Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Isnin, Mei 18, 2009

#433. Cinema : Sell Out! sells

CHOICE is the key decision in life, and a favourite subject of budding filmmaker Yeo Joon Han’s works.The Seremban-born ex-lawyer and copywriter, best known for the short films Girl In A Soap Bubble and the award-winning Adults Only, amplifies choice in his wacky new musical Sell Out!, a story about two young Malaysians who “compromise” their work ethics for greater financial reward.

Sell Out!, Yeo’s first featurelength film, became the best film in last year’s Venice International Film Festival, and also won the Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) award at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival.

In a recent interview, Yeo, 39, said: “There is a fine balance between necessity and dreams.

Life is about compromise between the two, and this ‘battle’ is the backdrop of the film as it was in Adults Only, and, to a lesser extent, Girl In A Soap Bubble.” Yeo has had to make tough choices in his life, too. A law graduate from King’s College in London, he spent three years working in a legal firm in Kuala Lumpur before spending another four as a copywriter in an advertising company.

“But my passion is in filmmaking. Since my days in university, I’ve been writing film scripts,” he said, adding that his schooldays at the Anglo Chinese School Seremban were spent reading comics and listening to stories.

Making a full-length film requires a strong theme and Yeo looked no further than the “economic uncertainties” of yuppies in Kuala Lumpur to tap for Sell Out! “I wanted my first featurelength film to come out with a ‘bang’. Sell Out! is a hilarious musical with catchy songs,” he said.

The film, which entered the 22nd Singapore International Film Festival from April 14 to 25 is written, produced and directed by Yeo.

It stars Mersing-born Jerrica Lai, last seen in Girl In A Soap Bubble, and model Peter Davis from Kota Kinabalu, as well as supporting actors Kee Thuan Chye and Hannah Lo.

Written in a week by Yeo, it is the story of Eric Tan (Davis) whose best project is not valued as such, but measured by how much money it can generate for his employers.

When he creates an all-in-one soybean machine, he is asked if the machine will break down so that customers will buy more.

The other protagonist is Rafflesia Pong (Lai) whose arts show on television is unpopular with viewers. To boost her screen ratings and save her job, she ditches the “boring” show and comes up with a morbidly funny reality TV show that zooms in on dying people.

Apart from focusing on the neverending battle between dreams and money, Sell Out! also ribs Malaysians’ obsession with Eurasians, their “originality” (Eric and Rafflesia work in an aptly-named company Fony), and all that is wrong and right with our department stores.

It also takes subtle jabs at independent films and film-making.

One of its most catchy songs, Money, is sung by Davis, and fits nicely with the movie’s tagline, “Money, why do you like rich people?” While Sell Out! is a production of film giant Astro Shaw, Yeo insists his new movie is as “independent or otherwise” as its short predecessors.

“There is no hard and fast rule as to what an independent film is. All films are as independent as their directors or writers are. On the other hand, they may be dependent on those who fund them,” he said.

He said the only truly independent films were self-funded ones which a filmmaker makes for his own satisfaction.

“If you make a film with the aim of entering it in an international film festival, that’s not necessarily an independent film.” Yeo, who is a fan of Woody Allen, Yasmin Ahmad, Ho Yuhang and occasionally, Jack Neo, thanked Astro Shaw for allowing him to have “pretty much his own way” with the script of Sell Out! “When Astro Shaw gave me the chance to make a feature film, I had to figure out what kind of movie I wanted to make.

“I knew I had to make a film that would be commercially viable yet approached in a personal way.

So I thought, why not make a film about what most of us go through?” Born in London to a British father and Malaysian mother, 27-year-old Davis is best known for starring in a Nissan Latio advertisement shown in cinemas nationwide. He has appeared in advertisements in Malaysia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

He previously worked as a finance executive, but quit his job to become a full-time model three years ago.

Davis said: “It all began in Taman Shamelin last year. Yeo and I met there and he asked if I’d done any acting and singing.

“I said ‘no’, but he cast me anyway, and we had a great time on the set, which took us around Malaysia, while the film went to major cities in Europe and Asia.” Davis readily identifies with his character Eric, whom he describes as an honest-togoodness man who wants to reach for the skies.

“We all go through the same things he does, and that’s why Eric’s such a likeable guy.” Lai, who first met Yeo during Girl In A Soap Bubble, was a public relations executive.

She had starred in English plays such as The Merchant Of Venice, Scorpion Orchid, Ubu Roi and Reunion.

Her younger brother Jason is the production manager of the Hands Percussion Team.

“It’s so good to work with Yeo once again. I had fun in my first film, and this was even better. I hope Malaysians see Sell Out! and have a great laugh,” she said.

On her character, Lai said Rafflesia Pong’s name was a hilariously apt description of Malaysia’s most famous flower from Sabah.

“Rafflesia is a brave woman with strong values. She believes in championing those who try, but pursuing this path does not give her financial and job security, thus forcing her to make a tough choice,” she said.

Sell Out!, which opened in cinemas nationwide last Thursday is mainly in English, but with generous doses of Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien.

Source : The New Straits Time [17/05/09]

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