Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some 3 out of 4 star ratings for "Muksin", by some French press and magazines.


3 star
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller
No, that was not a typo error. In France, they do spell "Mukhsin" without the 'h'.

In any case, here are some ratings which I can be truly happy and grateful about, along with brief excerpts from the respective reviews.

Thank you, God.

CAHIERS DU CINEMA (review by Axel Zeppenfeld) - 3 out of 4 stars. "The clever use of music, along with the magnificent performance of the young actor who played Muksin, contribute to the rare joyousness expressed in the film."

POSITIVE (review by Hubert Niogret) - 3 out of 4 stars. "Well composed, with precision mise en scene, a story told without condescendence or indulgence."

OUEST FRANCE (review by the editors) - 3 out of 4 stars. "A chronical that came out of the blue, which went beyond the usual postcard exoticism of its country of origin. A film different, by virtue of its tenderness and sincerity."

LE MONDE (review by Jacques Mandelbaum) - 3 out of 4 stars. "While brushing a tableau of morals of her social environment, Yasmin Ahmad paints a story of first love with an elegance that does not avoid the languid, yet offering also moments of grace."

TELECINEOBS (review by Xavier Leherpeur) - 3 out of 4 stars. "An account of a past that was carefree and of the emergence of a romance, in which the director presents a picture of her country and its contradictions. A success."

MCINEMA.COM (review by Olivier Pelisson) - 3 out of 4 stars. "An ode to life. With its cleverly designed soundtrack and mise en scene, Mukhsin is a vision fulfilled. Sheer charm."

The Crippled Butterfly.

Sometime last week, my friend Hamzah sent me an anecdote which made me ponder about the state of our beloved country, and more specifically, the state of the Malays.

It is a simple story about struggle, and the important role it plays in shaping us as people. It moved me deeply. I hope it touches you in some way too.

"A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day, a small opening appeared; he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.

Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If nature allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.

And we could never fly."

Certainly, we all need a helping hand at one point or another in our lives. And the strong must always be mindful of the weak.

But I believe the better way would be to lead by example and teach people how to struggle; not deprive them of it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Do they call our film "Mook-sang" over there?


Le Map
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller
The second last comment in the thread below entitled "Mukhsin review in Le Monde", was posted by someone called Aniza. It reads like this:

"I was in a small town called Nancy in the east of France two weeks ago. Saw 'Mukhsin' poster on the wall of one of the 'd'art et essai' cinemas. (Took photo, but am not sure how to post it here).
Until last week, I observed that 'Mukhsin' was screened in 5 different cinema halls in Paris. It's a beautiful achievement."

The fact is, "Mukhsin" has been playing in 20 theatres around France since the 2nd of February. It's a first in the history (or should I say l'histoire) of Malaysian cinema.

In the words of Ms Jennifer Hudson at the Oscars last year, "Look what God can do!"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lashings of tasty goodies, this evening at the screening of "Tora-san, Our Beloved Tramp".

JCo yummies



Glistening, soft, sweet, juicy, lickable in parts, biteable all over, and frightfully addictive.

But enough about my body, let's talk about what you can actually eat at tonight's screening.

There'll be the world's best doughnuts from JCo, and the world's best curry puffs from Old Chang Kee.

And not to mention a viewing of my favourite film of all time!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An article about my crazy parents, in Berita Harian.

BAIT lagu berirama keroncong ini masih terdengar-dengar ketika meninggalkan pekarangan kediaman Inom Yon (Mak Inom), 74, dan suami tercinta, Ahmad Hashim, 75, atau lebih senang dipanggil Pak Atan.

Seketika, diri turut dibuai kelunakan suara Mak Inom mendendangkan setiap bait sambil sesekali menari di samping Pak Atan yang asyik mengalunkan irama daripada keyboard.

Suasana petang yang hangat bertukar indah dan syahdu melihat keakraban kasih sayang antara keduanya.

Sememangnya Pak Atan dan Mak Inom sentiasa dilamun cinta biarpun usia masing-masing menginjak senja. Bergelar datuk dan nenek kepada lima cucu, cinta antara keduanya tetap mencambahkan bunga kasih yang terus berkembang segar hingga kini.

Kemesraan pasangan ini bukan khayalan pengarah filem tersohor, Yasmin Ahmad semata-mata seperti yang dipaparkan dalam filem arahannya, "Rabun". Inilah keindahan sebenar yang ingin dikongsi anak sulung mereka itu bersama penonton.

Walau ada yang menjuihkan bibir, hakikat kehidupan mereka yang sentiasa mesra bagaikan teruna dara baru berjumpa tidak dapat dinafikan. Segala-galanya jelas terpapar pada wajah Mak Inom dan Pak Atan, melalui gerak geri dan panggilan mesra - ‘sayang’ dan ‘darling’ yang sering meniti di bibir.

“Beginilah kami selalunya. Lepas sama-sama memasak, uncle main keyboard, auntie pula nyanyi. Ini bukan mengada-ngada. Kemesraan ini lahir spontan daripada hati sejak awal pernikahan lagi. Mungkin bagi kebanyakan orang, kemanisan alam pengantin baru hanya sementara, tetapi kami tetap meneruskannya sehingga kini seperti mandi berdua, berjalan sambil berpegang tangan mahupun ketika tidur juga,” kata Mak Inom.

Mengakui awalnya berkahwin bukan atas dasar cinta, Mak Inom dan Pak Atan yang masing-masing baru putus tunang, akhirnya bersetuju disatukan selepas berkenalan tiga bulan kerana kasihankan nasib masing-masing.

Berpegang kepada kata-kata Hamka, cinta yang berputik daripada belas kasihan lebih berkekalan daripada cinta biasa, Mak Inom tidak ragu-ragu menerima lamaran Pak Atan. Tambahan pula perwatakan Pak Atan yang sempurna pada matanya sudah cukup membuatkan Mak Inom yang baru menamatkan pengajian selama dua tahun di Kirby, Liverpool tertawan pada guru muzik itu.

“Bagi saya ketika itu cinta tidak bermakna. Uncle sering merendahkan diri, lembut apabila berkata-kata, tidak banyak cakap dan sering memberi nasihat untuk mententeramkan perasaan saya. Dia juga pandai mengambil hati ayah yang juga menyukainya. Itu yang penting, restu ibu bapa,” katanya.

Pak Atan pula cukup tertarik dengan layanan diberikan Mak Inom. Setiap kali bertandang, dirinya dijamu dengan masakan Mak Inom yang memang handal memasak. Bagi Pak Atan, itulah kecantikan sebenar yang dicarinya selama ini.

“Kecantikan itu lahir dari hati yang suci. Kecantikan fizikal yang sering diagungkan itu tidak kekal dan jika itulah cinta, ia akan pudar bersamanya. Itulah sebabnya kemesraan hanya dikecapi ketika baru berkahwin. Selepas dua atau tiga tahun, lenyap. Suami jalan di depan, isteri di belakang. Apa salahnya berjalan berpegang tangan seperti masa bercinta dulu?

“Saya tidak kisah apa orang nak kata mengenai kemesraan yang kami tunjukkan. Ini isteri saya, suka hati sayalah nak pegang tangan dia atau nak panggil apa. Jangan terkejut kami tetap mandi berdua sehingga kini walaupun ketika berada di rumah saudara mara. Mereka pun tahu dan faham,” katanya.

Sedangkan lidah lagi tergigit, pasangan ini tidak menafikan mahligai yang dibina sesekali tetap dilanda badai terutama di awal perkahwinan. Bagaimanapun, sikap tolak ansur dan tidak berdendam membuatkan rumah tangga dibina kekal bahagia.

“Kalau bertengkar, kami pergi ke tepi laut supaya anak-anak di rumah tidak dengar. Kami luahkan apa yang tidak puas hati. Bila reda, baru balik. Anak anak boleh tahu kami bergaduh hanya kerana saya tidak peluk bahu isteri ketika menonton televisyen. Mereka akan kata, mak tak kawan ayah ya?,” kata Pak Atan.

Mak Inom yang kesal dengan peningkatan perceraian di kalangan pasangan hari ini, berkata sikap bertolak ansur dan memahami pasangan penting selepas berkahwin. Lumrah masa bercinta memang semua indah, tetapi bila tinggal sebumbung, baru tahu buruk baik masing-masing.

“Masa baru berkahwin memang susah sesuaikan diri. Auntie selalu merajuk terutama masa mengandung anak sulung kerana uncle sibuk bermain badminton setiap petang. Auntie luahkan perasaan benci padanya, tetapi jawapannya, tidak ada perkataan benci dalam kamus hidupnya, membuatkan auntie terdiam. Auntie sedar, kita perlu berkorban sedikit dengan menerima seadanya pasangan kita sama ada suka atau tidak kerana itulah dirinya,” katanya.

Beliau berkata, isteri perlu bijak memenangi hati suami terutama dari segi makan minumnya selain menghormatinya sebagai ketua keluarga walaupun isteri berkenaan berpangkat lebih tinggi daripada suami.

“Jika isteri tidak kisah, tidak mustahil apabila ada wanita lain yang menunjukkan kasih sayang padanya, suami akan jatuh cinta dengan wanita itu. Jangan bersikap mementingkan diri termasuk dalam bab duit. Bila suami susah, kita bantu. Jangan ada konsep duit dia, duit kita tapi duit kita, duit kita. Ini tidak betul. Menjaga kebersihan diri juga penting. Janganlah bau kencing ada dibiarkan sampai suami balik ke rumah,” katanya.

Pak Atan turut bersetuju, seorang suami inginkan wanita yang bijak menjaga kebajikan suami. Bagaimanapun, katanya suami juga perlu mengikis ego untuk mengakui kesilapan yang dilakukan pada isteri kerana isteri hanya ingin mendengar suami mengatakan ‘maaf’. Itu sudah cukup melembutkan hatinya.

Dalam hubungan ini, katanya, suami harus banyak bersabar berdepan kerenah isteri, begitu juga sebaliknya.

“Pandailah ambil hati isteri. Isteri mungkin penat selepas seharian bekerja ditambah dengan kerja rumah. Apa salahnya pada sebelah malam, sebelum tidur, suami urut badan atau kaki isteri. Seorang suami yang mengurut isterinya, akan mengalir dosa-dosa yang ada padanya melalui celah jarinya itu.

“Bantu isteri di dapur juga boleh mengeratkan hubungan. Gurau senda antara suami isteri menambah seri. Mungkin orang lain tak buat macam uncle buat. Bila balik rumah, uncle panggil auntie dengan panggilan uhu…uhu…, itu tanda uncle balik. Bila dengar suara uncle itu, auntie pun sembunyi di dapur, macam main sorok-sorok,” katanya.

Memang bertuah jika semua isteri seperti Mak Inom dan semua suami seperti Pak Atan. Sayangnya kebanyakan orang terlalu ego untuk menzahirkan kasih sayang terhadap pasangan khususnya si suami. Entah mengapa, perasaan sayang dan mengambil berat hanya terhad semasa bercinta. Kononnya bukan budaya kita menunjuk-nunjuk depan orang. Apa salahnya budaya yang baik jadi ikutan?

Lihat saja orang Barat, walaupun isterinya itu tidak secantik mana atau gemuk gedempol sekalipun, masih tetap berjalan berpegangan tangan atau memeluk pinggang isterinya. Inilah yang dikatakan cinta sejati, tidak pernah berubah walaupun dimamah usia.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Prizes of the International Jury, Generations category, 58th Berlin International Film Festival.

judges & winners
Photo courtesy of kean wong
Feb 16, 2008:

Berlinale 2008 Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk Awards in Generation Kplus

The members of the International Jury:

Yasmin Ahmad
Anna Justice
Omri Levy
Antonia Ringbom

gave the following awards:


The Deutsche Kinderhilfswerk Grand Prix for the Best Feature Film:
"TOUS A L'OUEST! Une aventure de Lucky Luke" by Olivier Jean-Marie (France)

Jury Citation:
"A rollercoaster ride of laughs and adventures, delivered with great wit, genius, and humor. A film full of inventive visual gags combined with an intelligent use of music, mixing historical and modern life elements. A celebration of the joy of cinema."

The Special Mention:
"Mutum" by Sandra Kogut (Brazil/France)

Jury Citation:
"A journey into a young boy's life that leads you gently through a world infused with love and rejection, confusion and heartbreak. Through a curious mix of dreamy, open-ended events, it paints a picture of remote Brazil with bursts of poetry and humanity."


The Deutsche Kinderhilfswerk Special Prize for the Best Short Film:
"My Uncle Loves The Colour Yellow" by Mats Olof Olsson (Sweden)

Jury Citation:
"Lasting merely 9 minutes, this film leads us through a whole range of deep human emotions. An homage to all that is good in people, reminding us to be careful with the fragility surrounding us. A moving story told with simple, masterly cinematic strokes."

The Special Mention:
"POST!" by Christian Asmussen and Matthias Bruhn (Germany)

Jury Citation:
"A joyful film with inventive visual solutions, crazy anarchistic humor and a warm message about one man's ability to make a whole community happy."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The 58th Berlinale, 2008.


good to be back
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller
It's been exactly a year since I was sniffing bouquets on stage at the 57th Berlinale.

I miss having Yana and my sister here with me, but my husband's sweet company more than makes up for it.

Later this morning, I'll be watching the 5th film in the competition.

It's dead in the middle of winter here. Berlin isn't quite as white as it was last year. Global warming, I suppose. But this means it isn't as cold as it was before, and for this I'm grateful.

I'm told the Berlinale audience attendance numbers have risen considerably. A remarkable achievement, given that they were already the world's most attended film festival to begin with!

It's a different feeling, coming to the Berlinale as a member of the jury, with two Berlinale prizes already in your bag. You're a lot calmer. I smile inside when I come across directors whose films are in competition here. Bright, eager, hopeful faces thinly disguise the nervousness inside. I know exactly how they feel, and my heart reaches out to them.

The films selected are decent at worst and miraculous at best. And the competition is tough. Which is as it should be. There's nothing I like better than to watch a film that is a genuine, heartfelt expression of its maker's feelings about his world, his life.

No politicking here. No prejudices. No one wants to get you because you made a film about a Chinese boy who loved a Malay girl, or a Muslim cleric who refused to be cruel to a three-legged dog.

Here, a good film is cause for celebration. All is well. Praise the good Lord.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Mukhsin" review in Le Monde.

Lorenzo Codelli, a film critic and one of the curators for Venice Film Festival whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last year's Golden Horse festival, sent me what he described as "a very nice review of your movie".

You can read it below, but first, can someone translate it for me, please? My French is rusty amd mostly limited to everyday statements like "I'd like a packet of Gitanes filters please", "This bouillabaise dish is too much for one woman", "You're so tall that if you fell over you'd be halfway home", and of course the ever important, "Do you like to do it doggy-doggy?"

-------

"L'éducation sentimentale d'une adolescente en Malaisie.
(Un troisième long métrage critique envers une société menacée par le conformisme moral.)

E n dépit de l'uniformisation des formes qui affecte, avec le monde, la production cinématographique, il est heureux de constater que des mouvements esthétiques singuliers, fortement ancrés dans leurs territoires respectifs sans renoncer pour autant à une ambition universaliste, ne cessent d'éclore dans le monde. L'Argentine et la Roumanie en sont deux exemples récents.

Cette effervescence touche à présent l'Asie du Sud-Est, d'où viennent notamment le Thaïlandais Apichatpong Weerasethakul ou le Singapourien Eric Khoo. C'est aujourd'hui au tour de la Malaisie de se signaler, avec une poignée de jeunes cinéastes indépendants qui imposent leur présence dans les festivals internationaux.

Pionnière et aînée de ce groupe (elle est née en 1958), la réalisatrice Yasmin Ahmad livre avec Muksin, réalisé en 2006, son troisième long métrage. C'est un joli roman d'éducation, d'une subtile et sensible amertume, qui évoque le premier amour estival d'une jeune adolescente et fait en arrière-plan la critique circonstanciée d'une société menacée par le conformisme moral et la crispation réactionnaire.

Elevée par des parents occidentalisés, couple égalitaire pratiquant un islam modéré, la jeune Orked est éduquée comme les garçons de son entourage, dont elle partage les jeux. C'est d'ailleurs sur un terrain improvisé de football qu'elle rencontre Muksin, beau brun qui devient illico son compagnon d'esprit et de coeur.

Tout en brossant sans pesanteur le tableau des moeurs de la société environnante (le voisin polygame qui méprise la mère de ses enfants, l'opprobre social qui frappe la mère de Muksin, la perdition qui menace son frère aîné), Yasmin Ahmad poursuit le récit bientôt brisé de ce premier amour avec une élégance qui n'évite pas toujours la mièvrerie, mais qui offre aussi des moments de grâce.

Difficile, à ce dernier égard, d'oublier cette admirable scène filmée de l'intérieur de l'appartement des parents d'Orked, où la jeune fille et sa famille écoutent la sublime interprétation de Ne me quitte pas par Nina Simone, tandis qu'à l'extérieur, plongé dans la nuit, le jeune Muksin guette en vain un signe de réconciliation de son aimée. Mais elle le laissera longtemps souffrir, trop longtemps pour éviter les regrets de ne pas l'avoir retenu à temps et de l'avoir laissé partir à tout jamais.

Que le lecteur ne nous tienne pas trop rigueur de révéler ce qui n'est après tout un secret pour personne, que les premières amours ne sont jamais aussi belles et poignantes que parce qu'elles s'embrasent le temps d'un été, en laissant ce goût de cendres qui fait le lit de toutes les conquêtes ultérieures. Tout tient donc à la manière de les convoquer et de les célébrer, celle de Yasmin Ahmad étant en l'occurrence tout à fait recommandable."

- Jacques Mandelbaum

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Tora-san, Our Beloved Tramp." Now officially my absolute favourite film of all time.


tora-san poster
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller
It was released in 1969, written and directed by Yoji Yamada.

I saw it over the weekend, and it simply took my breath away.

It was the first in a series of Tora-san stories which through the years amounted to a staggering total of 48 films.

Everything I have ever wanted to achieve in my own silly little amateur films -- slice of life of regular folks, peppered with tragic as well as comic moments, in a heartfelt story that is told through fond eyes -- is contained, TEN-FOLD, in this deceptively simple work of a true master storyteller.

In a few days' time, I shall be leaving for Berlin, and should be back, God-willing, by the 18th of February. Upon my return, I plan to hold a private screening of this film in our office amphitheatre, at 8:00pm on Thursday night, the 21st of February.

Reserve your place now, as our theatre can only seat twenty people!

It's a first-book-first-placed arrangement, and as always, regulars in the comments box get first priority, and those who don't turn up will be denied a place at the next screening.

Now I need a volunteer to coordinate the reservations. Any volunteers? Wira? Faiz perhaps?