5 BMW Shorties directors who made their feature film debut
Writer: Casey Lee
The BMW Shorties has helped to showcase some of the best Malaysian
filmmakers and talents. (Photo Source: BMW Shorties)
Most filmmakers get their start from making short films, and it is where they show their skill, both for storytelling and the technical to pull them together, to weave a cohesive work that delivers the vision of the director.
Now entering into its 12th year, the BMW Shorties has been the showcase of aspiring filmmakers in Malaysia to showcase their talents, persistence and passion to be successful filmmakers. This then inspires confidence and most importantly, investments when these directors build their careers further in to the industry as they make towards making that feature debut.
Shanjhey Kumar Perumal
Since 2007, BMW Shorties has found plenty of diamonds in the rough, and as the years went by, its first batch of polished gems are starting to shine as potentially the new generation of Malaysian cinema. With "Guang" by director Quek Shio Chuan being the feature debut, adapted from his own short film that won the 2011 BMW Shorties, he certainly won't be the first or last BMW Shorties alumnus who are bound for greater things.
So here are the 5 other directors who have won or participated in the BMW Shorties and have moved on to make their feature debut (and some even making more feature films since).
A graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia in Film and Broadcasting, Shanjhey worked primarily in television before making his entry to film. For his short film entry to the 2009 edition of the competition, he submitted the 12-minute "Machai" which follows the misadventures of two salted fish sellers as they roam through an Indian neighbourhood, finding humiliation, dreams, and love to reflect the social reality of Malaysian Indians. "Machai" and Shanjhey were a first for BMW Shorties, when he and another director were awarded the prize, making it the first co-win for the competition and splitting the production grant in half.
Shanjhey later moved on to make a stunning debut with "Jagat" in 2015. Taking his examination of showing Malaysian Indian realities with a heightened grasp of film artistry, Shanjhey uses "Jagat" to shows the vicious cycle and brutal power that poverty has on Malaysian Indians, giving identity to a lost diaspora. "Jagat" would go on to be a defining Malaysian film when it won at the 2016 Malaysia Film Festival as its inaugural Best Malaysian Film, and also awarding Shanjhey its Best New Director.
Tan Seng Kiat
• BMW Shorties short film: "Machai
• Feature Debut: "Jagat" (2015)
"Shuttle Life" director Tan Seng Kiat and main actor Jack Tan with their
Audience Choice Award trophy at MGGA 2018.
Tang Seng Kiat had worked on several film projects after graduating from the National Taiwan University of Art in motion picture, before he finally took the reins to make his own short film. For the 2013 competition, he submitted "32°C Fall In Love", a comedy of accidents when a security guard and a cashier are tied together (both literally and figuratively) by a robber at a supermarket. Interspersing cute characters to tell a well-contained 14-minute love story, "32°C Fall In Love" won the competition's grand prize.
Tan's play with characters would take up a notch with his feature debut that went on the other end of the happiness scale from his BMW short. "Shuttle Life", much like Shanjhey's, is a depiction of the Chinese urban poor, whose characters are victims of disenfranchisement, and being met with indifference when a sister goes missing, and having to deal with a sick parent. "Shuttle Life" made marks around the Chinese-speaking film circuit with wins for best actor, cinematographer and production design, and going so far as getting nominations in the Golden Horse Awards. On home ground, "Shuttle Life" competed for Best Director and Best Actor, but came away with a Special Jury Award at the 29th Malaysia Film Festival.
• BMW Shorties short film: "32°C Fall In Love" (2013) Edmund Yeo
• Feature Debut: Shuttle Life (2017)
(L-R): "AQERAT (We The Dead)" stars Howard Hon Kahoe, Daphne Low
and TIFF 2017 Best Director Edmund Yeo.
Although having dreamed of being a film director, Edmund Yeo ended up with a Bachelor in Commerce from Murdoch University, but took a diploma course in media productions shortly after. Edmund made his first short "Chicken Rice Mystery" in 2008, of a boy solving the mystery of his mother's allegedly delicious chicken rice that she has never cooked since he was born, and submitted it to the 2008 BMW Shorties. Despite only scoring a Best Acting Performance win, Edmund moved to Japan where he continued his film studies and honed his sensibilities with several more shorts. Upon his return, Edmund produced and edited for Malaysian director Woo Ming Jin, while adding more shorts to his filmography.
In 2014, he took charge and made his first feature "River of Exploding Durians", inspired by the Lynas plant and the activism against it. The feature would be the first Malaysian film to be invited to compete at the Tokyo International Film Festival. Since then, Edmund has made two more feature films, with his sophomore effort "Aqerat", garnering him the Best Director at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2017.
• BMW Shorties Short Film: "Chicken Rice Mystery" (2008) Mohd Khairul Azri Md Noor
• Feature Debut: "River of the Exploding Durians" (2014)
Despite not taking the grand prize for the 2014 BMW Shorties, Khairul Azri made a charming comedy of dreams becoming reality for a poor kampung boy who could conjure up any object he wished with his self-believed magic in "Pejam Pelik". Khairul Azri would follow up his submission short with a feature debut a year later, taking a much darker tone in "Pekak". Marketed at the Marché du Film, it was released on home shores in 2016 centering on a deaf drug dealer who falls in love with a secondary school girl in a drug (and rape)-induced twist of Romeo and Juliet, with sharp precision editing and effects and a continued love for color palettes and overhead shots.
• BMW Shorties Short Film: Pejam Pelik (2014) Zahir Omar
• Feature Debut: Pekak (2015).
When BMW first began taking submission for its short film competition, Zahir Omar's stunning "K-Hole" certainly had set a high benchmark for future participants to hit. Shot in the point of view of an overdosed addict, the almost 16-minute trippy trip from moment of death to burial, followed by a clever twist of the filmmaker having to convince its reasoning to be entitled for the competition, shows a filmmaker who knows how to control his visuals to play on our expectations. Not much is heard from Zahir after being the first winner of the BMW Shorties as he works as an assistant director and making commercials for a decade.
Zahir regained attention when news of his feature debut "Fly By Night" was about to be completed emerged. With tremendous backing from veterans and the best talents Malaysia has to offer to date, it has since premiered at the Busan Film Festival and would be making its homecoming at the end of 2018.
• BMW Shorties Short Film: K-Hole (2007)
• Feature Debut: Fly By Night (2018)
Cinema Online, 28 November 2018