Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
How the Singaporeans renewed my faith in people.
As you can see from the bunting above, "Muallaf" opens in Singapore in about 11 days' time. Faced with a distribution budget of miniscule proportions, Thomas Chia, the director of Lighthouse Pictures, has been working 24/7 to spread the news about our little film.
If you're on facebook, just type "Muallaf" in the search box, and it'll take you to this page. Through this, the ever resourceful Thomas Chia sent out an appeal for help to distribute "Muallaf" flyers.
Personally, I thought it was a shot in the dark. But boy, was I wrong.
Regular Singaporean folks -- students, lecturers, restaurant owners, cybercafe owners, website holders, members of film societies -- have come forward, asking for 50 to 200 flyers per person, which they volunteered to distribute.
Dear kind Singaporeans, you know who you are. And I can't thank you enough for your willingness to support our film, just out of the kindness of your heart.
Now, I have no idea how "Muallaf" will do at the box office. After all, it is only playing at The Picturehouse.
But you Singaporeans have done something worth much more than ticket sales. You have refreshed my faith in Mankind.
Thank you and God bless.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
He plays a crucial role in "Talentime".
His name is Howard Hon Kahoe. I liked his name so much that his character in the film is actually called Kahoe.
Acting alongside Mahesh Jugal Kishore and the now 16 years old Mohd Syafie Naswip, Kahoe is among the most arresting looking actors I've ever employed in any of my films.
As we lined up the three boys to take a photo for our records, Jit Murad cast a disdainful glance at me and said, "You've sold out and turned into a lookist!"
"That can't be entirely true, Jit," I replied casually, "or I wouldn't have hired you."
Sunday, November 09, 2008
"Artists today think of everything they do as a work of art. It is important to forget about what you are doing - then a work of art may happen."
The quote and paintings above were by Andrew Wyeth, an early 20th century American painter.
I was introduced to his work by my partner and soulmate Ali Mohammed, the Chairman Meritus of Leo Burnett Advertising, the agency I work for.
No person alive has been as encouraging of my work, both as an advertising writer and a filmmaker, as much as Ali. We've worked with each other for 25 years. More than a mentor, Ali is the older brother I never had.
I remember well the severe criticism I received after making my first feature-length film "Rabun":
"Your work is nothing more than television drama," said a bedraggled looking old film graduate once.
"Before coming to watch 'Rabun', I expected a tsunami movie experience. But it turns out that this amateurish piece of work is just a ripple," said a drama lecturer from a local institution.
"Yasmin is trapped in her own dreamworld of ideals," said many on Kakiseni and some local papers.
Ali, on the other hand, said, "You are expressing a feeling, Min. A totally personal feeling which you want to share with people. By looking at your work, I get a privileged glimpse into what dwells in your heart. And that is enough for me. Some people will want to put you down and engage themselves in extensive debate about what is 'wrong' or 'right' in what they refer to as 'art'. But my advice is for you to push on. Sooner or later, inshaallah, if you remain honest with your films, more and more people will come up to you and confess how your work has affected their personal lives and their feelings."
"I get letters from people about my work. The thing that pleases me most is that my work touches their feelings. In fact, they don't talk about the paintings. They end up telling me the story of their life or how their father died." - Andrew Wyeth
The reason I'm writing this is not to boast some sort of comeuppance to my detractors in the past. I don't even consider myself an artist, let alone one whose work comes anywhere near as good as Andrew Wyeth's. But I feel this is something I need to say to new, struggling filmmakers out there who, despite their best intentions, often find their work spat at by naysayers.
If you're honest with your work, feel free to come back to this posting to read what dear Ali said to me, all those years ago.
Follow your inner instincts. Because, as Mr.Wyeth himself once said, "If you clean it up, get analytical, all the subtle joy and emotion you felt in the first place goes flying out the window."
Today, after making about 50 television commercials and six feature-length films, after winning 11 international awards, I often feel like I don't know the first thing about filmmaking. But I know this much:
If your intentions are pure, if you apply your craft with a view to observe humanity and, ultimately, God himself, very often something powerful will surface. And the next thing you know, hordes of strangers from all around the world are stepping forward to tell you "the story of their life or how their father died."