostly because it made its world premiere in Tokyo Film Fest last year, and I got to meet the lead actress Sayoko Oho 於保佐代子. She was very nice and attended the INHALATION and TIGER FACTORY screenings, and I wanted so much to check her film too, but I never had the chance. It was good that I finally caught the film in Shanghai, and her performance was pretty compelling. And I'm not saying this because she went to my screenings.


BIRTHRIGHT trailer


The Best Feature film went to Kobayashi Shotaro's KAASAN MOM'S LIFE (Mainichi Kaasan). (I would later catch the film 2 days later on the flight back from Shanghai... which left me a blubbering wreck in the end... but that's a story for another post).

Shoutarou Kobayashi wins Best Feature Film Award for "Kaasan Mom's Life"


When I first read its synopsis, my instant thought was "Manga artist dealing with an alcoholic husband? Reminds me of WALKING HOME (Yoi ga sametara, uchi ni kaerô' that starred Asano Tadanobu and Hiromi Nagasaku that was also shown in the Tokyo International Film Festival last year".

I would later realize that both films came from the same source material, Reiko Saibara's award-winning autobiographical manga (or rather, WALKING HOME was based on her husband Yutaka Kamoshida's book, hence that film focused more on the husband, while KAASAN MOM'S LIFE was more about Saibara herself). Having seen KAASAN, I'm curious about WALKING HOME.


KAASAN MOM'S LIFE trailer


WALKING HOME trailer


Best Director went to Teng Yung Shing for RETURN TICKETS.

Teng Yung Shing from Taiwan for BEST DIRECTOR ("Return Tickets")


Alas, I cannot find the trailer for this film.

Group photo.

Asian New Talent Award ceremony group photo


Headed off to the after party.

Met the Chinese actress Meng Li for the very first time. She was one of the ten actor and actresses to receive an Asian New Talent award. One day after graduating from the Shanghai Acting Academy. Good job.

With Chinese actress  and famed model Meng Li


Then there was also singer/ actress Joanna Dong, who also picked up an Asian New Talent award for her performance in my friend Wee Lilin's film FOREVER.

With Singaporean singer/actress Joanna Dong


During the award ceremony, Joanna Dong did a dual-language cover of the song SO NICE. Very nice. I immediately thought of Apichatpong's BLISSFULLY YOURS.


Video

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mobile SIFF Award Ceremony. Bye, Shanghai!

UPDATED (20th June, 2011): Added more of my thoughts about the film fest.

With Derrick Lui at the Mobile SIFF Award ceremony


I just got back from the Mobile SIFF awards ceremony, a new section of the Shanghai International Film Fest to replace the previous short film section.

The guy standing next to me in the photo is my friend, Singaporean filmmaker Derrick Lui, whom I last met at Shenzhen's China Mobile Film Fest in Dec 2009. Back then he competed with the short film COLOURS, while I was in competition for KINGYO and LOVE SUICIDES (which picked up a Best Director award then).

It's quite a coincidence that during that festival almost two years ago, I was in the midst of preparing for a short. I returned from Shenzhen and shot the short almost immediately. That short turned out to be EXHALATION, which was nominated for best dramatic short in Shanghai this year. (while Derrick is here with his new documentary short)

The ceremony, like the Asian New Talent award ceremony the night before, (will post about it next time) was held in Jumeirah Himalayas hotel. Very lavish.

Jumeirah Himalayas


The trailers for all competition shorts were played before the ceremony started. Naturally, I snapped photos when they started showing EXHALATION's.

Exhalation trailer playing at Mobile SIFF award ceremony

Exhalation trailer playing at Mobile SIFF award ceremony 2

Exhalation trailer playing at Mobile SIFF award ceremony 3

Signing my name at the Mobile SFF


Anyway, I didn't pick up any award for EXHALATION this time, nonetheless being in this Fest was an invaluable experience.

Tsui Hark was the president of the jury. I met and took a photo with him at Dubai Film Fest 2008. That was amazing, but the idea that a guy whose films I grew up watching had managed to catch one of my short films is quite a different, and astounding, experience.

Tsui Hark


A number of people were there, like Iwai Shunji (photo ruined by the flash photography around us, gah)

Meeting him at Shanghai International Film Festival had been quite a surreal experience. To think that just 13 years ago, I was a 14 year old teenager smitten with LOVE LETTER, and was telling friends and family to about it, was lending out my VCD to these people. To think that just 6 years ago, I was a university student in Perth finally getting a chance to see ALL ABOUT LILY-CHOU CHOU, a film that showcased digital cinematography at its finest, how much had I myself been influence by his works? I cannot even fathom.

Even my short film that was in competition, EXHALATION, made use of visual motifs that I had once seen in his films.

With Shunji Iwai 岩井俊二


And actress Meng Li 孟丽, whom I met last night at the Asian New Talent award ceremony. She was one of the 10 actors to receive an Asian New Talent award.

With the actress Meng Li 孟丽


So this will be my last post about the Shanghai Film Fest before I return tomorrow. (i will post about the amazing Asian New Talent award when i return, or my half day trip at Yuyuan Garden) The past week was fun, meeting so many people, making so many new friends, reconnecting with so many old friends. The common passion we share for film is a constant source of inspiration. I wish I will carry this feeling back home with me and conjure a new film.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER in Shanghai

Back on Sunday, 12th of June, which was my second day in Shanghai. I went to the WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER screening. I was accompanied by an old friend of mine, Joey, who used to study in Tokyo and whom I met in Japanese Language classes 3 years ago. She graduated this year in March and had since returned to her hometown in Shanghai.

Thankfully she came to support the screening. Took a photo with her and the two girls who were involved in controlling the electronic subtitles during the screenings. They liked the sceneries captured in WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER so much that they really wanted to come to Malaysia.



Watching WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER with audiences from China was a funny experience. When the film began, someone exclaimed loudly in Cantonese, and in surprise: "the characters are conversing in Cantonese!!!"

And later:

"Wow, they are now conversing in Mandarin!!"

The fact that there are Malaysian Chinese, and that we speak Chinese dialects had always been a little known fact among some people from China. In Japan, I have met many Chinese people who reacted in shock when I introduce myself as a Malaysian and then proceed to speak to them in Mandarin. This also happened in film festivals when I met Chinese filmmakers.

Although I'm proud of our multilingual skills, I do feel a little self-conscious when showing our Malaysian-Chinese films to audiences from China. It feels like showing a Manglish film to British or American audiences?

At the same time, we preserve the way we speak in Mandarin because this is what makes us unique anyway. I'll be damned if we start forcing our actors to start speaking with a Beijing accent... (although there IS a little incident during the WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER shoot... Oh never mind)

WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER was shot 2 years ago. March 2009. Just shortly after I completed KINGYO.

It felt like an eternity ago, like a different life. That was before Venice, before Exhalation, before Inhalation, before the awards, before Cannes, before THE TIGER FACTORY... Before so many things.

I grimaced at some mistakes I made with the editing back then with WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, I mentally re-edited the film, wondering how I would have done it now.

I'm glad I grimaced. That means that I won't have delusions that my past works were perfect. That means I can still be critical of what I did in the past .

I look at my past with nostalgia, but I try not to dwell upon it. Otherwise there is no room to improve, no room to grow. People who speak proudly of stuff they did years and years ago depress me a little.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Conversations between Iwai Shunji and Tan Chui Mui

Shunji Iwai and Tan Chui Mui video conversation


An early phone call from Malaysian filmmaker Tan Chui Mui woke me up this morning. It was 7 in the morning, her assistant passed me stuff before I came to Shanghai so I could pass it to her.

So I met her 20 minutes later for breakfast. She told me she was going to have an interview of sorts for Japanese filmmaker Iwai Shunji's official website.

Like many of my Japanese film lovers of my generation, I was captivated by his works like LOVE LETTER (still a personal all-time favourite) and ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU during my youth. I fell in love with LOVE LETTER when I was 13, that was 14 years ago, and my love never wavered. It was through his influences that I make my films that some have considered visually poetic and sensitive.

Thus I followed Mui along for their meeting.

Waiting for the shoot to begin


The interview was held in Iwai Shunji's hotel room, with the help of his two assistants Aki and Kai.

Aki prepping Mui

Examining the audio device

Preparing the Iwai / Tan Chui Mui conversation

Mui STILL waiting for the shoot to start


The video conversation lasted for more than an hour, with Iwai asking Mui about Malaysia, its film industry, her own childhood, and how she got into filmmaking.

Mui was a self-taught filmmaker who was at the forefront of the Malaysian New Wave with the likes of Amir Muhammad, James Lee, Ho Yuhang, Woo Ming Jin, the late Yasmin Ahmad etc. during the production of Amir's THE BIG DURIAN.

Because she wasn't formally trained, she believed that the best way to learn was to constantly make films. Back in 2008, after the sheer success of LOVE CONQUERS ALL, her debut feature that won in both Pusan and Rotterdam Film Festivals, she decided to make one short film a month. This lasted for 7 months, the collection of shorts were regarded as ALL MY FAILED ATTEMPTS. One of the shorts EVERYDAY EVERYDAY won the grand prix at Clermont-Ferrand 2008.

I had always agreed with her notion. That's why I tried to be as prolific as I could, though instead of doing a short every month, I could only average one short every 2-3 months since 2008 (well... if I weren't producing and editing two features in this span of time, and flying to a film Fest every other month, I MIGHT work faster)

Iwai pointed out that he had similar background with Mui. When he joined a filmmaking club in university, he was the only one making films (I can relate), it was his method to educate himself as well. Instead of focusing only in directing, he likes all aspects of filmmaking, writing his own scripts, composing his own score etc. A filmmaker worked better if he is familiar with all aspects of filmmaking.

Iwai then went into a sports analogy that as a baseball player, one should learn various positions. Just like how aspiring doctors are taught everything in general at medical school before finding their own specialty. Iwai believes that it is ' good to start with directing and editing as they are the fundamentals of filmmaking'. Hence their experiences in early days are similar.

Since making her sophomore feature THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER, Mui had moved to Beijing (she said that 'in the 1920s, artists moved to Paris, in the 1970s, artists moved to New York. And now, Beijing had become the place for artists to go...') and everyday, she had been posting short stories on her Weibo account, the Chinese Twitter without fail.

The process of writing A YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER was difficult, so she needed to ensure that she would have such a writing exercise daily. It was difficult at first, but it had became gradually easier. As making stories on a daily basis had became easier, it would make it easier to write her next screenplays. Everything becomes easier when you constantly try.

I cling to this belief too. That there is no point improving if you don't even attempt to make more films. I always disagreed with friends and acquaintances of mine without any prior filmmaking experience that they could churn out masterpiece without any single attempt at practicing. The world is never fair, but not when it comes to such situations.

Iwai provided an anecdote from his high school days. During art classes, his teacher gave out tiny pieces of paper and tell students to draw something everyday at home. Sketching. Doodling. The art must NOT make sense.

He did that over and over again, it was his homework. A practice of abstract art.

In the end of the semester, he told students to show their works, one by one.

"Did you notice that everyone is getting better day by day?" The teacher asked.

They were.

The Dallas Mavericks had proven it clearly yesterday... There's no shortcut when it comes to winning NBA championships.

UPDATED (June 20, 2011): I later posted this on Weibo (the Chinese Twitter, because the real Twitter's blocked in China!).

"今天一大早跟着@陈翠梅微小说 去她与@岩井俊二 的对谈。 听着他们俩的过去,工作及创作方式, 我自己也突然很想立刻写新剧本, 立刻拍新作品。 电影节的魅力对我而言并非走红地毯, 而是从别的电影人们中寻找回我对拍片的执着及热诚。 是时间开始筹备长片了"

(translation: Went with Tan Chui Mui to a video conversation between her and Iwai Shunji. As I listened to their pasts, their works, their creative methods, I find myself suddenly wanting to write a new script, to immediately shoot a new film. The real appeal of film festivals, to me, isn't about walking the red carpet, but to find within other film people my own passion for filmmaking. It's time to start preparing for my feature film.)

Location:Fahuazhen Rd,Shanghai,China

Monday, June 13, 2011

Feng Xiaogang - John Woo Masterclass

12th of June. Second day in Shanghai. I attended half of the John Woo - Feng Xiaogang Masterclass where both filmmaking heavyweights dissect and analyze the 8 projects of the CFPC (China Film Pitch and Catch) of the Shanghai Market.



What I remember most was something John Woo said. He commented how most young filmmakers and arthouse ones are very into casting amateurs and non-professionals in their films to preserve some authenticity and purity of their story, since some things are really hard to be replicated. It also helps to minimize budget.

However, he asked these filmmakers to consider the possibility of casting name cast members for their projects if opportunity arises. After all, why not try to allow your own works to reach a wider audience? Why not aim higher? Aim bigger? Great actors all around the world are waiting for a good script anyway...

Location:Zunyi Rd,Shanghai,China

My first day at the Shanghai International Film Festival 2011

So, here I am. Having spent two nights in Shanghai. I'm deprived of Facebook and Twitter and also Blogger. I'm now using the BlogPress app on iPhone to post, not sure whether it will work properly amidst the Great Firewall.

11th of June. I arrived at Shanghai just in time for the opening ceremony of the film festival. It was raining heavily and people walked through the red carpet holding umbrellas.

The ceremony was held in this nice hall.










It was a star studded affair. I spotted Fan Bingbing, Jeon Ji Hyun, Lee Bingbing, Guey Lun Mei (jury duties), Zhang Jingchu (jury duties), Kazue Fukiishi, Lau Ching Wan, Kelly Lin, Angelababy etc.

There were even Hollywood folks like Matt Dillon and Susan Sarandon. Susan Sarandon was there to pick up her lifetime achievement award.



When the ceremony ended, I headed off for dinner with Film Biz Asia's Stephen Kremin, Thai director Yuthlert Sippapak ("Saturday Killer" and "Friday Killer", both playing in the Fest, the latter making its world premiere and in competition) and his wife.



The noodles I had was very yummy.



Then we were at the Bona party for a while.



Hong Kong actress Michelle Yeh brushed past me and was led to the VIP room. I remembered she is starring in a short film that is also in competition like my EXHALATION.

I then headed back to the hotel, too weary after the flight.

Location:Zunyi Rd,Shanghai,China

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Heading off to the Shanghai International Film Festival 2011

I'm now at the Starbucks in KL International Airport, waiting for another half an hour to board the flight to Shanghai.

I'll be attending the Shanghai International Film Festival where both my short film EXHALATION, and the Woo Ming Jin-directed film WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, are making their Chinese premieres. (the former is in competition under their inaugural Mobile Shorts category, where Hong Kong director Tsui Hark is going to be jury president, along with Jia Zhangke muse Zhao Tao and Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr)


EXHALATION trailer


WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER trailer


This also means that I will NOT have any access to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc.

Very fun indeed.

However, you can still follow my exploits (albeit in Mandarin) at Weibo.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Film shoot of a Danish-Malaysian co-production 2

After going through the first three days of the shoot from the 3rd to the 5th of June (chronicled yesterday). We all knew that the worst was over. It was an exhausting shoot, insanely high temperature, merciless mosquitoes, seasickness, unpredictable conditions and the like. Filmmaking, some should remember, is a high-stress job that involves a lot of dealing with people, especially if you are shooting under circumstances where you need the cooperation from the locals at the locations of your shoot.

6th of June came. This was scheduled to be the last day of the shoot.

Fern the lead actress drew a caricature of me.

It's not everyday you have the lead actress of a film you're doing drawing a caricature of yourself.

Fern's caricature of me


There was no need to wake up that early like previous days. Call time was in the afternoon.

The scenes were shot in the mangrove swamp.

Shooting in the mangrove again

Fern searching for stuff under the tree

Shooting a scene in the mangrove forest

Fern searching for stuff in the Mangrove tree

A scene in the mangrove forest

The supporting players in the Mangrove scene


Here's a video of us in action.



Once we were done with that, we headed off to the nearby village for another scene. Supposedly the last scene of the day.

Fern's shirt was so wet, we had to dry it on the way to the village. Here's how we did it.

Trying to dry a shirt


With the help of the folks in the village, we were finally done.

Group photo of the film crew and villagers who helped us


Baby Ira wasn't happy that it ended so soon.

Me and Baby Ira


We then left the village.

Idyllic evening in the village


I returned to the apartment and went through an editing session with Jeppe and Ming Jin. (prior to that, I was assembling and editing the footage every night after the shoot) We decided scenes we needed to add, stuff we left out etc. The process lasted til 3 in the morning.

We slept and woke up the next day to do a few additional shots.

Because of some conditions, the audio equipment occasionally acting up and stuff, there were some scenes that needed ADR (dubbing), or foleying. So we went to a lagoon to make our own sound effects. The sound of water splashing, people jumping into the sea, people swimming, an intense fighting scene etc. We did it all like this.

Foley session

Foley session 3

Foley session 2


It ended in the evening.

After the foley session


With everything done, we packed hurriedly and left Cherating that night.

It was one of the more grueling shoots I've went through. Like life, there are a lot of ups and downs, but thankfully, there are much more ups than downs. The film will be good, anything less than that will be failure.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Film shoot of a Danish-Malaysian co-production

I was at Cherating in the past week for the film shoot of the tentatively-titled GIRL X (or GIRL IN THE WATER), a Danish-Malaysian co-production co-directed by my regular collaborator, Malaysian filmmaker Woo Ming Jin, and the Danish filmmaker Jeppe Ronde. (you might remember from here and here that I was doing some location scouting two weeks ago)

We even imported the Thai actress Sajee "FERN" Apiwong (last seen in Aditya Assarat's HI-SO) to do the main role. It was a short film, but it was a short film with sky-high ambition. After all, I wouldn't involve myself in anything less than awesome anyway.

Tuesday. 1st of June. Jeppe arrived in Malaysia at night.

Wednesday. 2nd of June. Ming Jin, Jeppe and I picked up Fern and her friend So from the airport before heading straight to Cherating.

After a looooong 4-hour car ride, we reached the location, and immediately we headed off to check out the spots.

Ming Jin and Jeppe checking location

A hut

Ming Jin and Jeppe checking the mangrove


The mangrove swamp looked rather beautiful in the evening.

Mangrove forest during sun


Video


Thursday, 3rd of June. The call time was 6:30am. I looked outside the guest apartment we were staying in.

Sunrise at Sanctuary Resort


By 7am. We were preparing to shoot our first scene with Fern and Tony (who plays Fern's employer).

Before shooting the first scene

Shooting the first scene!


When I saw Ming Jin prepping Fern...

Ming Jin prepping Fern


I cannot help but have a brief flashback to THE TIGER FACTORY shoot 14 months ago.

Spraying water


I was so young then.

We couldn't get any audio guy to help us with the shoot, so I had to be the one doing the sound. I had never actually touched a boom mic in my life, so you can see that the expression on my face was really a grimace and not a smile.

Me, Jeppe


Very joyful, me. (I would later complain that having me as the audio guy was akin to having Lionel Messi be a goalkeeper. Being that short, the ball will most certainly sail past him at most times!)

I was the audio guy


We made Fern search for trash.

Fern looking for trash


Kenny, who was the cinematographer of my short film INHALATION, and also the sound dude/ production manager/ associate producer guy for my last short LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, was the assistant cameraman in this production.

Fern and Kenny the AC

Fern and Kenny


This is baby Ira. 7 months old.

She was the second lead of the film.

Baby Ira

Fern and Baby Ira


Saturday. 4th of June. We shot mostly in a mangrove forest.

We were doing a bonfire scene with Iwann, one of the locals in the Cherating area. 15 years old, but supremely photogenic and talented.

Fern and Iwann


At night we visited Pak Mat, who owned a drink stall by the forest. He had a pet monkey.

Pak Mat and his pet monkey


He had a pet monkey that drank milk from a bottle.

Pak Mat's pet monkey drinks milk


Sunday. 5th of June. My cousin Siang Woo was having a wedding.

I woke up with the rest of the gang at 4:30am and headed to the beach at 5am.

There was a boat scene with the rising sun.

I was stranded on another boat recording the sound of the sun.


Video

Listening to the sound of the sun!


I was alone on the boat for an hour. Watching the sunrise. My mind scattered to many different directions at once. I pondered the meaning of life. I thought about fascism. I thought about achieving utopia via totalitarian methods. I thought about crying for love in the center of the world.

I got off the boat.

Moments later, the rest of the cast and crew came back on their boat as well.

Another scene was shot.

A familiar sight

Girl in the water


We then went to the middle of the sea for a scene. Ming Jin, being the only certified lifeguard around, jumped into the water with Fern.

Ming Jin doing lifeguard stuff


The life vest, alas, made him seasick.

I was on the boat, the constant bobbing overwhelmed me with nausea, I found myself too weak to grab hold of the boom mic sometimes. All my life, I never experienced seasick, how odd to finally experienced it.

... experiencing it three times in a single day.
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