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My Short Films

Friday, July 27, 2012

The old TVB dramas were really quite awesome

"Wouldn't it be cool if you were to direct a TVB drama series?"

This was something my friend said a few years ago, when I was still dreaming of a filmmaking career. At that time, I wasn't sure about my path as a filmmaker, but one thing's for sure, Hong Kong's TVB was, and is, definitely held in reverence by the Malaysian Chinese community. In fact, I would say that our very culture and fabric of existence are much influenced by Hong Kong, from its films to its TV dramas and to its pop culture, while Mainland China and Taiwan remained rather distant for us.

(It wasn't until the appearance of Astro when we were introduced to Taiwanese variety shows)

So yes, like most, I grew up with TVB drama. My late grandmother watched it all the time, so did my mom, and my aunts. TVB drama series were often topics of conversations in primary school, where a group of students would just gather together and discuss about the intense happenings of an episode from the night before.

Many great Hong Kong film directors of today used to work in TVB. Names like Johnnie To, Wong Kar Wai, Ann Hui, Wong Jing, Patrick Tam and many others. So are the A-list actors and actresses of today, who either went to TVB's acting classes (Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Chow Yun Fat, Lau Ching Wan, Andy Lau, Francis Ng, Stephen Chow, Louis Koo), or were contestants of TVB's Miss Hong Kong Pageant (Maggie Cheung, Cherie Chung, Michelle Reis, Anita Yuen). I used to remember watching some of these people on TVB serials before they became big movie stars. I guess that's how most people would remember the TVB drama series of the past, with fondness and nostalgia.

The reason why I started writing this blog entry was because The Golden Rock's Kevin Ma just posted a 25-minute TVB short film "To Murder Father" by Patrick Tam on Facebook this morning. The 1977 short film also marked the acting debut of the actress Idy Chen, who was only 17 that year. This is the film, sorry, it's only in Cantonese with Chinese subtitles. But I have a feeling you don't need to really understand the dialogue to appreciate it. (UPDATED: Video's been taken down.)

I was actually quite awed by the short, aside from it being shot on film, stylistically, it sure seemed light years away from the TVB series that had been appearing on my TV nowadays. The shot compositions were impeccable (Antonioni's films came to mind), and there were numerous long tracking shots that reminded me of Tarkovsky's films. The subject matter was pretty bleak, yet filled with subtlety. Much unlike the countless expositions I'm used to seeing in the TVB dramas of recent years.

But this blog post isn't exactly meant as a dissing of the TVB dramas of today. After all, now that everything's more profit-driven, people would rather give audiences what they want. I can only accept this with resignation.

Back when I was 10. The iconic TVB drama THE GREED OF MAN was finally aired on TV. This was the series that introduced me to the greatness of Lau Ching Wan (I admire this actor so much that I even wrote an ode to him few months ago). 40 episodes that spanned from 1970s to 1990s Hong Kong, following two generations of two feuding families. It had a large cast with countless characters, and it was intense because it actually started with the Big Bad (Adam Cheng) trying to commit suicide with his sons by jumping off the stock exchange market building. Meanwhile, the hero (Lau Ching Wan) poured red wine into glasses placed in front of the photos of his deceased parents and younger sisters, telling them that he had avenged their deaths.

The beginning is actually the end, the hero flashbacks to the past, beginning with the story of his father in the 70s.

It was absolutely novelistic in terms of scope. I cannot even describe it. It's like the Godfather 2 of TVB drama.

But I can share with you the first 3 minutes of the first episode.



Watching the footage again, I suddenly realized that the music was lifted from the Bernardo Bertolucci's THE SHELTERING SKY (which came out two years before the series) theme song composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto.



... hmm...

Even if I put that aside, I can still say that this is one seriously intense drama. Here's 12-minute video featuring some of the most emotionally intense (the word "intense" had appeared many times, I really cannot think of another word) scenes from THE GREED OF MAN.



There's even a scene where Lau Ching Wan proposed to Yuen Mui (Vivian Chow) with eight rings. EIGHT!



A bit more than ten years after I watched the series, I actually bought a VCD box set of THE GREED OF MAN and revisit it again. Still rather brilliant.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mom and Dad were on the newspapers

In the past month, both my mom and my dad were featured on the papers.

Dad and the actor Steve Yap were in a Father's Day special for Nanyang Siang Pau newspaper last month, on the 17th of June, 2012.

Dad and Steve Yap on Nanyang newspaper. June 17th 2012. 男人有泪轻弹, 南洋商报。


Basically dad and Steve Yap were paired up for this feature because they are both dads. Dad had been a dad for almost half of his life, while Steve Yap just became a dad less than two years ago.

So through the article, as they speak about their relationships with their kids, we see that most dads are the same.

Dad and Steve agreed that the days where dads have to educate their kids via spanking and smacking have long ended, they are both liberal dads who would rather just hang out with their kids instead of being authoritarian.

They finally speak about moments when they teared up over their kids. Steve remembered the birth of his daughter, dad spoke about seeing me going onstage to receive an award at an international film fest for the very first time (I assume he was referring to Pusan Film Fest two years ago since the photo in the article was of us at the festival)

It wasn't just about me, Dad mentioned too that he realized my perpetually child-like (physically, not mentally, look at her face) sister had grown up when she first went off to Perth few years ago.

It's a great article. You can read the full article here. (in Chinese only)

As for Mom, she had a nice profile of her on Guang Ming newspaper last week, on the 18th of July, 2012.

Mom on Guang Ming newspaper. 18th July 2012. 戚舜琴 从歌手转主妇到办杂志 逍遥自在 光明日报


Mom's article has yet to be posted on Guangming's website.

But here's my brief summary in English.

Mom had gone through different stages in life. In each of them, she would give her very best. Because she could get tired of something she was doing, she would change to doing something else, starting from zero, facing new challenges, pretty much being a chameleon.

First section is about how she became a singer by competing in Bintang RTM. After releasing the albums, she married dad (brief description of what dad did back in the day, how they met, etc), facing new challenges in the kitchen after moving to Singapore with dad. She stopped singing and became a full-time housewife.

In the second section, article describes how as a full-time housewife, she managed to raise me and my sister. (brief description of who I was, mentioned the Azusa Ono Memorial award I received last year from Waseda University)

Second 3. Started Fu Bao magazine and life as magazine publisher in 2000. Stopped the magazine late last year. Surprisingly, her life as a publisher lasted longer than as a singer.

There are then brief descriptions of the trips of sacred places that she had taken in India and China these days.


(I'll post the dad/ Steve Yap article below, will update it with Mom's when I can)



男儿有泪轻弹
副刊 优生活 2012-06-17 14:11


两位父亲,影评人杨剑和演员叶良财,一老一少,他初为人父,他为父半辈子。两个不同年代的父亲,看似没有交集,当谈起儿女经,却不止一次提到因为感动、高兴,而流下的眼泪。

“你没记住的,我会记下来。”
(你生命的一部分,自己来不及记忆的部分,可以保留在我这里,不会消失不会遗落。——杨照)


杨剑:杨
叶良财:叶

叶 :女儿的一切最珍贵!现在她未满两岁,每天都在改变……第一次剪头发、第一次走路,她的每个第一次我都会用相机或录影机记录下来。

杨:孩子成长的每个阶段,对父母来说都是刻骨铭心的。孩子小时,相机和录音机不普遍,反而是太太常带儿子到录音室探班,对儿子的回忆都记录在当时录制的歌曲里,印象深刻的是黄露仪的《Casablanca》,每次重听,当时的情景就一一重播。

叶 :现代父母较幸运,打开手机便能拍照、录音了,女儿的第一次我都来得及记录,再把相片制成音乐录音,每次看都很感动……什么感觉又再涌上心头了。我相信每个男人当爸爸后,都会感动落泪,可能不是嚎啕大哭,但总会热泪盈眶……(杨剑在旁频点头)

杨:是啊!一辈子都忘不了他们的出现。儿子是在新加坡出世的,当时我在新加坡宝丽金工作,身边一个亲人都没有,只有我陪太太到医院,虽然手忙脚乱,可是看到儿子后,一切有他就好了。

叶 :就是这种感觉(他拼命点头!)。孩子是我的,我现在是爸爸,呀!多激动。现在我和太太还觉得是在梦里,原本我们已放弃生孩子的希望,也计划好退休后的生活,女儿突然报到!让我们喜出望外!

杨:嗯……(两位父亲都感如身受)。还有,儿子和我一样都爱电影,我可以和他结伴四处参加影展,那是很难得的事。我和儿子谈电影,和女儿谈书本,有好戏好书都一同分享,与孩子拥有共同的兴趣,让人开心!

叶 :女儿还小,不过我发现她跟我一样喜欢户外活动,我带她游泳,她很享受,但太太不会游泳,所以游泳是我和她的二人美好时光(好像独享女儿了呵~~。)

“你尽管去闯荡,我会是那最忠实的支持者。”
(你渐渐会发现,当你一人独行的时候,会变得更聪明;当你离开父母的时候,才知道父母多么成为你的依靠、你的盼望。是的,年轻人!崎岖而黑暗的道路,将使你真正地成熟!——刘墉)

聆听的沟通时代


杨:孩子慢慢长大,要开始学会Let go(放手),那是做父亲最困难的时刻,放手其实牵涉了许多复杂的情感,我是一直到儿子获得奖学金前往日本念电影,才发现他长大了,懂得利用自己的努力去争取机会,虽然不舍得他离开,却也为他的独立感到安慰。

叶 :做父亲的难免会为孩子操心,我也担心她将来叛逆、学坏、担心有一天她跑来跟我说她怀孕了……唉,不能想这么多,现在要做的是教导她。等她再大一些,我看我也要学会Let go了。

杨:其实我对儿女的期待很简单,关于他们前途、未来,只要对自己做的事情投入、努力那就好。

叶 :我同意,父母对子女的期待其实都很简单,对于女儿,我最大的期待是希望她活得开心、健康,EQ高,其他的都不重要。

杨:是啊,我相信只要家里有爱,你给孩子健康的成长家庭环境,孩子是不会学坏的。孩子感受到家里的爱,凡是便会以家为依归。

常说我爱你

叶 :从前父亲的教育观念是“打是疼,骂是爱”,从不用嘴巴说爱,现在时代不同,我会跟女儿亲嘴,跟她说我爱她,我希望能一直跟女儿保持这样的亲密关系。

杨:那种“凡事必须听我的”父权时代已经完了啦!现在是“你尝试听我说”的父子沟通时代。

叶 :加上资讯发达,你若告诉孩子“打是疼,骂是爱”,他们上互联网一看,哇!发现不是这样的,你想看,他会怎样想?

杨:所以我赞成“教育”才是关键。父亲应腾出多些时间给孩子,陪他们看书、谈话,让他们感觉父母和孩子是心贴心的。要孩子愿意跟你相处,做父亲的首先别摆出一副高高在上的样子。

叶 :时代改变,做父亲也跟要跟着改变。我的父亲对哥哥姐姐是打骂教育,但对我却是沟通教育。他只打过我三次,最严重的那次我还离家出走!但只是出走几个小,也不是跑去哪儿,只是躲在家门前的沟渠里,哈哈哈……那次也是最后一次被父亲打。

“我没敢对你说的事”
(我生怕到了你坐在我膝头上的那个时刻,我已然不会有勇气向你透露:自由的失落、惩罚的折磨、囚禁的永恒以及命运的巨大……诸如此类的想法,因为对一个孩子来说,它们听起来像是诅咒,将倏忽从角落中掩扑而来。而我们没有能力预见。
——张大春)

为儿女流泪别惊讶!


杨:当儿子的短片第一次在影展获奖、上台拿奖时,台下的我心里很激动,眼泪就在眶内打转,此时感觉他还是小学时那个小男孩,过去的片段又回来。

With Dad, after the Pusan International film Fest closing ceremony


叶 :或许当了爸爸我也感性了?很多时候女儿的举动都让我莫名地忍不住落泪,每每想到她出生时的情景,又是忍不住眼湿湿,哈……。

杨:不管儿子多大,我还是以为他们还小。几年前女儿要到澳洲念书,送她去机场时,惊觉女儿已长得亭亭玉立了,好像一夜长大,看到她的变化,我的眼泪差点就要夺眶而出。

叶 :像我四哥这么开朗的一个人,当他嫁女儿时,也哭得很厉害啊!我从没看她哭过,但是他两次嫁女儿,两次都哭到像‘猪头’一样,哈哈,父亲为儿女流泪真的别惊讶!

杨:可能男人比较含蓄,很多心事只有自己知道,很多压力只能自己承受,不向他人透露。父亲很多事情你不知道,我跟你保证,很多时候你的父亲看着你,可能就在背后偷偷流泪,只是你不知道而已!

叶 :绝对是。没有男人有泪不轻弹,在很多情况下,男人也是会掉泪的,尤其是父亲!

后记:男人和父亲的分别

聆听两个名男人谈他们的孩子,其实是有趣的。这时,他们不是男人,更不是名人,他们只是父亲。
父亲不需要男人的自大、不需要男人的酷劲儿、不需要男人的孩子气,不需要名气。他们尽管去爱孩子,就是最好的父亲。爱孩子,让他们学会承担,学会放手,学会分享,也学会适时掉泪。

父亲,不是普通男人。

【杨剑 】
•儿子杨毅恒,28岁;女儿杨善茹23岁
•权威影评人、前宝丽金唱片公司执行董事

让孩子感受父爱:
“爱是一种感觉,无需做其他表现,顺其自然地关心孩子,他们能感受到你的爱。”杨剑在孩子还小时,因为工作关系需要四处跑动,但无论身在多远,他都不忘给孩子拨通电话,或寄一张明信片,让孩子感受到与父亲同在。
父爱无时无刻。只要你愿意倾听他,他都会说。

【叶良才(Steve Yap) 】
•女儿叶昕,1岁10个月
•本地著名演员兼模特儿

代沟不是问题:
“别相信代沟会破坏你和父亲的关系,那只是借口。”当上父亲,叶良财明白,代沟不是年龄问题,是态度问题。“我父亲和我最好,但我们俩年龄差距最大。”
家有11名兄弟姐妹,叶良财排行老幺,与父亲相差50岁,却是和父亲互动最多的孩子。回忆当年与父亲从士拉央乘搭迷你巴士到金河广场走街、吃饭、看戏的日子,说当时不懂父亲,如今自己当上父亲,回想那段岁月,才懂感动。

报道:周季鋺 /摄影:戴桐源 【父亲节一:爸爸的眼泪!】

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grandmother's Funeral

(My dear grandmother had just passed away. Since then, I received many kind messages from friends around the world expressing their condolences, they have my utmost gratitude. The next few posts in this blog will be about my grandma. Because I needed to remember.)

A photo trip through memory lane with my Grandmother.

Letters to my Grandmother




A week has passed since Grandma died. I have shared with you my memories of her, and also the letters that we have written to her before her funeral, now I try to chronicle the funeral itself.

On the two nights before the funeral, she was placed to rest in the house that she had lived in for nearly 20 years, so that friends and family could come and pay their last respects.

Grandmother


Like I have mentioned before, Grandma was survived by 9 children, 22 grandsons, 2 godchildren, 6 god-grandchildren, countless friends. The amount of people who came were huge. It was loud, boisterous and strangely festive. I found myself thinking of certain funeral scenes from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. Perhaps it was because of the big family, perhaps because it was also during these two nights that I found out Marquez is suffering from the same condition that my Grandma had prior to her death, perhaps my earlier observation that the Latin American culture and our own have quite a few similarities was right.

I looked around at my uncles and aunts, my cousins, many of them I have known all my life. We were all mourning for Grandma, but at the same time, I knew we were celebrating her life. Often, I could see these family members from my mother's side either during Chinese New Year (where we would all gather at Grandma's house) or her birthdays. Most of us live in different parts of Malaysia, some, like me, are based in different countries. In my heart, I knew that I always loved them.

The two nights before grandma's funeral


Liu Yang Yang, a friend of mine from China, upon hearing the news, told me this. "Over here in China, when the deceased left peacefully of old age, with all her children, grandchildren to celebrate his or her long full life, we call this "Xi Sang 喜丧" (it is translated literally as "joyful mourning", or a "happy funeral", where red lanterns are used)."

"Xi Sang. A good word. Then this is a Xi Sang indeed." I agreed.

In each of these two nights, there were three recital sessions for the children and grandchildren of my grandmother, and we would recite those Buddhist prayers to honour her.

Reciting Buddhist prayers for Grandma


The prayers were led by monks and a group of volunteers. I am very grateful towards them.

The monks and volunteers leading the prayers


After the prayers, we lined up to offer joss sticks to Grandma.

Offering joss sticks for grandma


The funeral was held on the morning of 17th July 2012.







After the casket was sealed. We prepared for the funeral procession.

Just before grandma's funeral


The procession started from her house and through First Garden (the neighbourhood Grandma had lived in almost all her life), somehow, we were following the route that Grandma used to take everyday when she was walking to the nearby market.

And through a stroke of fate and coincidence, the procession went past an older house that my grandmother used to stay with my grandfather, along with their children. It was the house from my mother's youth.

Grandma's funeral procession had ended up retracing the route of my grandfather's, who died exactly thirty years earlier.







We all got onto buses that took us to a crematorium. When we were there, we said our last farewells to her. There were more solemn Buddhist recitals before we placed a small piece of wood before Grandma's casket.

As this was happening, two other caskets arrived with their mourners, they had their ceremonies too, both were starkly different from ours. One was led by a man in Taoist costume, his chants were accompanied by the extravagant sounds of cymbals. Meanwhile, the other group of mourners had talismans tied to bamboo leaves as they stood before the photo of the deceased. I assumed it was also a Taoist ceremony, but I might be wrong.

Their ceremonies were only beginning as we left the crematorium.

After that, we had a huge vegetarian feast. There were five to six tables for us. Lots of joy and laughter as we remembered Grandma.

Having a vegetarian feast after the funeral


When we returned to Grandma's home, we all had to wash our hands and face with a bucket of water filled with flowers. In the house, we were given a kind of Chinese cake and sweet lychee drink.

Returning to grandma's home after her funeral


Realizing that this was the first time I returned to Grandma's house without her with us anymore. I looked up, past the roof, and at the clear afternoon sky.

The afternoon sky after grandma's funeral


The vivid sapphire blueness of the sky reminded me of the many Chinese New Years I have spent in her house.

Just moments ago, while I was typing this, my mom walked into the room, she had just woken up from a nap.

"I had a dream of mother. She was handing out ang pows to the kids." She said, referring to the tiny red envelopes handed out during Chinese New Year. And then, mom smiled.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Letters to my Grandmother

(My dear grandmother had just passed away. Since then, I received many kind messages from friends around the world expressing their condolences, they have my utmost gratitude. The next few posts in this blog will be about my grandma. Because I needed to remember. Here's a photo trip through memory lane with my Grandmother.)



On the day before her funeral, my cousins and I decided to each write a letter to Grandmother and paste it on the wall next to her casket.




Letters to grandma


A letter from Cousin Mun Yoong and his wife, along with 2 year old Adrian. Adrian is Grandma's eldest great-grandson.



Letters to Grandma by Cousin Mun Yoong and his wife, along with their son Adrian (grandma's eldest great grandson)


My translation:

I'm not your smartest nor your most obedient grandson, not even the most handsome. Yet in my heart you are the most important to me. I will always remember every Sunday when you bring me to the Pasar (market) for grocery shopping, or coming out to defend me whenever dad was about to spank me, just to prevent me from the pain. Each of these memories felt just like yesterday, and they will remain within the vault of my memories forever. My love and respect for you will not diminish at all as I will keep you within my heart. I wish that once you are in Nirvana, you can see us, your children and grandchildren, and continue smiling.

From Mun Yoong



***


I love you. Great-grandma.

From Adrian

***


Although we have only spent a few short years together, your passing had filled me with a lot of sorrow. As I recited my prayers for you, I believe you have followed the great Buddha to Nirvana, accepting his wisdom and his teachings, bathed in the light of his blessing. Free from the coils of mortality and the painful cycle of life. To know that you are in good hands allow us a lot of comfort, I will always remember your smile.

From Vivian (wife of Mun Yoong)

Letters from Cousin Mun Kin and his wife, and Cousin Carmen.



Letters to grandma by Cousin Mun Kin (and wife) and Cousin Carmen


My translations:


Dear Grandma,

There is nothing more painful than losing a family member. The love you have given me, every single drop of it, I will pass it to the following generations.

From Mun Kin and Wife (Chriz)



***


Dear Grandma,

Amitabha. I believe you are now at Nirvana, watching us with a smile. What you have left us are countless valuable memories and happiness. You will always be my role model.

From Carmen

Letters from Cousins Foo Keong, Pui Kuan and Foo Seng.



Letters to grandma by Cousin Foo Keong, Cousin Pui Kuan and Cousin Foo Seng


Since Foo Keong and Foo Seng both wrote in English, I'll translate Pui Kuan's part only.


Grandma,

To me you were like a magician, conjuring endless joy, surprises and tears for us all. And also taught me invaluable lessons of life. I will always remember this.

From Pui Kuan

From Cousins Jun Xiong and Jun Qi.



Letters to grandma by Cousins Jun Xiong and Jun Qi


My translation:

Dear Grandma,

I believe you are on your journey to Nirvana.
All my life, you were my only grandmother I knew. My impressions of your loving concern are deep. Right now, I find it difficult to let you go.
This tiny paper isn't enough to contain everything I want to say to you, you will always live in my heart.

From Jun Xiong



***


Dear Grandma,

The memories that are spinning before me now aren't that many, but each of them is precious. I will always remember you. I love you, rest in peace.

From Jun Qi

Letters from Cousins Sheng Jie, Sheng Fei and Wen Xin.



Letters to grandma by Cousins Sheng Jie, Sheng Fei and Wen Xin


My translation:


To my beloved grandma,

Please go on your journey without any worries. We will take care of ourselves. Just put aside your doubts. You will always live in our hearts. Safe journey.

From Sheng Jie



***


To my beloved grandma,

What you have left for us are beautiful memories. Memories burnt deeply into my mind. Safe journey.

From Sheng Fei

***


To my beloved grandma,

Your kind smile will always leave a print within my heart. Grandma, I will always miss you, safe journey.

From Wen Xin

Letters from Cousins Lip Pin, Yang, Tseng Qhi and Jade.



Letter to grandma by Cousins Lip Pin, Yang, Tseng Qhi and Jade


Letters from Cousins Fung Ming and Hing Yip.



Letters to grandma by Cousins Fung Ming and Hing Yip


My translation:

(Cousin Fung Ming's letter is a poem of sorts)

Dear Grandma,

Your passing had filled our hearts with pain,
Memories shared together forever I retain,
Loving you, thinking of you, missing you.

From Fung Ming



***


Dear Grandma,

Your passing had caused my heart to struggle with agony. I am sad because you have left us. But happy that you are liberated too. I will bury your joyous smile within my heart. I wish, in our next lives, I can still be your grandchild.
Goodbye, Grandma!

From Hing Yip

From Cousins Kian Tat and Kian Lap (we usually call these two brothers Kampolo and Nganpolo, which means "Golden Pineapple" and "Silver Pineapple"



Letters to grandma by Cousins Kian Tat and Kian Lap


Kian Tat's one is a traditional Chinese poem, it's difficult for me to translate. I'll try.


Grandmother and Grandchild now walk opposite directions,
Be it in the sky or on mortal land I still love you,
Watching the moon brings me tears,
But as you return home in 3 nights, our hearts remain as one.

From Kian Tat



***


Dear Grandma,

I love you. Have a safe journey.

From Kian Lap

A letter from Cousin Raymond.



Letter to grandma by cousin Raymond


A letter from my house helper, Susan. Susan had been with us for almost 20 years, so she's like part of family, and naturally, my grandmother was family to her as well.



Letters to grandma by Susan


And finally, one particular letter I wanted to single out was Ani's. Ani is an Indonesian girl who had been taking care of my grandmother in the last 3 years of her life. As her Alzheimer's had gotten progressively worse, Ani remained by her side without fail. I have nothing but gratitude towards what Ani had done for my grandmother. Even in my grandmother's last few days, Ani had slept in the hospital too to accompany her.

This is a letter by Ani, written in Indonesian and then translated to Chinese.



Letter to grandma by Ani


My translation:

SAFE JOURNEY, POPOH

I hope you are now standing beside the Lord and being blessed. I will always remember you no matter what. I love you, popoh, I love you. Whenever I miss you, I will think of the times when we are together in this house. I remember your smile.

Safe journey,
Ani

Finally, letters from my sister and I.



Letters to grandma by my sister and I


My translation of my sister's letter and mine:



Dear Grandma,

All is beyond words.

Sandra



***


Dear Grandma,

Don't forget the friends and family who had loved you, because we won't forget you at all. Safe journey.

Edmund

On the day of her funeral, before we went to the crematorium with Grandma. Cousin Carmen and Ani burned those letters, hoping that these words will go with Grandma as well.



Burning a letter to Grandmother

Cousin Carmen and Ani burning the letters to Grandmother

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A photo trip through memory lane with my grandmother

(My dear grandmother had just passed away. Since then, I received many kind messages from friends around the world expressing their condolences, they have my utmost gratitude. The next few posts in this blog will be about my grandma. Because I needed to remember.)



On the night of 14th July, 2012, my Po Po, maternal grandmother, passed away peacefully in her house. She would have turned 80 this October. All 28 years of my life, she was the only grandparent I knew.

She is survived by nine children, twenty-two grandchildren, one great-grandchild (with one more on the way), two godchildren and six god-grandsons.

It wasn't unexpected. Grandma was hospitalized a week earlier after some health complications. My mother, sister and I rushed back to Ipoh to visit her, fearing and preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

The last time I saw her was on the evening of 9th of July, Po Po had looked better than the day before, reacting and smiling to those who gathered around her bed. But she could not speak anymore. But at least she looked at me and smiled.

Mom stayed in her hometown to tend to her mother. Two nights later she called Dad telling us that grandma’s condition had worsened. On the following day, Mom called again, saying that grandma wouldn’t be able to make it, it was better for us to hurry back to Ipoh.

Grandma died while we were on the way, my sister announced it when she received my mother’s text message. My father was driving, I was seated next to him, behind were my sister and our two cousins, Kampolo and Ngan polo (their real names are Kian Tat and Kian Lap, but since birth, we have called them "Golden Pineapple" and "Silver Pineapple").

When we reached my grandmother’s home, she was lying on a bed in the middle of the living room. My mother, my uncles and their wives, my aunts and their husbands, my cousins, and other relatives, along with the Indonesian maid who had taken care of my grandmother in the past few months, were all gathered around her. There were two Buddhist monks reciting Buddhist prayers.

The prayers were supposed to last for 8 straight hours. The recitals went on even after the monks had left, among my grandmother’s children, in-laws, and grandchildren. I sat and joined the recitals for 5 hours. By the time it ended most of the family members had arrived, even those who were living abroad.

In those 5 hours I sat before my grandmother, I tried to search and replay my memories of her, through my memory vault of videos and photos. Special and precious ones. But there were too many to single out. She had long been a part of my life.

This was the earliest photo I have of us. Taken in June 1985. I was a little more than a year old.

Grandma and I, June, 1985


Within my iPhone, I still have the very last photo I took of her. March 2011. She was at my living room. Something outside had caught her attention. I never knew what it was.

My Grandmother at my living room. March 2011


While in the car, after we already knew of Grandma's passing, I spoke to dad of an incident that happened in December 2007.

In December 2007, grandma was a victim of snatch theft. There was an overwhelming storm of emotions I had to experience then, it was particularly devastating because just a month earlier, she was with us to celebrate Mom's birthday.

Mom and the guests (grandma, uncle, aunt + cousins) of her 'surprise birthday party'


"I have feared for the worst then. And after Po Po managed to survive that, I just try to regard every extra year she had with us as a blessing." I said.

In my post "My Grandmother's Love", I wrote about the incident in detail, and the aftermath in the hospital. At that time, I was just starting out as a filmmaker.

At 2pm today, mom, my sister, cousin Fung Ming and I had to leave Ipoh.

We couldn't say goodbye to grandmother because we didn't want to cause unnecessary panic for her, so we just entered the room and spoke to her again.

Mom's words to grandmother were comforting, and grandmother just smiled and nodded occasionally. Mom told grandmother that she was in the hospital because she accidentally fell.

I stood beside grandmother again.

"Get well soon, okay, grandma? I'm going to make some new films for you to watch soon once you come to Kuala Lumpur." I said.

Grandmother tried to speak. Her speech was slurred and unclear. But I nodded and grinned.

Then slowly she reached out her hand and brushed her fingers on my stomach.

"I know, I'm getting fatter huh, grandma?" I chuckled.

Grandmother continued to smile.

My chuckle sounded like a croak. For that one brief moment, I found myself blinking back tears.

Shortly after that, on the Chinese New Year of 2008 (I wrote about it in my post, A Bittersweet Return to Ipoh in Chinese New Year 2008), I took a photo with grandma which I think could be our last photo together.

Grandma and me


Since then, it became more common for me to take photos of other people than having people take photos of me.

A photo of grandma and my mom at a prayer ceremony in 2009.

Mom praying with grandma


Or photos of her in Chinese New Year 2010.

With my sister.

Sister talking to grandma


With mom.

Mom gives grandma angpow


With mom and some of her siblings (Big Auntie, 3rd Auntie, 4th Auntie and 3rd Uncle).

Mom with 3 sisters and a brother with grandma

Artistic shot of Grandma


Having lunch at Grandma's dining room.

Mom and grandma talking over lunch

Having lunch in Ipoh


I do remember many things of my Grandmother, especially as I am writing this now and looking through the photos and old writings I had.

Memory is a precious thing.

My grandmother was actually diagnosed with Alzheimer's quite a few years ago, but I already noticed symptoms of it many years before that, when she began showing disturbing signs of forgetfulness.

When I was a child, during those periods of time when grandma was visiting, I would always go out and rent Hong Kong TVB dramas to have TV marathons with her. I cannot even remember the amount of serials we have watched together (she even had to suffer through those anime series that I was watching back then) But when she began to regularly forget about the events of earlier episodes she watched just shortly before, I was more than a little horrified.

The betrayal of memory is such a cruel thing. Towards the last few years of grandma's life, she had lost all traces of her memories of us. Through my anger and sadness I tried to find humour in Grandma's condition, but I couldn't help but feel that even though I have just lost my grandmother, I have, in fact, been losing her for the past few years.

As I've mentioned earlier, the last time I saw her at the hospital, she smiled at me. In my imagination, I try to believe that she could recognize me. It was a comforting thought.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Letter from Byung-lock Min, outgoing festival director of Jeonju Film Fest

Less than a few hours after I received the email from Un-Seong Yoo mentioned in my previous post, I received an email too, from Byung-lock Min, the Jeonju Film Festival director who had resigned last week shortly after he was appointed to head the festival for another term.

I think it is necessary to hear his side of the story as well. But really, in the end, I cannot see who is right or wrong, who wins or loses, maybe for this, everyone loses.

A great film festival is a blessing to cinephiles and casual film lovers, how I wish that Malaysia had a proper film festival culture earlier, a platform for people to discover films that they don't get in multiplexes or in their favourite DVD stalls, allowing opportunities for filmmakers both new and old to share the stage, a platform where the interaction between filmmakers and audiences are often encouraged.

I can only hope that Jeonju Film Fest can continue doing what it had been doing for the public, it's for the greater good.

Dear Edmund Yeo

This is Byung-lock Min, a Festival Director of the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF). There was a meeting of the Board of Directors which was held on June 28th. After extensive discussion and considerable debate on a dismissal of the Programmer, Mr. Un-Seong Yoo and the merits and demerits of my works in the last three-year term, they decided to approve my consecutive terms through a vote.

The deadline of a formal written appeal against the dismissal of the Programmer, Mr. Un-Seong Yoo was June 27th. I was waiting for an appeal letter from him regardless of a decision of the Board of Directors on my consecutive terms, but any appeal letter had not arrived at the Secretariat until 29th of June. Therefore, the dismissal of Mr. Un-Seong Yoo has officially been confirmed. It has been a very difficult time for me and all members of the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) owing to a controversy upon the dismissal of Mr. Un-Seong Yoo, which lasted over one month. If I only think of my personal honor, I would have resigned from a Festival Director long ago. However, I have waited until now for being responsible for the controversy and the evaluation of my judgment by the Board of Directors and solving a problem which I caused.

I have looked at this situation with being disappointed and disconsolate while the honor of my own as well as all members of the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) being suffered and in particular the reputation of the JIFF has been damaged. I firmly believe that the Personnel Committee made no mistake in its judgment on the words, behaviors, and attitudes of Mr. Un-Seong Yoo shown in the meanwhile. While ignoring a formal process for appealing, Mr. Un-Seong Yoo keeps claiming that he is a political scapegoat. He has defamed the reputation of many people who have made lots of efforts for the JIFF as well as the JIFF. Especially since Mr. Un-Seong Yoo has shown a selfish view to prove an injustice of the dismissal after being notified of that, I could be more confident that the Committee made a right decision. Mr. Un-Seong Yoo was dismissed from his post by a careful consideration of the organization not because he said a right thing at the closing press conference but because of an ongoing series of his behaviors and the processes happened. Mr. Un-Seong Yoo has caused many problems in the process of working within the organization. Even though the reasons for his dismissal seem to be irrational depending on the understanding of an individual, these reasons include his faults which repeatedly took place in the meanwhile and the Personnel Committee made a judgment that he deserves a dismissal from his position. In addition, a process of his dismissal was in accordance with the personnel policies of the JIFF. Now that the legitimacy and legality of the dismissal of Mr. Un-Seong Yoo has been fully proved by the judgment of the Board of Directors which decided my consecutive terms, a reinstatement of Mr. Un-Seong Yoo will not be discussed again.

I have finalized all the procedures relating to the dismissal of the Programmer, Mr. Un-Seong Yoo. Now I am about to leave the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) which I have been involved in for ten years. I apologize to the Board of Directors who determines my consecutive terms and all those who supported my reappointment. Since I know for a fact that my consecutive terms will be a burden on the development of the JIFF, I have no choice but to leave the organization. I hope you can understand my decision.

I have carefully read all letters of protest from you. Even though I fully respect every opinion of each of you, I would like to ask for your understanding of his dismissal in a reverent manner since his dismissal was lead through lawful procedures and the reasons for his dismissal were well-grounded. The Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) which you experienced is not an outcome achieved by Mr. Un-Seong Yoo alone. The reputation of the JIFF has resulted from hard works of all members of the organization in difficult circumstances and love and affection of the audiences. Now the Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF), which you have experienced and you are in love with, should start off with a clean slate and maintain the reputation and its identity of the JIFF not having me and Mr. Un-Seong Yoo. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those who have helped, supported, and loved me and the JIFF all the while.

July 2, 2012
Byung-lock Min
Festival Director

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Yoo Un-Seong and the Jeonju International Film Festival

I received an email just now from Yoo Un-Seong, former programmer of the Jeonju International Film Festival in South Korea.

Last month, Un-Seong was dismissed by the film festival. The details of his firing were posted on his blog on the 8th of June.

On the 5th of June (Tuesday), the Jeonju International Film Festival (festival director : Mr. Min Byung-Lok) suddenly instructed me that I would be dismissed. Even though I asked Mr. Min and the executive committte to announce the reason of dismissal officially and clearly, they still didn't until now.

At the personal meeting on the 5th of June, Mr. Min just said to me like this : "Because of your harsh reply to the Jeonju local press at the final press conference of JIFF 2012, the Jeonju press people gang up and are now asking to fire you. I have tried to protect you... but I think you should be dismissed [for calming them down]."

What on earth did I say at the final press conference? A local journalist asked a question like this: "People said that, during the JIFF 2012, most of films are great and meaningful. But, to my knowledge, many Jeonju citizens think that there was nothing much to do except for watching movies. [...] What do you think about?" I thought this is just a silly question. So I replied, "JIFF is literally a FILM festival not a festival where films are screened concomitantly [as a sidebar event.]"

Since then, a large number of fellow filmmakers, festival programmers, film critics and others from around the world petitioned for his reinstatement. You can view these emails and letters on Un-Seong's blog posts here and here.

I was at the Jeonju International Film Festival last year with my short film EXHALATION. My memories of the festival were absolutely wonderful. People at the festival cared a lot about cinema, the audiences, the volunteers, the programmers, it was an indescribable atmosphere.

Aside from presenting my own film and doing the Q and A sessions, I also made sure I attended all sorts of film screenings because of the very interesting film program (you kinda knew that you might not be able to catch these films anywhere else in the world). A Kidlat Tahimik retrospective, a screening of Kim Sun's SELF-REFERENTIAL TRAVERSE: ZEITGEIST AND ENGAGEMENT which was shown in Berlin Film Fest but banned in S.Korea, I even caught Park Chan Wook's brother Park Chan-kyong's ANYANG, PARADISE CITY (which eventually won an award at the festival.

(see my recap of the festival. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)

Also, every year, Jeonju invites 3 film directors to participate in an omnibus project called Jeonju Digital Project, which serves as the opening film of the festival. (Ying Liang's WHEN NIGHT FALLS, which got him into trouble with Chinese authorities, was part of this year's Jeonju Digital Project, I wrote quite a bit about Ying Liang and his film here)

So yes, I have a lot of love for Jeonju Film Fest. But the experience wouldn't have happened if I didn't bump into Un-Seong half a year earlier, at the Cinemanila Film Festival 2010 (where he served as one of the jurors). Passing him a DVD of my short films just before we both left Manila, I was pleasantly surprised that he wrote back to me a few days later to give me his feedback on each and every single one of the films. I was quite grateful. And a few months after that, I would receive an invitation to the festival for the S.Korean premiere of Exhalation.

Me and Kiki, job well done after the EXHALATION screening!
(Me and EXHALATION producer/ lead actress Kiki Sugino, after the Exhalation screening in Jeonju Film Fest)


(Video of musicians performing in front of the Jeonju Film Fest building)


Looking at the amount of directors who had spoken out for Un-Seong, I believe that in the 8 years he had worked for Jeonju, Un-seong probably had done the same to many of them. And they had him to thank for the opportunity to present their films at the Jeonju Film Fest, to appreciative, constantly curious cinephiles (I always admire audiences of South Korean film festivals, they can be brutally frank, absolutely observant and ridiculously knowledgeable)

Anyway, here's the email from Un-Seong that I received earlier today.

Dear Friends,

I'm Yoo Un-Seong, the programmer of the Jeonju International Film Festival in South Korea. On June 5, I was unfairly dismissed by the JIFF's executive committee. And then, I have kept protesting against it while having requested my reinstatement as a programmer.

BUT NOW, I DECIDED TO RELINQUISH MY CLAIM FOR REINSTATEMENT. (In the attached PDF file, you can read the reasons why I did that. Or please kindly read below until the end of e-mail.)

At present, I wanna express my deep gratitude to all of my friends (directors, film crews, programmers, critics and JIFF's regular audiences etc.) & supporters who kindly and strongly have supported me until now for a month. And please kindly forgive me not keeping this protest on. Thank you so much, my dearest all. But, please don't think it would be a surrender. I will keep fighting on in other way, because I still believe my dismissal was unfairly done without any rightful reason and procedure.

----

Here is an english news article titled "Dismissal of Jeonju Festival programmer sparks controversy" released in KOBIZ (an english film magazine on Korean cinema of Korean Film Council) on June 22.

"The controversial firing of YOO Un-seong, who has served as one of the main programmers of the Jeonju International Film Festival over the past eight years, is shining a spotlight on the relationship between film festivals, local press, and the international film community.

On June 5, JIFF officially notified YOO of his dismissal from his post. The primary reason cited was a response by the programmer to a question posed by a local journalist during the closing press conference of the 2012 edition. Questioned about the festival's lack of non-film related events, YOO responded that JIFF was “literally a ‘film’ festival, not a festival where films are screened on the side." Local journalists, objecting to the harsh tone of YOO’s reply, reportedly pressured the festival to dismiss the programmer, and a decision was made to do so at a private meeting between five members of the executive committee in early June.

YOO, who has rejected the festival's reasons for firing him as groundless, has called publicly for his reinstatement. He has received letters of support from numerous directors, festival programmers and film industry professionals from around the world attesting to his accomplishments as a programmer, and on June 10, 16 JIFF employees released a public letter calling for his reinstatement. [Until now, total 29 employees signed the public letter.] In response, the festival released a list of five official reasons for the dismissal, which YOO and many of his supporters have criticized as insufficient."


(You can check a list of five official reasons of the dismissal : http://annual-parallax.blogspot.kr/2012/06/five-reasons-jiff-dismissed-programmer.html)

And Then,

(extracts from some Korean news articles)


On June 28 : Lee Do-Young, a member of the Jeonju City Council, publicly denounced the unscrupulous personnel management of Jeonju IFF executive committee. In a 5-minute speech session at the City Council, he said, "The Jeonju International Film Festival is now at the center of controversy and ridicule among the Korean film people after the festival executive committee unscrupulously dismissed the programmer Un-Seong Yoo."

Also he insisted, "According to some information, this unfair dismissal was a consequence of the greed of a member of the executive committee." And he added, "Except the five persons who attended the personnel committee for deciding the dismissal of Un-Seong Yoo, other members of JIFF's organizing committee didn't even know about the (secret) personnel committee." Finally, he asked the Jeonju City to take severe disciplinary action to the executive committee (festival director Mr. Min Byung-Lok / vice festival director Mr. Kim Geon) and Noh Hak-Gi, the Jeonju city officer in charge of JIFF.

On June 29 : The dismissal of Jeonju IFF programmer Un-Seong Yoo is selected as one of the top three issues in Korean movie world in the first half of the year. (see at http://movie.naver.com/movie/mzine/cstory.nhn?nid=1457 (Korean only))

On July 2nd : Mr. Min Byung-Lok resigned from the Jeonju IFF's festival director. Though he was appointed for consecutive terms for next three years on June 28, he resigned from the festival director with the responsibility for Yoo Un-Seong's dismissal. But he insisted again that the dismissal was rightfully done in accordance with the JIFF organizing committee's rule.

On July 5th : CINE-BUS goes to Jeonju. "CINE-BUS: JEEP(JIFF) TOUR" is an event organized by "K'ARTS(Korea National University of Arts) Joint Action For Protesting Against Unfair Dismissal of Jeonju IFF Programmer Yoo Un-Seong". CINE-BUS in which K'ARTS students and other people asking for normalization of JIFF get together, left for Jeonju at 10:00 on July 5th. While driving "JEEP(JIFF)" car, they did demonstrations and performances for protesting against Yoo's unfair dismissal at some Jeonju local newspaper companies as well as JIFF office. (They asked the reinstatement of Yoo and the resignation of Mr. Kim Geon, the JIFF's vice festival director.)

And Then,

(Why I decided to relinquish my claim for reinstatement)


After "CINE-BUS: JEEP(JIFF) TOUR", three team managers of JIFF with anger started to seriously criticize me as the villain of the piece. And they officially blamed me while saying like : "Nobody wants anything you want, as you already know.", "Just make your own film festival with your desperate supporters!" and some more personal attacks to me. Meanwhile, one of my colleague programmers sent me a 11-page letter in behalf of programmers and team managers still working (six persons in total). At the end of the letter, it's written as follows : "We [two programmers and four team managers] do not want you to come back to JIFF anymore, regardless of that you're right or not."

According to the letter, they don't agree with my way and procedure of protest [especially they blamed me for announcing my dismissal publicly through Social Network Services like Blog, Twitter and Facebook] and they insisted that I "spoiled" the relationships between JIFF and (domestic and international) film people & institutions. And to my question how they think about the reasons & procedure of my dismissal, they replied, "the dismissal was decided at a level not in relation with us." Instead, they insisted that I made so many "dissonances" for years.

Naturally, I couldn't agree with their opinions [for example, I couldn't find anything in those five official dismissal reasons, pointing out the cases of "dissonances" they insist I did.] So, during the last weekend, I wrote a long reply carrying on counterargument to their opinions and released it publicly with the letter, yesterday on July 11. In this counterargument, I pointed out all logical errors, unreasonable argument and groundless (or sentimental, at best) personal attacks in the programmer's letter and all official opinions that JIFF has released until now.

(You can see my counterargument titled "Make Way For Tomorrow" at : http://annual-parallax.blogspot.kr/2012/07/blog-post.html (Korean only. I couldn't have a time to translate it into English.))

Now, I sized up the situation like this : regardless of upcoming results, I don't think I would be able to work together with them anymore, even if I could be reinstated as a programmer of JIFF. Especially, their personal attacks to me made me deeply painful. But, if I was reinstated, I would have to work with them anyway. I don't think I could do. Now, I decided to relinquish my claim for reinstatement. I wanna express my deep gratitude to all of you who kindly have supported me until now. And please kindly forgive me not keeping this protest on. Thank you so much, my dearest friends. But, please don't think it would be a surrender. I will keep fighting on in other way, because I still believe my dismissal was unfairly done without any rightful reason and procedure.

July 12
Yoo Un-Seong

I can only wish Un-Seong the best. And also Jeonju International Film Festival itself. This is not a "can't we all just get along?" post, but more like a lament.

UPDATED: Shortly after this was written, I received an email from Mr. Min Byung-Lok, the outgoing festival director of Jeonju Film Fest. You should read it here.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Remembering Sam Raimi's original Spider-man trilogy

I saw THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN two nights ago and really enjoyed it.

Because of that, and also because of this video below, I am prompted to revisit the original Spider-man trilogy by Sam Raimi.



Back in the days when comic books were more affordable, I used to collect them. So I DID grow up with my share of Spider-man, X-men, Superman and Batman. I loved Spider-man most, as a child my mom got me a Spider-man pajamas (as in pajamas that look like a Spider-man costume, NOT pajamas with Spider-man on it), maybe that made me love Spider-man because in my childish fantasies, I could be Spider-man, or maybe the pajamas was bought after I became a Spidey fan. I can't exactly remember. But Spider-man was like Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, I knew him since I was a child, and I cannot even remember when had I ever NOT knew who he was.

If you are one of the few who knew me in person for a very long time, or had read this blog for a very long time, you might know that I used to go the U.S. a lot and hung out at the bookshops. I could spend THAT long in a bookshop because half of the time I was reading comics (especially the Spider-man ones).

So, when the first Spider-man film by Sam Raimi came out ten years ago in 2002, I was absolutely joyous. At the age of 18, I had finished high school. And on the verge of adulthood, I got to watch a childhood hero come alive on the big screen, how unbelievable! How.... (sorry) amazing!

I saw it for the very first time with dad, my sister and my pal Alex during its opening week. I was unsure how the Spider-man film would be like, just a few years earlier, the Batman franchise was destroyed by BATMAN AND ROBIN. But two years earlier in 2001, the first X-MEN by Bryan Singer came out and showed that comic book adaptations could be respectful towards its source materials, feeling like an actual, serious film.

Would SPIDER-MAN be another BATMAN AND ROBIN? Or would it continue the X-MEN trend? I was nervous.

My fears were unfounded by the time the film ended. I liked it a lot, it was a worthy Spider-man film, its origins story heartwarming and exhilarating, the nerdy underdog protagonist played endearingly by Tobey Maguire growing into a hero was both familiar and exciting, to see Spider-man on the big screen for the first time was magical and memorable.

I also thought that it was the most romantic superhero film I have ever seen then. The upside down kissing scene had become an iconic moment in American cinema. I remembered this monologue more than any of the action scenes in the film. Yes, these scenes are cheesy to many, but I cared about them more than the action scenes. (I have to admit, even back then, I didn't really care that much about the action scenes because, er, Green Goblin was rather underwhelming.)



I was also shocked that the film ended with the hero choosing to give up on the girl (he loved for his entire life) for the greater good. I haven't seen anything like that in a superhero film before, I thought such a thing could only happen in... CASABLANCA.

Ten years ago after the first Spider-man came out, Spidey craze swept the world, I would see the film for the second time with my mother, who enjoyed it too.

SPIDER-MAN 2 came out in 2004. It was a vast improvement over the first film. The action scenes were better, Doctor Octopus was both tragic and menacing as the main antagonist (Alfred Molina's performance was great).



That train scene was really epic.



The struggle of maintaining a dual identity was examined with further detail. Being a superhero gradually took its toll on Peter Parker's personal life, he was losing his powers because of girl problems, he decided to quit being Spider-man (superheroes generally do that in second films of their trilogies, look at Superman in SUPERMAN 2 that came out many decades earlier, look at Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT that came out years later)

By then, I realized that the Spider-man films were essentially love stories, his forever romance with Mary Jane was just as important, or even more important, than saving the world from the big bad. Spider-man 2 is still one of my favourite superhero films, I walked out of the cinema, feeling both giddy, and also as if I were levitating.

That was 2004, just a few months before I headed off to Perth for my university studies. I was a simple movie lover, unsure whether I would really make films in the future.

Some of these questions were answered by the time I returned from Perth in 2007, when SPIDER-MAN 3 came out.

I was at the press screening.

There's really not much I want to remember about Spider-man 3. It's not that I want to dismiss the film, I was disappointed with it, but I didn't hate it as much as most people did.

I guess maybe because the whole emo Peter Parker thing cracked me up.





I was constantly reduced to "I can't believe this is happening!" giggly fits. I also thought it was funny when my little sister was constantly gushing over James Franco ("Oh, Harry!")

Compared to the first two SPIDER-MAN films, SPIDER-MAN 3 was indeed a lesser experience, the first two made me crave for more sequels, the third film left me worried about another one.

Nonetheless, the superhero genre wouldn't be what it is today without the SPIDER-MAN trilogy by Sam Raimi. The critical and commercial acclaim of these Spider-man films paved the way for many others, opening up numerous possibilities. AVENGERS, which had just became the top-grossing film of all time (not directed by James Cameron), the individual films that led to AVENGERS, the X-MEN films, Nolan's Batman films with its seminal THE DARK KNIGHT... and now, the new Spider-man reboot.

Perhaps each generation needs its own definitive Spider-man, and this generation has Marc Webb's THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN with a Spider-man who goes around with a smartphone. I like the film enough to look forward to a sequel, Andrew Garfield is a great Spider-man (he had truly elevated the material with his performance), Emma Stone, who is great in everything, is great as Gwen Stacy. The CGI of today had improved, the action scenes had more fluidity, Spider-man actually fought like a spider. There are many things I liked in the new film.

But ten years ago, when I saw my first Spider-man film, it was quite a special feeling.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Observing the observation deck of Haneda Airport at night

This is the story of a man marked by an image from his childhood. The violent scene, whose meaning he would not grasp until much later, took place on the great jetty at Orly, a few years before the start of the Third World War.

On Sundays, parents bring their children to watch the planes... Of this Sunday, the child of this story would remember the frozen sun, the scene at the end of the jetty. Moments to remember are just like other moments. They are only made memorable by the scars they leave. The face he had seen was to be the only peacetime image to survive the war. Had he really seen it? Or had he invented the tender gesture to shield him from the madness to come? The sudden noise, the woman's gesture, the crumpling body, the cries of the crowd. Later, he knew he had seen a man die.

I have never been to the observation deck of Haneda Airport before. So last night, before heading to the gates, I decided to take a look.

When I was there, for some reason I cannot comprehend, the opening lines from Chris Marker's LA JETEE started playing in my mind. (I'm a huge fan of La Jetee)

People chilling at the Haneda Airport observation deck at night


Of course, instead of a frozen sun, all I saw was a round luminous moon. The sky was dark, but there were numerous people on the deck.

Haneda Airport observation deck


They were either hanging out, waiting, reading books, whispering sweet nothings to each other.

I looked at the airplanes through the steel fences.

Viewing the planes through the fences of the observation deck


The colourful lights of the airport that surrounded these planes somehow felt a little intoxicating.

Planes at Haneda Airport during the night

Watching the planes from afar is rather nice indeed


Behind me, behind the airport buildings, there was this mysterious orange glow that lit up the sky. I didn't know what was going on.

Mysterious flames bursting forth behind the Haneda Airport


My mind, often filled with inane references to movies, anime and video games, compared the scenery before me with imaginary cyberpunk locations.

Maybe that is why I favour the night over the day, when everything is concealed in shadows, there is so much left for my imagination.

Haneda Airport was known as Tokyo International Airport

Planes preparing to lift off!


Monday, July 02, 2012

A movie leading to a dream leading to an imagined movie...

Last night, he started to watch a film by one of his favourite Hong Kong directors, Johnnie To. It had nothing to do with the fact that it was Hong Kong's 15th anniversary handover, it just happened that he wanted to watch a familiar Hong Kong film with familiar Hong Kong actors. The film, ROMANCING IN THIN AIR, was a romantic drama with familiar trappings, part-NOTTING HILL, part-UPSIDE OF ANGER (he didn't know he could still remember this film), part-anything Nicholas Sparks.

In this film, a heartbroken movie actor stumbles into an high-altitude inn at Yunnan Province. Jilted by his bride on the day of his wedding, the actor has became a drunken mess. Things start to look better when an inevitable romance gradually grows between him and the innkeeper, but alas, the innkeeper has a sad tale too, as she is still waiting for her husband to come back after he has disappeared in the deep woods seven years earlier.

The person watching the film had a tiring day, his right arm still aching, the sprained finger still throbbing. He decided to pause the film and take a nap.

He then found himself in a carnival of sorts, but looking closely, he realized it was probably just a film market similar to the ones seen in major film festivals. There were all kinds of booths promoting different films, and strangely, movie stars were tending the booths. ("Wait. Was that Uma Thurman at the KILL BILL booth? What year am I at?")

There were many people, and he had to navigate through them, pushing past the people, the deafening noises, it was indeed more carnivalesque than a normal film market that he had attended in these past years.

Because he was in the landscape of dreams, wandering away from the maddening crowd instantly led him to another place. A quiet restaurant without any distinguishable characteristics. He was seated at a long table, surrounded by faces both familiar and unfamiliar.

People around him continued to chatter and murmur, but he didn't really pay them any attention. His eyes were on a woman sitting nearby, another damnably familiar face. If he knew that he was in a dream, he would instantly remark in disbelief the number of times she had haunted his dreamscapes. But he didn't, so all he saw was a someone he knew he had not seen for a very long time.

She was the same as he remembered her. Quiet, a tiny perpetual frown on her face, which made him wonder whether she deep in thought, or merely displeased with her surroundings. Her skin was very fair, under the dim lights of the restaurant, she seemed to emit a somewhat ephemeral glow.

The first time he met her was nine years ago.
The last time he saw her was seven years ago.
She should have been a ghost, imprisoned within the dungeons of his memory, yet there she was roaming freely, quietly, again unattainable, again untouchable. He never knew what he could say to her.

He overheard conversations of other people at the table, talking about an upcoming wedding tomorrow. The woman reacted at these words, smiling and nodding.

Immediately he deduced that she was the one getting married. Perhaps with the person he last saw her with, but he had no desire to know.

Excusing himself, he got up and started walking away.

But the conversations behind him continued...

"Hey, are you seeing anyone?" Asked a giggly loud lady, she sounded like a combination of numerous people he knew.

"No." The woman spoke for the first time, her voice soft and whispery. "I am still... just... waiting. Someone came today, I thought he would say something to me, but he didn't. He is leaving now."

Instantly, he whirled around, glaring.

"You brought this upon yourself!" He snapped at her. "Did you have any idea back then, how much I have..."

He paused, gathering his thoughts, aside from fiery anger, he was starting to feel something else. A paranoia that everything was collapsing around him, melting, falling apart, dissipating, and he knew without a doubt that he would not be able to finish his next sentence.

So, hurriedly, he blurted:

"These few years, all the films I made, all the things I achieved, did you know that I did them just so you would..."

And then he woke up.

Glancing at his watch, the nap lasted for almost two hours.

He sneered. Even in his dreams, he could never finish what he wanted to say to her. But then, he wasn't exactly sure what was he trying to say either.

Sitting up, waiting until he felt less contemptuous towards everything in general, he continued watching ROMANCING IN THIN AIR, a story of a movie star who fell in love with woman incapable of letting go of her past.

For no reason at all, in the past few days, a Korean pop song had been playing in his mind a lot.

The song, AFTER LOVE by Clazziquai Project, came in many different forms.

The original, which started with the quote of a woman who said “We can fly away, fly away together, like in the movies and shit”



The extra remix.



And then, the "female version", which was sung by the band's lead female vocalist.



The song came out in 2004. He didn't hear it until a few years after. But 2004 was the year he met her.

Therefore, as he mentally went through the dream he just had, he imagined that the dream was a movie with an abrupt ending, a cut to black before the protagonist could finish his climatic lines. And in this imaginary dream as a movie, there would be end credits, with either versions of AFTER LOVE playing in the background.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

That's how the first half of 2012 ended. Lovely.

The second half of 2012 sort of sneaked up on me. As I was walking home this morning at 4am, I was struck by how pink the sky was. The first rays of the sun were lighting up the sky.

Walking home as the first rays of the sun light up the sky.


It was a very serene feeling.

The end of an all-nighter can sometimes be quite rewarding.

Almost two weeks ago, on the 19th of June, I was caught in a typhoon at Shinjuku when meeting up with my friend, the Taiwanese director Jay Chern. He was here for the Tokyo Short Shorts Film Festival. He would end up winning the Best Asian Short award with his short film "Thief" (which also won the Golden Horse last year).

I am standing in front of Hanazono Shrine while it rains heavily.

I was caught in the typhoon.


The month of June was a surprisingly busy one, lots of writings were done. On certain days, I lamented the fact that I have not made as many short films as before, compared to the period between 2009 to 2010, where I was shooting one almost ever year, and in the year of 2010 itself, five of my short films came out.

But then, I realized it was a misperception, I had indeed been working every month of 2012. From the "Road To Asian Film Award" interview videos on January to February, to shooting some (still unfinished) short film with Ming Jin on February, and then actually directing a TV series in Malaysia back in March.

I also shot my short film on April. With actress/ producer Kiki doing her voiceover recordings some time around then.

An obscure photo from the past where Kiki Sugino ponders Dadaism.


I have mentioned this about film shoots many times. They always feel like a distant dream. All these shoots felt so long ago, I sometimes wondered whether they have happened at all. Even the more recent shoots felt long ago.

At the end of May, Kong and I took a quick job to do a promo video for a major cosmetics company. As we visited their offices in Shinjuku Park Tower, Kong proceeded to shoot the Tokyo cityscape.

Capturing the Tokyo cityscape from the skies


On the 9th of June, I was in another video shoot for this year's Odaiba SF7 Festival (SF stands for Student Film, 7 being the amount of films shown at the festival) I represented Waseda University at the SF7 two years ago with my short film LOVE SUICIDES. This time, Teng Fei's debut short TINY PUPIL, which I had a hand in producing and had already played in several film festivals, will be the Waseda representative. So Professor Ando asked for a video where Teng Fei could introduce her film. It was a quick 3-4 hour shoot (could have been faster, but we worked at a leisurely pace, pausing for meals and snacks!)

Shooting an interview.


And then I try to remember May again, specifically on the 21st.

There was the annular solar eclipse.

This is really taken during the eclipse. I swear.

People trying to view the #annular #solar #eclipse


Having never seen a solar eclipse before, I was amused to see people of all ages gathering at a small park, trying to catch a glimpse. That day was a little cooler than the others. I regretted that I wasn't able to capture a proper photo of the eclipse (I had my 7D with me, but forgot to charge the battery)

There was a lot of anticipation, and then, it was just over. The moment itself felt longer than it really was, but when it ended, it seemed as brief as a heartbeat.

Sort of like my first half of 2012, really.
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