A New Transition to The 3rd Next New Wave Young Filmmakers Workshop / by next new wave

Author: Elise Shick

It is so difficult to start anew. The aftertaste of last year’s Next New Wave Young Filmmakers workshop still lingers on like the aftertaste of devouring a truck of durians. Those days were strikingly memorable, not just about that fancy KL Journal Hotel located right in the centre of the Golden Triangle, but more about that space connecting the right time, the right people, at the right place.

Recap The 2nd NNW Young Filmmakers Workshop

My initial motive to join last year’s workshop as a volunteer was to interview the spearhead of Next New Wave Young Filmmakers workshop–Tan Chui Mui–one of the pioneers of Malaysian New Wave cinema in the early 2000s. It was this straightforward motive that brought me the opportunity to meet young filmmakers from Malaysia and mentors from Southeast Asia.

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This small yet intimate film circle formed by seven Southeast Asian mentors–John Torres (Philippines), Pete Teo (Malaysia), Kenneth raj (Malaysia), Isazaly Isa (Malalysia), Tan Bee Thiam (Singapore), Sam Cochaputsup (Thailand), Rasiguet Sookkarn (Thailand)–along with 14 young Malaysian participants was gleaming with a strong passion for filmmaking.

When we don’t have money, we exploit our friends.
— Tan Chui Mui

I see it rather differently. No friends are willing to be exploited for no reason; people get together because they share the same vision.

Perhaps I was too attached to the memories of last year’s workshop. Perhaps this is the reason for me to join this year’s workshop: to meet new like-minded people who devote their time and energy in colouring the film scene with creativities.

Starting Anew: The 3rd NNW Young Filmmakers Workshop

Crews and volunteers wise, I still see the art of ‘re-cyling’ the same people. This is why I am still here, writing a ‘nobody-cares’ blog. Time to walk out from the past even though I still bring along with me the hope to find the same aftertaste like last year’s workshop. Does this have something to do with growing old? Perhaps old people indulge themselves in the past memories as much, as often as possible.

I walked into Hotel Sentral located in Brickfields when the sun was hanging high up there. The first nice thing I spotted was the old-school salon right opposite the hotel entrance, a baby-friendly one. In the conference hall, the crews and volunteers were at the peak of their working mode, preparing to check in the participants.

Of course they have this ice-breaking session on the very first day of workshops, even before the participants each found their favourite chair to sit on.

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Yes, the short-hair lady who was the only one faithfully wearing the first year’s NNW t-shirt is Tan Chui Mui–the mama of this workshop. The participants had a very brief chat with the other person sitting next to them. Maybe it’s more comfortable to introduce other people instead of yourself in front of the public so that you don’t sound like boasting about your own masterpieces or impressive backgrounds. If this was the case, I could see why the each participant introduced the person next to them so confidently like they knew each other since their past lives. The workshop mama Mui also introduced the crews and volunteers as well as the honourable FINAS representatives Kak Aisyha, Kak Shila, and Abang Azhary.

Gaze 1.0

The first assignment has a fancy name called Gaze 1.0. Stephen from the technical team confiscated every participant’s smartphones. This assignment was designed to let the participants feel disorientated, thus sharpen their sense touch, vision, hearing, smell but definitely not taste. No tasting. 

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I called this assignment the ‘one-hour walking and sight-seeing tour’ around Brickfields area. The participants were not allowed to talk to each other. I was following them like the tele-screen in George Orwell’s 1984. There was an increasing pressure accumulated in the air, coming from this repression of the urge to talk. Sounded like a totalitarian kind of assignment isn’t it? No smartphones, no talking with each other, just walking and observation, and a lot of sweats. But fortunately the participants were very obedient. No one was against this idea or tried to sneak in a camera. I myself on the other hand, benefited from this assignment and had a chance to explore the undiscovered and mundane places. Even the dullest thing had its own sparkling character.

Brickfields in One Minute

But that was not all. Each participant was assigned to shoot anything they thought was interesting or particularly striking in a one-minute video using their smartphones. Thunder struck, rain poured down generously. The participants bestowed their lives to make this one minute video, nailing down every possible locations. I didn’t know how they made it, but they made it at last, and submitted their assignments on time.

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These 12 videos were then screened at the sharing session, with the presence of Davy Chou–the Cambodian French renown filmmaker, and also the directing mentor of this year’s workshop. He has the hair of David Lynch that struck ordinary people with only one glance. And of course there were Q&A between Davy and the participants, since we called this ‘the sharing session’. Some participants defended their works with so much force, some succumbed to the criticisms, some laughed at each other’s work. 12 minutes, 12 videos, different perspectives, different techniques, different subjects. What I saw on the screen wasn’t so much about the mundane lives in Brickfields but different directors’ gaze trying to capture something meaningful.