Thursday, December 30, 2004

If you're serious about making films, why haven't you made one yet?

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
I'm constantly approached by aspiring young filmmakers. At the Malaysian Video Awards, at Kelab Seni Filem, and very often, on the streets.

They come in various shapes, sizes and colours, of course, but I generally place them in one of two categories:

1) Those who genuinely love film, and 2) Those who love the IDEA of being into film.

And I can tell which category they fall in, just by asking one simple question:

"Have you shot anything yet?"

If their answer is no, then I instantly know that they fall in the second category.

Thankfully, this weblog is often graced by postings from some truly outstanding young film lovers who belong in the first category.

Seng Tat. The Visitor. Azhar. Minxiu. Just to name a few. (Don't tell them I said this, but I'm just so bursting proud of them.)

If you happen to fit into either category, here are some short quotes from various American directors, some concerning aspiring filmmakers. Nothing terribly profound, just some insights, and one of them remarkably close to how I feel about these things.

Read them. I hope they will inspire you in some way, enough to make you write a short script, borrow a camera, get out there, and finally shoot something.

Until then, see you on the streets!

"I still say, when people ask me how one gets to be a director, that you don't wait to be asked - go direct something! Even if it's in Super 8... the most important step in becoming a director is to find out if you ARE a director, and the way to find that out is to go and make a film and see if you can tell a story in a cinematic way." - James Cameron

"Film is your liberation, it's your demon, it's your nemesis, it's everything. It's your life." - Oliver Stone

"Anybody who tells you they're not influenced by past or current directors is probably fibbing. It's almost impossible not to be influenced. Me, I take the attitude that if it's a good shot and I can use it, I'll steal it. I have no shame. My goal is to make the best movie possible." - John Badham

"If young film students come in to see me for advice, I ask if they've ever made a film. If they say no, I forget about them. Because if they really want to be a director, then somehow they've gotten a hold of an 8mm camera and shot 10 minutes somewhere. That's a good way to learn. I remember judging a student film festival one year. I saw a film by a nine-year-old that showed inventiveness and thought about what he was doing." - Arthur Hiller

"...any kind of movie that makes me feel something is a good movie...because that's what it's all about!" - Harry Hurwitz

It's the ears that did it for me.

If you go to sooner or later you'll find Shehan's photo. He's five years old, and, as you can see, has the face of an angel and the ears of a kitten.

Most of all, to me at least, Shehan has the face of Hope.

Find out how you can bring hope to Shehan and other children like him, at the website I quoted. Once you get there, click on Child Sponsorship.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Hate just turned into Love.

tsunami survivor
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Within 24 hours, a world full of anger and hate, forever bent on destroying lives, has become united in its love, compassion and desire to SAVE lives.

Machine gun wielding Indonesian soldiers who were sent to Acheh to control rebel insurgents and even kill them if they had to, are now carrying lost children out of the water and handing out food and blankets to homeless Achinese people.

How perfect Allah is.

What can YOU do? Here in Malaysia, Nationwide Express has been actively involved in transporting much-needed clothes and blankets to our tsunami victims in the north. They have 117 branches throughout Malaysia. You, and everyone else here, can collect clothes and blankets from your families, offices, schools or colleges, then call the Nationwide Express hotlines at 03-55121000 and 03-55127000 to find out how you can get the packages to them.

If you want to donate money (which will then be used to send volunteer doctors and medical supplies to Penang, Kedah, Acheh and Sri Lanka, inshaallah), you can collect from your community, then send the money directly to Mercy Malaysia through anyone's Maybank account, and credit it to account number 5621 7950 4126. (You can check with Mercy at 03-42569999 for the accuracy of their Maybank account number.)

And finally, we can offer the easiest, most precious contribution of all: Our Prayers.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Censorship Board's final decision.

chop, chop, chop!
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
They're not banning "Sepet". But instead of chopping off nine parts, they've reduced it to eight.

My producer's verdict: This is a deliberate insult. To us, to our film, to Mingguan Malaysia, to the Malay Mail, and to you. If they're not going to let up on at least four of the eight cuts, we just won't release it here. Full stop. We'll try for Indonesia instead, so help us God.

But you know what? If all this bru-ha-ha is going to make the Malaysian Censorship Board realise how unfair they can be sometimes, then perhaps it's worth us losing our chances of a theatrical release here. Perhaps "Sepet" can pave the way for other films after it.

If that were the case, then at least our film may not have perished for nothing. Let's hope that it does not perish at all, inshaallah.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Dear Censorship Board, come and get me, I've just made two more films.

boy & poh-poh
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
The first one is called "Poh-poh's Gift". It's only 2-minutes long.

"Poh-poh's Gift" tells about the struggle of a little orphan boy and his grandmother (Poh-poh), soon after his grandfather passed on. (Yes, there are no Malays in this story, so you might like to ban it.)

I hope you will enjoy watching this film, oh beloved members of the Censorship Board, as much as I did writing and directing it.

Look out for it on the local tv stations. It's FREE. That's the nice thing about festive tv commercials for Petronas. No tickets required. About the only thing you have to give is your attention.

Besides "Poh-poh's Gift", I'm also shooting a public service film for the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage. (Hah! Can't touch this!) It's called "A City Fable", and it's about a man on an LRT train who wouldn't give up his seat for anyone. (Bet you will totally identify with this dastardly character.)

Why do I make these little films, you ask? Well, for starters, my dear members of the Chopping Board, they help me forget about YOU.

Friday, December 10, 2004


no victim yet
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
There were, if my memory serves me, 12 people in that viewing theatre.

Somewhere in the middle of "Sepet", a panel member who was nodding off at the back, was rudely awakened by the thud-thud-crash of his own songkok falling on the wooden floor. He bolted up, his severely thinning hair sticking out in all directions, looked around in slow-motion like a camel, picked up his songkok, slumped back into his seat, and went back to sleep.

As soon as the screening was over, the only woman in the appeal panel stood up, teary-eyed, and said, "Puan Yasmin, I enjoyed that film very much. Thank you both for making it. Congratulations."

My producer and I muttered under our breath, "Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah."

Next in line was a Chinese man in his 50's.

"That's not a Malay movie or a Chinese movie or an Indian movie," he declared, "That's a Malaysian movie."

Rosnah and I heaved a big sigh of relief. Clearly, we were counting our chickens before they were hatched, because from then onwards, it went downhill.

"Why didn't you bring up the issue of religion?"

"Why didn't she try to convert him? The Malays would have liked that."

"Why did you make her walk into a Chinese restaurant where non-halal food was probably served?"

"If she's supposed to be liberal, why did you make her wear baju kurung all the time?"

"A long time ago, the Malay people had two bad habits. The men liked to lie down on the floor wearing only sarongs, exposing their tummies, while the women liked to waste time picking lice from each other's hair. Are you trying to revive these old habits?"

And of course, their coup de grace, articulated by a Dato':

"We represent the rakyat (the people). We showed your film to some members of the rakyat, and I'm afraid the verdict was not favourable. They want your film stopped."

To which I replied, "My mother always tells me that my rezeki (my lot in life) is in the hands of Allah, and not in the hands of people like you or anyone else."

And on that note, Rosnah and I thanked them, and bade our farewell.

The final verdict has YET to be made.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Malaysian Censorship Board - 1, Yasmin Ahmad - 0.

LPF vs Me
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Sorry for my two-day absence, friends. My producer and I went to make an appeal to the censorship board, face-to-face, and to explain to them, nicely, why we felt they should lift the 9 cuts which they imposed upon "Sepet".

Being the naive fools that we are, we were actually hoping to engage them in a calm and educated discussion. Instead, we found ourselves confronted with the most bizarre comments and criticism.

One of them asked why, in my story, did the Malay girl not make any attempt to convert her Chinese boyfriend.

Another one suggested that the scene where Adibah, Ida and Amani were lovingly combing each other's hair by the staircase, was encouraging Malay women to go back to their bad old habit of picking each other's lice!

At the end of it all, they said that we shouldn't blame them for the cuts, because they represented "the rakyat". And that they had shown our film to some members of "the rakyat", and their verdict was to ban "Sepet".

That's it. I'm tired guys. These people have defeated me. I'm down there. Floored. Sod it. I give up.