Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Come, breathe close with me."

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
I throw some questions to the floor:

Artists have been painting flowers since Man first put stick to sand, so why was Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" the most expensive painting in the world in the late 80's?

Fruits have been the subject for still life since Man put brush to canvas, so why are Paul Cezanne's fruits still the subject of art study today in the 21st century?

Between Van Gogh's flowers, Cezanne's fruits, Turner's infernal ships, Gauguin's buck naked Tahitian wenches, and Henry Moore's sculpture of Mother and Child, we may now have before us a lesson to be learnt:

You have to get personal with your art.

There's much to be learnt from the technique of the masters of course – we'd be foolish not to stand on the shoulders of the giants – but if we're to make a mark in this ocean of artistry, we have to get personal with the work we produce.

As I quoted in an earlier posting once before:

"Don't dare to be different, dare to be yourself – if that doesn't make you different then something is wrong. " – Laura Baker

At the risk of sounding shamelessly boastful, allow me to use my own work to illustrate a point.

Recently, beyond my wildest dreams, my little film "Sepet" received the Best Asian Film award at the 18th Tokyo International Film Festival. And before that, the Grand Prix du Jury at a festival in Paris.

In both cases, I asked the directors of the respective festivals more or less the same question: "How on earth did a small, teenage inter-racial love story from Malaysia beat all those deep art films from other parts of the world?"

Their answers, like the question that was asked, were more or less the same. "I've never seen a love story like that before."

"What do you mean?" I protested on both counts. "Haven't you seen Mira Nair's 'Mississippi Massala'? Or Stanley Kramer's 'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner', Henry King's 'Love Is A Many Splendored Thing', Joshua Logan's 'Sayonara', and in recent times, Marc Forster's 'Monster's Ball'?"

"Yes, yes," they replied impatiently, probably half suspecting that I was merely fishing for compliments, "Yes, but theirs were all very different from one another, just as your film is different from theirs."

Interesting find this, I thought to myself. So the more personal I get, the more universal the appeal. And if I throw into the mix enough flavours from my own personal little world, I get trophies from as far afield as France and Japan.

Ali Mohamed, the Chairman of Leo Burnett Kuala Lumpur, my professional partner and soulmate, put it in a simple yet most telling way.

"Min, people just want to see a piece of your soul. Every soul is unique and interesting in its own way. Artists who are true to themselves will inevitably bare a piece of their soul, and in the end, this is what people want to see. Derivative work can dazzle some people for a while, but in the end, will get tiresome. Why waste time on the derivative when you can savour the original?"

Poets, of course, have a genius for moving us by baring their souls.

"The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along." – Jelaluddin Rumi

That was written in 1246. Think of it. 1246! A totally personal observation from an Afghan, and yet still so resonant with the basic human desire to find love that it hurts even today in 2005.

"Love is so short, forgetting is so long." – Pablo Neruda

Written in 1923, by the man when he was only 19! (Makes you spit, doesn't it?) How heartfelt it was; how heartbroken he must have been. You can't fake something like that.

In her brief but deeply insightful poem, Italian writer Patrizia Cavalli pretty much summed up our need to look into the soul of the artist. And indeed the soul of anyone we wish to get close to.

"Far from kingdoms
how steady is the room!
Come, breathe close with me
so I may discover the sweetness
of many imperfections, some missing tooth,
some extra wrinkle, and your body
worn out slightly by carelessnesses."

She wants to see your scars. She wants to touch your stretch marks. Maybe even kiss that big hairy mole under your left armpit.

She wants to see your pain and the depths of your desolation, along with your pleasures and the heights of your hopes. How touching. How forgiving. How unlike advertising, the industry I'm in, where, more often than not, you'll find a bunch of extremely unimaginative, physically imperfect people sitting around a table looking at talent tapes, in search of the so-called perfect smile, perfect skin and perfect body.

How dull.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"For All We Know"

"For all we know
we may never meet again
Before you go
make this moment sweet again
We won’t say good night
until the last minute
I’ll hold out my hand
and my heart will be in it

For all we know
this may only be a dream
We come and go
like a ripple on a stream
So love me tonight;
tomorrow was made for some
Tomorrow may never come
for all we know..."

Insha'allah, this painfully beauiful song will play on the end credits of my next film, "Mokhsen".

"Quick and Bitter" - Yehuda Amichai

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
The end was quick and bitter.
Slow and sweet was the time between us,

Slow and sweet were the nights
when my hands did not touch one another in despair
but with the love of your body
which came between them.

And when you entered into me
it seemed then that great happiness
could be measured with the precision
of sharp pain. Quick and bitter.

Slow and sweet were the nights.

Now is as bitter and grinding as sand -
"We shall be sensible" and similar curses.

And as we stray further from love
we multiply the words,
Words and sentences long and orderly.

Had we remained together
we could have become a silence.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Why the Tokyo award was the most important win of all for 'Sepet'.

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
'Federation Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Film', is the most important and most respected accreditation of film festivals in the world.

In their books, only 12 festivals are recognised, in no particular order, as Top Tier "Competitive Feature Film Festivals". They are:

- Berlin International Film Festival (Germany)

- Mar Del Plata International Film Festival (Argentina)

- Cannes Film Festival (France)

- Shanghai International Film Festival (China)

- Moscow International Film Festival (Russia)

- Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (Czech Republic)

- Locarno International Film Festival (Switzerland)

- Montreal World Film Festival (Canada)

- Venice International Film Festival (Italy)

- San Sebastian International Film Festival (Spain)


- Cairo International Film Festival (Egypt)

In Tier Two, they list what they refer to as "Competitive Specialised Feature Film Festivals". And these are:

- Brussels (Fantasy films and science fiction films)

- Istanbul (Films on art : literature, theatre, music, dance, cinema & plastic arts)

- Wiesbaden (Films from Central and Eastern Europe)

- Troïa (Films from countries producing a maximum of 25 features yearly)

- Valencia Jove (New directors’ films)

- Valencia Mediterranean (Films from Mediterranean countries)

- Sarajevo (Films from Central and South-Eastern Europe)

- Namur (French-language films)

- Frankfurt (Films for children)

- Bogota (New directors’ films)

- Pusan (Films from new directors of Asian countries)

- Warsaw (First and second features)

- Ghent (Impact of music on films)

- Sao Paulo (New directors’ films)

- Kyiv (Young directors’ films)

- Torino (New directors’ films)

- Stockholm (Films on new cinematographic orientations)

- Thesssaloniki (New directors’ films)

- Gijon (Films for young people)

- India (Goa) (Asian films)

- Sitges (Fantasy films)

- Courmayeur (Police and mystery films)

- Kerala (Trivandrum) (Films from Asia, Africa & Latin America)

Rabbana wa lakalhamdu. (All praise goes to Allah.)