Malaysian filmmaker Edmund Yeo started working on his third feature film "Malu" since September 2017. Fast forward more than a year later, the movie is still a few metres shy of the finish line.
It's not due to any budget issue or 'creative differences' drama though, the filming is just very subject to weather changes, or seasonal changes to be more accurate.
Since the movie features different seasons, including autumn and winter, Yeo has to wait for the actual seasons to come around before he can start filming in the exact ambience required by the script (think filming in winter for snow, in autumn for reddish-brown leaves). As anyone who's grown up in tropical Malaysia knows, these changing of seasons simply don't occur here, hence the reason why the filmmaker also has to keep flying to Japan for the filming.
Yes, that also means the story is set in Japan. Half of it, at least.
Speaking to Cinema Online recently, the Best Director winner of 2017's edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival explained that it has to be filmed in Japan because (aside from the need for the different seasons) the story focuses on two sisters, one of whom disappears and ends up in Japan, and the other goes in search for her there.
While the movie's focus is the two sisters, it also highlights the three generations of women in their family as it goes into their past with their grandmother and mother, telling the sisters' stories from childhood to adulthood. Separated as kids, the sisters meet again as adults decades later.
Read on for more of what Yeo has to tell us about "Malu", as he at the same time exposes his Japanophile side but keeps sort of hush-hush on his upcoming documentary on Malaysian politics.
Cinema Online: Hi Edmund, how's it going with your "Malu" filming?
Edmund Yeo: I'm waiting for the end of November to shoot the autumn scene. It's quite a weird project because it's taking so long. The film is kind of complicated because I had to shoot in different seasons.
And you have to film it in two countries, right?
Yeah, half of it is set in Malaysia and half of it in Japan. Klang Valley, and Hokkaido and Tokyo. I was shooting in March in Hokkaido for the snow.
When do you plan to release the movie?
Maybe next year? By the time I'm done it'll be the end of the year, so when I finish editing.
Are you working on a modest budget again?
For my films, I try not to use too much (money). Due to the nature of my films, I keep it simple. Especially with technology, films can be made on a very low budget. Three or four people can make a film together. Technology makes it easier for us to make films, we don't need a lot of people. Even "Aqerat", I only had 10 people including the cast. [Laughs].
Seems like you have some gaps in between filming "Malu", are you working on anything else?
While working on this, I've also been working on lots of other stuff. I worked on a short film for Raya, shot it with iPhone and Faizal Tahir, it's on YouTube. I'm doing a documentary right now, slightly political so I can't say much.
Is it based on the historical election we had last May? Will we see it on the big screen?
Yes, and we're aiming to get it shown in Malaysia. I've been doing some rough interviews and research for it.
Okay, since you can't say more on that, let's talk about your short films in this year's Japanese Film Festival (JFF 2018).
These two short films "(Kingyo", "Exhalation") were both shot in 2009, almost ten years ago. These films are quite important to my career. "Kingyo" was my very first Japanese short film, it was nominated for the Venice Film Festival. I was the youngest to get into the festival.
It was quite an experience, my crew and cast were all Japanese. It was full Japanese, it was quite an interesting experience for a guy like me, you know, for all my life I've been dreaming of making Japanese films because I'm a hardcore otaku. [Laughs]. I grew up loving anime and Japanese stuff. I studied in Tokyo. Those were some of the short films that I made while I was studying there.
You're definitely no stranger to Japanese film festivals, it must have been quite an experience too to be picked for JFF 2018?
It's an honour. I have a lot of love for this festival. Since I came back from Tokyo in 2013, I've been coming here, I think I went to all opening ceremonies for the past 4 or 5 years. I love Japanese films so this festival is the only way I can watch Japanese films on the big screen [in Malaysia].