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Monday, July 18, 2016

Shohei Imamura's Karayuki-san, the Making of a Prostitute (1975)

Five years ago, I wrote about the Karayuki-san. The Japanese women who were sold or smuggled into Southeast Asia (mostly pre-independence Malaysia and Singapore) to work as prostitute from the late 19th century to early 20th century.

For reasons I cannot comprehend or explain, it became something that had haunted my mind for the past half decade. Maybe because this was a part of Japanese/ Malaysian history (countries obviously close to my heart) that was gradually being forgotten, so I became increasingly curious, and determined to commit their stories into film.

There are publications about them, but films? The only ones I am aware of are still Kumai Kei's Oscar-nominated SANDAKAN NO. 8 (1974) and Shohei Imamura's KARAYUKI-SAN, THE MAKING OF A PROSTITUTE (1975). The former is a fictionalized retelling of their plight, the latter is a documentary.

I finally found time to watch the documentary last night. In the documentary, the director Shohei Imamura was interviewing an old lady named Kikuyo Zendo, a former Karayuki-san. As they walked through familiar places like Klang and revisit locations of her memories, before finally revealing that at that time she was staying at Petaling Jaya, I was sort of shocked. Was she staying within my neighbourhood? Where I live now is an area that had existed long before my birth. In 30 years of my life I have been staying mostly in this house. A decade or two before my birth, she was probably roaming the same area.

People come and go, history happens, time is constantly moving. I don't know why this felt like such a big deal. Perhaps I am not used to seeing familiar places from a different time through the prisms of another.

In this effortless documentary I relearned many things that I have learnt during my years of researching the Karayuki-san, while also getting nuggets of information that I never knew before. When everything is recounted in first person, and committed to celluloid, the feeling is a little different from reading it from books.

This documentary is hard to find, I think it's still included in Shohei Imamura's A Man Vanishes DVD.

But you can find the entire film on Youtube, unfortunately, it only has French subtitles. Yet if you are curious, I still recommend that you scan through the film. Many of it transcend language anyway.

One thing I need to note is that many publications and articles about this documentary, including the seminal AH KU AND THE KARAYUKI-SAN book have mentioned that the locales visited by Imamura and Kikuyo were in Singapore.

But watching the documentary myself. I'm rather sure that all of Kikuyo's interviews were conducted in Malaysia, in areas around Kuala Lumpur. Like Cheras (the nursing home), Klang (the port at the opening, the ship, the previous brothels), Petaling Jaya (Kikuyo's home) etc. Even the cemetery they went to seemed very much like the Japanese cemetery in Kuala Lumpur, and not Singapore.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Remembering Abbas Kiarostami and rediscovering his films

Ever since the passing of the Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, I've found myself remembering the brief personal memories I have of him. They were all very fleeting.

With Abbas Kiarostami, Cannes 2010

Ming Jin and Fooi Mun with Abbas Kiarostami
Cannes Film Festival 2010

Merely that Ming Jin and I, along with Fooi Mun, our The Tiger Factory lead actress saw him at the MK2 party and had to hurriedly (and politely) stop him to take these photos before he was about to leave.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

WATCH: Woo Ming Jin's 2005 short film CATCHING THE SEA

Once again I've been restoring and uploading some of the old short films that Ming Jin and I had made over the past decade onto the Greenlight Pictures Youtube channel.

My latest upload is Ming Jin's 2005 short film CATCHING THE SEA, which stars Pete Teo and Liew Seng Tat and served as a precursor (or spin-off) for his feature film THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA.

Treasure trove of Andrei Tarkovsky videos

Recently, as I was finishing up a making-of documentary that I was working on in the past few months, I decided to do some research on other great making-of documentaries. It's always great to seek inspiration from the masters, and I was also thinking of an Andrei Tarkovsky documentary that I watched on Youtube a year or two ago, Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

Thanks to Cinephilia & Beyond's comprehensive article on documentaries of Andrei Tarkovsky, I learnt of a great Youtube channel which had uploaded some really great Tarkovsky interviews and documentaries.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY, my 2010 short film

The past few weeks I've been uploading some of the older films, shorts and telemovies that Ming Jin and I had done over the past decade on the Greenlight Pictures Youtube channel.

Last night I've uploaded AFTERNOON RIVER, EVENING SKY.

I made this short film in 2009. Because it had the misfortune of being made between my (relatively more high-profiled short films) KINGYO and the INHALATION/ EXHALATION pair, this short (along with a few others I made within those few months) kinda got lost in the shuffle.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Nicole赖淞凤【和时光拔河】 官方完整版 MV

The music video I directed for pop star Nicole Lai is finally out! Had a lot of fun doing this, time was short, I shot this during a brief break between two festival trips. Please check it out!

Now I switch back to Chinese.

前天与大家分享了MV的预告片, 昨晚Nicole赖淞凤的【和时光拔河】完整版MV终于出炉了!