Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Teh Tarik with Dr. Anuar Nor Arai

Two weeks ago, I had a teh tarik chat with Dr. Anuar Nor Arai and I was estatic that we got to be able to just chit chat about films. We used to do this quite often a few years back but the weight of my job and my family have restricted me quite a bit but I always try to find that little spark of opportunity to meet up with Dr.

One can be quite intimidated with Dr. Anuar, as he is as straight a shooter as one can get. He is wise in his knowledge of films and philosophy and he is rightfully opinionated in a lot of matters concerning films.

Three years ago, Dr. Anuar invited me to be involved in his Istana Budaya production, RONGGENG ROKIAH. I was initially reluctant to be involved as this was to be a major national theatre production and I had never worked on a scale this big. Dr. asked me to be the assistant director and also later played the part of Jimmy Lee in the play. Imagine, playing a part which had one of the most memorable line in the play, in front of hundreds and the "what if" crops up. What if I fumble the line? I'll be laughed at by the audience and Dr. would never want to talk to me again. Oh... The play was in Bahasa Malaysia and frankly speaking, my Bahasa was and is still very rusty. I must say that I plowed through it by taking up the challenge in working with Dr. and also my fear of having hundreds of eyes prying into me. His directing method had a vague way to it but through the many rehearsals, the actors and I slowly found our way through the written text. He brought the film noir elements to the stage which he coined Noir On Stage, with shadows, silhouettes, femme fatale and lot of people smoking including yours truly and it became one of the most successful Istana Budaya productions.

We talked about everything from SEPET, BIG DURIAN, JOHN CASSAVETES, ZHANG YI MOU to AKIRA KUROSAWA. He talked about the new generation of filmmakers being more daring and psychologically stems from their mixed parentage. I found it to be an interesting reading into the new breed of filmmakers. I will remember that Dr. once said that the Malaysian soil is not rich enough for great films to be produced yet based on the historical context as he compared Malaysia's history to China's, Europe's or Indonesia's.

A few days ago I was at Dr.'s house to collect the John Cassavetes' documentary and we had another session of dialogue. He spoke about Li Yang's Blind Shaft being very fresh and had a youthful outlook in its approach. He is working on a screenplay at the moment and also holds a position at UITM.

As for me, I'm glad to see Dr. Anuar to be busy again, doing what he loves most and hoping that he will be given the chance to direct again, whatever the medium is: film, stage or video. I'm also hoping to have many more teh tarik sessions with him.

Monday, April 17, 2006


There was a time when making a film was looked down upon or it was not thought highly of. Recently due to the digital technology, filmmaking has become one of the hottest careers to go into. It has somehow “democratize” once an expensive venture. There lies the pros and cons to the technology. Everybody can claim themselves to be a DIRECTOR now.

Making a film be it short or a feature takes a lot out of a person. All of these require stamina. To make a feature film requires so much out of you that your unwavering focus should be put to the test. Even a short film, stamina is required but on a shorter duration of time. The stamina is needed from the moment the seed is sowed on the idea of the story that one wants to make. The mental stamina of pushing oneself to get that fetal of an idea to grow into a recognizable structural form which is a screenplay is that first hurdle one has to face.

Now, you might have to face the blank page or like me, I collaborate with a writer which is usually my wife. I do write my own materials at times but I find my method takes up too much time and forever to complete. Of course, there will always be the good and the bad side of the particular process but on the good side, there is a synergy that runs deep when I have a collaborator that knows me as both of us become mirror to one another and one also pushes the other to make the story works even stronger. Arguments are always good for me as it always remind me that there is still communication between the collaborator and I, there is that honesty to stamp out my bad ideas at times. Definitely, in the beginning I will defend my ideas but I will eventually realize that my wife is right and another better idea will eventually always emerge to strengthen the bad one.

What is the story all about? What is the intent? Those questions will always linger in my head as that becomes the compass in making certain that the story and its intent do not deviate.
To be continued...

Friday, April 07, 2006


What a word! Simple yet it contains energy... P..A..S..S..I..O..N. Beautiful!

Yet to attain it, it has to come from within the person. Does it come naturally or one has to manufacture it?

A word that I have used countless times in front of my students in hopes that I’ll be able to ignite the sparks in them. Filmmaking is a brutal yet satisfying career. A career? Yes, a career. A career that needs that spark and fire burning at all times.

Many a time that the spark nearly burned out in me but it always find its way to ignite back again. My love for cinema runs too deep.

Sitting here, in order to conjure words on the blank screen, I have to dig within me to write and it is frustrating when you are at a loss of the exact word to put, but once it comes, it flows and flows.

Making films, I have to be fired up from within to want to start a project because that fire is the one that will let me see it through all the way. There will always be a million and one obstacles or reasons that will hinder or stall me from carrying on.

At a cross road I am, to continue or not and that is the question.