TOKYO – Several film directors and actors from Malaysia have enlivened the Tokyo International Film Festival 2017 (TIFF 2017) here, which is one of Asia’s four biggest and most prestigious film festivals.
Eric Ong, who was named 2017 Malaysian Film Festival’s (MFF) best director for the film ‘Adiwiraku’, as well as best scriptwriter Jason Chong and best female actress Sangeeta Krishnasamy from the same movie, were among thousands of stars and prominent film directors from Japan and the rest of the world who attended the ‘Networking Reception’ event in conjunction with TIFF 2017 at Roppongi Hills, last night.
Thousands of artists, directors and publishers and businessmen from around the globe gathered in the city for the festival which takes place from Oct 24 to Nov 3.
Adiwiraku was picked as the ‘official selection’ for screening in the ‘Crosscut Asia’ slot, representing successful films from Asian countries.
This will be the movie’s premiere in Japan, after successfully representing Malaysia at the Phoenix Film Festival Melbourne 2017; The 11th Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Australia, and the Malaysian Film Festival-Singapore 2017
The movie is based on the true story of Cheryl Ann Fernando, a teacher in a rural school. The local story, encapsulated in a universal language of film, is one of the strengths of the work.
When met by Bernama, Ong said his experience of directing the film began in 2016, when he was looking for an idea of publishing a short film. His friend and colleague Jason Chong suggested that he works on the story of a teacher facing the challenge of teaching English in a rural area.
Ong was attracted to the story of Cheryl, who taught at SMK Pinang Tunggal in Baling Kedah, as it told the true story of how a group of Malay children in a village school succeeded despite living in poverty and hardship.
He said through the film, he wanted to repress the notion of blaming students in any situation.
“We have never really cared to find out what problems they (students) are facing … and this story is one hundred percent true,” he said.
Ong said the story of the teacher touched him, as he himself had once had a teaching stint at an oil palm estate in Salak Tinggi in 1986, and although 30 years have passed, children in the village are still stuck in the same situation.
He said his teaching experience in rural areas was challenging, with the lack of classrooms forcing pupils of different classes to share spaces.
Ong said he wanted to send the message that even though everyone had their own problems, there were teachers out there who were willing to set aside their own interests to provide love and care to rural students to improve their self-esteem.
To the teacher in the film, her students are the ‘adiwira’ (superheroes), while to the students, teacher Cheryl is their ‘adiwira’.
Ong praised the support given by the Education Ministry and several schools in Sungai Petani involved in the production of the film in terms of filming locations, as well as allowing their students to be extras.
Ong intends to produce a sequel to the film entitled ‘Adiwiraku 2’ and hoped to get financing from FINAS, as he faced some financial problems to produce the first film which was self-funded.
Meanwhile, Edmund Yeo, director of ‘Aqerat’, a film exploring the world of cross-border human trafficking, is among 14 finalists to win the Grand Prix (Best Film) Award.
The 33-year-old director was selected from 1, 538 entries representing 88 countries.
This is Edmund’s second personal success after his first film ‘River of Exploding Durians’ also competed in the same category at TIFF 2014.
His documentary about a famous director, the late Yasmin Ahmad, titled ‘Yasmin-san’ was also chosen to be screened under the ‘Crosscut Asia’ segment.
Yeo is in the process of filming his new movie called ‘Malu’ (Shy), whereby half of it will be shot in Malaysia, and the other half, in Japan. — Bernama