Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Did I die and not know it?

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller
To date, five festivals have held "retrospectives" of my work. That is to say, they screened "Rabun", "Sepet", "Gubra", and "Mukhsin", two or three times each, during the course of their festival.

These festivals were, in chronological order:

1. The Tokyo International Film Festival, 2006.

2. A special tribute by the University of Hawaii, Honolulu 2006.

3. The Osaka Asian Film Festival, 2007.

4. The Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Greece 2007.

5. The Golden Horse International Film Festival, Taipei 2007.

And I've got about two or three more retrospectives lined up for next year, in various parts of Asia and Europe. Alhamdulillah.

Now, a "retrospective" has been defined by one dictionary as, "...any exhibition or series of showings or performances, as of musical works or motion pictures, representing the work of an artist or performer, over all or a major part of his/her career: for example, "a retrospective of John Ford's movies".

This is interesting to me for two reasons.

Firstly, if what I've done so far constitutes "all or a major part of a career", then my "career" as a filmmaker is either over, or coming to a close! Or worse, that I, like John Ford before me, am DEAD.

Secondly, this throws new light upon Yusof Haslam's claim that foreign festivals like the Berlinale, NETPAC, and Cinemanila gave "Mukhsin" awards only because they hadn't seen my other works.

His basic contention was that if they HAD seen my previous films, they would not have been so impressed with "Mukhsin".

And THAT was why he, as the head of the jury for this year's Festival Filem Malaysia, did not regard "Mukhsin" as fit for any nomination in any of the main categories.

But seriously folks, despite the fact that he was disgracefully off the mark regarding international festivals not seeing my other films, I think perhaps there is some truth in what Yusof Haslam was saying. I still believe that I don't know the first thing about filmmaking.

And before you accuse me of displaying "false humility", let me tell you a little story; a rough recollection of a conversation I had with someone I met in Taipei:

During one Q&A session at the recent Golden Horse Film Festival, a professor who taught film at a local university asked if I would agree to give some lectures to his course attendees.

Violently shaking my head and waving both hands in embarrassment, I exclaimed, "No, no, no, no, no! I have nothing to teach, because I KNOW nothing!"

To which he replied, "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! And I don't want you to TEACH anything, I just want you to share the experiences you've had, while making your films."

"But...," I protested, "I just follow my feelings, one scene at a time!"

"Well then, explain to me, and my students, one scene at a time, how you managed to create those scenes that moved us so much."

Suddenly, all the flak I had ever received in my own country from the likes of Yusof Haslam, Akmal Abdullah, Ismail Ahmad, Raja Azmi, Mansor Puteh, and Abu Hassan came flooding back to mind. I immediately excused myself by telling the Taiwanese film lecturer that I needed to go to the Ladies.

Once inside, I got into a cubicle, locked the door, buried my face in my hands, and did something which I can't explain to this day.

I cried.