Name of Project:Thin Air Brief Description of Project:
“Thin Air” is a whimsical tale chronicling the final days of Hector. Seated in a wheelchair parked on the roof of his apartment building, Hector flings fishing lines into the cold heights of New York City. He bids his time for the impossible catch, whilst reality bites in the form of Cecilia, his home-care aide.Project Tagline:
“Thin Air” is not simply an elegy to solitude. Sometimes the quieter one’s world is, the harder one dreams and sometimes the universe hears you.
Brief Description of the Project: In the summer of 2009 MM Lee released a statement regarding NMP Viswa Sadasivan's speech within parliament. Through his rebuttal I (and probably other Singaporeans) started questioning the meaning of our national pledge, but more importantly, with my severe lack of proficiency in the Chinese language, why do i have the ability to recite it in Mandarin? Through the film, in revisiting my childhood, I hope to question society and the education system of Singapore.
Brief Description of the Project: A never before look at the lives of people that don't quite fit in. People we almost know. People in search of 'home' Project Tagline:"On every street in every city, there is an outsider looking in "
Name of project:Memories of a Burning Tree Brief description of project
The 39th International Film Festival Rotterdam has announced a first major focus - ‘Where is Africa?’ This most extensive programme devoted to independent African filmmaking at any Western film festival in recent years will include new short and feature length films, live performances, historical films, storyteller's cinema, debates and a series of commissioned films by non-African filmmakers. The 39th IFFR takes places from 27 January up to 7 February 2010.
A special part of the focus will be ‘Forget Africa’. The IFFR asked twelve non-African filmmakers to get involved and, travelling through an African country of their choice, use their first impressions to each make a film. ‘Forget Africa’ will include the world premieres of commissioned films by Philipino filmmaker Khavn De la Cruz (Cameroon), Malaysian filmmaker Tan Chui Mui (South Africa), US-filmmakers Kimi Takesue (Uganda) and Deborah Stratman (Malawi), Indian-American filmmaker Pia Sawhney (Rwanda), German filmmaker Uli Schueppel and Singaporean artist Sherman Ong (Tanzania), Beijing based Philippine filmmaker Joanna Arong Vasquez and Thai artist and filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong (Zambia), Indonesian filmmaker Edwin (Kenya), US-filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson (Angola) and Austrian artist Ella Raidel (Mozambique).
Tagline of quote for the project:
"Asian road movie with African actors and Swahili dialogue"
Brief description of the project: Joey, a video consultant from W.E.D (wedding education department), dedicates herself to promoting romance and lasting marriages to young Singaporeans through her unique videos. Now she is about to fulfill her own dream with GIN, a handsome music teacher whom she has been in a whirlwind romance with after casting him along side with her in a W.E.D video. When Joey announces her upcoming wedding to Gin, her colleagues at W.E.D. are surprised; none of them has ever met Gin in person or heard of him until the video. But they are happy, as Joey was the only unmarried staffer at W.E.D.
While Joey’s star is rising at W.E.D, the path to her own wedding is elusive. Joey gets stood up by Gin on her birthday and finds him out and about with a beautiful girl, CECILIA. Crushed, Joey is desperate to find out what’s going on only to be met with rejection and refusal.
Is Joey delusional, in need of psychiatric help? Or is Gin just an irresponsible ex-fiancé who needs to be brought to justice? Either way, Joey’s unrelenting pursuit of Gin throughout shows us to what lengths a heart will go to get what it wants and if indeed, there is a winning formula to make love happen under any circumstances.
This Mandarin romantic comedy is written by Wee Li Lin and Silvia Wong. It is already in the middle of production.
Project Tagline: Lessons in love just can’t be taught!
THE FOREST SPIRITS 狐仙计 The first Singapore wuxia short film Story by Ting Szu Kiong. A powerful clan leader goes deep into the forest to hone his supernatural skills. To stop disturbance, he kills one of the forest spirits to warn them while they are having a celebration. Years later, the forest spirits lure a young man into the forest. This is their first step in their revenge against the tyrannical man who has taken away their territory.
Grace (G): Is this your first feature film? Szu Kiong (SK): The Forest Spirits is a short film. It should be my fourth short film. My first is My Keys which was nominated for Best Short Film in Asian Festival of First Films.
G: What inspired you to start on this project? SK: From my first film, I have always strived to add to the variety of local films. And, of course, I like wuxia films. I grew up watching such films in the 70s. I had been thinking of an wuxia short story for some time. After watching Akira Kurosawa's first segment of DREAM, I suddenly thought of a story. Akira Kurosawa's DREAM is so mermerisingly beautiful. It shows a respect for nature and I love nature. And this inspired me to think of a short story in a similar vein.
G: What can the audience look forward to? SK: The film is made with simplicity. No large numbers of cast. No hundreds of exotic locations. No flying actions. No explosions. I think I would advice everyone not to bear preconceived ideas and expectations in watching any film. But certainly, it's a very different Singaporean film. It has a simple story but an underlying call for nature conservation.
G: Where was 'The Forest Spirits' shot at? SK: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. You should go there. It's a beautiful place. Just beware of hungry monkeys.
G: How long did you take to make this film from the time pre-production started? SK: The preproduction took more than half a year (starting from Jan 09 to Aug 09). We spent much time buying materials and making props and costumes. Thanks to Chee Wee, the production manager, and Julia, the costume designer. We made Sunny's armor by cutting cardboards, gluing suitable fabrics and tying them together. We cannot find suitable wuxia shoes and so bought different shoes, cut them, and thread the different parts together. We can't find a long stuff for Sunny's character and so bought a few walking sticks, saw them, and joined the parts together. It's a very hands-on project.
G: Are there any special 3D effects in this film? If so, was it difficult making it look believe? SK: We use a green screen special effect, and minimal 3D special effect. We can't do much 3D special effects because of limited budget. A 3D effect might be believable when it's alone in itself. But when edited with other shots, it's a different story.
G: What is the main ingredient in making a wu xia film? SK: Wuxia films also have drama, human conditions. So, the basic theory in acting and storytelling apply. But wuxia cannot exist without period costumes and hairstyle. I think it is possible to make a short wuxia film without actions but probably it's not possible for a feature wuxia film not to have actions. At least I haven't seen one.
G: How did you go about casting? SK: I gathered my talents from friends' referrals, except for Sunny. I went to him to introduce myself after I watched an experimental feature film he acted in. I found him a very dedicated actor in that film. Such degree of committement is rarely found in many local actors. I thought to myself I really need more of such talents and so I went to be acquainted with him. I usually don't conduct casting sessions. This is probably because I don't know if I can conduct a useful and effective casting call. I am still a new filmmaker (3-4 years from my first short film). You know?
G: How did you get help to shoot this? In terms of financial and crew support? SK: SFC supports this film with a very good amount. And I am very grateful to SFC for supporting my four films so far. The crew members are from all walks of life. Some are students (Weiru, Wan Fong, Yixin) from Film, Sound, Video course of Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Vivek, one of the producers, is in the banking line. Eugene, the special effects coordinator, is a computer-game shop owner. I got to know them at different times in different situations through these few years. These good people are all very supportive of the project which they see has much potential. In addition, I am very glad to work with Derrick Loo, the director of photography of Bloodties, and Shireen Lim, the makeup artist of Bloodties, for the first time in this project.
G: Which is your favourite wu xia film? SK: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon for its unique story, beautiful action choreography that's like a dance, concept of harmony with the sword and nature
G: What were your biggest challenges in making this film? SK: One biggest challenge is dealing with unpredictable weather. The filming was scheduled to be two days. It rained everyday and I got to add an extra day of shooting, incurring more production cost significantly. It even rained the third day. But miraculously, we completed the filming at the end of the third day.
G: Any interesting anecdotes to share about the production? SK: Anectodes for filmmakers? I am not sure if I can give any as I am still a new filmmaker. Every filming is a learning experience. And for me, there is still a long way to go. If I were to live as long as Clint Eastwood, I have more than forty years to make films and learn.
G: When and where is 'The Forest Spirits' going to be released? SK: It is in post production now. I will submit for local festivals next year to share this film with all of you. Hopefully, I can get it screened and share with you all in January 2010!
For the first Singapore Short Film Awards in 2010!
Presented by The Substation Moving Images Co-organised by Objectifs: Centre for Photography and Filmmaking
DEADLINE EXTENDED TILL 28 DECEMBER 2009!
25 January to 31 January 2010
An entire week of short film screenings every night showcasing all Singaporean short films produced in 2009!
Thanks to the overwhelming response, the deadline for submission will be extended to 28 December 2009!
Also, there is a change regarding the criteria for submissions. Instead of made in 2009, we will now be accepting films made in 2008/ 2009. However, they must have been released after 1 January 2009 i.e. first screened publicly in 2009.
The reason being, some films made in 2008 either held back their premieres for festivals in 2009 or did not get a chance to screen before. Since we wanted to re-cap all short film activity in 2009, we could not leave them out!
Too complicated? Just give us a ring or drop us a mail, we will be happy to explain! So submit your short films, no longer than 30 minutes to us today!
Films made in 2008/2009 but only screened publicly in 2009 are eligible to enter.Submission fee of SGD10 applicable. Cheques to be made payable to The Substation Ltd.
While SINdie's regular policy is to give each film its own post, I've packaged together these four films, which span three languages (English, Mandarin, Tamil*), because they suggest a regrettable tendency for local filmmakers to receive their storytelling and scoring influences from charity show montages or social awareness ads.
Sure, After Skool, Shifting Feet, Father and Ananthi differ in the precision of their cinematography, editing and makeup, which are especially strong and steady in those last two films. But they're all prone to breaking out the "touching" melodies at key moments, and in all their stories, one character commits an unfeeling transgression against another, only to have a later turnaround scene that casts this character in a less stonyhearted light:
After Skool: A bunch of bullies beats a girl bloody (seriously, she's like marinara) for having an old auntie's photo in her pendant, only to have one of them soften after she picks up the fallen pendant, realising its significance as she sits by the unconscious girl's bedside**.
Shifting Feet: A guy pooh-poohs his girlfriend's dancing aspirations, only to join her in a waltz after her extended ballet scene (and boy, is it extended).
Father: A father beats his son with a coat hanger for dirtying his brand-new shirt, only for that son to discover him in the bathroom that night, hunched beside the toilet and washing the shirt by hand.
These three films, at least, insulate themselves from further criticism because the "disapproving" characters (the bully, the boyfriend, the father) haven't got much complexity to their reasons for lashing out at their victims. But I must single out Ananthi, unfortunately, because I think it shortchanges its "disapproving" character even while it tells us to be more understanding of people's needs.
In Ananthi, the young girl of the title feeds her invalid grandfather as he lies in a hospital bed. Ananthi's mother sits in the corridor outside the ward, answering a business call, and asks Ananthi not to interrupt. "You only think about your work!" accuses the girl, as though it is a crime to ask her to wait while one is tending to a call. The accusation comes out of nowhere, since the earlier establishing shots don't make it clear that this isn't a hospital, but some kind of old folks' home.
Later, Ananthi detours to her grandpa's ward after school and spirits him away to the beach. Her worried mother visits the same ward to look for her, and finds her father's photos from her childhood and flips ruefully through them. When her father and daughter return, she smiles and says, "Pa, let's go home." (Ananthi's father is never mentioned.) The implication is that even if you're a single mother working to support your young daughter and your invalid father, it isn't okay to commit that father to an elderly home, and your childhood photos will remind of this! Ananthi cites Yasmin Ahmad as an influence, which is telling, since her MCYS-commissioned Family invests its grasps for emotional meaning into red high heels, the way these films invest theirs into pendants, shirts, dance numbers and childhood photos. These are screenwriting crutches that stand in for truer, more heartfelt loves and memories, and I'd be happy to see indie films work harder to break away.
* Forgive me, and please let me know, if Ananthi is actually in some other language. **I had to check with Li on this point, because I found nearly all the girls in the cast indistinguishable. Apologies if I'm wrong on the sympathetic character being one of the bullies, though my point on the over-sentimentality of the ending still applies.
A tray-mat created out of Ghazi and Ezzam's images
Thursday, 4 Dec, 8 pm
Ya Kun Kaya Toast, Orchard Central The 3rd installment of LUNCHBOX is on 2 'big' personalities in the community, Ghazi Alqudcy and Ezzam Rahman. Unlike the previous 2 lunchboxes, this reads like a comedy script.
Jeremy: Okay let’s start. Ghazi: No make up ah? Jeremy: I already told you, whatever make up or plastic surgery you want to do, do before this interview. Elfe: Okay la , let’s start from the beginning… from the day you were born. How was is like when you were small little boys. Ezzam: Boys! Correction. Girls. All break out in laughter.
Ezzam: I was born in Alexandra Hospital, the second son in a Malay family. Life was not easy growing. You know la typical Malay family. We lived in a no-room flat in Red-hill. We had no toys. In fact, I made my own toys. Usually, I will play with the things in the kitchen la Elfe: Masak Masak things. Ghazi: And wear your mum’s bra. Ezzam: That one not me ah! (pause) So I use my imagination to make things. Ghazi you? Ghazi: I grew up in Woodlands. So I knew JB more than Orchard.
Ezzam: You know how we met? (beat) We actually went to the same primary school. Both: Si Ling Primary School. (laughs and start singing the school song…’S stands for Si Ling…..’) Elfe: How was primary school like? Ezzam: We hated each other. I was the prefect and he was a librarian. I was the loud one and he was the quiet one. I was always on stage, also because I was in the choir….Teacher’s day, Children’s day, Thanksgiving Day, I was always there. And he, he was the depressed librarian.
Elfe: Did you have nicknames for each other in Primary School? Ghazi: Ya, a lot of people called me fatty.
Ezzam: A lot of people called me names because I was effeminate. It was difficult even in secondary school. It hurts you but you just have to lift your head up high. All kinds of names.
Ezzam in his 'Asia Bagus' days as a performer.
Jeremy: So what led you into doing film in the first place? Ghazi: NS (National Service). Ezzam: We actually went our separate ways after primary school and met again only in NS. Ghazi: We were part of the SCDA Special Video Production Unit. Ezzam: We did videos for the Civil Defence Gallery. Ghazi: That time I was such an Ah Lian. Oh yeah, got photos right? I bring out.
The 4 of us go gaga over Ghazi’s NS photos.
Ghazi: There came a time I told my officer I needed a replacement. So Ezzam came to interview for the position. Ezzam: That time I came down and I saw him, I was like, shit. He was wearing tinted contact lenses. So he had purple eyes. Very Ah Lian.
Ghazi: I felt he would fit in easily because we spoke the same language. Ezzam: So anyway, I joined and he taught me video editing. (pause) You know how he teach video editing? That time we use Adobe Premiere. So he came to me and said: To video edit is like making kueh.
Ezzam: It’s about putting on the layers. First layer is the tray. Then your image is the second layer, like the pink colour, and your sound is your next layer…… as many layers as possible. Elfe: So you don’t hate each other after that la. Ezzam: No we open up to each other a lot then. He lived in Woodlands and I lived in Marsiling, so we took the train home together. Ghazi: Then later we decided to do a short film. That time we wanted a camera, so we entered the Panasonic Film Fiesta. Ezzam: I saw a lot of talent in him. And I was willing to support him as a cameraman. Ghazi: The film turned out quite bad. We never showed it to anyone. The title is ‘Again’. Ezzam: Then we also took part in the Fly-By-Night Video Challenge. Ghazi: Pin Pin (from Fly-By-Night) liked our entry and asked us if we could make a whole series and make a box set out of it. But that was to much work haha.
Elfe: Any big plans? Do you want to make longer films? Instead of just shorts? Ghazi: We don’t really like to make huge plans. We prefer to be spontaneous. Whenever we have a camera, we will just see what we can shoot. Did you watch ‘Miss-A-Shot’? Well, we just wanted to do something again and we don’t like organizing too many people for it. But we just called a female friend of ours. Ezzam: ‘Miss-A-Shot’ is a story of a transsexual and a straight guy. So I acted as the straight guy (ahem) Ha ha, I know this is sooo wrong! And I was seducing the transsexual. (Beat) Actually, most of our works are unscripted. Sometimes Ghaz still has a script. But when he directs, he will usually just give a summary of the situation and then give the actors some space to express. This can be risky sometimes but sometimes you can capture beautiful things, unexpected moments or things like that. Jeremy: Do you see yourself more as artists or filmmakers? Or rather how do you brand yourselves? Ezzam: Gorgeous and pretty. All: Hahaha. Ezzam: I definitely recognize myself as an artist. Ghazi: For me, I am not sure if I can call myself a filmmaker because I have never touched film before but perhaps more in the area of digital film. Jeremy: So moving forward, do you want to move on to a bigger project? Ghazi: It’s more like if the need arises in the future and I need $$ and need to work in 7-11. Then I will work in 7-11. Ezzam: Eh, I worked in 7-11, don’t criticize me! Elfe: Which 7-11? Ezzam: Woodgrowth! Jeremy: Then would you starve for the sake of art? Ezzam: Well I have been starving for the sake of art. Jeremy: Define starving. Ezzam: Well, you know I still work and still have to put food on the table. But whatever extra cash you have, instead of buying luxury items, you give it back to your works. Elfe: So you are all for your art la. Ezzam: I have always been that way. Elfe: So if you do a piece of art, is it to earn money or just for art? Ghazi: (points to Ezzam) For birthday presents. Ezzam: You very rude you know! Actually Christmas coming right? I ask myself, which one ah, which one one to give ? haha! Ghazi: Next time, I just come to your gallery and choose myself la.
Ezzam: In fact, there is someone I have been giving my works as presents for the past 10 years, now I can have a solo show in his house!
I can say for Ghaz, years down the road, he will still be in film, maybe commercial or personal. We will still collaborate in the future. In fact, I have recommended a lot of shows for him and seen him soar over the years and I am very proud of him!
(beat) Whenever we collaborate, he is often more the director and I am more the producer.Ghazi: There was once I got a story and I thought it would be really great if Neo Swee Lin can act. Then he really got them. Ezzam: I just called Boo Junfeng and asked if he has Neo Swee Lin’s number and he said he only have Kay Siu’s number. So I finally got into contact with them and they just said pass them the script…until now still haven give. Lol Ghazi: It’s just an idea he came up with suddenly. Ezzam: I work quite fast la. Jeremy: I would love to work with you then! Ezzam: Ghaz has really brought me into the film world where I got to know many filmmakers and vice versa, I have also introduced him into the arts world and opportunities for him to screen his works. We will be having a show at the Post-Museum in January. Ghaz will be known as a ‘filmmaker-artist’. Ghazi: The theme of the show is ‘Quite’, so as a filmmaker, I should not do film, I should other medium like sound or art. Jeremy: You guys always seem so bright, what are your darker moments like? Ezzam: Maybe relationships sometimes… I may feel down and sad, then I would just call him and he would say (in a falsetto)’Aiyah, fuck him la, just dump him la’ then he will hang up. Then I will call again and say ‘Can you listen to me’ and he will say (falsetto again) ‘I have enough of this fuck!’. Ghaz is very personal about his love life. He will not share with anyone. Elfe: Not even with you. Ezzam: No. (beat) When I notice something has gone wrong, I will just talk to me la. He will say no no no. And we will quarrel about that and not talk to each other for 2 days. Ghazi: Sometimes, we also have quarrels and not talk to each other for days. There was once we took part in the Panasonic Festival and we got stressed over wanting to do everything properly like planning, storyboarding. Jeremy: Just off the track, I read somewhere about your alter-egos.... These 2 characters. I wished i watched that. Ghazi: Ya. Etone and Sasha. We played these 2 characters.
Ezzam: We had people coming to us saying they remember our characters. We had schools coming to us saying they wanted to present our 2 characters in their programs and other types of collaborations. Elfe: I see, what’s the full name? Ghazi:Sasha Isabella. Ezzam: I am Etone Waikkiki. (beat) Half-Hawaiian.
Ghazi: One thing about us is that we are a balance of the emotional and the rational. I am more the rational one and Ezzam is the emotional one. We are very Yin and Yang. Don’t like to think about the past. That’s why when you asked me for old childhood photos , I don’t have many because I already threw them away. Ezzam: I remember events.
Elfe: Would you continue making films for the rest of your life or do you have other things to do? Ghazi: For me, I would like to continue making more but bread and butter issues come first. Ezzam: For me, I am very close to my family, in particular my mum and my siblings. Just to share, I bought a place at the age of 24 so that has created another big burden for me.
Jeremy: I know this question is a little weird in your context because you already made so many controversial films…If you were to make a controversial film what would it be about? Ezzam: Maybe politics…… Ghazi: You even get the MPs’ names wrong how to do politics? Ezzam: Can do research ma. … Perhaps about Anwar Ibrahim hehehe. Or Gus Dur from Indonesia. Ghazi: We don’t really seek to do controversy on purpose. We just take things from our lives like in ‘Transit’, that’s his life. Ezzam: Thank you ah. (pause) If you watched ‘Mistake’, that’s Ghaz’ life. He will always pose as a girl in chatlines and hope to hook up with handsome guys. Ghazi: We just take simple things in life and just-over dramatize it. Elfe: Do you have any obsession? Jeremy: It can be an object. Like we asked Yew Kwang previously and his was a bra. Ezzam: As in a bra on a girl? Jeremy: No just a bra.
Silence… Ezzam: (To Ghazi), only one ah, either lubricant or condom. Ghaz: Maybe a phone. Perhaps it’s got to do with my show on in January next year. It is about chatlines. And I invite people to call into my line for phone sex. I get so many calls, some at 2-3 am in the morning, I get so scared that my mum will pick up the phone. Elfe: And yours? Ezzam: Mmmm…. I have a fetish la… A fetish of scissors. I like to cut things. I like to cut my nails, my nostril hair and I like to cut my skin. In fact, I am actually turning my obsession into my work. So this January, I am creating a sculpture out of my own skin from my foot. (beat) When I was in La Salle, we had this class called ‘Perversion’ and we were asked to bring an object of perversion. Jeremy: You brought skin? Ezzam: No, I brought a pair of scissors.
Customary group shot: Ghazi, Elfe, Ezzam and Jeremy
Here's more information on them on the web. Ghazi's got a write up on him here. Here's an interview with Ezzam on Artszine. Here is a nice feature of them on another blog owned by the Singapore Malay Filmmakers Society