This journal has existed since 2004, witnessing my days as a university student in Perth with dreams of filmmaking to the actual embarkation of my filmmaking journey. And thus it has witnessed many of my adventures and greatest triumphs, from my student short films in Murdoch during 2006 to directing a Japanese short film, KINGYO, that got into Venice Film Festival in 2009 to writing and producing Woo Ming Jin's TIGER FACTORY that got invited to the Director's Fortnight at Cannes Film Fest in 2010, and then winning the Sonje Award for Best Asian Short Film the same year at Busan Film Fest with another short film, INHALATION.
There are a lot of ups and downs, though I'm sure I don't really write the downs that much.
Exactly a month ago, November 3rd 2017, I received an award for Best Director at the Tokyo International Film Festival, for my latest film AQÉRAT (We, The Dead). My lead actress Daphne Low, who had worked with me since 2013 for the short film FLOATING SUN and then RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS, she received the festival's inaugural Tokyo Gemstone Award, which was for rising stars. That was her first ever award as an actress too!
Since then, the outpouring of congratulations, media coverage etc had been overwhelming.
As I stood on the stage then, it was difficult not to be emotional, firstly because I am aware of the film festival's history, and in 30 years of its history, many film greats had been recognized by the film festival, like Edward Yang and his Brighter Summer Day winning the Special Jury Award in 1991, while the Best Director award in the festival had won by filmmakers like Alan Parker, Yim Ho, Reza Mirkarimi, Guy Ritchie, Taylor Hackford, Ruben Ostlund, Alejandro Innaritu, Wu Tian-Ming, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the Safdie Brothers... to be mentioned with these greats is unbelievable, especially when I try to remember where I was when I saw the films they won their awards for. (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris won for 'Little Miss Sunshine', which harkened memories of my Perth days when I would go alone to the Luna Palace Cinemas in Fremantle, which specializes in arthouse films, with 'Little Miss Sunshine' being one of the films I saw then)
Then I thought of everyone who were part of my journey, from past to present, from Perth to Tokyo to back in Malaysia, teachers, mentors, comrades, companions who were involved in all my films, and I realized how fortunate I was that I have always met the right people who had helped me make worthy films that strengthened my belief in what I've been doing (well, there are some not-so-right people too, but they were rare, and they existed only as cautionary tales... or sources of irritation), with friendship that managed to endure. The connection I share with other people through film is one I cherish immensely, since being in love with cinema was such a lonely thing to do while I was growing up.
I remember in 2004 when I had a camcorder and I wanted to make a short film and one person decided to join me in this crazy quest. Here's to you, Justin. For being my best pal in Perth where we talked about films and literature, and for introducing people of J-Lit like Yukio Mishima, Yasunari Kawabata, Akutagawa, Junichiro Tanizaki etc. to me. So glad I got to meet up and celebrate with you a few days after the award ceremony.
So, November ended, and Facebook prompted me to remember what happened in the previous month. (after the Tokyo International Film Festival, I went off to become a surprise jury member at the Digicon6Asia a few days after, a surprise that surprised even myself)
It also reminded me of my 10-year friendship with Lesly the Cinematographer, who had been mentioned quite a few times here, having shot my short films like CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY, LOVE SUICIDES, AFTERNOON RIVER, NOW, FLOATING SUN, LOVE IS A DOG FROM HELL and finally AQERAT.
I'm afraid of making this post too self-congratulatory. Winning the award makes me grateful, and very humbling, but I still have to remember that I have half of a new film waiting for me to finish! And another new project I'm developing a story for!