Over the last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the screening of the works of students from the Faculty of Cinematic Arts of Multimedia University Malaysia (FCA MMU). Presented grandly in the halls of GSC Pavillion, the film screening showcased 18 notable works from graduated students of the past few semesters (or cycles, as they call it).
Despite it being a ‘student showcase’, the organisers made sure that quality and class are not to be taken lightly. The students, or soon-to-be filmmakers, dressed to impress, had their name cards ready, and had their movie posters displayed in huge frames, just like a professional film screening. Pavillion KL is no shabby place either (with very expensive parking), making me feel like I am attending a very fancy event.
As for the short films themselves, they are nothing short of pleasing. Every piece of the short film was professionally done, even if not all of them are great. The line up was separated into 6 categories of 3 films each, based on their themes. These categories are Life Adrift (shot at sea), Human Nature (of humans and our inner self), Perspectives (if the world was looked at differently), Young Minds (stories of school kids), On the Road (stories from road trips), and The Other Side (stories of different universes).
Although not popularly celebrated by audiences, the short film industry do exist in Malaysia. Most of them are slow, indie, and award winning, and few of them are whacky or entertaining. In this Close Up Showcase, however, we are introduced to stories that these kids, hence, our future, young generations, want to tell and has to tell. Their stories surprisingly come in an assortment of fun and drama.
Some memorable plot from the showcase includes that of Nautika, the story of a man lost at sea after he tried “cheating” nature to get more fish, and Kantoi, a story about a school girl who was accidentally caught by her friend while testing out a pregnancy test kit. There’s also Rising Tide, the story of a girl in a fishing village who learnt to fix boats to compensate for her broken home… AND BALAS! About a school boy who plots revenge against his bully. I mean, wow! These are all our stories and where have they been all this while?
While some familiar faces were seen on screen, such as Amerul Affendi, Puteri Balqis, and Azman Hassan in Melissa, and Kim Fukuzawa in Nautika, this showcase opens up introductions to many up and rising talented actors as well. Mia Sabrina Mahadir who played Siti (Samudera), the maid who accidentally drowned the baby under her care, carried us throughout in her fears and dilemma. Amir Ameezan and Alif Azeman (Cold Shoulder), although not actual brothers, had a chemistry that was both dynamic and vulnerable at the same time, comparable to real siblings. Child actors Adilia Myra (Samudera) and Boey Jing Xuan (Rising Tide) also had a notable performance, sharing the limelight with their adult costars.
And of course, you cannot forget the girls of Kantoi – Mawar Remy, Hannan Kamaruddin,
Aishah Andri, and Nur Shahidah Abdullah captivated us from the moment they appear on screen . AND DID I MENTION THE NON-ACTORS OF WEEPING BIRDS? Director Chan Teik Quan casted his own parents in the film, and despite being non-actors, Weeping Birds got me weeping.
Apart from that, if you look past the romantic side of scriptwriting and acting, these future filmmakers also made sure that they give their best in the technical parts. Many astounding shots and production designs are to be credited to these kids, as well as the editing and music scoring. My personal favourite will be the very effective arrangement in Nautika, which brought out suspense and a hint of “asli” feel to the Kelantanese accented script. As for production design, Kantoi will be my love at first sight. We have so many films about schools, yet Kantoi’s choice to make it the Hari Unit Beruniform added colours and relatability to the film.
What is more interesting is that some of the shorts took a chance at a different style of storytelling and filmmaking. One of them is Eat Up, a movie about food fight which shots remind me of the food anime Shokugeki no Soma. Another is 404, a musical film, with raps and hip hop being the main carrier of its dialogues. Although these new styles are unusual and still at its experimental stage, it is exciting and motivating that the directors pushed through it and made sure their ideas came to life.
It also came to my knowledge that these students had to go through every single step of filmmaking and producing, from the casting, to the equipment renting, and to the crowdfunding. Each team had to target for RM15,000 to professionally produce their films, and I must say it is worth every penny. I am content to know that an institution exists to mold our future filmmakers from head to toe.
That being said, as much as I enjoyed myself at the screening, I wish the schedule was a bit more loose. Each category only had a 10-min break between them, not allowing enough time for networking, or even lunch. (I had to miss a category for my lunch and watched it online afterwards). The students were beaming with pride over their work, and I wished I had got the time to know each one of them. Bottom line here, if you’re considering sending your kids to MMU to study films, please do! Give them your 60k so that your kids can in return give our film industry its glory back.
To watch these films online, visit the MMU FCA Vimeo page and insert the password, closeup2018. Click on any of the trailers and the description of the trailers are individual links to each short. All photos used here are screenshots from the page.