Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Unhappy new year, Gaza.


Slain Gaza children.jpg

One hour into the new year, I couldn't find much room in my heart for rejoicing. I kept retrieving and reading a text message I received from Dr. Jemilah of Mercy Malaysia, early yesterday afternoon. It read...

"Salaam. I am leaving tonight for Egypt and onto Rafah, to set up a pipeline for aid into Gaza. Don't worry, it is safe there. Pray for us and the people who are suffering there. Happy new year, I love all of you."

Please... please pray for my friend and all the broken bodies she is going to try and mend there.

And sweet, sweet Allah, please keep her safe and give her strength. Ameen, ya rabbal aalameen.

( For more information on Mercy Malaysia, please contact 03-2273 3999 or email to info@mercy.org.my )

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Malaysia faces "Talentime", tentatively scheduled for release on March 26th, 2009.


Mahesh

Hafiz

Melur

Bhavani

Kahoe

Not since our disovery of Sharifah Amani when she was only 16, back in 2003, had I ever met such talented young Malaysians as the people you see here.

Starting with Mahesh Jugal Kishore, allow me to introduce you to this diabolically good-looking 18-year old who could command a new language in less than a week!

Then there is Mohd. Syafie Naswip, winner of the Best Child Actor award at the FFM two years ago, and, at the tender age of 15, beat veterans like Rosyam Nor, Nasir Bilal Khan, and Rusdi Ramli, for the Best Actor award at last year's Anugerah Skrin. His heartfelt debut performance as Mukhsin stole hearts in Berlin, Tokyo, Paris and New York. In "Talentime", he plays the extremely demanding role of a schoolboy who tries to put on a brave face for his cancer-stricken mother, played by Azean Irdawaty.

Swiftly moving on, next in line is Pamela Chong, one of a two-sister team which got second prize at last year's Amazing Race Asia. She took to acting like fish to water, and had memorised her lines, way before most other actors at reharsals, two months before principal shooting began.

Obviously, Jaclyn Victor needs no introduction here. The first ever winner of Malaysian Idol, and arguably the finest singer in South-East Asia, Jac stunned the crew with her powerfully nuanced debut as an actor.

Finally, the drop-dead gorgeous Howard Hon Kahoe, barely 17, became the instant hearthrob on set, with his winsome smile and sultry pout. He played the domestically pressured teenager to perfection, and will most likely have a part in my upcoming Japanese film project, "Wasurenagusa".

These fine young performers, along with the amazingly gifted and versatile Elza (sorry babe, they never gave me a good-sized photo of you!), daughter of Azean Irdawaty, make for worthwhile viewing of our new film "Talentime".

Allah has been so generous. Rabbana wa lakalhamdu.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December 24th, 2008. The end of "Muallaf" four-week run in Singapore.


crying.jpg

What can I say? I'm just about the most sentimental person I know.

And those among you who have seen "Talentime", or indeed any of my films or even my Petronas commercials, will click their tongues, cast their eyes skyward, and say, "Well, no shit, Sherlock!"

Mister Thomas Chia of Lighthouse Pictures, I cannot thank you enough for having faith in my work, even way back then, when most people did not. You are God-sent, of that I'm certain.

And all those Singaporeans who watched "Muallaf" once, twice, even three times, many of whom opened up the Holy Quran afterwards, Muslims AND non-Muslims, seeking to find out what Rohana's numbers meant! It was you who led our little film to earn a nett box office taking that's TWICE as much as "Sepet". Thank you so much. You too are a blessing from above.

(I just found out that the very last screening of "Muallaf" at 10:15pm has only two front rows left unfilled. Alhamdulillah.)

And now our film must leave your shores and face the censorship board here. Oh well. It's in God's hands now.

In the words of the last verse of al-Baqarah which Brian read to the coma patient in "Muallaf", "On no soul does God place a burden greater than it can bear."

Subhaanallah.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The one you feed.


wolf.jpg

One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all. One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The other is Good - It is peace, love, hope, humility, compassion, and faith."

The grandson thought about this for a while and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf wins?"

To which the old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ed Gonzales's top 10 films of 2008.


Slant Magazine

1) A Dogme film with an Altmanesque soul, "Rachel Getting Married" is a richly eccentric and instinctive look at addiction and the toils, troubles, and joys of blood relations, in which a young girl struggles to save herself using a language no one either speaks or cares to, set by Jonathan Demme during a wedding whose pretense to multiculturalism reveals itself as a narcissistic clan's way of disguising from the world that they're hurting just as badly as the next family.

2) Built on sensuous interplays between people and objects, reality and representation, José Luis Guerín's rapturously alfresco "In the City of Sylvia" uses a voluptuous language of spatial-temporal equations to conflate one's love of people with one's love of movies.

3) A sterling follow-up to his similarly themed "Changing Times", "The Witnesses" is another triumph for the criminally underrated André Téchiné, who uses his sensual humanist verve to hone in on the desires and insecurities of a group of friends and lovers when AIDS rattles their sense of complacency.

4) Errol Morris's dramatic recreations are his aesthetic signature, and they're sometimes sore spots in his work, but in his heady Abu Ghraib exposé "Standard Operating Procedure" they are as purposeful as they were in "The Thin Blue Line", cannily dialoguing with his thesis about the veracity of image-making.

5) "Summer Palace" teems with sex scenes more meaningful than anything in "Lust, Caution", hinging on more than just a feeling of duplicity; in them, Ye Lou locates the soul of his young people, a woman's areola and the hairs on a man's chin popping off the screen as vividly and urgently as placards of political protest.

6) Filmmaker and explorer, Werner Herzog is a man obsessed with the secrets and wonders of uncharted terrains and their inhabitants, and with his sly, poetic, and melancholic "Encounters at the End of the World" he reflects on the eccentricity, compassion, and possible madness of people like himself united in their committment to looking beyond themselves.

7) A sweet and mellow Malaysia-set love story between a young boy and girl, "Mukhsin" is chockablock with bittersweet cultural observations, with Yasmin Ahmad peering at the ecstasies and haunts of her young characters with a mixture of lovingness and randiness that brings to mind Yasujiro Ozu's "Good Morning".

8) Lush with longing and history, "My Father My Lord" suggests an ancient vase with small precarious cracks spread across its surface. Writer-director David Volach's subjective use of video technology toys with space and distance, affecting the curiosity of his cherubic main character, whose love for his father is as powerful and incandescent as lightning.

9) An unexpectedly poignant queering of the horror genre, "Let the Right One In" is the story of one child's painful coming of age and another's insatiable bloodlust. Do not avert your eyes from Tomas Alfredson's gorgeously, meaningfully aestheticized vision, though you may want to cover your neck.

10) With "Happy-Go-Lucky", Mike Leigh engages silent-movie idiom for a study of human behavior that appears out of sync with the times but shouldn't really, and as memorably performed by Sally Hawkins using an arsenal of unbelievably orchestrated sniggers and jostles and punctuating guffaws, her wild child emerges as an example of humane perseverance.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: "Man on Wire", "Chris & Don", "Reprise", "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl", "The Strangers", "Redbelt", "Still Life", "Gran Torino", "Trouble the Water", and "Up the Yangtze".

Monday, December 8, 2008

The talented, young Frenchman who made that charming animation trailer of "Mukhsin".


adrien tache

His name is Adrien Tache. He turns 18 on December 30th.

But don't get too excited, girls. He already has a girlfriend by the name of Olivia Nouvel.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Muallaf" and the mystery of Rohana's numbers.


muallaf - love in a mosque

Some Singaporeans on facebook have been discussing "Muallaf" and the numbers Rohana cited, every time the poor girl got a little upset. This, to me, is exciting beyond belief.

Just a month ago, a lovely Japanese young lady named Sawaka watched "Muallaf" in Tokyo. Soon after, she emailed me and said, "I myself am a pseudo Catholic, but watching the movie made me want to read the Koran." I told her to look up quranexplorer.com and she thanked me for the website address.

Much as I would prefer that viewers who are curious about Rohani's numbers would actually pick up a copy of the Holy Quran with translations to find out what the verses were saying, I do realise that it is hard to remember the numbers and the scenes they appeared in.

So here then are two scenes where Rohani cited some numbers, which chapters those numbers came from, and the verses themselves translated into English.

After Mrs. Siva's caning episode, Brian drove Rohana home. Along the way, he said to Rohana, “You won’t have to worry about Mrs. Siva for a while. I think she’ll probably get suspended. And if your sister decides to press charges, she’ll be out for good.” To which Rohana replied, “One hundred and eight, three.”

In the Holy Quran, chapter 108 is entitled “Al-Kauthar”, and line 3 translates to “For he who hateth thee, he will be cut off from future hope.”

In the scene where Brian and Brother Anthony visited the girls in their hideout home, Brian confronted the girls by saying, “Don’t worry, we won’t let on, but you girls ran away from home, didn’t you?” To which Rohani replied, “I wouldn’t call it running away… just running to safety.” Then, Rohana interrupted the conversation by muttering “Sixteen, Forty-one” under her breath.

Chapter 16 is entitled “An-Nahl”, and verse 41 reads, “To those who leave their homes in the cause of Allah, after suffering oppression, We will assuredly give a goodly home in this world: but truly the reward of the Hereafter will be greater. If they only knew!”

For those who have plans to watch the film soon, it might be fun to bring along a little note book, or maybe even just a pen and a piece of paper, on which to jot down Rohani's mysterious numbers. Then when you get home, you can look up their meaning at quranexplorer.com to check their relevance to the scenes in which they appeared.

One movie reviewer in Singapore told me that after watching "Muallaf", he went home to his mother, gave her a hug, and asked her to forgive him for all the times he had hurt her feelings. I remember thinking to myself, "Even if the whole world now hates this film, I shall be eternally grateful, just for that one act of love and reconciliation."

How perfect God is.