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Monday, November 21, 2011

Off to Taipei for the Golden Horse Film & TV Film Project Promotion (FTPP)

It's 6:07am while I'm writing this. In a few hours, I will be hopping onto a bus to Narita Airport and catch the flight to Taipei for the Golden Horse Film & TV Film Project Promotion (FTTP), a project market similar to the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) in March, or the Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF) in July.

Characteristic of me, I have yet to sleep at all. I guess I wanted a better sleep in the plane.

I'm shopping a feature film project of mine called REINCARNATED DREAMS OF DEER, which I've spent the last few months in seclusion trying to write (aside from the span of time during Tokyo Film Festival, I was really just writing this screenplay since I came back to Tokyo in September). If everything comes together, this would become my debut feature-length film.

Back in March, I was shopping a different project around at HAF in Hong Kong called IMPERMANENCE, which was something I wrote after attending the Torino Film Lab last year. (you may remember me attending these workshops at Bratislava last March, Brest/ Brignogan last July and Torino last November, which was filled with beautiful photos that I took)

I had only attended Project Markets as a producer (accompanying Ming Jin's projects), so being in Torino exactly a year ago, and then HAF, were invaluable experiences for me.

Therefore I spent the entire Sunday trying to prepare some materials that I have to bring to Taipei with me. I remember the nightmare I had in Hong Kong, when my constantly unreliable laptop died right before I went for the trip. It also died when I was in Torino. It was very difficult for me then. I still shudder at the memories.

Lying right before me now are a pair of DVDs. One contains a collection of works I did beginning from KINGYO to the current EXHALATION/ INHALATION pair. The other is my upcoming LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER. I had to say that my DVD design skills isn't too shabby!

I spent the day making DVDs of some obscure filmmaker. Flying off to Taipei tomorrow


Aside from a brief rain, it was a nice Sunday afternoon.

The golden tree leaves seemed more golden than I last noticed.

Golden leaves at Waseda


Scattered all over the ground, and whirling about whenever there was a breeze.

Dead leaves covering the ground. A little melancholic?


The last time I went to Taipei was a family trip in October 2007. Four years ago felt so different, I had yet to make a single short film, I had yet to move to Tokyo, I had yet to see the films of Edward Yang that would influence me so much now.

A business trip is different, but I still look forward to being able to have some nice Taiwanese food, enjoy its 24-hour bookshop, soak in the city.

Also, having spent half of my life watching the Golden Horse Awards (Chinese equivalent of Oscars) on TV, I'm a little curious how the ceremony is like when you attend it in person (which I'm doing on the 26th).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Yurakucho Winter Illumination

Was at Yurakucho just now for dinner when I ran into a huge crowd, and saw a group of women singing on a makeshift stage. I realized that it was the opening ceremony for the Winter Illumination.

Singing performance during winter illumination


Sadly, the iPhone doesn't really work too well with night photography, so I was incapable of capturing the beauty of the night decoration in Yurakucho.

Winter illumination at Yurakucho


Besides, I was rushing to meet up with people so I couldn't stay around to take more photos.

Since I rarely go to Yurakucho except during Tokyo Filmex, it never ceases to amaze me. Its feel is different from the likes of Shinjuku or Shibuya.

Speaking of Tokyo Filmex, it's beginning tomorrow, but for the second straight year, I won't be able to make it. (going to Taipei on Monday, was at Torino last year). It's a shame, I had caught many good films in 2008 and 2009.

Here's a video of people singing on the stage.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy birthday, Mom. She has a fan-made music video (not done by me)!

Today (November 17th) is my Mom's birthday.

That's her during Mother's Day.

Mom during Mother's Day dinner 2011


These are albums of hers during her singing days before she married Dad.

Dug out old records of mom (she was a singer before marriage) to use as film props


This was an April 2011 special feature by Malaysian Chinese newspaper China Press where they interviewed me and Mom (sorry, in Chinese only), which basically focuses on how she ended up raising, horrors of horrors, a filmmaker. (she and Dad did numerous film marathons when pregnant)

It seems that her birthday is pointed out every year on this blog, even though I didn't notice it.

Last year, I noted that her birthday (and a few of my dear cousins) occur in successive days. (the parallels between this year and last year were striking. Last year, a week before her birthday, I suffered an epic food poisoning. This year, a week before her birthday, I had a rather bad flu. Last year, on the days leading up to her birthday, I was rushing on a feature-length script for a pitching session at Torino. This year, on the days leading up to her birthday, I was once again rushing on a feature-length script for a pitching session at Taipei. Both cities start with 'T')

Two years ago, I talked about how Mom endorsed an Organic restaurant (it's not everyday you walk into a restaurant and see newspaper clipping of your own mom framed on the wall).

Mom seriously endorses Organic Recipe restaurant


Three years ago, I posted numerous videos of my mom, including a rare video interview that I managed to dig out by accident.

This year, again, I managed to dig out a recently-uploaded fan video of one of my mom's songs.



Happy birthday Mom.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jimbocho, treasure trove for book lovers!

When I went to Jimbocho almost two weeks ago, towards the end of the Tokyo Film Festival. A book festival was being held, so there were numerous stalls at the streets, selling books.

3 years in Tokyo and I only visit Jimbocho for the 1st time ever. Travesty!

Lots of book lovers in Jimbocho. Wow, I don't feel weird anymore


It was blissful experience, being in such a place. It was unbelievable that after more than 3 years in Tokyo, this was the first time I've visited Jimbocho, definitely a treasure trove for book lovers!

Using CNNGO's THE LAST ENGLISH BOOKSTORES IN JIMBOCHO article as my guide. I ended up at the famed 100-year old Kitazawa Bookstore (it's been around since 1902), and bought a number of books for around 1700 yen!

Bought these books at Kitazawa Bookshop, Jimbocho, for  around 1700 yen!


As I held on to Harold Pinter's unproduced screenplay adaptation of Marcel Proust's IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME (earlier translated as REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST, which I preferred more), I found my own memories scattering to the past again.

6 years ago when I was in Perth, a guy named Vicks (not his real name, but sounds close enough) stepped into my apartment, looked around, and remarked that I looked like someone who wasn't into reading (nor writing). That was only the second time I met the guy, and he came to my place while tagging along with a friend of mine. I was momentarily outraged, wondering who he was to make such bold assumptions considering that I was doing a minor in English Literature (out of passion for literature), harboured dreams of publishing a novel (out of passion for writing) and had a shelf of novels in my room (collecting novels had been a lifelong thing) that was right in front of his face.

I pointed at the shelf of novels.

He said that his shelf was bigger.

I pointed out that I was doing a minor in English literature.

He said that it was 'merely a minor'.

And he then promised me that he would start recommending books to me that could make me write like a professional (like him).

I was momentarily repulsed, it's not everyday that you have someone march into your room, come up to your face and points out that you are semi-literate.

A few months later, Vicks ended up in the hospital because he circumcised himself with circumcising tools that he bought from a dodgy Korean dealer.

We Malaysians have quite a sense of humour. Growing up in secondary school, aside from having people make fun of me for having an oversized head, a supposedly large mouth ("you are an IBM, International Big Mouth, teehee!" was one of the more creative insults I heard when I was 13) puffy pouty lips (gorilla-esque, they said, Angelina Jolie-esque, I thought), I was also made fun of for always burying my head in my sci-fi/ fantasy books.

Now, having people joke of your physical shortcomings isn't a big deal, kids were kids. Why bear grudges, right? You have be an very sensitive (artistic!) individual to still remember all this, and write about this on your blog more than a decade later... oh, wait.

But one thing that bothered me a lot during my secondary school days, was the fact that it was illegal to bring a novel to school. Prefects were asked to confiscate novels, whatever novels they saw. At first I thought it was merely harlequin/ Mills and Boons romance that were being banned, but turned out that novels in general weren't allowed too.

So a couple of times, while reading a book quietly during recess, I would have some prefect snatch the book away from me.

"It's just a book!" I protested.
"It's fiction." The prefect shrugged.

The prefect ran off. And I would have to go home and write a letter (in my parents' names) to get my book back.

So, having people make fun of my physical shortcomings is one thing, to be PUNISHED for loving literature was another. I felt that I was living in the dystopian world of FAHRENHEIT 451, where the school's role wasn't to cultivate any love for the arts and culture, but merely to make students perform well academically. Clearly that wasn't what the Malaysian education system is about, right? Right? Oh, wait.

Meanwhile, girls flocked to the 'cool' kids. Meanwhile a birthday present I gave a girl was rejected (or rather, she passed it to my class monitor, my class monitor insensitively returned it to me in front of the entire class. Well, at least my classmates were mostly sympathetic of my plight).

I digress again. I was visiting Jimbocho with the smash hit Taiwanese film YOU'RE THE APPLE OF MY EYE by Giddens Ko still fresh in my mind. (one of my favourite films from this year's very stellar Tokyo Film Fest), hence I allowed myself to indulge upon memories of my own high school and university.



High school is joyful... when you're the hero in the story. Not me.
University was fine... when you don't run into people who circumcised themselves with cheap circumcision tools and end up in hospitals.

I returned to Jimbocho again a few days later with my dad. My dad was visiting Tokyo during the film festival, and it was his last day here.

With dad at Jimbocho. He's leaving Tokyo tomorrow


The Disk Union in Jimbocho, apparently, was a great place for him to look for CDs, and as he was doing that, I walked past a few of the stalls at the streets again. Picking up numerous books. I then saw a stall that seemed to specialize mostly in Nabokov books.

When I flipped through one of his biographies, I saw an old newspaper cutting kept between the pages, folded nicely, and already turned yellow due to age. It was his obituary from 1977.

Bought Andrew Field's book on Nabokov at Jimbocho. It comes with old Japanese newspaper obituary on him! 500 yen


I bought the book. It was only 500 yen!

Two months ago, the death of Borders made me reminisce about my childhood experience hanging out in the mega stores . But then, maybe the book business is really going full circle, from small-village bookshops to big-box bookshops, then back again. Just like those the small, old bookshops that populate Jimbocho. It's a comforting thought.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

'LADYBIRD'S TEARS' by Kong Pahurak wins award at Sichuan TV Festival

zhu dan in Ladybird's Tears


You probably don't remember Ladybird's Tears, an experimental short film directed and narrated by Kong Pahurak (who was one of the two cinematographers of LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, my last short). I've only mentioned it once, last year in April, before it made its world premiere at the Singapore Film Fest 2010.

In January 2010, while editing EXHALATION (... argh, I thought I wouldn't be talking about it again), i saw the footage of Kong's unfinished sci-fi short film starring my friend Zhu Dan (pictured above), and decided to salvage it by rewriting and editing the thing. I rearranged the narrative, Kong and I then had some major brainstorming sessions, together we wrote his voiceover narration (I wrote in English, he translated it to Thai), it became a somewhat meta-film about a filmmaker ruminating over an unfinished sci-fi short film. It felt like a jamming session that took us a few days to complete (or was it a week?).

Two days ago, Kong received an email notification from the 2011 (11th) Sichuan TV Festival that Ladybird's Tears had won a Special Jury Award for Experimental Film. I think neither of us can make our way to the award ceremony next week to pick up the award, I'll be curious to see how the trophy will look like. I'm happy that Kong's film is getting some recognition!

Here is a mini-review of Ladybird's Tears (along with my Love Suicides and Kingyo) at Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal.

EXHALATION (and MAGIC AND LOSS) begins theatrical run in Cinema Rosa, Ikebukuro

Tokyo Film Festival 2011 ended exactly a week ago, but I continued promoting EXHALATION with Kiki.

Just two days after Tokyo Film Fest's closing ceremony, on the evening of November 1st, Kiki and I presented EXHALATION to a group of students at a class in Waseda University taught by WINDS OF ASIA director Kenji Ishizaka. (a year ago, I presented LOVE SUICIDES and INHALATION to the same class).

It was fun!

Kiki and I, after EXHALATION screening and Q&A session
(looks like a presidential candidate photo, no?)


A few hours after that, I got sick. Struck down by a bad cold while I was swiftly editing a video message for my high school's 10th anniversary reunion dinner that I myself wasn't attending. I guess the non-stop activities at TIFF had taken its toll.

Luckily, I recovered yesterday, just in time for the first day of EXHALATION's limited theatrical run at Cinema Rosa in Ikebukuro. (Actually, EXHALATION, being a 21-minute short film, is merely opening for the feature film MAGIC AND LOSS by Lim Kah Wai, but please, allow me to indulge myself for a while!)

MAGIC AND LOSS (and EXHALATION) begins theatrical run


MAGIC AND LOSS trailer


((For the schedule of post-screening Q and A sessions, please check the Cinema Rosa website (Japanese only). Kiki and/or director Lim Kah Wai will appear on the 9th, 12th and 18th of November.))

So, there I was, before the very first screening of EXHALATION (and MAGIC AND LOSS), with Kiki, greeting the audiences. Shin Hayasaka the cinematographer was there, and I made sure everyone knew that because my film would never had worked without his cinematography.

Kiki and I saying hi to audiences before screening

Kiki and I saying hi to audiences before screening 2


When it ended, I sneaked into the last row of the theater to watch a little bit of my own film on the big screen. The experience was just like a film festival screening, but without the clapping when the end credits started rolling.

I left and walked back to my place alone. It was raining a little, and I listened to the melancholic songs of Lisa Ekdahl's SINGS SALVADORE POE album on my iPhone. I couldn't help but feel a little wistful, when the realization that a short film that I directed was actually having a limited theatrical run in Japan. It was a little surreal. The first time that something I myself directed would actually play in the cinemas.

The EXHALATION shoot felt so long ago, as if it was from another lifetime. It was December 2009, the last few days of the year. (production photos here, here and here) It was shot before 2010's TIGER FACTORY, before my other shorts INHALATION and NOW (the 1-minute short film I made for Prada), before this year's LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, before GIRL IN THE WATER (the Danish-Malaysian co-production I produced and edited in June, which is actually premiering at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival 2011 in a few hours).

The film was left in the can for more than a year before it finally made its world premiere at the Dubai Film Festival last December. Since then, I felt as if I've been talking quite a bit about this little short film of mine, isn't it? With this theatrical run in Ikebukuro, and later in Osaka, I know that its festival run is coming to an end, what a journey EXHALATION has had. Rotterdam, Jeonju, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Curtas Vila Du Conde... I was in every single festival screening aside from the one in Curtas Vila Du Conde (in Portugal), even the famous film critic Jean-Michel Frodon, former editor-in-chief of Cahiers Du Cinema, had screened the short film at a Parisian Cafe. What more can I ask for?

(Considering that just a year ago, I was fretting over whether EXHALATION would ever see the light of the day.)

I think this post will be the last I speak of EXHALATION. Time for me to move on, time for me to share my subsequent works with all of you. At this very moment that I'm writing this blog post, I am in my editing room, editing some new project. At the end of the month, I will be going to Taipei for the Golden Horse project market to shop my feature film project around. By next month, a new short film of mine will be making its world premiere at a film festival. You don't want to hear about EXHALATION anymore, I don't want to talk about EXHALATION any more either.

I never believe in clinging on to past glories, to be self-congratulatory over something that happened in the distant past. That would be much to sad to comprehend.

The joy of filmmaking is mostly in the process for me, of connecting with a group of like-minded people, and also this great sense of accomplishment upon the film's completion, then there's slight relief and comfort that audiences were able to connect emotionally with my little efforts of artistic self-expression. Just ten years ago, I was this fat weirdo nerd boy who went around in my high school, asking people to read pages of my (never-finished) fantasy novel, usually in vain. Just five years ago, I was a fat weirdo student going around the university student village in Perth, asking people to watch birthday party videos that I shot and edited with my camcorder, usually in vain. The rejections, which were usually the majority, had always been stinging, despite being understandable (people have better things to do). I rather just move on, and continue creating more. If my works can stand the test of time, I will be happy, but I rather believe that my next film will always be my best, therefore that is why I keep on creating. Just to learn from my mistakes and continue improving.

Therefore, this is all I have to say about EXHALATION on this blog.

Thank you very much to the cast and crew of the film for being part of this wonderful journey.


EXHALATION trailer 1


EXHALATION trailer 2

Waseda Festival 2011

It's Sunday. Thought it would be a nice and quiet day for me to head to the editing lab and continue editing my top secret one-minute long epic project.

When I woke up, I finished watching the first episode of Torchwood that I dozed off watching the night before (nothing to do with the quality of the show, I was tired). There was a power outage at my place scheduled from 10am to 3pm, figured it was a good time to leave once the power went out.

I walked past Waseda University, I realized that Waseda Festival 2011 was ongoing. The place was utterly crowded. I forgot that the festival was happening throughout the weekend, not just one single day.

「早稲田祭2011」  It's Wasedasai 2011

「早稲田祭2011」  I forgot that Wasedasai was ongoing

「早稲田祭2011」  Wasedasai crowd


I wrote about the festival in 2009 and 2010. In 2010, a maid interviewed me.

With Tao Sha (in maid costume!)


This year, there were still people in costumes.

「早稲田祭2011」 Explosive dream lab?

「早稲田祭2011」 Manga Research Club people

「早稲田祭2011」 More Manga Research Club people


A hot Korean model Kim Young-A was scheduled to make an appearance.

「早稲田祭2011」 Kim Young-A the model makes an appearance


Very festive indeed.

「早稲田祭2011」 People in front of Shigenobu Okuma statue

「早稲田祭2011」 Stage performance

「早稲田祭2011」 Stage performance 2


A group of buff, muscular men walked past me. Part of the Mr Waseda Bodybuilding contest.

「早稲田祭2011」 Mr Waseda


And on, and on.

「早稲田祭2011」 Juggler

「早稲田祭2011」 Down the stairs, to Waseda University
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