It is the local word for ‘slit eyes’ and is perhaps one of the most remarkable Malaysian movies ever made. Directed and written by the late Yasmin Ahmad, this movie starred newcomers Ng Choo Seong and Sharifah Amani who went on to more successes in the Malaysian entertainment industry. The film was released in 2004 and went on to win awards not only locally but in the global scene as well. This romantic comedy was shot in Ipoh that tells the love story between a Malay girl and Chinese boy. It won the Best Film at the 18th Malaysian Film Festival as well as achieving success at the 18th Tokyo International Film Festival 2005 and the 27th Créteil International Women’s Film Festival in France, among many others.
19-year old Ah Loong is in charge of a stall selling pirated vcd’s. Contrary to what you might expect someone of his social standing to be, Ah Loong is an incurable romantic with an unlikely hobby – he loves to read and write poetry. Quite content to carry on being the Romeo of the slums, Ah Loong’s life takes a sudden turn one day when a 16-year old Malay schoolgirl arrives at his stall in search of Wong Kar-Wai’s films.
Welcome to Ipoh. Art Department and Production have arrived earlier than everyone else to finalize on accommodations and source for props. We’re staying at a service apartment but even then itís a bit of a squeeze. Looking around, these will be the faces I’m going to see every morning when I wake up and the last thing before I go to bed. I hope we donít drive each other insane.
We’ve started gathering our props with the help of our contacts in Ipoh. Art Department is also helping out Production with getting supplies for our stay here. Even though we’re only shooting the whole film in 14 days. We still have a small army to house and feed. So itís quite an assembly.
Luckily the team’s attitude is more like a giant family then a film crew. Beginning to see that everyone helps out other departments without a second thought. Production, Art Department and The Director’s Unit pitched in to carry the crates of drinks that arrived today. More than once, we’ve all forgotten our separate titles to lend a hand in insuring that the job gets done. And itís only Day 3.
Today the whole jim-bang (minus the crew who isn’t scheduled to arrive yet) cleaned the bungalows. No one has stayed there in 5 years, some more close to a huge graveyard. Why do I get the feeling things will go bump in the night. Sungguh kecewa, Ipoh doesn’t have a Starbucks yet. How will I manage without my ice caramel latte?
Filming has started. On average we shoot some where between 4 to 5 scenes a day. Invariably something will happen and our schedule will change. This means I hear Pete typing away at all hours of the morning racing to get it updated. Production meetings almost every night. Usually, fall into bed at around 3 a.m. With crew call at 6 a.m. the next day. Who said movie making was glamorous? In the long run itís going to be a killer but fortunately everyone has managed to stay in good humor. Comedy dispells the tiredness.
It rained heavily today. Thank goodness we were shooting indoors. Keong uses a lot of natural lighting and he’s very sure about what he wants. Yet, there is still room for a lot of creative flow with Yasmin around, today I was impressed with Ida and Harith’s collaboration on a scene of theirs. You never really realize talent at its full potential until its staring you straight in the face. Today I got a glimpse of that.
I’m equally impressed with the main actors. Even though, this is their first time. They’ve shown tremendous confidence and professionalism towards their roles. I make a mental note to pay attention to their future projects. I think theirs will be an interesting journey to watch.
The crew has been amazing. If it wasn’t for their humor and patience, we wouldn’t have made it. I canít believe we’re still on schedule! Ipoh town itself has been very supportive. I keep thinking how many people I owe heartfelt thanks to. We’ve had so much assistance from the council, to traffic police, to our location’s proprietors, our neighbors to even the stall operators at the pasar malam and pasar tani.
It just shows that behind the story was another one that can never be fully recounted again. It had to be lived.
Today was the last day of shooting. We finished by early noon and by 6 p.m. everyone had said their goodbye’s. Even though we will of course bump into each other in K.L. What we’ve been through and shared collectively can perhaps never be regained. It’s funny how, on the surface you fail to realize the beauty and value of the people around you and the things you’ve gone through at first. Until it’s almost over and all you’re left with is a tan and a suitcase full of memories. In the recounting, suddenly the experiences were far more precious than you could have realized.
I think that is why we have films. That is why they are so magical. Because they are just that. The present, held up again. Realized that it was something to be treasured.