Monday, July 31, 2006

The RUT that we are in...

Last night, my wife & I attended the debate forum at FINAS, thinking that it would be an interesting affair as the panelists consisted of, Dr. Anuar Nor Arai, Yasmin Ahmad, Dr. Hatta Azad Khan... boy, was I way off my marks!!! What should have been an interesting debate on "Malay films, Malaysian films... what lies ahead for the face of Malaysian Cinema?", turned into ugly personal attacks over petty issues. There lies the rut of our film industry. Oops... Did I say industry.... what industry??!!!
The night unfolded in quite a leisurely Sunday night outing with the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information announcing changes to RTM that had the people in the industry cheering and applauding. Of course with any governmental functions, there are always the protocols of having it officially officiated the event. YAWN!! YAWN!!
The debate started mildly with Yasmin explaining certain reasons for her making her films, Dr. Hatta Azad Khan delving a little into the Malay film history and language is not the main criteria to judge and finally... Dr. Anuar started the ball rolling with his views of Malay and Malaysian cinemas... all hell broke loose after that!!!
This one pathetic born loser from the audience went up to the microphone and started to hurl unnecessary remarks to Dr. Anuar that had nothing to do with what he had say earlier. Then one by one of the audience, went up attacking with their personal grouses and also at Yasmin for damaging the Malay pride by showing her films overseas and winning awards from international festivals. Yasmin's films merely mirrors what is happening today in our society and in comparison to the other mainstream Malay films, that is a breath of fresh air and also the truth hurts and that is where a lot of the narrow-minded people cannot SEE and LEARN!!!
The worst of all would be this person that heads the Film Department at UM who said that it cannot be denied that Malaysian films should be in Bahasa Melayu because it is in the "rukun negara" and the official religion is Islam. If that is what they are preaching and teaching at the public universities, the minorities' days are numbered. A so-called professed intellectual the person he is, I find him to be completely off his marks and should be fired or resigned himself from his post. How can he ignore the pluralistic society that we are living in. Bahasa Melayu is not practiced daily in our life! A Chinese do not speak the national language to another Chinese or even to other races. Unless the Chinese is from the Peranakan heritage where they have assimilated themselves into the Malay culture and that dates back to the glory of the Malacca empire and the arrival of Princess Hang Li Po. They speak in their own mother tongue language or English is the usual medium of delivery especially in urban areas and the guy has got to acknowledge that as a reality and films should be reflecting the reality not a propagandistic reality!!!
Dr. Anuar was very articulated in his delivery of the searching for the face of Malay films through the understanding of the geography, topography, the landscape of the mind, and importantly history. For that, he was attacked... I have to say that we will still be in this RUT if everyone involved does not acknowledge his or her own flaws and work from there to improve and make it a better days ahead.
Hope is all that I have.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sad state of Hong Kong Film Industry

When will the filmmakers of Hong Kong realise that they can never compete with the Hollywood film industry! I just watched DRAGON TIGER GATE and I was largely disappointed with the film. But in comparison with the other comic adapted Hong Kong films, this movie stands a little above STORM RIDERS or A MAN CALLED HERO. Somewhere in the mess, there was a story however cliched it was.

The opening of DTG copied blatantly the opening of the Hollywood comic adapted movies which has become cliched. Can't filmmakers understand that story content is still king!! Chen Kaige(THE PROMISE), Tsui Hark(ZU) completely lost themselves in the world of computer generated visual efx that the story took a backseat and I was completely turned off. Why can't they realise that visual efx within this region cannot be compared with the ones produced in Hollywood, Europe or even the Kiwi land. Visual efx should work only as a tool, nothing more!!

INFERNAL AFFAIRS trilogy was interesting because the movie not only revolved around the story but also the characters and their dynamics. A Stephen Chow trademark remains a Stephen Chow trademark. A lot of imitators have tried to xerox his style and method but to no avail. Producers should understand and strive for individual originality than copying others.
Another thing that I was annoyed with DTG is the blatant usage of product placement that was too obvious, that it interrupts the flow of the story.

My favourite part of the movie is the martial arts choreography, which I thought was fairly well done.(Only if the filmmaker refrain from overusing computer generated visual efx.) I enjoyed the 80's referenced martial arts choreography of SPL and Donnie Yen brought a certain freshness of the movements in DTG but the efx seem to hamper the efforts that were put into the choreography.
Please filmmakers of the world, come back to the story!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


How do we treat time? Do we see time as an ally or an enemy? How does our mind cope with this ever forward momentum of time? Past is somehow but a memory but when I glimpsed back, I see a naive kid trying to conquer the world with the certain brash attitude of thinking that I am the greatest filmmaker since Orson Welles. Of course now I can laugh at my naivete.

July 4th, 1991, 15 years ago was an interesting day for me. I was living in Los Angeles over at La Fayette Park Place (They shot the Wesley Snipes-starred "White Man Can't Jump" there) near Wilshire Boulevard. (The main artery between Downtown LA to Santa Monica) I was still taking the bus every night to Columbia College - Hollywood where I was studying. A week before the eventful day, my friend, Timothy Bui passed me two tickets to attend this party over at San Fernando Valley. He regretted that he couldn't make the party as he had to drive back up north for a family gathering in San Jose. I looked at the tickets and the party was given by a person by the name of BRUCE 7. What a name!!! I asked Tim who he was and he replied that the guy is one of the most successful pornography producer. Of course being a small town boy from Sungai Petani, Kedah, once I heard "pornography producer" I was all excited to go. I called my Damansara Utama College friend, William Chan ( Certified genius... Did not break a sweat to score GPA 4.0+. Continued his studies at Cornell and later Harvard for his Masters or Phd...) who was at that time working at ORACLES in Foster City up north about the party. Once I mentioned Bruce 7, he confirmed that he would fly down.

I didn't have a car back then and when William came down, he decided to rent a car and it was a CHEVY convertible. I drove the car into the Valley.

We reached in the suburbs of San Fernando Valley where the address guided us to. The area looked very quaint and innocent, a place where families would have their children growing up. There were trees shading us from the particular hot day. Of course I would later learnt from my oracle friend that San Fernando Valley is the capital world of Porn industry. How naive I was????

The bungalow was a one storey corner lot, and it was quiet from the outside. Both of us looked at each other and wondered whether we were at the right place. We decided to try our luck by going to the front door and I knocked on the door. A familiar looking bearded man opened the door after a short while, I showed him the tickets and he said,"Welcome in to your Independence Day!!" I was still trying to place the bearded man where have I seen him before. Then he introduced himself as ED POWERS and instantly...DIRTY DEBUTANTES series popped into my head. He is the creator and producer of the series. A celebrity in the porn industry oooh..... aaahh.... My hair raised when I saw black leathery S & M objects being displayed right behind him. He guided us through the S & M objects, to the kitchen and dining area where we saw the porn stars that we have been watching on videos, (Finally getting to meet them!!) to the swimming pool area. Just as we opened the door to the pool, this two "JAKUN" boys from Malaysia (To the Americans at that time, Where is Malaysia? India?) had their jaws dropped wide open... as a petite Hispanic girl walked out of the swimming pool, wet ... COMPLETELY NAKED... walking past us. Our eyes were locked to this beautiful girl and with wide opened jaws! Later I found out that she was the next big star of the industry and her name was FELECIA.

The day started out quite interesting as there were shows at the gazebo with lesbian acts. These stars were surprisingly comfortable doing their sexual acts in front of a big audience. 20 minutes later, William and I had enough of the party. We were sicked to our stomachs and wanted out. Just before that, we had to go to the gents first. We passed through another living room where there was this couple doing it out in the open, both of us just shook our heads and smiled. At the toilet area, I saw one of my favourite porn actress at the time, FALLON and being a young naive "JAKUN" kid, I told her that I was a fan. She gave me the usual compliments by thanking me in that superficial manner and came close to my lips and kissed me. I could see William behind me with his mouth wide opened. I remembered my face turned hot. And... she left after that and we left the house and decided to go for Los Angeles' famous Chilli burger, Tommy's. Usually I would be able to gobble down a double chilli cheese burger and their famous Chilli Cheese Fries and a large Coke to accompany the food but I remembered that day I had trouble finishing the food and so was William. Just before we left the place, we saw a tall long-haired guy with a gorgeous blond just arriving to Tommy's. Andre Agassi!!

My little memory lane into the past. Fond, an experience that I would never forget, funny and Happy Independence Day America!!! Be good!!! ;)

I am glad that I'm 37 now and time is both the ally and the enemy, depending on where my state of mind is fluctuating at the particular moment.