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Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Back on Sunday, 12th of June, which was my second day in Shanghai. I went to the WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER screening. I was accompanied by an old friend of mine, Joey, who used to study in Tokyo and whom I met in Japanese Language classes 3 years ago. She graduated this year in March and had since returned to her hometown in Shanghai.

Thankfully she came to support the screening. Took a photo with her and the two girls who were involved in controlling the electronic subtitles during the screenings. They liked the sceneries captured in WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER so much that they really wanted to come to Malaysia.

Watching WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER with audiences from China was a funny experience. When the film began, someone exclaimed loudly in Cantonese, and in surprise: "the characters are conversing in Cantonese!!!"

And later:

"Wow, they are now conversing in Mandarin!!"

The fact that there are Malaysian Chinese, and that we speak Chinese dialects had always been a little known fact among some people from China. In Japan, I have met many Chinese people who reacted in shock when I introduce myself as a Malaysian and then proceed to speak to them in Mandarin. This also happened in film festivals when I met Chinese filmmakers.

Although I'm proud of our multilingual skills, I do feel a little self-conscious when showing our Malaysian-Chinese films to audiences from China. It feels like showing a Manglish film to British or American audiences?

At the same time, we preserve the way we speak in Mandarin because this is what makes us unique anyway. I'll be damned if we start forcing our actors to start speaking with a Beijing accent... (although there IS a little incident during the WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER shoot... Oh never mind)

WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER was shot 2 years ago. March 2009. Just shortly after I completed KINGYO.

It felt like an eternity ago, like a different life. That was before Venice, before Exhalation, before Inhalation, before the awards, before Cannes, before THE TIGER FACTORY... Before so many things.

I grimaced at some mistakes I made with the editing back then with WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, I mentally re-edited the film, wondering how I would have done it now.

I'm glad I grimaced. That means that I won't have delusions that my past works were perfect. That means I can still be critical of what I did in the past .

I look at my past with nostalgia, but I try not to dwell upon it. Otherwise there is no room to improve, no room to grow. People who speak proudly of stuff they did years and years ago depress me a little.