Thursday May 3, 2007

New Straits Times

Souls apart

Loneliness and a search for true love and recognition provide the thematic setting to a surrealistic movie by two first-time indie filmmakers. DENNIS CHUA writes.

CHILDHOOD pals Fergus Ong and Vernon Chua of Muar, Johor are in the midst of making their dream movie a reality. A “noire” musical, it revolves around four lonely souls seeking love, attention and a sense of belonging.

Red Street Diner is expected to be screened at the end of the year or early next year. It is produced by Chua and directed by Ong. The movie will star Malaysian Idol 2’s fifth-placed Ashvin Nair, model and television host Belinda Chee, Ong Ker Shing and Justin Chan Hoong Fai.

“Red Street Diner is my directorial debut,” said the 27-year-old Ong. “In 2004 I did a short film, Capital A, but it was never released.”

The youngest of six siblings, Ong holds a degree in cinema studies and creative writing from Melbourne University in Australia. He spent four years there, from 1999. He wrote the script for the movie during his university days. Chua, also 27, and the youngest too of five siblings, studied in the same university as Ong. He has a degree in information systems.
About 80 per cent of the scenes in the movie are in the federal capital. The rest are in a rubber estate and a village near Kajang, as well as in a street in Muar.

“We spent two days shooting in Muar, our hometown, and worked round-the-clock,” said Chua. “We did this night scene along the main roads and the police helped us out.”

Ong said the film leaves out major Malaysian landmarks because its message is meant to be universal. “It has a surreal feel, and reminds the viewer that loneliness and the need to feel loved transcends national, ethnic and religious boundaries,”

he said.

Ashvin, who hails from Ipoh but grew up with Ong and Chua in Muar, makes his acting debut in the film. He plays Dev, who is haunted by his ex-girlfriends.

Ker Shing plays Dev’s fiancee Charlotte, who rarely appears with him as she is leading a double life as a “trophy lover” of a rich man, played by Ben Tan of Sumo-Lah. Many people are out to kill the rich man, and Charlotte has to keep him alive. She plots to kill them, by becoming a “prostitute”.

Chee plays the anonymously named VideoGirl. She returns to her village after six years Down Under and realises that it radically different. Unable to find her loved ones, she goes to the big city and works in a video shop. After work, she shares the numerous videos she made with her family with customers who want to see them.

Chan plays Lam Tak Wing, a failed television chef who hangs out in a 24-hour mini market and chats with its pretty cashiers. He attempts to establish relationships with them by offering to prepare his favourite dishes. All attempts fail, until he meets the mysterious Y, played by jazz musician and first-time actress Wong Jin Rou.

Ong said: “The Red Street Diner is the cafe where they hang out at. It is actually Flaming J in Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur. We have 50 actors in the show, including the four leads and 10 supporting actors, and all of the music was composed by the two of us.”

He said there were 10 songs in the show, of which two were performed by Dev, one by each of the other leading characters, and five by Dev’s former lovers.

Chua said the film’s scenes were mainly at night, to heighten the sense of loneliness of the four leading characters. “The four of them are desperate for love and recognition. They get involved in superficial, meaningless relationships, some of which border on attention-seeking.

“Not all of them succeed in getting what they want, and the fate of some remains a mystery,” he said.

“We did not base the characters on anybody in real life, but all four are a bit like myself,” added Ong.

The film was shot between October and November last year. “While filming took a mere month, the script was written over three years during my university stint,” Ong said.

The duo are influenced by Malaysia’s independent filmmakers such as James Lee and Ho Yuhang. They also admire American filmmaker David Lynch and Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-Wai.

“Wong is fantastic. He puts great emphasis on visuals and character development, as well as music. Watching his films makes you feel how the characters feel,” he said.

As for Lynch, his films are always open-ended, and that fascinates both Ong and Chua.

“While we cannot predict the response from movie-goers,” said Chua, “we have found that many are increasingly interested in independent films such as ours.

“They enjoy indie films because they formulaic like many of the box office hits.”

Ong interjects: “Successful or otherwise, we plan to make more independent films. Red Street Diner is not going to be a one-off thing.”

YAY!! Bel

0 comments on “Thursday May 3, 2007

  1. burnburn

    sounds good and highly emo!
    filmed in a month, that’s really good, how long is this flick?
    is it in english?

    would like to see it sometime.


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