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Thursday, September 27, 2012

The 1st Tiny Pupil screening @ Nara International Film Festival 2012

Today, thanks to the Yxine Film Fest, TINY PUPIL by Teng Fei, which I produced, is available online for a brief period of time.

I find this the best time to share with you all the video of the post-screening Q and A session I did for TINY PUPIL at the Nara Film Festival on the 15th of September.

At that time, Teng Fei has yet to arrive at the festival (she arrived at midnight), so as producer, I took over and do the talking. I think it's cool if you want to watch through the film and then view this video.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

楊毅恆 冬天、最后的碎片 北海道短片展獲獎 (中國報) Edmund Yeo's LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER wins award in Hokkaido (China Press, 22/9/2012)

Mom called me this morning as well, to tell me that Last Fragments of Winter's receiving of the award in Sapporo Film Fest is also on today's China Press.

冬天, 最后的碎片」在札幌国际短片影展获奖的事情也被登上中国报了。感恩。

楊毅恆 冬天、最后的碎片 北海道短片展獲獎 (中國報) Edmund Yeo's LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER wins award in Hokkaido (China Press, 22/9/2012)




楊毅恆將會在下月初回國,出席10月21日的華人文化節中, 在馬六甲舉行的馬來西亞華人影展,而在他個人作品的環節中,放映4部過去在世界各地影展中的得獎作,包括了《金魚》、《午后河畔,夕陽天空》、《嘆息》及《冬天,最后的碎片》后與觀眾現場交流。

楊毅恆執導短片‧日本獲獎 (星洲日報) Edmund Yeo's Short Film Wins Award in Japan (Sin Chew Daily, 21/9/2012)

Mom called me yesterday morning to tell me that news of LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER receiving the award in Sapporo Short Film Fest was on yesterday's Sin Chew Daily.

楊毅恆執導短片‧日本獲獎 (星洲日報) Edmund Yeo's short film wins award in Japan (Sin Chew Daily, 21/9/2012)

The entire article (in Chinese only) is here.

Now I switch to Chinese.

昨天, 「冬天, 最后的碎片」在札幌国际短片影展获奖的事情被登上星州日报了。 感恩。






札幌國際短編映畫祭從2006年開始主辦,今年由9月12至17日連續舉辦5天,一共收到來自世界各地不同的93個國家的2723部短片參賽,而評審團主席是來自韓國以《我的野蠻女友》成名的導演郭在容,加上其他4位團員:英國名製片人尼克高史密(Nick Goldsmith)。美國女作家勞拉艾柏(Laura Albert),以及日本著名音樂人小林武史和北海道著名的女電視主持及節目監製的五十嵐女士。

楊毅恆將會在下月初回國,於10月21日出席配合本年度馬來西亞全國華人文化節而辦的馬來西亞華人影展,這個在馬六甲舉行的影展將展出他4部過去在世界各地影展中的得獎作,包括了《金魚》(Kingyo》、《午後河畔,夕陽天空》(Afternoon River,Evening Sky)、《嘆息》(Exhalation)及《冬天,最後的碎片》(Last Fragments of Winter)。

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER receives Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Award @ Sapporo Short Film Fest

16th of September was my second day at the Nara Film Fest. Aside from having the second screenings of Last Fragments of Winter (sadly, I accidentally deleted the video from the Q and A session) and Tiny Pupil (I might upload that one later), I also revisited some places in Nara that I went to 4 years ago, like the Todaiji Temple.

I always felt that after visiting Todaiji, things had gone very well with my own filmmaking career. (two weeks after my Nara trip 4 years ago, I made Kingyo, then got invited to Venice Film Fest, while the two other earlier shorts like Love Suicides and Fleeting Images were also winning awards and going to different festivals, I think it all kinda started like that)

The temple was as majestic as I remembered.

Visiting Todaiji again in Nara

I also hung out with the deer.

Young woman attacked by cute friendly deer of Nara.

Finally, going back to my hotel in the evening, I decided to take a nap.

The nap lasted for an hour.

I woke up and saw that someone had just sent me a Tweet. It was Mina Hiroe, the actress.

She said "omedetou gozaimasu!", which meant "congratulations" in Japanese.

I was a little puzzled, because she seemed to be replying to an earlier post of mine that I sent to her few days earlier about having seen the short film she starred in at the Hokkaido Selection program.

So, my reply to her was a very witty tweet.

While doing this, I noticed director Isamu Hirabayashi tweet...


Isamu Hirabayashi: EEEHHHHH? (in reply to Toshiya Kubo's tweet that Matou had just won Best Experimental short)

That was when I realized that the award ceremony for Sapporo Short Fest was ongoing. And it dawned upon me that Mina Hiroe MIGHT be congratulating me for receiving an award. (... or she was probably just congratulating me for having see her film)

Moments later, as I checked the official website of Sapporo, my suspicions were confirmed, my short film LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER had received a Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner Award.

My dad had stayed back in Sapporo while I went off to Nara, and he had accepted the award on my behalf.

The next day, once I received a photo of my dad at the award ceremony, I posted it on Facebook.

"Last night, my short film LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, received a special award from the Commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency at the Sapporo Film Festival, Hokkaido.

私の作品『冬の断片 LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER』が札幌国際短編映画祭で、観光庁長官賞を受賞しました。

It's the first award for the short film.

I'm very flattered and surprised. This is a photo of my dad accepting the award on my behalf at the award ceremony last night. (I'm in Nara now, so wasn't able to attend this in person)

This happened because of the Last Fragments team. Kohei Ando, Woo Ming Jin, Foo Fei Ling, Yuiko Kato, Kong Pahurak, Teckzee Tan, Zac Lee, Tan Ley Teng, Arisa Koike, Kenny Chua

— with Derrick Lee, Woan Foong Wong, Aron Koh, KayLi Lum, Sandra Yeo and Chik Soon Come

(photo by Midori Tamate!)

I guess whenever I visit the Todaiji Temple, something good will really happen!

The 1st LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER screening @ Nara Film Fest 2012

On the night of Sept 15th, my short film LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER was screened at the Nara International Film Festival.

[LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER] The girl (Arisa Koike) waking up in front of a temple

This is a video of me doing the Q and A session.

Sometimes I try changing what I say in these sessions a little, just to avoid repetition. I always fail.

Nara International Film Festival 2012, I muse about Nara and "Yuanfen"

On the morning of the 15th September, I left Sapporo for Nara, taking the local Japanese budget airline, Peach Airlines, for the very first time.

It's actually pretty cool, especially with the baggage collecting system.

So, I reached Nara for the 2nd edition of the Nara International Film Festival. This biannual film festival was the brainchild of the director Naomi Kawase and I have heard about it ever since its first edition in 2010.

I seem to share some "yuanfen 缘分" with Kawase-san based on the number of times and type of circumstances that we have crossed paths in the past few years since I became a filmmaker. (I also have a MOURNING FOREST flyer pasted right next to my bed) The Buddhist concept of "yuan" is somewhat similar to the concept of synchronicity, the coincidences are unbelievable.

I first met Kawase in the Dubai International Film Festival 2008, which was my very first film fest as a director when my debut short "CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY" was selected for competition (and she served as jury). A year later, she was the jury president of CON-CAN Film Festival 2009 which awarded the Grand Prix to my second short film, FLEETING IMAGES. She wasn't at the award ceremony, but she recorded a video message regarding her thoughts on the award-winning films, like mine.

I finally met her again last December at Tallinn, Estonia, when we were both among the 60 directors around the world participating in the "60 SECONDS OF SOLITUDE IN YEAR ZERO" omnibus project.

So, I think that it is "yuan", again, that I have two short films screening at the Nara International Film Festival. One that I directed, LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, the other that I produced, TINY PUPIL by Teng Fei.

When I arrived at Nara.

It rained.

On my first night at the Nara International Film Festival, I got to stay in the wondrous Matsumae Ryokan (Matsumae Inn), a traditional Japanese inn owned by Naomi Yanai. Her hospitality had been absolutely wonderful. Many of the inn's beautiful calligraphy and wooden Buddhist statues were done by her late husband, the former innkeeper. (This place is highly recommended.)

Matsumae Ryokan at Nara

Nara actually has a special place in my heart. I was here 4 years ago for a pilgrimage. It was my very first New Year in Japan, most of my Japanese friends had gone back to their hometowns. I was alone, and driven by loneliness, I decided to hop onto a train and go all the way to the Kansai Region, perhaps having a New Year Countdown of my own... I ended up doing it in Nara. That was where I was in December 31st, 2008 and January 1st, 2009.

I still have the video. It was rather epic.

It was a pivotal point of my life, I think. I wouldn't be who I am today, or achieve what I have achieved if I hadn't taken that soul-searching trip to the Kansai region back then.

I think I share too, some "yuanfen" with Nara, the place.

Anyway, immediately after I checked in, I headed back to the screening venues for the Tiny Pupil and Last Fragments of Winter screenings. I'll post the videos in my next post.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Short films about the March 11th earthquake and tsunami @ Sapporo Film Fest 2012

For my final night in Sapporo, I decided to attend the Sapporo Film Festival's "AFTER 3.11" Special Programme screening. And what a fine screening it was to end my wonderful Sapporo experience.

This program is a compilation of short films related to the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami that happened in March 11th, 2011. I will recap them one by one, along with my thoughts.

I'm also surprised to see that a few of them are available online in their entirety, so I will share the links with you all.

1) THANK YOU WORLD サンキューワールド by Seiichi Hishikawa 菱川勢一

THANK YOU WORLD is an animated short video message made for last year's edition of Sapporo Film Fest.

This is the English version.

Thank you world. -English Version- from Seiichi Hishikawa on Vimeo.

And this is the Japanese version.

It's rather beautiful, isn't it?

2) Nihonmatsu and Oshiruko 二本松を知ること by Yuichiro Yamada 山田裕一郎

Nihonmatsu and Oshiruko (二本松を知ること) from Yuichiro Yamada on Vimeo.

Nihonmatsu, Fukushima is located at 34 miles away from Fukushima Nuclear Plant.

"Nihonmatsu and Oshiruko" is a short documentary filmed when people in Eniwa, Hokkaido(北海道恵庭市) visited in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima(福島県二本松市) to make an oshiruko (an Japanese traditional dessert) for the students in Nihonmatsu Kita Elementary School in March 7, 2012 which is a year after the Great East Japan Earthquake. When I visited in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima, people there told to me that it's difficult to tell their story and get the media attention even though they have many difficulties after the nuclear disaster. I hope this video helps you think about people in Fukushima once again.

-Yuichiro Yamada

Equipment :
Canon 7D
Sigma 30mm
Tamron 18-270
Zoom H4n
RODE lavalier mic
Zacuro Striker and Z-finder
Libec TH-650DV

One line that struck me was when one of the interviewees said, matter-of-factly, that they would be forgotten.

Watching this documentary allowed me the chance to see the faces of these people who are still courageously living their lives in Fukushima, I got to see them as the normal people they are. Fukushima had became a name used for countless fear-mongering and paranoia from those living in the rest of the world. The people of Fukushima are really being forgotten as human beings, they became statistics, they became horror stories, and I really resented that.

The rest of the world seemed to have pass them a death sentence, I always felt utterly offended when people ask me this: "hey, soooooo... is Japan safe now from radiation? Do you think I can visit one of these days? Tee hee hee!" It's an insult to the memories of these poeple, those who died, and also those who are had been trying so hard to move on with their lives and ensure that the children and the generations to come can just live life normally again like everyone else.

So yes, watch THIS video, and think about the people of Fukushima.

3) blossom ブロッサム by Yutaka Yamamoto 山本寛

Hm, sadly, I can't find a lot of information about this animated short. Except for the fact that it came out in March earlier this year, and was made for charity. Very beautiful artwork, but can only understand half of what was going on because of the lack of subtitles. :(

Can check out the official site here. Some of its artwork are available for download.

4) The Message from Fukushima 福島からのメッセージ by Hirokazu Koreeda 是枝 裕和

This documentary short revolves around Koreeda's interview with Mr. Yasuhiro Abe, the theater manager of Fukushima forum. This is quite a refreshing insight. When asked whether he remembered what film was screening in the theaters when the earthquake and tsunami happened, Abe said that it might have been "The King's Speech".

The lack of subtitles made me struggle to understand the short again. Aside from the interview, the filmmakers went to different places in Fukushima, and I was awed by how beautiful the place was when covered in snow.

This is Koreeda's statement.




3月1日 是枝裕和

My (very bad and probably inaccurate) translation is:

I want to hear the voices of those who are still living in Fukushima. That is my stance when I made this documentary with the theater manager of Fukushima Forum, Yasuhiro Abe.

Through his eyes, I learn why he chose not to live with his family, the soundless telephone booths, and finally, why he has to continue showing films in the cinema.

I went to the evacuated Iitate village (near the nuclear plant), and happened to admire the setting sun. I wondered repeatedly whether film can capture its beauty.

1st of March, Hirokazu Koreeda

5) 663114 by Isamu Hirabayashi 平林勇

Having seen a number of Isamu Hirabayashi's short films, (although we never met personally, I actually met his crew members in Cannes when his short film Shikasha was screened at the Director's Fortnight the same year as The Tiger Factory, 2 years ago) I was already quite curious about the Noburo Ofuji award-winning 663114 ever since it was screened at Venice Film Festival last year.

Visually unique, and strangely poetic, just like some of his previous works.

Cathy Munroe Hotes review of the film describes it best.

The title looks like a code, but it is actually a collection of significant numbers. The Fukushima disaster occurred 66 years after the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 3/11 marks the date of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and 4 are the number of reactors that were damaged at Fukushima Daiichi.

On the surface, 663114, is a simple, straightforward animation, but upon closer examination one finds that it has as many layers as a tree has rings. An ancient cicada crawls slowly up a vertical surface, which we learn through the first person narration is representative of a tree. The tree’s surface is decorated with inkan (印鑑), the familiar red stamps that are used in lieu of signatures in Japan. The cicada tells us that he is 66 years old, born the film implies, at the time of the atom bomb.

In addition to being spoken aloud in a deep, guttural, masculine voice, the narration also appears in shaky, black handwritten English:

Once every 66 years,
I emerge from the ground, leave offspring and die.
Before mating,
I shed my hard shell at the risk of my life.
Our ancestors have continued this cycle countless times.
The soil of this country is very fit for us to live in.
It is free of strong pesticides and there are no landmines.
The water is delicious so the sap is delicious as well.
I will climb as high as I can.
Aiming higher and higher.
It is our natural instinct.
To survive and leave offspring.
Since the moment of shedding skin is life risking.
We choose a tree that is tall, sturdy and won’t shake that much.
Our ancestors have continued this cycle countless times.
Through the various hardships.

6) Saigo no Omimai 最後のお見舞い - Last Visit by Jyrki Rantasuo ユルキ・ランタスオ

A 3-minute documentary that brought us back to reality again, this one is of a woman going to the disaster-hit areas to search for her lost family members. Her grandmother was washed away by the tsunami when in the hospital. Her body was never found.

7) Cans of Hope 缶闘記 by Hirokazu Kishida 岸田浩和

This is a documentary that, again, reflected the resilience of the Japanese people that I had loved and admired. It chronicles the paths taken by the Kinoya Ishinomaki Suisan (a sardine fish can manufacturing company) after their town of Ishinomaki was hit by tsunami. Some of the images here are very vivid and long after the screening, they continue to haunt me. For example, the film screening projected upon walls, or a makeshift tent used by the 7-11 convenience store where its employees are still standing behind counters dressed in their uniforms.

I was truly affected by the warmth of this documentary, which took the director 10 months to make. (I spoke to him briefly after the screening)

The entire film is here, please share it too.

8) The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom 津波そして桜 by Lucy Walker ルーシー・ウォーカー

The Oscar-nominated 40-minute documentary short The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom by Lucy Walker was used to close this screening.

This is the trailer.

This short film revisits the themes examined by the other shorts in the program, serving as a summation, as a reminder.

In this episode of BRING YOUR OWN DOC (well, the first half of the episode anyway), we have Lucy Walker discussing about the making of The Tsunami and Cherry Blossom.

Each of the short films, because of the subject matter, were powerful, breathtaking experiences. When the lights came up, I realized that, once again, this is a screening that I really didn't want to forget.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Exploring Otaru 小樽市

My Last Fragments of Winter screening at the Sapporo Film Fest on Sept 12th was actually attended by Yi Hua, a friend from primary and secondary school whom I haven't met for ten years. This had never happened before in all my few years as a filmmaker. She just happened to be in Sapporo.

After that, when we were having ramen, she mentioned a place that intrigued me. The port town of Otaru, just northwest of Sapporo, known for its beautiful canal, the sublime seafood and music boxes (there's a famed music box museum).

And then, hours later, when I attended the Hokkaido Selection program screening, and saw a short film set in the town (there was also a scene shot in the museum), I instantly decided to go there.

So, I went yesterday.

The train ride to Otaru was rather brief, perhaps it was around 40 minutes.

Dad on the train to Otaru

Dad on the train to Otaru

In front of the Otaru station.

Dad, in front of Otaru station

I made my way to the Otaru canal that I heard so much about.

Aha. So this is the famous Otaru canal.

Dad at the Otaru canal

A boat passing by the Otaru canal

A building by the canal

Dad and I, at the Otaru canal

I really want to visit this canal again, during winter, and see the place covered in snow.

Otaru canal

Took a break and had some butter ramen. Dad had a big bowl of seafood champon.

Dad claimed that this meal was the defining moment of the trip.

We continued our way through the streets of Otaru.

Otaru streets

At that time, on Facebook, my friend Yihwen was asking me to try out the 5 flavor ice-cream. The shop was along the way, but I went for 6 flavors instead.

(the truth is that, out of the 6 flavors to choose from, I really didn't know which one to drop, so the nice lady just suggested that I go for all, so I did.)

Nevertheless, sightseeing while Facebooking, and having a friend suggest places to you in real-time, is something I never would've imagined just 2 years ago.

After the epic seafood champon and the epic 6-flavor ice-cream, I finally reached the famous music box museum of Otaru.

Dad in front of the Otaru music box museum

It is a very interesting place, beautifully melodious sounds from music boxes of all shapes and sizes filled the air.

The music box museum of Otaru

The music box museum of Otaru 2

The music box museum of Otaru 4

The music box museum of Otaru 3

The music box museum of Otaru 5

The music box museum of Otaru 6

The music box museum of Otaru 7

Once we were done with the museum, we went to the cafe next door to sample its seemingly popular cheesecake, and some iced coffee.

Dad and I, enjoying some coffee and cheesecake after the Otaru trip

Quite a classy place, this Otaru.

UPDATED: It is only a day after visiting the place that I realized that Otaru is where Shunji Iwai's LOVE LETTER (1995) was shot.

Knowing my adoration for the film during my teenage days, mom and dad had mentioned repeatedly that I should try to "visit the LOVE LETTER place" when I come to Hokkaido, and I just brushed them off, saying that the place was probably rather far away. I was wrong, I did end up visiting the place without knowing it. Of course, without the snow, it was unrecognizable.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hokkaido Selection @ Sapporo Short Fest 2012

The beauty of a film festival is the opportunity to attend screenings of films that I might not be able to catch anywhere else in the world.

Over here in Sapporo Short Fest, I made sure I went to the "Hokkaido Selection" program screening, which featured short films that were either made by filmmakers from Hokkaido, or short films made in Hokkaido.

SOLDIER SCHOOL へいたいがっこう by Saya Ito 伊藤早耶 is an animated short with a very distinctive style. I want to see more of her works in the future. Was shocked that she's the same age as my sister (who is celebrating her birthday today, happy 23rd, mui mui!)

PROMISED MELODY 約束のネイロ by Megumi Sasaki 笹木恵水 was shot in the town of Otaru, and in its famous Orgel museum. I was instantly convinced to visit Otaru. In fact, I'm probably going there today with dad for some sightseeing.

ECOYOMI IN ANIMATION うごくえこよみ by Masaya Matsui 松井雅也 is a beautiful animated short that depicts the 72 Seasons system of the Japanese traditional calendar. Which is a list of 72 activities that would happen throughout the year, during the passing of seasons, like the first appearances of lotuses, or when deers replace their antlers, or the first cicada song of the year. I found these simplicities of everyday life very poetic when they were portrayed properly.

I met Masaya because his earlier short film THE BOY AND THE WHORE was screened at Busan Film Fest 2010 like my short, INHALATION, and he also came to the TIGER FACTORY/ INHALATION screenings at the Tokyo Film Fest a week later. (BTW: He's a Waseda University alumnus)

BACKWASH by Shizuko Tabata 田端志津子 is a stop-motion animated short using 30 000 cards. The last time I dabbled in stop-motion, I nearly suffered a nervous breakdown, so I definitely respect the sheer efforts that she had put into her film.

CHARON OF SNOW RIVER スノウリバーのシャロン by Ryo Sugiyama 杉山りょう began with a guy wandering in a snow-covered wilderness.

... which kinda reminded me of my own film.

Except his was funnier, and less angsty.

The last short film in the program was PARTY by Shoh Kataoka 片岡翔, a previous award winner in the festival, had some very interesting camerawork. I really liked the final shot of the film.

When PARTY ended, I was surprised to see the names of two young actresses I'm acquainted with in the end credits, Yuko Narisawa 成澤優子 and Mina Hiroe 広江美奈. They were so unrecognizable in the film that I didn't realize it was them! So I left them a note, because their performances were very solid.

The 1st LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER screening @ Sapporo Film Fest 2012

An interesting thing about the Sapporo Short Film Fest catalog is that it includes photos of composers too. The only film festival I know which does such a thing, which is cool, film composers deserve a lot of love. So you can see the photo of my long-term collaborator and high school pal Wong Woan Foong in the Last Fragments of Winter entry.

LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER on the Sapporo Film Fest catalog

Last Fragments of Winter finally had its Japanese premiere yesterday, September 12th.

It was a relaxing afternoon when I headed to the main venue of the screening with dad.

Dad was ready.

Dad, preparing to watch LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER

And this is us, before entering the screening hall.

With dad, before the LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER screening at Sapporo Film Fest

My film was screened together with a few other shorts. Here are 30-sec/1-minute excerpts of these films that the Sapporo Film Fest uploaded on their Youtube channel.

The selection was diverse and really good, as you can see from the excerpts.

Finally, here's a video of the Q and A session that I had after the screening. The video was shot by this young nice volunteer. Sadly, I forgot to tell him NOT to take a vertical video. Er. Sorry about that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Arriving at the Sapporo Short Film Fest 2012 opening ceremony

Yesterday morning, I made my way from Narita to Sapporo. My dad has joined the fun as well.

My eloquent tweets pretty much covered most of the trip.

I spent most of the 2-hour flight sleeping. Arriving at Shin-Chitose Airport, I took the rapid train to Sapporo, checked into my hotel, and made my way to the Opening Ceremony.

It was raining a little. I liked seeing the colorful lights reflected upon the wet surface of the road.

Rained a little in Sapporo yesterday. I like seeing the colorful lights reflected upon the wet surface of the road.

There was a dance performance.

After that, the mayor of Sapporo and a couple of other people gave speeches.
The jury members were also introduced.

Yes, in this film festival, there is a children's jury, made up of children, they would go through the films and pick their winners. During the opening ceremony, they already handed out the award to a film. I presumed it was an animated short.

I really, REALLY don't dare to imagine what would happen if they were forced to go through my own LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER. Probably fell asleep during the first few minutes...

So, this is a photo of me at the opening.

At the Sapporo Film Fest 2012 opening

But my favourite photo of the opening ceremony was the one below.

After the opening ceremony, I was tempted to try one of those Sapporo-styled ramen. So I did.

My screening begins in less than 2 hours.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Off to Hokkaido, a place I often fantasize and romanticize

While I am writing this, it is already 4am in the morning. At 11:30am, I will be flying off to Sapporo in Hokkaido for the Japanese premiere of LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER in Sapporo Short Fest.

Girl in the snow. A disturbingly familiar image.

This post is supposed to be published automatically while I'm still flying.

I have been staying in Japan for four years, yet Sapporo, or rather, Hokkaido in its entirety, had lost neither of its mystique in my heart. In these four years, I have dreamt of going, had wanted so much to go, yet the air ticket prices were too much, and I didn't dare to imagine what would it be like going there alone.

Because of films like Shunji Iwai's LOVE LETTER or Yasuo Furuhata's POPPOYA (RAILROAD MAN), I have a romanticized image of the place in my heart.

This precious, snow-covered place depicted so beautifully in Japanese films.

How I have wished that I could go there. I had yearned for it so much that I found it frustrating.

Even without the snow, I imagined during the lavender season, a field of lavenders, like a sea of brilliant purper, I wondered what would it smell like.

Every time when I try to write a feature film, I would try to write in some Hokkaido scenes, just so I could find a way to get there and shoot at its wilderness... all wishful thinking. Nothing had ever materialized.

I never got to go to Hokkaido, but I had been to Shirakawa Village when I was 17. The place was so beautiful that it haunted me for a decade. It haunted me not only because of what it was, but also what I thought it could have been. I was there when it was autumn, I loved the place. But then I saw photos of the place in winter, I was utterly bewitched.

Going back to Shirakawa-go to shoot the film last year felt like a dream. It felt so long ago, and it also felt so ephemeral. The images I saw early in the morning were so special that I knew I could ever describe them, and all I could do was to fold them into pieces and keep them in my heart.

Last year, I shot my short LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER here. The film will have its Japanese premiere at Sapporo Film Fest next week, followed by Nara Film Fest.

As I am suffering from the heat of Japanese summer, I yearn madly for the snow.

I find it rather fitting to premiere LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER, a film which is mostly a depiction of a winter that I have yearned for in my mind, at the very place which I had fantasized for half of my life. Let's see how audiences will react. But for now, I just want to see what Sapporo is really like.

Friday, September 07, 2012

This mysterious pile of CDs I have been going through...

Been writing the past few nights. I cannot stand the silence, therefore I always need to be accompanied by music.

I have a rather extensive playlist on my iPhone, but for the sake of not getting distracted, I usually chuck my phone aside whenever I go somewhere else for a writing session.

Which means that I was left with the music that I have in my computer. Sadly, they are not as extensive. After a few nights of listening to just the Cocteau Twins, I needed some alternatives.

Last night, I decided to go through the pile of CDs I have accumulated in the past four years since I came to Tokyo.

The pile of CDs I have been talking about the past day.

Going through it was like opening a treasure box of my memories, and surprises.

(I wrote about the Kahimi Karie live performance here)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

On Borges, Eco, Calvino, Marquez... and McDull

I never forgave my secondary school for banning us from bringing novels to school. That is why I constantly speak about it.

Back then, unable to accept such a rule, I occasionally brought a book to school for some reading pleasure. Alas, the school prefects deemed me, a guy who was just sitting at the corner, quietly reading a book, a threat to school safety, thus my books were sometimes confiscated.

I had to write eloquent letters to the prefects just so I could get them back.

That is why, in some of my angry rants over the years, I couldn't stop blaming the local education system for not emphasizing the importance of literature and culture to its students, that we lived merely to score well academically, that our education was more on learning how to deal with exams, instead of preparing us properly to contribute to society. That our country is full of highly-educated folks who don't give a crap about literature.

Many years ago, back in Perth, Justin (who used to contribute to this blog but had since became a published novelist himself) once said this:

"I cannot imagine anyone not picking up a novel in their entire life. What sort of existence is that?"

I shrugged. "A typical Malaysian."

Being in love with literature is just as lonely as being passionate about films. Or maybe a little more so. At least most Joe Blows do go to cinemas for films as some social exercise. Any attempt to have a meaningful or deep discussion about the film will be futile. People will look at me as if I had farted loudly in a funeral.

Because they rarely happen, being able to go into in-depth discussions about films, filmmakers, or literary works, authors, can be a very pleasurable experience. Perhaps that is why I am often on Facebook and Twitter. Or why I often surf film websites and go through the comments section. Just to find and read about discussions that I can never seem to have in real life.

(Perhaps if I were a banker, I wouldn't have to deal with such a dilemma, no?)

Yesterday, Maggie Lee, film critic of Variety, tweeted this link to a book review:

I was intrigued too, especially after reading the last paragraph of the review.

Readers pleased by cliff-hanging, nail-biting, page-turning adventure will not be satisfied with "Atlas." Devotees of writers as curious as Borges, Calvino and Eco, will love this map of maps of an imaginary city.

Sounded a little like Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings.

So a conversation occurred.

(If you folks were wondering. The first Eco book I read was his first novel, THE NAME OF THE ROSE. I think that was around 2006. A year later, I read his final novel THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME OF QUEEN LOANA, and actually wrote down some of my thoughts. I was very young and impressionable.)

(My Perth years from 2004 to 2006 was a great period of time when I found myself exposed to a large number of great literature. Some of my most cherished memories of the place was wandering in the numerous bookshops in Fremantle, and then the Borders and Dymocks in Perth City.)

(I read HARDBOILED WONDERLAND 2 years ago, when I was at Brignogan, France. Alone in my hotel by the sea. It's a lovely place.)

Golden field of Brignogan 4

Hanneke before the sunrise

(She meant the Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai, to the uninitiated)

(Certain posts in this blog written in 2006-2007 had shown that I'm far from a Murakami fanatic. But I think my stance had softened lately. I actually enjoyed the first 100 pages of 1Q84, even though I haven't continued reading.

Perhaps After Dark was the turning point.)

(I have a lot of fondness for CHUNGKING EXPRESS. And still think that FALLEN ANGELS had one of the most romantic endings in cinematic history, ever.)

(Sadly, I'm a non-fan of the LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA film adaptation)

(I mentioned this intense reading experience here. I don't think many people really believed that I finish the book in one sitting.)

(Maggie was referring to the 1990 Chinese film BLOODY MORNING by Li Shaohong. Really want to catch this.)

(The world shudders.)

(This is the trailer for the first McDull movie. Came out in 2001.)

And this is when Twitch's Matthew Lee (no relations to Maggie, haha) joined in the discussion.

(The last time I met Maggie and Matthew was in Tallin, Estonia, during Christmas Eve, after I participated in the "60 SECONDS OF SOLITUDE IN YEAR ZERO" omnibus project.)

(Didn't see Prince De La Bun. But I often quote the bird w/o legs from WKW's DAYS OF BEING WILD in an overdramatic manner, but fortunately without doing the subsequent dance.)

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