Yay for modern medicine. With the cold gone and my feet rested, I left my seven dorm mates to their slumber. 6 am might be early for most tourists, but I wanted to wander in the daylight for as long as possible (especially during spring/autumn). And so began my 30 minute walk to Fushimi Inari.
Day 0 (HK)
It was 2 in the morning, and the signboard mentioned Hong Kong in various languages. I’d claim some shut eye, but my brain wouldn’t cooperate. Next thing I knew, there I was, stuck in a seat with barely enough legroom, thousands of feet in the air and thinking to myself, “Where was I headed for again?
Day 1 (Kyoto)
Yokoso Japan. Or Kansai International Airport, in my case. It was about time I ventured out of Tokyo, as per my three previous visits warranted. I explored the airport for a bit and made my way to the train station. I promptly made the mistake of buying the wrong ticket (darn additional seating fee) and chugged on to Kyoto station.
My first impression was that this is one impressive train terminal/shopping/government center.
I also couldn’t help notice the lack of skyscrapers/landmarks. Navigating is going to be a pain…
A short 10 min walk to J-Hoppers hostel happened with no incident, thanks to it being near a busy junction and fairly straight route from the station. After settling myself, it was time to hunt for food, at the 100 yen store naturally. Laden with sugar providing supplies, I ventured into this ancient capital.
While most would head straight for the fabled temples of Kyoto, I held no such intentions. I am not a fan of famous and crowded sites. That and places which required an entry fee. I know it is kinda weird not visiting sites that the said place is renowned for. Fact was, the photographer in me didn’t want the same view as countless others, as well as having said others intrude in the picture. Even so, I kept the camera firmly in the bag and simply viewed the sights as it is. I had plenty of time to capture them on film (or rather SD card) in the following days.
Instead, I trekked along the river and its tributaries, taking in the sights of everyday life and architecture, both new/restored and abandoned. It was also time to find the local mosque for Friday prayers. Unlike Tokyo, Kyoto only had one mosque listed, and finding it in a new city would be troublesome.
True enough, I wandered around for 2 hours, only to find it after Friday prayers had ended, thanks to the trail of head garb wearing muslims flowing out the nondescript building in an alley. After a personal prayer session, I dropped by the adjacent Halal co-op for some questions regarding local joints and the like. Unfortunately, halal eateries in Kyoto were lacking to say the least.
I resumed my orientation walk around the city until 5 pm, or rather, the time when my right foot decided to cramp up on me. I’ve done my fair share of long walks in my time, and even the long marches back during my army days only resulted in blisters. But never before had I experienced a case of spastic foot. The hour long hobble back to the hostel concluded my 8 hour ramble.
As I was resting my sore feet, a case of the sniffles descended upon me, causing me to go through the hostel’s supply of tissue at an alarming rate. Luckily, I had bought some prescription cold medication and by 9 pm, I was knocked out.
Well then, Anime Festival Asia decided to expand to Malaysia after a successful 5 year run in Singapore. Can it replicate the formula in a somewhat untested market? (Despite years of anime conventions by other organizers)
It was first announced a couple of months after AFA SG 2011 in early 2012, meaning they had less than 3-4 months to organize the event. The line-up was only finalized less than a month before said debut. The invited guests were the president and a producer from Production I.G, and 3 well-known cosplayers. Oh yeah, there’s Danny Choo as well, back in his hometown. Thankfully, Kalafina, KOTOKO and FLOW were performing.
As luck would have it, there was a tour package which bundled the AFA tickets with transport and accommodation fares. It was definitely cheaper than AFA SG, thanks to the strong currency exchange rate.
And so after a 7 hr bus ride, I reached the venue with the event already done for half the day. I headed straight to the event hall to check out the proceedings. After getting a bit disoriented with the place due to lack of signage, I reached the entrance. Upon entering and exploring the place, I was kinda underwhelmed. There were no giant statues or a sizable figurine display areas. It was retail mostly, (the regular Singapore AFA shops) with the Maid/Butler Cafe right at the end of the hall. It was disappointing that Production IG didn’t even bother with setting up a booth to showcase their works. I would say that the event hall was smaller than AFA SG, but at least there was more walking space.
Fortunately, I met some Malaysian photography contacts and talked into the evening till they had to leave for the concert. Since I had no interest in the concert line-up that night, I retreated to my hotel room.
This is what happens when a light painter gets bored in a dark room
After a hearty breakfast, I left for the venue which was only across the road from my hotel. It was time to photograph some cosplayers. I have always admired the workmanship of Malaysian cosplayers, and this trip did not disappoint. There were no Vocaloid spam and the cosplayers themselves better behaved and not to mention, more conservatively dressed. (It is a Muslim country after all) I did not attend any stage events since the flyer did not publish the programme and was only viewable online, which was put up only a day or two before the event. Needless to say, I did not miss anything of importance, well perhaps the Cosplay competition.
As night fell, it was time to attend KOTOKO and FLOW’s concert. KOTOKO performs well with her vocal prowess and did a “best of” compilation of her popular anime series, Onegai Sensei, Hayate No Gotoku and Shakugan No Shana. Too bad she didn’t bring along her band, just her dancers. As for FLOW, they sure know how to rock, bringing the house down with their lively performance and antics. Sound wise, the event hall did sound like the hall back in SG since their size was relatively similar.
Ten minutes after the end of the concert, I was already in the bus heading back down to Singapore…
Time for post-event dissection.
Was the event a success? Probably. From talks with the Malaysian fans, the event was rather well received and organized, judging from the crowd and enthusiasm. However, from a Singaporean POV, the event was very lacking, compared to the first AFA in SG. There was no pulling point, apart from the celebrity cosplayers and Anisong concerts. The main anime promoted was Cardfight Vanguard (seriously?) and even GoodSmile didn’t bother to bring much display items.
I do not know the stage events were conducted since I skipped it. It was also shameful that there was no MC during the concert to introduce the artists and there would only be light cues and background music to indicate transition to the next artist. Danny Choo was supposed to host the whole of AFA, but I guess he was too busy selling and signing autographs for his Moekana cards by the merchandise booth. I did recall him at least MC-ing some of the concerts in AFA SG.
The saving grace was the cosplayers, photographers and fans whom I talked to. They were all a friendly bunch and made me feel welcomed. Well, there was a minor issue of us being chased away a couple of times due to a big political event being held nearby, but hey, it was a fun trip overall.
I am still not sure if AFA MY will be viable, but I do wish they improve on their programme since there is much potential. With AFA Indonesia in the works, I wonder if dilution is a good thing?
Final day of nominee showing. Let’s see if they matched yesterday’s session.
Peace Be Upon You
“A Study of Contemporary Malay Muslims in Singapore, their aspirations, challenges and their future.”
The initial few minutes showed a devotee translating the meaning of the motions and readings during the muslim prayer. (Mainly praising and asking for forgiveness and earthly/spiritual help) This was followed by a short interview with two artists on what being muslim meant to them. And then the MM Lee Kuan Yew muslim controversy was brought up. The remaining 15 mins were spent among the three interviewees discussing this incident. While I appreciate the objective take (as a muslim myself), it dragged on 10 mins too long. They could have interviewed more people and perhaps non-muslims as well for a well-rounded view. Also, cinematography is guerilla-like.
“Libertas tells a story of a girl who travels to Uluru in the aftermath of a tragedy.”
At first look, it seems like one applied the charcoal filter effect on photographs due to the smoothness and scale of the animation. The story itself is about an artist reacting to her mother’s worries on her chosen career path.
“Lighthouse is a humorous, tender and delicate family road trip film. About a mother who takes her children on an adventure to find a lighthouse, a few days after her husband, their father has left them. Lighthouse is written and directed by Anthony Chen who has had significant success with previous shorts in competition in Cannes and Berlin film festivals amongst others.”
Is it a bad thing when everything feels right? Cinematography, location, sound, cast, sound, etc. The only thing missing is innovation, which is pretty hard even for competent directors/studios.
Tales of the Chugawagas
“Tales of the Chugawagas is an animated short film about a group of little ‘spirit’ creatures (Chugawagas) that work diligently into the night, scurrying and venturing around human beings, while we are drifting off into our dream worlds. What are they up to? What is their ultimate purpose?”
To spoil the show, capturing our dreams into celluloid. It was OK-ish.
Love In Any Genre
“Yazid’s behavior and personality are influenced by the films he watches. He cannot differentiate between what is real and unreal. Yazid meets Amy, whose character falls in love with him. The true test is whether she loves him for who he is.”
A satire of love scenes on how different countries display them cinematically. Sappy Korean, fighting Indians, intellectual French, montage American and melodramatic Malaysian. The faux accents, while cringeworthy, did up the cheese factor. In the end it might have won the “so bad it’s good” award.
“Witnessing the murder of his father and the rape of his mother by the same three men, mummy’s boy Junyang decides to kill them off in the manner of Sanzaru (Japanese for “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”). However, things are never the way they seem to be. Perhaps the men who destroyed his life did not act on the motives Junyang assumed.”
The slient and good citizen protaganist with a violent streak. While no Ichi the Killer, the dark tone and storyline does pretty well. Unfortunately, the DVD got corrupted and couldn’t display the last 5 mins. :(
“This documentary short aims to reveal the secret of “living life to the fullest” as preached by the simpleton – a man living on the streets, the happiest of the “wild dogs” This is the story of a street busker, who in his own way defies the prerequisites of society in Singapore. No doubt he accepts the fact that he’s a street dweller ad like many other street dwellers, can only earn enough to feed themselves per day. But he does his job respectfully, and that’s what makes Ringo stand out from the hundred others like him.”
A rock and roll man lives the dream of playing his music no matter where. Unfortunately, in Singapore it just leaves you as a bum. Honest and well-shot documentary.
“What happens when your child is hearing but you cannot hear? Would parenting be different? Unheard takes on the perspective of a hearing impaired parent and his hearing child, as they talk about their family. By drawing the audience into their world and constructing a near deaf experience, the film tackles some myths about the hearing impaired in our society.”
Fresh from a playthrough of Katawa Shoujo, this topic made me very interested. With both parents born deaf, how did they bring up a child for the past 8 years? Endearing, but would have loved to hear more about them.
Mandy’s 8 Theories Of Sleep
“16 hours a day keeps the doctor away. With 7 more theories, Mandy must convince Jia Ming that with bountiful sleep comes plenty of surprises, joy and flights of the imagination.”
A very colourful, playful and imaginative film. The cast of kids and heavy use of props is a breath of fresh air. The straight-forward explanation of the theories and presentation left me with a smile.
“Thin Air is a whimsical tale chronicling the final days of Hector. Seated in a wheelchair parked on the roof of his apartment building, Hector flings fishing lines into the cold heights of New York City. He bides his time for the impossible catch, whilst reality bites in the form of Cecilia, his home-care aide. Thin Air is not simply an elegy to solitude. Sometimes, the quieter one’s world is, the harder one dreams, and sometimes the universe hears you.”
Great characterization and direction. A subtle piece to end the day.
Received word that The Hole won 4 awards for:
Best Director, Best Fiction, Best Sound and Best Script(?)
(Subtle is the buzzword for Asian cinema it seems)
Peace Be Upon You won Best Documentary
(I might have been prejudiced by my own feelings, which is why I’m not a judge)
The Lighthouse won Best Cinematography
(Made good use of the English countryside)
Finally, nominee night. Something to look forward too. And boy, did they deliver.
A Cloudy Conundrum
“A city of creatures live upon a massive island on a cloud, roaming the skies and producing small weather clouds as they go. Their lives are thrown into disarray when an uninvited guest ignorantly lands on the cloud city.”
Whimsical little animation. Watch it to find out.
“A series of vignettes involving patricides and sexual awakening shared by two half sisters.”
Let’s see, 6 min of two girls prancing around in an abandoned building in their nightwear, 1 min of two ants in fighting embrace, followed by 1 min of frenching with said two girls and a vague ending of a double suicide. All in silence. Art film credentials check.
“Nick is a family man, who is contemplating on selling his family’s beloved house. He falls in and out of his reality and past.”
Set in Indonesia with Indonesian cast, this short has the stylings of great Indonesian movies in recent years. Everything from cinematography, story, acting and editing melded into a smooth flow throughout the 25 min runtime.
“Some workers dream of starting their own business. Others want to build a future for their children and their generations to come. As different as they may be, these workers are all driven by the same raison d’être – family. Existence is a reflective documentary on the lives of Bangladeshi workers in Singapore. Through a series of phone calls and interviews, we peek into the lives of these unassuming workers.”
Every single frame was thoughtfully and beautifully shot, reminiscent of Roystan Tan works. The choice of subtitling placement was excellent, filling in negative spaces instead of sticking to the bottom frame. The documentary itself is straightforward, personal yet not intrusive. A very good job for a first shot at documentary.
“On the wedding day, Sam, the homosexual brother of the bride, is roped in by his cheeky auntie to become one of the bridesmaid, which forces Sam to confront his feelings for the Groom.”
A dramedy looking into the gatekeeping ritual. (Where “sisters” deny the groom entry into the bride chamber through trials/quizzes/toll) Lovely throughout with a somewhat abrupt ending.
Ka-San is compelled to get her son Kenji married off, only to his constant stubborn refusals. On a visit to his father’s grave, Kenji begins to realise his mother’s intentions, fears and hopes drawing both mother and son closer.
A Japanese production, so it was no surprise it took the subtle route of storytelling. A good production, but subtlety was its own letdown.
First Breath After Coma
“As a cross-dresser and searching for acceptance, Fie auditions for a play. The director takes a keen interest in him, attention which Fie misinterprets as affection. As he moves farther down an uncertain path, Fie’s unresolved relationship with his conservative mother leads him to seek comfort from those who would mislead him for their own gain.”
A short titled after an Explosions In The Sky song involving gender identity disorder? Colour me intrigued. Despite the competent storyline, I just couldn’t feel for the characters. It could be the script ,the lack of emotiveness or editing. Pity it just didn’t flow as well as it should.
“2nd warrant officer Teck Hong has served his entire life in the army. Now 38, he finds himself needing to make a pivotal decision; should he continue serving the army, or leave and face the harsh reality of life outside. He knows that if he continues serving, his past injuries limit his roles in the army to administrative positions, something he loathes. However, upon meeting a certain detainee at the detainee at the detention barracks in the army, his life takes a turn.”
A very Singaporean trait defined. Everything felt natural, especially with Singlish being thrown about liberally. To make the perfect Singapore short, you just gotta drop colloquial English and adopt local mannerisms to make the audience identify with you.
“The story is set in a psychedelic futuristic cartoon world where an instant food delivery guy, Tex is stranded on an alien island. Not only is he unable to successfully send signals to passing ships, but to add to his misery, he is faced with the same kind of instant food ration scattered all over the island. During his attempts at “inflating” his food rations, he is interrupted by a local inhabitant of the island in the form a small critter, drawn by the smell of the food rations.”
A decent 3D animation with some fast paced action and light comedy.
“An independent computer animated short about a robot repair warehouse, run by an old man and his grandson where an old robot is kept.”
A love letter to early Giant Robot series with a local twist. Simply watch and smile.
There are still more to come, but I could say confidently that Bliss, Hentak Kaki, Existence and Godaizer are definite front runners to win at least one of the awards.
It’s been a while since the last Short Film session where everything was new to me. Being nominated for the SSFA should mean something, no? Here’s a quick rundown of Day 3 showing.
“Fiddle is a simple illustration of a man’s memories of his daughter. However, he uses the vision as a medium to overcome them.”
Basically it’s a silent film except for the man’s fiddle portraying the sadness of losing his daughter to glue sniffing addiction. Not enough emotional weight, probably due to curious editing.
Feng Huang Qin
“A film about happiness centered around Xiao Qing, a visitor from Shanghai, whose perspective of life is altered when she meets Uncle Long, a street busker by night and a coffeshop help by day. ”
It was my first introduction to the Feng Huang Qin (a 1920s mixture of the Chinese strings and Western keyboard) and was intrigued by it. The cinematography in this was pretty good (won Best Art Direction in 2010 for another short) but pity about the story presentation. Despite the 25min length, a lot of questions remained in the end. It would have been much more interesting as a (faux)documentary since it was a unique instrument. The drama seemed tacked on and as a result seemed tacky (pardon the pun).
“Forgotten is a film about the different perspectives of life, by looking at death.”
There’s such a thing as a documentary being too raw. In this case, the ramblings of an old graveyard caretaker in contrast to an observations of a child. I understand the point, but ramblings are different from musings. There’s a lot of wasted potential, but this 3min short is a student project after all.
The Final Sendoff
“They are the few people each and everyone will ever meet upon their deaths. Not to snivel over what’s lost, but to ensure the cold bodies are restored to their original forms before they embark on their final sendoff.”
A look at the funeral industry in Singapore. (Buddhist perspective mainly) With quality narration and “standard” cinematography/editing, this 12min student short feels like a proper documentary. From old timers to new wave entrepreneurs and embalmers, they describe the way they run their business. More of an introductory piece rather than in-depth look, but well played out.
FaChai Meets Lily (FML)
“A self-confident 29 year old guy ironically named FaChai, wants to lose his virginity before his 30th birthday to save himself the embarrassment. Just when he thought that luck will never surface, luck takes the form of Lily – a vixen. Is this good or bad Luck?”
A comedy to break the mood. Plays out like an FML skit. Not that it’s a bad thing. Watch it for the last bit at least.
“Jason and Ahmad are two Singaporean peacekeepers on a relief mission in the earthquake struck nation of Taunesia. However, when they run into a mysterious woman who entrusts them with a secret, they find themselves pursued by a ruthless and relentless enemy. Running for their lives, Jason and Ahmad will discover what it means to hold the fate of an entire nation in their hands.”
Impressive that they managed to get access to full ballistics gear and small arms weaponry from the armed forces. Footage from helmet-cam and “aerial” shots (just a tall crane) adds a bit of flair. Plays out the buddy cop (soldier in this case) crap talking mostly, and goes Freddie Wong at the final firefight scene. A decent attempt but still a bit campy.
Just Like You
“Through the lens of cosplay, Just Like You explores the key themes of alienation, acceptance and discrimination”
A 3min vignette into the life of cosplayer Daryl Soh. You’d pretty much hear these comments if you’re in the cosplay scene, so nothing ground-breaking for me. Student piece.
I Want To Be Significant
“I Want To Be Significant is about an underdog, Shafie, 19, achieving and dreaming the impossible.”
A documentary vignette about a fat kid turned into a fit and aspiring musician. Student piece.
I want to know what love is
“Love Brad. Love Angelina. Love Brangelina. Love Brangelina movies. Love movies. Love love movies. Love love. I want to know what love is.”
This is what happens when a meme gets it own film. Quick cuts of the two artists in Mr and Mr Smith in sexual tension, while Microsoft Sam enabled commenters discuss the scene.
“Kevin the unfortunate little dinosaur, battles the primal need on a deserted island.”
A cute little piece about two dinosaurs stranded on an island after their respective plane crashes.
“Inked explores the world of tattoos through the eyes of two tattoo artists, and how they view their craft and art.”
The description says it all. Amateur film maker meets amateur tattoo artists.
“An audiovisual piece based on concepts of the soviet montage ad the Kulshov effect. Touching on themes of morals, desires, sins and virtues within a woman.”
Abstract piece is abstract.
“Kitchen explores the theme of belonging, inheritance, lost art and passion among third generation Singaporeans, with regards to life as a hawker.”
As per title, a short piece on the lament of a lost skill in a fast paced society.
The Invisible Monster
“A film that reminds us about the value of time, memory and love. Time heals all wounds but for Brent and Trish, it’s a different story. Their paths cross in an indescribable event and together they face their past and fears as their story unfolds. But is time really on their side? Things that you can’t see are the ones that kill.”
An interesting and quirky dramedy involving invisible aliens and past regrets. All the more amazing is that the project was cooked up during the 48 Hour Film Project
It was student project appreciation night it seemed. Still, there were a few gems that shone. The next few days will involve the nominees for the various awards.
But then again, it is a restricted group since I am there to connect with my photography and cosplay contacts. It has made it easier to setup photoshoots and sharing of resources/ideas.
The best thing is the fact that I can write brief thoughts unlike planned blog posts. But not to worry, I am not giving up blogging just yet. :)
I had meant to post Lilly’s route first, since I finished her path earlier than Hanako’s. However, both of their stories seem to interplay into each other, leading to a skewed perspective on my end. Since Hanako’s route is the shorter of the two and more focused on her, I’ll start with Hanako without referencing to Lilly’s path (much).