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Edmund Yeo’s maiden feature film River of Exploding Durians is among 15 international films selected for the main competition at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. — Pic courtesy of Edmund Yeo
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EDMUND Yeo is pleased as punch — and he has good reasons to be.
The 30-year-old Malaysian filmmaker’s debut feature film River of Exploding Durians is among the 15 entries competing for the Tokyo Grand Prix prize at the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) happening later this month.
“I’m absolutely honoured to be selected for (the) Main Competition, especially because this is my debut feature film and I’m quite a new director,” says Yeo, who has won several awards for his short films since 2008.
“Mostly my first thoughts were for my cast and crew; they had given their everything when working on our film.
“I’m so happy that this prestigious festival is willing to showcase the result of our hard work and passion,” he adds.
While the film fest has featured many Malaysian films in its Winds of Asia section (a notable entry was Yasmin Ahmad’s Sepet in 2005, which won the Best Asian Film that year), this is the first time one has made it into the main competition.
Yeo’s film — inspired by the Lynas rare earth plant controversy in Kuantan — is about townspeople affected by the construction of a potentially radioactive rare earth plant near their homes, focusing on a group of Form 6 students and their idealistic teacher.
One of the students, Ming (played by Koe Shern) is indifferent towards the changes, preferring to spend idyllic afternoons with the childhood friend he secretly loves, Mei Ann (played by Joey Leong).
Meanwhile, Ming’s History teacher, Ms Lim (played by Taiwanese actress Zhu Zhi-Ying), starts an activist group to protest against the construction, recruiting her favourite student, Hui Ling (played by Daphne Low).
Their idealism is severely tested and as the construction goes on, they are all drawn into a chain of events that changes their lives irrevocably.
While the film is slated to continue its festival tour after Tokyo and is likely to make its European premiere early next year, Malaysian audiences may have to wait awhile before seeing it on the big screen here — the filmmaker is still in discussions to bring it home.
Yeo’s film is not the only Malaysian entry this year.
Nik Amir Mustapha’s Terbaik Dari Langit (retitled Nova for Japanese audiences) is making its world premiere in the Asian Future category of the festival, which features films by young directors who have directed no more than two feature films.
While his debut award-winning feature film KIL has been screened at international film fests, he feels privileged and proud to be representing Malaysia at the TIFF with his sophomore effort.
“I also feel excited about the networking prospects that the festival brings.
“Hopefully I will have the opportunity to meet other international filmmakers and other festival programmers,” he says.
Terbaik Dari Langit tells the tale of Berg, who gathers his high school friends after 10 years to go on the road and help him shoot a movie as they chase an elusive UFO.
Malaysian audiences will get a chance to watch it when it comes to the big screen on Dec 25 this year.
Established in 1985, the annual film festival — together with the Shanghai International Film Festival — is one of Asia’s competitive film festivals and the only Japanese film fest to be accredited by the FIAPF (the International Federation of Film Producers Associations), which regulates international film festivals, including some of the world’s most important ones.
This year’s TIFF will feature five world premieres among the 15 entries competing for the Tokyo Grand Prix prize, which includes a cash prize of US$50,000 (RM163,000).
Heading the jury is writer and director James Gunn (who wrote and directed one of this year’s biggest films, Guardians of the Galaxy).
This year’s event will also see the launch of the Samurai Award to commend the achievements of filmmakers who continue to create ground-breaking films.
The first recipients of this award are Takeshi Kitano and Tim Burton.
The festival is on from Oct 23 to 31 at Roppongi Hills (Minato City), TOHO Cinemas Nihonbashi (Chuo City), theatres, halls and other facilities in Tokyo metropolitan area.
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