Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spot Quiz!

Somewhere in the middle of "Mukhsin", the adult Orked and Jason appear out of the blue. Orked was carrying a baby.

Next, you see them teaching the young Orked and her friend Mukhsin how to fly kites.

In your opinion, why did I put this surreal, wholly anachronistic scene in the film?

In fact, this strange scene was already there at script stage. I remember telling some of my Singaporean friends about my intention to write this scene, even while I was working on the script in Bali. Some of them expressed serious doubts as to whether it would work.

And yet, I included it anyway. Why?

There are no right or wrong answers, of course. I'm just interested in what you think.

Friday, May 30, 2008

"Mukhsin" in New York. The fourth review.

"This beautiful little film explores the fragile, indeterminate love story between two children in rural Malaysia.

Director Yasmin Ahmad’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story feels humid and intimate, echoing its tropical setting.

Orked (Sharifah Aryana), a dreamy, independent ten-year-old, lives with her musician father and lovely, British-educated mother in a house on a grassy plain.

Over the course of a summer, she befriends Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswip), a twelve-year-old boy from a troubled family who’s come to stay with his aunt. They ride bikes and fly kites and make up stories while navigating the nebulous dimensions of their relationship.

Ultimately, it’s unclear how Orked feels about Mukhsin, but to manipulate the relationship between the two young protagonists into a recognizable romantic structure seems ridiculous.

Like a pre-adolescent romance, the film is hazy in tone and satisfyingly ambiguous. Simple actions like glances and sighs reverberate with potential meanings.

Aryana and Naswip are both non-actors, and their interactions are natural and unadulterated.

All of the scenes seem colored by sun or candlelight, and are scored by Malaysian folk songs and Nina Simone ballads that sound like they’re coming from a phonograph.

Incidental cinematographic elements like ambient sound and grainy picture quality add to the film’s anachronistic quality, further imbuing it with a happy nostalgia that’s not forced or cloying.

Ahmad’s passion and sensitivity for her subject matter is evident: Mukhsin seems like a delicate homage to a first love."

- Mary Block

"Mukhsin" in New York. The third review.

"Nina Simone's music has brought out the best in filmmakers as diverse as Emanuele Crialese and David R. Ellis.

To their fold we can now add Yasmin Ahmad, who makes canny use of Simone's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" in her Berlin prizewinner Mukhsin, a bittersweet and feisty Malaysia-set love story between a young boy and girl.

After her grandmother amusingly instructs her grandfather on how to pronounce Simone and Nat King Cole's names, Orked (Sharifah Aryana Syed Zainal Rashid) joins her parents in a dance to the Simone classic.

Yasmin connects the heritage of the tune (a song by Jacques Brel that was covered in its original French by an African-American multi-genre chanteuse) to the customs of Orked's progressive family, then deepens that connection by cutting to a shot of Mukhsin (Muhammad Syafie bin Naswip) staring at Orked from outside—longing soulfully tied to cross-cultural ecstasy.

Throughout the film, Orked is seen as something of a mini woman warrior, trying to cross boundaries by proving that she is good enough to stand on the same patch of playground with boys her age. She is clearly cut from the same mold as her mother, who pretends to whip the girl while the family of the boy whose schoolbag Orked casually flung out a bus window listens from the adjoining room. In this standout scene, Ahmad calls subtle attention to irony of the town's women gossiping about Orked's mother's ability to speak English, presuming that it means she's shunning her Javanese heritage, while one woman expresses shock over a no doubt common ritual of child discipline.

The film is spiked with similar such episodes of cultural surveillance and reverence, with Ahmad peering the mischievousness of youth throughout with a mixture of lovingness and randiness that brings to mind Ozu's 'Good Morning'. The difference is that her style is snappier, very much synched to the way lives cross, gazes are exchanged and love is neglected.

The story is quaint but its heart is sweet and mellow, just like Simone would have liked it."

- Ed Gonzalez

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sepet burger?

It was shot in one night, and at three locations.

It was my first ever McD commercial. All I wanted to do was to inject a little humanity into the story.

It may not be the best film I've ever made, but I enjoyed the shoot, and I hope you'll enjoy watching it, if not much, then at least a little bit.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Mukhsin" in New York. The second review.

"It's the summer of 1993 in Malaysia, and a feisty 10-year-old girl named Orked and a 12-year-old boy named Mukhsin are experiencing the pangs of first love.

Their story pours forth sweetly in 'Mukhsin,' a charming and unassuming movie directed and co-written by Yasmin Ahmad.

Orked (the director's alter ego) lives with her free-spirited parents and their maid, who's treated like a member of the family. Mukhsin is spending the summer in Orked's village, along with his elder brother and aunt.

The young lovers go kite flying in an open field, and hold hands in the back seat of a VW Beetle. "Promise me you won't cut your hair," Mukhsin pleads. Ah, puppy love - doesn't it just tug at your heart.

But there's a darker side to the story, with suicide and alcoholism rearing their ugly heads. Fortunately, Ahmad - a one-time advertising copywriter - balances the good and the bad.

'Mukhsin' is the final part of the director's trilogy about Orked and her family. I am so taken by 'Mukhsin' that I'm going to hunt down the two previous movies.

In Malay, with English subtitles. Running time: 94 minutes. Not rated (mature themes). At the Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St., through Monday."

- V.A. Musetto

"Mukhsin" in New York. The first review.

"Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad tells deeply personal and intensely humanistic stories based largely on her own experiences.

For her fourth film, 'Mukhsin', she revisits the loving and liberal family of her previous features, continuing her portrait of one woman’s journey from childhood through adolescence and marriage.

It’s summer vacation, and the 10-year-old Orked (Sharifah Aryana Syed Zainal Rashid), a multilingual tomboy more interested in playing soccer than brides-and-grooms, is thrilled when a new boy arrives in the village. The boy, Mukhsin (Muhammad Syafie bin Naswip), may be only two years older, but his troubled home life and rising hormones give him an emotional complexity that Orked and their growing friendship are ill equipped to manage.

Deceptively simple and threaded with gentle humor, 'Mukhsin' paints the turmoil of puppy love on a canvas of family relationships as delightful as it is believable.

With a free-spirited English-speaking mother and a father who helps with housework (“Malays who have forgotten their roots,” grumbles a local busybody), Orked’s family is as likely to arouse envy as it is disapproval. This is exemplified by a pregnant neighbor who is hauling laundry while her philandering husband polishes his motorcycle.

“How nice to be a motorcycle,” she murmurs resignedly, in a moment that perfectly captures the film’s calm acuity and its maker’s empathy for those whose dreams may never come true.


Opens on Wednesday in Manhattan."

- JEANNETTE CATSOULIS, Published: May 28, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some people have absolutely no shame!

It's out in the papers.

A local producer is making a film about a Chinese boy who falls in love with a Malay girl and he ends up becoming a "muallaf"!

Rings a bell?

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Mukhsin" specially selected for screening in MoMA, New York.

"Founded in 1929 as an educational institution, The Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to being the foremost museum of modern art in the world.

The Museum of Modern Art manifests this commitment by establishing, preserving, and documenting a permanent collection of the highest order that reflects the vitality, complexity and unfolding patterns of modern and contemporary art.

Central to The Museum of Modern Art’s mission is the encouragement of an ever-deeper understanding and enjoyment of modern and contemporary art by the diverse local, national, and international audiences that it serves."

Starting May 28th, "Mukhsin", along with "Ling yi Ban" from China and "Senkyo" from Japan, will be screened at the museum, as part of a special program called "ContemporAsian".

Only three films were chosen from the whole Asia. Which, to me, is both an honour and a blessing, alhamdulillah.

Here's how they described me and our film. It's quite cute.

"Called the Godmother of the new Malaysian digital cinema, Yasmin Ahmad creates films that draw from experiences close to her own life.

Her Orked trilogy is set in the world of today's most culturally diverse societies—providing ample opportunity for conflicts of color and creed, prejudice and taboo.

Mukhsin, the third film in the trilogy (but the earliest in the story's chronology), portrays the filmmaker's alter ego, Orked, and her best friend, a boy named Mukhsin, as they enter adolescence and their relationship changes character.

Portrayed with deep humanism and a liberating sense of humor, Mukhsin completes the trilogy's multidimensional portrait of a woman from childhood to adolescence to marriage."

Not bad for a film that was described by last year's chairman of the jury at Festival Filem Malaysia as "filem yang tak ada pembaharuan".

What can I say? Allah is great.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"The Tao Of Philosophy" by Alan Watts.

About 600 years before the birth of Jesus (which was about 1,000 years before the birth of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), a little Chinese man on a buffalo had made some pretty nifty observations about the relationship between Man and the Universe.

“There was something formless, yet complete and perfect, that existed before the heavens and the earth.”

This man, more commonly known as Lao Tzu, described that force as the eternal creator, and the all-encompassing order, of all things.

His only known writing is a compilation of verses named the Tao Te Ching.

In it, Lao Tzu expressed his philosophy in ways which ultimately got him into trouble with the authorities of the time. (Not surprising, since he advocated that a leader should not go about his business with pomp and circumstance, but rather quietly, humbly, and invisibly, his job being to fulfil the needs of the people, and not the other way around.)

Lao Tzu also observed that the way of the world often worked in two opposing forces – good and evil, light and darkness, full and empty.

This was, in essence, the theory of relativity, of course. But as always, the West took all that’s good from the East and attributed it to one of their own sons, in this case, to Albert Einstein.

But while Einstein’s theories and scientific calculations have often been used as a means to “govern” nature, Lao Tzu advocated a surrendering to the infinitely wiser and truer will of nature.

Western logic versus Oriental mysticism, so to speak. And as if to bridge that gap between the two, here is The Tao of Philosophy, edited transcripts by the late Alan Watts.

“Inability to accept the mystic experience is an intellectual handicap. Lack of awareness of the basic unity of organism and environment is a serious and dangerous hallucination. For in a civilisation equipped with immense technological power, the sense of alienation between man and nature leads to the use of technology in a hostile spirit – to the ‘conquest’ of nature instead of intelligent co-operation with nature.”

Brought up in Christian tradition (his grandfather was a missionary), Alan Watts became a chaplain at Northwestern University, Illinois, when World War II was raging.

Later, dissatisfied with the precepts of his Western education, he turned to the philosophies of Zen and Taoism.

The Tao of Philosophy is a surprisingly easy-to-read stream of thoughts which come from a life-long study of Eastern philosophy by an inspired and articulate Westerner.

One of the things I found most amusing about Alan Watts’ The Tao of Philosophy is the clear, simple way in which he dismissed atheist thinking, along the way damning highly respected textbook thinkers.

“It has become fashionable, and it is nothing more than a fashion, to believe that the universe is dumb and stupid, and that intelligence, values, love and fine feelings reside only within the bag of the human epidermis, and beyond that it is simply a kind of chaotic, stupid interaction of blind forces.

“For example, courtesy of Dr Freud, we have the idea that biological life is based something called ‘libido’, which was a very loaded word.

“This blind, ruthless, uncomprehending lust is seen as the foundation of the human consciousness, and to thinkers of the nineteenth century like Hegel, Darwin, and T.H. Huxley, there was similarly the notion that the root of being is an energy, and this energy is blind. This energy is just energy and totally stupid, and our intelligence is an unfortunate accident.

“By some weird freak of evolution we came to be these feeling and rational beings, at least more or less rational, but all this is a ghastly mistake because we are here in a universe that has nothing in common with us.

“It does not share our feelings, has no real interest in us, and we are just a sort of cosmic fluke. Therefore, the only hope for mankind is to beat this irrational universe into submission, to conquer it and to master it.

“Of course all this is perfectly idiotic. If you think that the idea of the universe has been the creation of a benevolent old gentleman, you soon realise He is not so benevolent after all, and He takes an attitude of ‘this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you.’

“You can have that idea on the one hand, and, if that becomes uncomfortable, you can exchange it for its opposite idea that the ultimate reality does not have any intelligence at all, and at least that would get rid of the old bogey in the sky in exchange for a picture of the world that is completely stupid.

“Of course, these ideas do not really make any sense because you do not find an intelligent organism living in an unintelligent environment.”

Because of such energetic bursts of witty, cogent, even humorous arguments, it took me less than two days to finish The Tao of Philosophy.

Do read it, and once you’re done, you might like to place your comments here and tell me if it changed your view of yourself and the world, even if only slightly, as it did me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dang! I really shouldn't find this funny, but I do!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Forgive me if this is starting to bore you, but...

clio statue
... they just announced it at

"Tan Hong Ming In Love" just won a Gold Clio, at the 2008 Clio Awards Festival.

"For nearly five decades, the Clio Awards has been committed to the mission of celebrating and rewarding creative excellence in advertising and design, honoring one of the most influential forms of communication and its impact on modern culture.

The Clio Awards, part of Nielsen Business Media, receives more than 19,000 entries from over 65 countries, and are judged by world-class juries made up of more than 100 top creatives from 65 countries.

The culmination of the competition takes place each May at the annual Clio Awards Festival, in Miami’s South Beach, attended by an international who’s who of advertising and digital marketing.

Fewer than 10% of submissions survive the first round to make the Clio Shortlist, from which juries re-evaluate the work to determine Gold, Silver and Bronze statue winners.

Less than 3% of all entries receive a statue, and less than 1% receive the coveted Gold Clio."

All praise goes to God.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My vote for the most charming youtube video ever!

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Tan Hong Ming In Love" wins a Nomination Pencil in Great Britain.

Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller
This is it.

This is THE biggest of the biggies. The Mother lode. The real McCoy. The big Kahuna. Nothing surpasses this in the advertising world.

Ask any advertising person anywhere, and they'll tell you that no award festival in the world is tougher than this one.

It's called the British Design and Art Direction awards, more commonly, and fearfully, known as D&AD.

For the longest of time, it was an award show held exclusively for British advertising, and was notoriously harsh in its judging. (After all, Britain is one of the top two biggest Lions winning country at Cannes in history!)

In 1988, they opened their doors to the rest of the world. But still, British work was largely judged separately.

No Malaysian television commercial has ever won a Black Pencil (gold award) there. Heck, not even a Yellow Pencil (silver award).

In 2003, one Malaysian commercial won a Nomination Pencil (sometimes called a Silver Nomination and is sort of like a bronze award). But that was in the Non-English Language Television and Cinema Advertising section, not competing with the best of British or any work in English.

This time, it's free for all. The rest of the world competes with the best of British and America, regardless of language.

And little Hong Ming and Ummi did what they did. They won the highest award ever bestowed upon a Malaysian television commercial, at the toughest advertising award show in the world.

So what do we say? Yes, that's right. Alhamdulillah.

The Video

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Another brilliant commercial from Japan, which won big awards two or three years ago.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My two favourite commercials at the Media Spikes were both from Japan.

Friday, May 09, 2008

This time, the Petronas campaign (Tan Hong Ming/Race/Karate) won, as a whole.

It was announced last night.

At the 2008 One Show awards ceremony (the most respected in America), the Petronas campaign, comprising the three commercials listed above, was given the Silver Pencil for the Best Public Service Television Campaign in the world.

No Gold or Bronzes were given.

In other words, it was the only public service TV campaign in the world to receive a prize that night.

Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

"Tan Hong Ming" wins 2 Gold Awards in New York.

andy's head
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller
"The international ANDY Awards were established in 1964 by the Advertising Club of New York.

The goal of the competition is to honor creativity in advertising throughout the world, recognize the contributions of individuals and companies who create the work and encourage raising the standards of craftsmanship in the industry.

Judged by a jury comprised of internationally renowned creative directors, awards are given to both single and campaign executions, distinguished by product, service or technique category. The ANDY's began as a New York print only show that has evolved into an international show covering print, radio, television, out-of-home, direct mail, video/cinema, interactive and other media." (

"Tan Hong Ming" won a Gold Andy for Film Direction and another Gold for Public Service Advertising. "Race" won a Bronze.

And no matter how much Ila condemns me, I cannot help but give praise and thanks to my beloved Creator.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Trailer of the music video which Yuhang and I shot.

On the 24th of April, 2008, about 100 volunteers gathered at KLPAC and made a video about being One People in a nation of many.

The song, "Here In My Home", was written by Pete Teo. The music video is officially described as having been directed by Ho Yuhang and Yasmin Ahmad, but in truth, the celebrities who had come forth to offer their time and energy for free, pretty much directed themselves.

Yuhang and I knew, at the very onset of the project, that we did not want fancy camera moves or graphics that would have brought attention upon themselves. (Music videos have a habit of doing just that!)

We figured that when you have charismatic people like Afdlin Shauki, Harith Iskandar, Awie, Jason Lo, Reshmonu, Sheby Singh, Ning Baizura, the "Sepet" couple (Ng Choo Seong and Sharifah Amani), Maya Karin, Tony Fernandes, Reshmonu, Jaclyn Victor, Ida Nerina, Amber Chia, Atilia, Nikki and all those other wonderful personalities singing and dancing to a beautiful song, the best thing to do was to keep everything constant. A mostly un-moving camera, lots of space for people to run around in, and a flat coloured location.

So in the end, what you'll see are Stars in their element.

We'll be releasing the video in the next week or so, inshaallah. And when it's out, spread it around, O good people of Malaysia!