Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Schedule for "Mukhsin" in Berlin.

berlinale podium
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
"MUKHSIN UND ICH" (Mukhsin and I)

D: Yasmin Ahmad
Malaysia 2006
Malayan, English, Mandarin
C: Sharifah Aryana Syed Zainal Rashid, Mohd. Syafie bin Naswip, Sharifah Aleya Syed Zaihal Rashid, Irwan Iskandar bin Abidin, Adibah Noor binti Mohd. Omar
Suitable for age 9 & above
Generation Kplus

Feb 10, 14:00, Zoo Palast 1 (E)

Feb 11, 15:30, Cubix 8 (E)

Feb 13, 14:00, CinemaxX 3 (E)

Anyone visiting this blog who will be in our neck of the woods during our screenings, please come and say "Hello" to my actress and I!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Soon, my very first experience as a member of the jury at an international film festival.

25th fajr
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Frankly, this came as a shock. I've been invited to judge at the 25th Fajr International Film Festival in Tehran, Iran.

I mean IRAN, for heaven's sake!

I've been a great admirer of their films ever since I saw Jafar Panahi's "The White Balloon" about eleven years ago.

Of course, since then, I've met Parviz Shahbazi, whose original story "The White Balloon" was based on. I met him at the 21st Torino International Film Festival in 2003, where his film "Nafas-e Ameegh" was competing with my first film "Rabun". (As you can see in the photograph below, he's quite delicious.)

parviz and i, torino fest 2003

Starting from the Camera d'Or winning "The White Balloon", I have happily immersed myself into the intoxicating works of Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen and Sameera Makhmalbaf, Jafar Panahi, Behman Ghobadi, Majid Majidi, and Darius Mehrjui.

But to be invited to judge at their festival! Masyaallah. Truth beknown, I was utterly gobsmacked when I first received the email. I quickly accepted the invitation, just in case they came to some realisation that they had, regrettably, got hold of the wrong Yasmin!

Anyway, I'll be judging in the Competition for Asian Cinema. I'm hoping to bump into Majid Majidi who'll be judging in the International Section, and Agnieska Holland who'll be in the panel for the Competition for Spiritual Films. I just hope I won't come across like some gasping teenage groupie in the presence of these great filmmakers.

Wish me luck, my friends. I should be heading for Tehran on the 3rd of February. Apparently, judging sessions will start at 4pm and end at 11pm. Strange timing, if you ask me, but hey, that just means I'll get to see Tehran in the daytime, insyaallah.

I'm told the judging of my session should end on the night of the 8th, and that they've arranged for me to fly to Berlin on the 9th, in time for "Mukhsin" screening there on the 10th, 11th, and 13th, insyaallah.

Iran. Sigh...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Trailer for "Mukhsin"

Someone told me to post the URL for our trailer on You-Tube up front, instead of leaving it buried in comments.

Given that "Mukhsin" will be released on March the 8th, inshaallah, I reckon posting up the trailer would be a bloody good idea. So here it is:

There's just one small problem, though. The pictures don't seem to sync with the sound very well in the video here, so you're better off going to YouTube to view it. It's at:


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Faridul Anwar Farinordin on Mukhsin, Berlin, and a bit about the new films.

"SAY what you want about her, but filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad is really making us proud. While two of her feature films, Sepet and Gubra, are still picking up awards at reputable film festivals all over the world, her third outing, Mukhsin, has been selected to compete at the 57th Berlin International Film Festival.

The heartwarming coming-of-age tale that deals with innocence, first love and self-discovery is listed under the “Generation” category for films that focus on youth as a theme. The festival runs from Feb 8 to 18.

There are 13 other films competing in this category. They include Silly’s Sweet Summer (Germany), Dorm (Thailand), Kidz in da Hood (Sweden), Iska’s Journey (Hungary), Call Me Elisabeth (France), Razzle Dazzle (Australia) and The Last Mimzy (United States).

Speaking to reporters at a special screening of Mukhsin recently, Yasmin said she didn’t expect her work to be selected for the festival at all.

“I thought I’d have to make at least nine or 10 films before I could even smell Berlin,” she said, adding that she has Lorna Tee from Focus Films to thank for this. The Hong Kong-based film company helmed by Andy Lau, selected Mukhsin for international sales and distribution.

In November last year, Mukhsin charmed Japanese audiences at the 19th Tokyo International Film Festival where it was nominated for Best Asian Film.

The movie was also screened under a special five-day event called “Yasmin Ahmad Retrospective”, which featured Yasmin’s earlier works — Rabun, Sepet and Gubra.

Mukhsin is a tender and touching story about a 12-year-old boy, Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswip), and 10-year-old Orked (Sharifah Aryana Syed Zainal Rashid, the baby sister of Sharifah Amani who played Orked in Sepet and Gubra), who discover something more meaningful and beautiful about their friendship.

Shot in Kuala Selangor last year, it will open nationwide in March.

The scene where Mohd Shafie holds back tears while calling out Orked’s name to tell her that he’s leaving the village, got us all choked up. If there is such a thing as classic celluloid moments in a local film industry, this one clearly deserves a spot.

“Mohd Shafie left me and my crew with our mouths open. His emotions were so real and raw. The scene was the first we shot and he was still getting over his real off-screen crush on Sharifah Aryana. But I told him not to cry no matter how sad he was. And what he gave was very powerful.”

It was also quite interesting to see the union of Sharifah Amani’s Orked and Ng Choo Seong’s Jason in on-screen holy matrimony as a happily married couple (with a child) in one of the scenes.

“I just want to see them together on screen. The whole scene represents a sort of a dream sequence, where the sky is so blue and you live happily ever after with someone you love.”

Tugging further at the heartstrings is Nina Simone’s heart-wrenching ballad in French, Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me) and an original keronchong tune Hujan, written by Yasmin’s father!

Performed by Adibah Noor, it is also the film’s theme song and sets the whole sweet/melancholic mood for this gem of a movie.

The beautiful song is in the opening scene, in which Orked and her mother Mak Inom (played by Sharifah Aryana’s eldest sister Sharifah Aleya) dance in the rain, oblivious to the judging eyes of the neighbours.

Yasmin is currently working on a new film project, Muallaf (The Convert), in which she hopes to feature newcomer Brian Yap, better known as a writer and columnist for the New Straits Times.

“There’s this charming quality about Brian — very shy and introverted. It would be very exciting to see him opening up and playing the lead role in Muallaf,” she said, adding that Sharifah Amani, who takes on the female lead role, will shave her head in the movie. “She has already agreed to!”

When asked if Muallaf would be a socio-commentary and thought-provoking just like Sepet’s theme of intercultural relationships and Gubra’s tale of religious tolerance, Yasmin said: “I don’t want to provoke anybody. I just want to soften people’s hearts with a story that I believe should be told. It may be a comedy ... who knows?”

Yasmin was also ecstatic over another upcoming film project, with a working title Ibu Ibu, in which she hopes to feature Indonesia’s movie heavyweights, including Jajang C. Noer, Christine Hakim and Dian Sastrowardoyo."

- Life & Times, The New Straits Times, January 17th, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

In Berlin and In Competition.

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
It's official. "Mukhsin" has been selected by the 57th Berlin International Film Festival. Alhamdulillah.

Not only that, our simple little film about first love is 'In Competition' in a category called "Generation".

"Generation", a 30-year old category that used to be called "Kinderfilmfest", comprises films that tell stories about youth.

"Mukhsin" will be competing with many films from around the world, including that extraordinary one called "The Dorm" from Thailand! So, quite pengsan lah.

Below is the list of the films in competition, the filmmakers behind them, and their countries of origin.

- "Blöde Mütze!" (Silly’s Sweet Summer) by Johannes Schmid, Germany 2007

- "Dek Hor" (Dorm) by Songyos Sugmakanan, Thailand 2006

- "Förortsungar" (Kidz in da Hood) by Ylva Gustavsson and Catti Edfeldt, Sweden 2006

- "Ice Keh-ki" (Ice Bar) by Yeo In-gwang, Republic of Korea 2006

- "Iszka Utazása" (Iska’s Journey) by Csaba Bollók, Hungary 2007

- "Je m’appelle Elisabeth" (Call Me Elisabeth) by Jean-Pierre Améris, France 2006

- "Kruistocht in Spijkerbroek" (Crusade in Jeans) by Ben Sombogaart, The Netherlands/Germany /Luxembourg/Belgium 2006

- "The Last Mimzy" by Robert Shaye, USA 2006

- "Leiutajateküla Lotte" (Lotte from Gadgetville) by Heiki Ernits and Janno Põldma, Estonia/Latvia 2006

- "Mukhsin" by Yasmin Ahmad, Malaysia 2006

- "Razzle Dazzle" by Darren Ashton, Australia 2006

- "Sipur Hatzi Russi" (Love & Dance) by Eitan Anner, Israel 2006

- "Trigger" by Gunnar Vikene, Norway/Sweden/Denmark 2006

- "U" by Grégoire Solotareff & Serge Elissalde, France 2006

Anyway, as usual, we're not really expecting to win anything. I for one never dreamed that any of our films would ever be selected by Berlin, the most prestigious film festival in the world, alongside Cannes.

What will make my trip to Berlin even more worthwhile is that Amir Muhammad's new film, "Apa Khabar Orang Kampung", the second and reputedly even better part of "Lelaki Komunis Terakhir", will also be in the 57th Berlinale under the "Forum" category for edgy films.

What a wonderful start to 2007, after a lovely end to 2006 when Ho Yuhang's "Rain Dogs" was selected for competition in Venice, and Tan Chui Mui's "Love Conquers All" won the first prize at Pusan.

According to the 'Federation Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Film', the most important and most respected accreditation of film festivals in the world, only 12 festivals are recognised as Top Tier "Competitive Feature Film Festivals". (The list below was cut-and-pasted from their website, http://www.fiapf.org/intfilmfestivals_sites.asp) The festivals 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)

- Tokyo International Film Festival (Japan)

- 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)

Just when some folks were getting used to making fun of "indie" achievements as "festival nyamuk" (mosquito festivals), the latest batch gains recognition from the biggest, most respected festivals in the world.

Alhamdulillah, rabbana walakalhamdu. "Awasilah doa orang yang dianiaya." (Beware the prayers of the down-trodden.)

Allah is great.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Some things I cling to while working on a film.

bull's head
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Sometimes while I'm working on a script or while I'm shooting a film, I lose my bearings a little. When that happens, I often think about the sculpture you see in this picture.

Do you see a bull's head? Or do you see an old bicycle seat, stuck to an old bicycle handle?

Pablo Picasso, my favourite artist of all time, must have seen both.

Which more or less confirmed my suspicion that there is no such thing as a creative person; there are just sharp observers with sensitive hearts.

Picasso created neither the bicycle nor the bull. But his sharp, God-given power of observation and acute sensitivity led him to put together the 'Bull's Head', arguably one of the most famous sculptures in modern times.

Aside from Picasso, I also found that ALL of the artists I greatly admired had the uncanny ability to see beauty in everyday things which most people have long stopped noticing. It was as if they got personal about practically everything that came their way.

And getting personal, I suspect, is the most effective way to sharpen your artistry.

I try to get personal with every script I write, with every film I make. It has come to a point where I know no other way of doing it.

And when I find myself wavering, besides turning to Allah, I return to some quotes of artists and thinkers whom I respect, to steer myself back on course.

Below are some of those quotes.

"To know others is to have knowledge. To know yourself is to be enlightened."

- Lao Tzu

"In our time there are many artists who do something because it is new... they see their value and their justification in this newness. They are deceiving themselves... novelty is seldom the essential. This has to do with one thing only... making a subject better from its intrinsic nature."

- Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

"Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love."

- Claude Monet

"An artist, under pain of oblivion, must have confidence in himself, and listen only to his real master: Nature."

- Pierre Auguste-Renoir

"In painting, as in the other arts, there's not a single process, no matter how insignificant, which can be reasonably made into a formula. You come to nature with your theories, and she knocks them all flat."

- Pierre Auguste-Renoir

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together."

- Vincent Van Gogh

"If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time, insight into and understanding of many things."

- Vincent Van Gogh

"It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures."

- Vincent Van Gogh

"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."

- Vincent Van Gogh

"The best way to know God is to love many things."

- Vincent Van Gogh

"The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others."

- Vincent Van Gogh

"Art is not the application of some set of rules about beauty, but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any rule. When we love a woman we don't start measuring her limbs."

- Pablo Picasso

"When we discovered Cubism, we did not have the aim of discovering Cubism. We only wanted to express what was in us."

- Pablo Picasso

"People want to find a 'meaning' in everything and everyone. That's the disease of our age, an age that's impractical but believes itself to be more practical than any other age."

- Pablo Picasso

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

- Pablo Picasso

"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else."

- Pablo Picasso

"When I write an original story I write about people I know first-hand and situations I'm familiar with. I don't write stories about the nineteenth century."

- Satyajit Ray

"Bicycle Thief is a triumphant discovery of the fundamentals of cinema, and De Sica has openly acknowledged his debt to Chaplin."

- Satyajit Ray

"Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself."

- Charlie Chaplin

"Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot."

- Charlie Chaplin

"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination, nor both together, go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."

- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

"I pay no attention whatsoever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings."

- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought."

- Matsuo Basho

"If he had had no education, maybe Basho could have been a much greater poet."

- Nanao Sakako

The great Lao Tzu often said that all external knowledge would only lead to falsehood. The only truths are within you. You just have to dig deep.

If you fancy yourself as a fledgling artist, I suggest you try this ancient principle of introspection and see where it takes you.

I did. It may not have taken me very far, but at least I know myself a little better now.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

And what's more, 11 Malaysian films have been selected by Rotterdam.

The Tiger is much bigger than the Mosquito. And the films that the Tiger has chosen for the 36th International Film Festival Rotterdam are:

- Before We Fall in Love Again (James Lee)
- Love Conquers All (Tan Chui Mui)
- The Elephant and The Sea (Woo Ming Jin)
- Gubra (Yasmin Ahmad)
- Dancing Bell (Deepak Kumaran Menon)
- Rain Dogs (Ho Yuhang)

- 3 short films by Liew Seng Tat: Daughters, Man in Love, Matahari
- Solitude (Kok Siew Wai)
- Thaipusam (Sanjay Perumal)

Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.