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Friday, July 24, 2009

Quick thoughts on BMW Shorties 2009's finalists

(UPDATED 26th of July, 2009: Yasmin Ahmad has passed away. Rest in peace.)

I received a DVD of this year's BMW Shorties finalists two days ago because I was asked to voice my thoughts on the films. I watched them yesterday evening and gave BMW Shorties' Seet Heng some brief commentary, the original entry is posted here on the BMW Shorties website.

But prior to that, while watching the DVD, I was suddenly interrupted by the Yasmin Ahmad death rumours on Facebook. A friend told me about it on Facebook chat, I started asking others for verification, the others freaked out too. So I freaked out and called Ming Jin, asking whether he knew about it. He knew nothing, but was a little freaked out as well, so we were both checking Facebook updates and talking over the phone, some 'RIP' status updates had started appearing. Thankfully, minutes later, Eyeris, via Twitter and Facebook, pointed out that she passed OUT, and not passed AWAY or passed ON.

The latest updates I got last night was that she had suffered a stroke and is still in critical condition. I hope everything will be fine and she will pull through. My uncle had a serious stroke thirteen years ago and I remember that the first few days were the toughest. Here's a video from last night's press conference.

I don't really know Yasmin personally, having never met her in person at all. I only had one single phone conversation with her two years ago, when I called her and asked her to provide some casting recommendations during the pre-production of Cinta Tiga Segi. The conversation was like this:

Me: Heya, Yasmin, I'm producing this TV movie for Woo Ming Jin. And we're looking for someone to cast as our leads. Good-looking young people. It's a romantic comedy, you see.

Yasmin: Hmm. But looks are very subjective.

Me: True, but as long as they look good enough for many objective viewers, I'll be fine.

Yasmin: I'll think about it and get back to you.

Me: Cool!

That was it.

Now, I'm embedding all the BMW Shorties finalists of this year, along with my own commentary (will slightly add a bit more on what I wrote yesterday). It will be cool if you guys watch it and join me in your discussion. Really, I'm just hoping for more interaction in this blog, it's getting pretty quiet here.

FLASHES from Prakash M. on Vimeo.
Life goes by faster than one can imagine, and all that remains in our memories are either the tragic experience of heartache or the unforgettable moments of wonder...

A Kash Pictures Production. Written and directed by Prakash Murugiah.

My thoughts: Flashes belongs to the “man dies and have his whole life flashing before his life” genre. Not an original concept, but executed very well. Nice touch with the allusion to reincarnation. Some parts are surprisingly touching. Old age make-up was a little lacking, but then, even big-budget Hollywood productions struggle with those too.

m a c h a i from shanjhey kumar on Vimeo.

K.L becomes Kay Hell for cousins Kali and Dass who were down visiting their uncle Bull Dog Maniam for the school holidays, but ended up being forced to become his “Ma chai” (Apprentice), helping him carry out his business for the past few days. Though they were able to survive the storm, see why today is an unlucky day………..


I use to hang out at my friends “kampong” in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur. One day I heard that soon the settlement will be abolished to make way for new development, ”Gosh ! they are gonna lose the only living thing in the middle of this concrete jungle “

Then I struck me that I should do a documentation on this place. Instead than doing a the normal serious toned documentary, Why not a fun filled story based on multiracial “kampong” life? That’s how “Machai” was born

My thoughts: Ma Chai is very vibrant and energetic. Sanjhey shows that he has a lot of fun making this film, and his joy is infectious. I also feel that he has a very distinctive filmmaking style.

Codename Hashshashin from chow jr on Vimeo.
A documentary about the most oldest and secretive society/organization the world has ever seen!

My thoughts: Codename Hashshashin cracked me up with its initial premise. When the film began, I was silently hoping it’s not a generic hitman film, and I was rewarded with a witty mockumentary about modern-day cupids. Reminds me of HK director Edmond Pang’s works. I almost want to see this being expanded into something longer.

LUBANG from mohamed fazry on Vimeo.
In the event of getting numerous weird nightmares portraying himself dead, Sudin, a lonely guy became so much obsessed with the death scene he kept getting. He decided to dig his own burial ground in the compound that he owns. Although his weird action has caught attention of the other villagers and even the religious master tried to stop him, but he is still persistent...

My thoughts: Thanks to its good control in rhythm and atmosphere, Lubang is quite engrossing as we are immersed into the protagonist’s paranoia. I like the black comedy.

1:19 from Katak Chua on Vimeo.
James, a college student who needs money for his tuition fees is in a hopeless situation as his older brother mindlessly gambles away their family savings. The tension increases between the siblings as confrontation and accusations are thrown around, causing James to take matters into his own hands..

My thoughts: I thought the acting was a little wobbly at first, but then I realized that 1:19 is quite ambitious with its one-take shot. Very atmospheric because of its stylistic choice. I'm a sucker for long tracking shots.

7 from Jimmy Lim on Vimeo.

My thoughts: 7 is a very subtle and sensitive portrayal on a father-and-son relationship. I figured out the 'twist' early on, but I was drawn into its emotions. I’m a fan of the mundane when it is depicted well.

Conversation with Mad Man from brandon loh on Vimeo.
Is He Mad? Crazy? or not?

My thoughts: I wish “Conversation with a mad man” had a different title so that it wouldn’t give things away. It’s a very good one-man performance by the main actor. Monologue is effective and understated. It was smart of the filmmaker to just let the camera roll and have him work his magic. He also reminds me of HK comedian Eric Kot.

Le Mannequin from Vjan Wong on Vimeo.
This is our graduation final project in The One Academy(DG55), Malaysia.

*Please make sure u've watch until the end(FIN)! ;)

This 3D animation was created by Parktology (Wong Wei Jian,Cheong Tsae Yen,Cheong Kai Yen,Audrey Au E-theng,Chin Shenyin).

Enjoy the show! =)

My thoughts: Le Mannequin is very whimsical and romantic, reminds me of a Pixar animation (an obvious influence, I'm sure), and a dash of French romantic comedies like Amelie... and also the pain I myself have with women. I heard it took nearly ten months to work on this, I can say that the hard work can definitely be seen here!

Resonance from John W J Cho on Vimeo.
A passerby chances upon a envelope on the street. Curious, she decides to read its contents. It turns out to be a suicide note from a distressed soul trying to reach out from beyond the grave. Themes of regret, isolation and reflection are explored through the reader's imagination. This is my short film entry for BMW Shorties 2009.

My thoughts: Resonance is a well-written and well-shot film essay that meditates upon urban isolation and such. Urban isolation is always a bummer, especially for a guy like me who is now living in Tokyo, so it’s good of John Cho to remind me of its bummer-ness. I actually did something similar last year with my little-seen experimental video, FLEETING IMAGES.

So here you go, like I said check out the short films above and tell me what you think too.