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Friday, December 31, 2010

Thoughts on 2010, and its recap (part 1)

It is 5:39am, 31st of December, 2010 as I am writing this. Less than 18 hours left for the year. I guess I'll just take a bit of time to reflect on the past year and make some sense out of it.

My life is probably defined now, by my filmmaking career. Ever since I started actually directing in 2008, I had derived a lot of joy from creativity, to be surrounded by like-minded people, to indulge myself in films, to further my own craft. My last tweet was laced with some sort of irony-induced nostalgia.

A year ago today. I wrapped the shoot of Exhalation. How great it was then, to be surrounded by like-minded people. So 2010 ends quietly

- about 11 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

That is why I constantly have to get into a film shoot, to do something creative, to create. Otherwise I am reduced to depression, or a state of existential melancholy.

I looked at my thoughts on 2008 written two years ago, and I cannot help but smirk at how some things had remained the same, how some thoughts had remained unchanged.

I always prefer to look forward, due to my love-hate relationship with the past. I occasionally enjoy the walk down memory lane, but I usually view the me from my past as 'inferior'. Afraid of falling into a stagnant state of existence, I constantly try to 'move on', to continue improving. One tend to say that we are defined by our memories and by the things we did in the past. Maybe. But I'll rather not cling to it. (that's why this is a recurring theme in my works)

I always feel conflicted when I meet people I haven't met since high school, I get to conjure fading memories of my life then, and superimpose their faces in it. And I'm being unfair, because immediately I assume that they are identical to how I remember them, without taking into account that people change, especially after so many years. That's the baggage of the past.

How annoyed I've felt when I knew that they thought the same of me. To assume that the me of now is the same as the me from secondary school, and how can I be taken seriously when I was just an ugly fat nerd then? How can they even understand my passion for filmmaking when I never even bothered talking about it in secondary school (I was already very prideful and I didn't want people to laugh at my dreams) Why would they feel the urge to watch my films even if I've given them the DVDs when the filmmaker in their memory banks is the pimply-faced hideous fat boy who often made a fool of himself in school? But then, does it matter what they think of me now? I am fearful of a stagnant state of existence in my own life, but it isn't up to me to prevent the stagnancy of my existence in their minds.

- December 30, 2010

What I thought then, I think the same now. Does that mean that I have remained in a stagnant state of existence?

Last month I even allowed my own memories to stretch back to an incident during my last few moments in primary school, yes, when I was 12, and remembered how angry I had felt, fourteen years ago, when after witnessing classmates share a tearful goodbye on the bus, I said goodbye to one of them, and I was given a nonchalant "oh, bye".

I spoke to a number of friends of mine back from primary school, former classmates who had long forgotten that incident.

"Why, why did she cry saying goodbye to him, when all I got was just an "oh, bye"?" I said.

"You do realize that we were only 12 then, right?" Jasmine, my friend, said.

"Yes, but I was already a sensitive soul then, despite the fact that I was some fat ogre who looked like Shrek. I don't hate these people, and I was never in love with that girl who said "oh, bye" to me, I hated the idea of double standards, that the guy would get a tearful goodbye without really doing much, while all I could get was "oh, bye", and walking past me. I clung on to this resentment, so I could dedicate my life into doing things that no one would have ever imagined that I could achieve." I said.

"You did that, and more." said Yee Ping, a primary friend of mine. "Time to, er, let go?"

"Here's the dilemma, if I let go, what is there to drive me? Or motivate me?" I replied. "Now, I say again, I don't hate these people, but I hated the idea they represented, I hated the feeling I had then, of feeling neglected. And so I throw myself into my work, to prove that they were wrong to just "oh, bye" me!"

Finally, Lydia, also from my primary school, but not in the same class, said this to me. "You are really a nice person at heart, but you generally crave for affection/ love/ attention, so you end up feeling bitter when you don't get it."

"Eh? That kinda sums up the actual core of my being!" I said, slightly amazed. Or maybe I always knew that and I found it funny that it took another person to point it out to me. Or maybe she wasn't right, and that I merely approved her statement because of the 'really a nice person at heart' bit, which assuaged my narcissistic thirst for approval, yes.

Ah, we narcissists often have this unexplainable exhibitionist streak. That's why I blog, I tweet, I use facebook, and most of all, I cannot seem to deal with the idea of creating something and then keep it to myself, without sharing it with another. It's not really adulation that I crave, but merely some sort of acknowledgement of my existence. Don't "oh, bye" me.

So I felt a little resentful towards old acquaintances who didn't watch the DVD of my films that I gave them after they asked for it. (to be fair, most times they could've just forgotten about it, instead of maliciously, deliberately trying to NOT watch the DVD, yet I stayed angry, and told myself "one day, ONE DAY, there comes a time when there is no way you can choose to overlook me." Then I proceed to dream and ponder, and think out ideas for a new film. Yup, that's me.

Why is it that a supposed recap of 2010 become some sort of psychological probing of my own self? Bah, I'm such a narcissist.

Now... if you are STILL with me.

Here's my recap of memorable moments of 2010.


I celebrated a real Japanese new year with Maiko the Producer's family in her hometown.

I also went to a GREEN DAY concert for free!

But really, most of the month was spent on me pouring my heart and soul into editing my short film EXHALATION.

[Exhalation] Naoko (Kiki Sugino) and Sayuri (Tomoe Shinohara) brooding
Kiki Sugino and Tomoe Shinohara in EXHALATION

(I would never have expected that it would be almost a year later before the short film finally had its world premiere.)


Returned to Malaysia for Chinese New Year.

Everyone eating merrily
Reunion dinner in Chinese New Year eve 2010

Kai Fai (in red), comes to my house every year for the Reunion Dinner in Chinese New Year, he had moved to Ipoh a couple of weeks ago. I feel a little melancholic knowing that I won't be back in Malaysia to celebrate Chinese New Year next February (I'll be in Rotterdam and Clermont Ferrand).

In February, I was also preparing with Ming Jin for the preproduction of THE TIGER FACTORY.


While writing our script, we were going around doing researches, interviewing people, auditioning actors and having rehearsals, all at the same time.


Spent my 26th birthday in a pig farm during the TIGER FACTORY shoot.



Interestingly, four people among the team celebrated our birthdays on successive days. Mine was March 6, Shalini the intern was March 7, Moon Lai the lead actress was March 8, then Ming Jin's wife Tomoko was March 9.

(my dad's birthday occurred a week later as well)

Immediately after the shoot of THE TIGER FACTORY, I went to shoot a little short film called INHALATION, which was a spin-off of THE TIGER FACTORY and had no relation to my previous short EXHALATION, aside from some thematic similarities. (I couldn't come up with another name)

Inhalation poster

I returned to Tokyo on the 17th of March.

A week later I headed off to Bratislava for a screenwriting workshop. First time in Slovakia, it was exciting.

Farewell, Bratislava

Bratislava castle at night

Me and my teammates: Anita from Slovakia and Alexis from Greece
My group mates, Alexis Alexiou of Greece, there to develop his second feature film, Anita of Slovakia, there to develop her first feature film script that she intended to direct


There were beautiful cherry blossoms at Toho Studios.

Dining under the cherry blossom tree

Received phone call from Ming Jin telling me that THE TIGER FACTORY had gotten into Cannes Film Festival. Elated. The biggest film fest in the world, the dream of many filmmakers, it had all happened.

I wanted to lay claim on the 'youngest Malaysian producer to ever get a film into Cannes Film Festival' tag to accompany the 'youngest Malaysian director to compete in Venice Film Fest' tag, but that would've been tastelessly disgraceful.

Nonetheless, the preparation for Cannes was... crazy.


My most trusted Maiko the Producer left for Osaka, she had gotten a job in NHK. Bye bye, Maiko.

With Maiko the Producer. Restaurant Acacia.

I then went off to the Cannes Film Festival. (you can read all of my recap here)

Me at the press conference

Me being interviewed

Fooi Mun, Ming Jin and I on red carpet

I even got to promote INHALATION during the press conference of THE TIGER FACTORY.



Went to Brignogan (France) for the second round of my screenplay workshop. (recap here)

Me at a Brignogan beach

Golden field of Brignogan 3

Lovely place.

UPDATED: Breaking the blog post into 2 because it's way too long!

Continued in PART 2