REAL-LIFE couple have been together for seven months. Aged 18 and 19 respectively, they’re both pretty into one another. She doesn’t want to live without him. He’d die for her. They love each other forever.
It’s the kind of stuff that prompts Gen Y to roll their eyes, though through the lens of student filmmaker Chloe Yap comes across as hopeful as it is unsettling.
In Chloe’s latest filmmaking experiment, two young actors are psychologically prepped, then made to lepak on the sidewalk and talk about hooking up for the first time. Both also have a mission, and that is to rent a room and explore one another’s bodies by dawn.
Bold and assured beneath their clumsy charm, Nabilah and Ali are Malaynnials aware that their culture works against them in this crazy journey.
They’re the educated, middle-class sort who drive around in their dad’s SUV, but don’t want to get busted booking a hotel room so they’ll stick to public displays of affection.
There’s genuine tension when Nabilah coaxes the relatively awkward Ali. Stroking his hair and ears, she might hold power in this dynamic but she’s also head over heels for her half-Melayu half-mat salleh boyfriend — not even his alleged foot fetish could get in the way of her feelings.
Too much information? It’s really just Chloe Yap’s film experiment which premiered at Da Huang Pictures last Sunday night!
Do it, but don’t do it
Produced by actress Sharifah Aryana, this surprise project debuted at a session titled 3-Week Experimental Showcase, supported by Next New Wave. Also screened at the event were Chloe’s previous efforts How I Become Masculine or Feminine and (?)’s Gaze — both strikingly intimate shorts based on gender expression and insecurity.
Her newest experiment however aims to “understand naive decisions” and challenge viewer perception of sexuality. The brief was fairly simple: a couple is about to do the horizontal tango and you get to watch everything that leads up to the magical moment.
A young couple arrives at a budget hotel attempting to get a room. This is the first time they will be intimate with each other. They are two young people confronting their real desire in a strange world.
— Synopsis, 3-Week Experimental Showcase
The casting process was exclusive to real-life couples to attain a level of authenticity — a technique recently employed by Tunku Mona Riza on her award-winning family drama Redha.
Nabilah and Ali were chosen through participatory exercises and interviews, all of which evaluated them on their “knowledge”, “understanding” and “naivety”. This was important, as they were about to play themselves in an alternate universe not so far away.
Along the way, both were made to play a physical game to raise their pulse rate and get them sweating. They were then made to watch an adult film together after which they spoke to Chloe about their sexual preferences and inhibitions.
The couple was additionally given a document that contained terms and conditions of participation and reassured them that no actual sex will be taking place.
Both actors were also provided a sort of mind map which suggested potential conversation topics as well as a rough structure for how they were going to spend their twelve hours.
One clear Saturday evening, Nabilah and Ali were dropped outside MYE Hotel on Lorong 8/1E, Seksyen 8, Petaling Jaya. Completely left to their own devices (and a couple of sound guys), they were filmed over the next twelve hours.
Chloe’s warm and wistful footage of local youth and their attitudes towards romance, sex and the world soothes — though much has changed in recent times young people will always be young people. Their tomfoolery also clue viewers into the amusing intricacies of Malaysian society.
A final year film student, its creator acknowledged her latest experiment as her first time working on something intimate not sourced from her own life.
Showcasing largely stationary shots and head-on angles, the film’s spartan camera work is courtesy of Chan Teik Quan, a fellow student who earlier in the year made a splash at Toronto’s Take 21 Film Festival.
Among those present at the screening were Next New Wave honcho Tan Chui Mui, Sabahan filmmaker Nadira Ilana, actress Sharifah Amani and veteran actor Fatimah Abu Bakar, all of whom joined the post-screening discussion.
Look at pictures from the production here and make sure to drop by Next New Wave’s next screening for more brave ideas! For now, the film exists as a file on Chloe’s laptop, but if you guys wanna watch it just let us know and we’ll pass on the message.