Production Talk on 'I Want to Know What Love is' with Azhar Shukor

New daring works surfaced at the recent 3rd Singapore Short Film Awards, drumming in the fact that a new crop of directors are making themselves heard to varying degrees. We turn the spotlight to several fresh new voices in the scene with our production talk series and interview the filmmakers behind some of the more interesting works that were screened at the Short Film Awards.

First up is an experimental short film by Azhar Shukor called 'I Want to Know What Love Is'

Jeremy: Tell us more about this film.
Shukor: During an exchange program at Maryland College of Art (MICA), I was introduced with a technique called appropriation. Simply put, appropriation can be understood as "the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a new work." (Thanks to Wikipedia) I like it that when we "borrow elements", the original symbolism is carried forward to the new work and, at the same time, new layers are added. So, I decided to use this technique to attempt describing one of the most layered things of all, Love. 'I Want to Know What Love Is' is the result.

Jeremy: Why reference Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the film?
Shukor: This film intercut clips from the movie 'Mr & Mrs Smith' starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  I was intrigued at the whole debate as to whether Brad should have chosen Jolie or Jennifer Anniston. People were passionate about the whole affair. Some were ridiculously passionate. If you recall the voiceover narration from the film you might agree with me. Those narration were taken from youtube comments.

I find it humorous but it is an indication of how people disagree as to what love is. Perhaps love is really too complicated to define. It is the sweetness of Anniston, it is the sexiness of Jolie, it is the romance, it is the affair, it is everything. I hope that viewers of my film ponders on the whole love saga too and find their own conclusions as what they think love is.

Jeremy: How was the film conceptualized?
Shukor: One of the Video Art tutors at MICA, was inspired by 'The Five Obstructions' by Jorgen Leth and Lars Von Trier. In that film, Von Trier asked Jorgen Leth to make a film several times. Each time he was given a form of obstruction and each time Jorgen Leth overcome the limitations set and produced a great piece. My professor wanted us to push ourselves in a similar way hence she set limitations for each of us. She knew that I have a passion for cinematography, hence she told me for this assignment, I am not allowed to shoot my own images. It really drove me to explore other possibilities.

Jeremy: Are you into making more experimental film now?
Shukor: I have experimented with Video Art since secondary school long before I attempted Narrative Filmmaking. I love works by video artist such as Bruce Nauman but i also love tons of narrative films. I think that both narrative and experimental filmmaking have their respective audience and venue. The experiences that viewers get from them are different but the intended result is always the same. As a filmmaker I want my viewer to ponder about the issues raised in the film. Hence, i will continue making both kind of films depending on the idea itself. If i think that the issue that i wish to raise will be more effectively and more interestingly shown via a experimental film, then thats what i will do, if a narrative film is more appropriate than that is what i will do.

Jeremy: How did the film evolve through the pre and production process?
Shukor: Initially i wanted to keep thing simple. I wanted to show the act of kissing endlessly. I thought that kissing is a great symbol of love, but when kissing is shown endlessly, it can be quite gross and that symbol will come into question. I then decided to use the kiss in Mr and Mrs Smith due to the popularity of the couple and how they themselves have become a symbol of love. After that more and more ideas came in, i came across youtube comments about the couple, i became aware that MTV has a best kiss award etc. Being an experimental piece, i could just mash all of the ideas up and add layers to the piece.

Jeremy: Are you happy with the outcome of your film?
Shukor: We always want to be shown truth (to certain extent) within a film. I think that the fact that Jolie and Pitt fell in love while trying to depict love is very intriguing (real vs reel). Its hard for me to explain in words (which is why i made the film in the first place), but Mr and Mrs Smith is perhaps one of the most truthful films.

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