Monday, January 24, 2005

BKKIFF 2005 awards: Beautiful Washing Machine wins top Asean Film

A low-budget, independent Malaysian film, The Beautiful Washing Machine, was named the Best Asean Film at the 2005 Bangkok International Film Festival.

Directed by James Lee and produced by Lorna Tee, the film cost 50,000 Malaysian ringgits (about US$13,000) to make.

Here's more from the New Straits Times:
The Beautiful Washing Machine is Lee's fourth feature after Snipers, Ah Beng Returns and Room To Let. The festival marks his 18th participation at an international film festival.

Lee was not [in Bangkok] to receive the award as he was busy wrapping up two short films he was producing.

He was heading for Rotterdam International Film Festival, where his movie is among the entries.

"The film was shot on the Panasonic DVX-100, which was generously loaned to us. And we couldn't have made it without the support of F&N Sarsi [a popular brand of sasaparilla-flavored soda] and Alexis Bistro," a beaming Tee said.

Teo Gay Hian's handiwork as the director of photography, she said, gave the film a visual quality comparable to Lee's previous productions.

"The director, producer and actors didn't get paid, you know."

The movie tells the funny story of Teoh's second-hand washing machine, from which emerges a woman, who washes when she wants and stops when she feels like it.

When Teoh discovers the secret soul of the temperamental slave, he exploits her for all his other household chores.

"When our filmmakers go to festivals, they don't only represent their films but also the country. It's important for the authorities to recognise this," said Tee.

She also hoped to prove that independent films didn't necessarily spell empty cinema halls.

"There is a discerning public, at least in the urban areas, that appreciate the cutting-edge works of independent filmmakers.

"I really hope to see a Malaysian film festival that showcases a good balance of mainstream and independent works," she said.

Beautiful Washing Machine beat out 14 other entries from Southeast Asia, including the lavish Malaysian historical epic, the Princess of Mount Ledang. According to NST, that film cost 16 million ringgit. It was reportedly the most expensive film ever made in Malaysia.
In a later interview with the New Straits Times, Lee said his triumph in Bangkok has opened a new chapter in his career.

“I’m confident and have more faith in my work now,” said Lee, who has completed two short films, A Moment of Love and Bernafas Dalam Lumpur, which is his first attempt in Malay and stars Namron, Mislina Mustaffa, Azman Hassan dan Mohammad Hariry.

More Golden Kinnaree Awards:
  • Best Picture - The Sea Inside, directed by Alejandro Amenabar.
  • Best Director award (tie) - Christophe Barratier, Les Choristes and Park Chan-wook, Old Boy.
  • Best Actor - Javier Bardem, The Sea Inside.
  • Best Actress (tie) - Annette Bening, Being Julia and Anna Geislerova, Zelary.
  • Best Documentary - Born Into Brothels.
    • Special Mentions:
      • Touch The Sound - for giving inspiration through sound and artistic treatment.
      • Final Solution - for the courage of reflecting realities
  • New Voices Award [for new directors] - Bharatbala, Hari Om.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - Vichit Kounavudhi.
Being Julia co-star Jeremy Irons accepted the trophy on Bening's behalf.

Recognition was also given to Wong Kar-Wai for his contribution to the Asian film industry. His 2046 and In the Mood for Love were both shot in Bangkok and had post-production work done at Kantana in Bangkok.

Director Joel Schumacher was honoured with the Career Achievement Award for his work over the last two decades. In his acceptance speech, Schumacher said: "I think it shows great courage and compassion of the Thai people to have given us a festival after the tragedy they've suffered", in reference to the devastation left by the December 26 tsunami.

Schumacher's latest film, the adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, had its Asian premiere at the festival. Four of Schumachers films, The Lost Boys, Falling Down, A Time to Kill and Phone Booth, were shown in a retrospective.

Other celebrities who attended were director Oliver Stone, Michael Douglas, Gerard Butler, Miranda Richardson; Being Julia actress Lucy Punch; Julianna Margulies and Bai Ling. Christopher Doyle, Dante Spinetti and Rodrigo Preito were on hand for a cinematographer's discussion on how to film sex scenes.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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