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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Obama in Malaysia

U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Malaysia last weekend was quite a big deal to many in the country because it was the first time in 48 years when the president of United States came to visit us small Malaysians. (last one was Lyndon B. Johnson) That's why I have to post this for remembrance.

A few days before that, he was in Tokyo.

I didn't know about it until I was in Ginza, where the entire place was swarmed with police, roads were blocked, and lots of news team around.


A few days ago, Malaysian independent film pioneer James Lee (and also producer of my last short film FLOATING SUN :D ) uploaded his entire 2007 TV movie BERNAFAS DALAM LUMPUR (English title: BREATHING IN MUD) online.

I remember catching this on TV the day it was aired seven years ago. The film starred numerous actors whom I have collaborated with a few months earlier in the TV films I produced, KURUS (English title: DAYS OF THE TURQUOISE SKY): Nam Ron, Mislina Mustaffa, Mohammad Hariry, Azman Hassan etc.

It tells the story of a man, Meor (Hariry) long thought to be dead, returning to his wife (Mislina), who has now remarried his best friend Din (Nam Ron).

Yes, like KURUS, this was a TV movie commissioned by NTV7. If this is online, I wonder whether it's possible for me to upload KURUS in its entirety as well?

Here's the film:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Finishing Roberto Bolano's THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES in Bali

I discovered Roberto Bolano during my 2007 trip in Chile. That was my first ever trip to a film festival as an invited filmmaker (went there as producer for ELEPHANT AND THE SEA, which was in competition), and also a prelude of the many solo travelings that I would do after that.

My routine in these (film festival) trips has remained mostly the same. When I'm not attending the film festival, I would be taking solitary walks around recommended places, snapping photos, and then taking a break somewhere for food or coffee, in which I would take out a book to read. Otherwise, I would just head into a nearby bookstore to look through the books.

On the day that I was about to leave Santiago, I decided that I had a few hours to kill, so I went to the shopping mall next to my hotel and hung out at the bookshop. A few days earlier, someone had recommended Bolano's works to me, so I was curious to read them. There was a bookshelf full of his works, and I decided to check out his short story collection LAST EVENINGS ON EARTH, because it sounded like a science fiction novel (it really sounded like A. A. Attanasio's underrated sci-fi epic novel THE LAST LEGENDS OF EARTH, right?)

Of course, when I went through the short stories, I realized there was nothing remotely science fictionish about them at all. They were all stories narrated by struggling writers living at the margins. I think I only got through a 2-3 stories before I had to rush to the airport, but he left an impression.

In the few years since then, I have bought 2666 at a bookshop in Roppongi, which I have yet to read because I wanted to read THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES first.

I started THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES early last year. I went through the first section (book is divided into 3 sections) very swiftly. It's narrated by a 17-year-old aspiring poet named Juan Garcia Madero and chronicles his encounters with a group of poets who call themselves the "Visceral Realists", and also his string of love affairs.

The second section (which is two thirds of the novel's entire length) is a sudden shift in style and is the centerpiece of the novel. Spanning twenty years with dozens of narrators, it is a series of interviews with people (around the world) who had contact with the two leaders of the Visceral Realists, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima. The book becomes as much about the two as it is about the narrators, and also the time and place around them.

Due to the density of the novel, and also because the novel I read before this was Gao Xingjian's SOUL MOUNTAIN, I was too mentally exhausted. So I took a break from it after reaching the 200 page-mark. That was around May 2013.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Kecak Dance in Uluwatu, Bali

Kecak Dance at Uluwatu, Bali. It depicts a battle from the epic, Ramayana.

The night before I left Bali, I managed to watch the famous Kecak Dance in Uluwatu. It was an experience unlike any other.

Bali was indeed beautiful

Paddy fields in Bali

During my 10 days in Bali (I was there because I rented my camera out for an Indonesian-Japanese co-production film shoot), I managed to see some beautiful sights.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo 2014

Cherry blossoms at night

Over the years I have taken quite a few photos of cherry blossoms in Tokyo.

The beauty of the sakura season is that everything is so fleeting, we just have to make the best of it. I guess that's the difference between a place like Japan and Malaysia. Malaysia is a tropical country where everything remains in perpetuity, summer lasts for 365 days, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, giving off an illusion of eternity, whilst Japan, with the cycle of seasons, and especially the short lovely sakura seasons, is constantly reminding me of impermanence, illustrating the passage of time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kumi Odori 組踊, Shikina-en 識名園 and Okinawa

When I was 14, I wanted to visit Okinawa because I fell in love with an Okinawa girl.

Unfortunately, said Okinawa girl was a member of Japanese pop group called SPEED (... where all four members were from Okinawa).

Looooong after my teens ended, I finally had the chance to fulfil my dreams when I was invited to the Okinawa International Film Festival last month to be one of the speakers at the Asia Content Gathering Symposium (other speakers include my pal Lim Kah Wai the Osaka-based Malaysian filmmaker, the Okinawan filmmaker Soichi Takayama and Cambodia Film Commission CEO Cedric Eloy).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rest in peace, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I was in Bali the past 10 days for a film shoot that I wasn't exactly involved in. (Basically, I was renting out my Blackmagic Cinema Camera for an Indonesian-Japanese film shoot, and had to stay around to ensure that no one was going to break my camera... of course, a free trip to Bali, which I've never gone before, was too tempting an offer to turn down)

While I was seemingly trapped in a time warp (like all film shoots tend to feel, despite my lack of involvement in this one), many things had happened in this world, mostly tragedies. One of my favourite wrestlers from my childhood, THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR, passed away on the day that I was flying off to Bali.

Since then, there was the South Korean ferry disaster in April 16, followed a day later, on April 17, by the deaths of Malaysian opposition politician Karpal Singh and literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Now that I am back in Malaysia for a day before I return to Tokyo tomorrow, I feel nothing but melancholy for the recent losses.