Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"The thief left it behind – the moon at the window."

moon at the window
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
This quietly beautiful haiku by Ryokan moved me deeply when I first heard it from a dear friend.

Can someone tell me why? Or, better still, perhaps explain their take on this short phrase which, to me, has universal implications?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Film and Feeling.

yasujiro ozu
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
“How vain it is to sit down to write, when you have not stood up to live.” - Henry David Thoreau, 1817 - 1862

Often I’m asked by young film enthusiasts, what it takes to make a good film. My answer is always the same.

I have no idea.

I don’t know the first thing about film, and I’ve never claimed to be a good film director, or indeed, a good writer.

I do, however, have some hunches. And they are as follows:

I suspect a filmmaker is fundamentally no different from a novelist or a poet, or even a painter or photographer.

We all just want to tell a story. Or to put across a feeling we have about humanity, as we observe it.

I believe these feelings and observations must stem from a clear intention, and a sincere personal concern for the human condition. No use pretending, because sooner or later, the viewer or reader will see through your mask.

As artists and storytellers, it’s easy for us to slip into the trap of being obsessed about form rather than content.

After watching films by auteurs such as Hou-Hsiao Hsien or John Cassavetes or Yasujiro Ozu, I am always in awe of the style in which they delivered the emotions of the story.

I have to remind myself constantly that it was the emotions that moved me rather than the style.

When viewing a sculpture, it is the feelings the sculptor had about his subject that touches me deeply, and not the hammer and chisel he used to shape it.

Many years ago, I found myself sitting at the edge of a giant metal block somewhere inside Francis Ford Coppola’s vineyard in Napa Valley.

When I looked up to survey the cold bronze, which chilled my back as I leaned against it, I was overcome with emotions. It was a beautiful sculpture of a mother and child by Henry Moore.

I could feel, without words or explanation, the empathy Moore felt for the unconditional love the mother had for the child in her arms.

Walking through Pablo Picasso’s old villa in Antibes just outside of Cannes, I caught sight, from the corner of my eye, what looked like the carcass of a white dove, laid out on a wicker chair.

When I approached it, I discovered that it was nothing more than some crumpled bits of paper, carefully put together to look like a dead dove.

It wasn’t the pieces of paper or the way Picasso crumpled them that moved me to tears. It was the sorrow he felt upon finding a dead dove on his balcony.

“Painting cannot be taught,” Picasso himself once said, “it can only be found.”

Or as my partner and soul mate Ali Mohamed puts it, “It is like learning to ride a bicycle. I can give you a rough idea of how to do it, but in the end, you’ll have to feel your own way through.”

This, I believe, applies to writing and filmmaking too. We have to feel our way through.

"A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness." - Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

In two of Kobayashi Issa’s haiku, centred on the humble spider, we are able to observe emotions far bigger than just about spiders.

“a broken web –
a refugee spider is still
looking for a home”

“don’t worry, spider
I keep house

Perhaps it’s just me, but in these two haiku, I found deep compassion. Far from being afraid of spiders, the haiku master clearly cared for them.

And caring about something or someone lesser than you is a powerful statement about humanity.

Therein lies the genius of haiku. In just a few words, a writer is able to convey a feeling which could very well save Mankind, seeing the way the world is heading these days.

Now, at last, we might know how to begin. And the way to start writing isn’t by writing at all, but by living. It isn’t about creating something from thin air, but about documenting our personal feelings about the things that we see.

Or to put it crudely, how are you going to be a storyteller if you have no story to tell?

Perhaps, in the end, there are no such things as creative people; there are only sharp observers with sensitive hearts.

“A man travels the world in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.” – George Moore, 1873 - 1958

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why she remains my Anak Emas.

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Imagine "Sepet" without her. Imagine "Gubra" without her. Heck, imagine this pathetic film industry without her.

I don't know about you, but I, Yasmin Ahmad, cannot imagine any of the above. To me, she is one of God's greatest gifts for my work, alhamdulillah.

And no matter how much they rant about how "kurang ajar" she was on the night of FFM19, as far as I'm concerned she was nowhere near as kurang ajar as the people who crucified her.

I mean, for goodness' sake, they even cursed her father and mother. Call me old-fashioned, but insulting someone's parents does not figure in my book as decent civil behaviour.

And she's only 20. How old are these people again?

When I arrived at Putra World Trade Centre that night, the show was already over. Sharifah Aleya rushed up to me and said, "Your daughter's in a bad state. Some people have been shredding her to bits."

I ran to Nani and found her in tears. With a trembling voice that could melt the stoniest heart, she cried, "Mak, this would have been a wonderful night for you, but I had to open my stupid mouth. I'm so sorry..."

I held her in my arms and said, "You won, baby. Don't worry about me. You won and I'm just so proud of you." And with that, she wept and wept on my shoulder, ruining what could've been the perfect kebaya for the night.

The girl made a mistake, dear friends. Who among us hasn't, at some point or other in our lives? And somehow, I don't think condemning her will make God forgive us for ours. Forgiving her, on the other hand, might.

"It is in forgiving that we are forgiven." Insyaallah.

Now I'm planning to make a film called "May 13". Can anyone here guess who will be in it?

Friday, August 11, 2006

"Well it's about bloody time!" - Juliana Ibrahim on the release of "Gubra" dvd and vcd.

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
They were released in Singapore three weeks ago. The last I heard, they were flying off the shelves in Geylang.

Some Malaysian friends who went there to buy copies found them on the best-seller list in Borders, and some were told that they were lucky to get the last copy at HMV.

Alhamdulillah. And now they're here.