Khamis, 12 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Malaysian director's work in Sundance Film Festival


Filmmaker Diffan Sina Norman's short film gets international exposure.

DIRECTOR Diffan Sina Norman's short film – Kekasih – is the latest Malaysian submission to be shortlisted in the Sundance Film Festival. 

"I didn't expect it at all. I'm incredibly thrilled and delighted. I actually got the news about a month ago and I've been dying to share it with everyone," Diffan, 30, said following an announcement by the film festival last night.

(Amir Muhammad was the first Malaysian to have his work be part of Sundance when his film, The Big Durian, was included in the festival's "World Documentary" section back in 2004.)

Kekasih is among 66 short films which has been selected from this year's pool of 8,161 submissions in the short film category. 

The nine-minute project, which boasts a cast of versatile actors including Nasir Bilal Khan and Fauziah Nawi, tells the tale of a botanical professor trying to come to terms with the death of his wife. The professor extracts the remains of his late wife and in doing so, encounters a divine presence.

Director Diffan Sina Norman dedicates Kekasih, a short film shortlisted in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, to his late father.

Director Diffan Sina Norman dedicates Kekasih, a film shortlisted in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, to his late father.

"The story is actually inspired by the relationship between the bird and the flower, a symbol that is prevalent in Iranian culture," explained Diffan who is half Iranian. "The bird needs to sing to the flower for it to blossom and the flower will only blossom to a singing bird. It is this symbiotic relationship that the short film is trying to explore."

The director added that Kekasih holds a special meaning to him. "After my father's passing in 2011, I went to clear out his office and found a copy of my script of Kekasih on his desk," he shared. "Before his death, I would always discuss the script with my dad and he would give his advice."

The short film, which took around six months to produce, is Diffan's first submission to the film festival. However, he has also made some waves with his other short film, Wanita Cosmos, way back in 2004. He left for the United States shortly after that and took up a job at a commercial production company specialising in animation and production, putting his directorial dreams in the backseat.

Diffan returned to Malaysia in 2011 and continued directing again, with works including a music video for singer MizzNina. The video, entitled With You, took home the best music video award at last year's Shout! Awards.

Diffan is currently based in both Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles as a freelance director and designer.

"It was something (my father) has always encouraged me to do – to get back into filmmaking and tell stories. I think he would have been very proud," he said, dedicating the short film to his father.

For more on Kekasih, visit

Kate Bosworth steps out of her comfort zone


DIRECTOR Gary Fleder had serious doubts when it was suggested Kate Bosworth should play Cassie in Homefront. He just couldn't see how the petite actress, best known for playing sweet roles like Sandra Dee in Beyond The Sea, could portray a meth-head mother whose drug use turned her into a vile and bitter woman.

The director ended up casting her and was happily surprised with the power Bosworth brought to the role. He calls her work "fearless."

Bosworth laughs when she hears how people are surprised that she's able to play a role that is 180° from who she really is. It shouldn't be a shock because as an actor, her job is to play all kinds of roles – even viciously angry drug users. She knew as soon as she saw the script that she wanted the role because it would be such a challenge.

"When I am sent scripts, I am always looking for the ones with characters that jump out at me. I have to know what the draw is to playing the role," Bosworth says. "In this character, it was her balance of destruction and darkness and vulnerability and humanistic side. If you take the character at face value, she can be very unsympathetic.

"But, you also have to understand that she is a girl living in world of pain. Being able to connect those dots was the draw for me. I could use all of that to make her real."

The character she creates is the match that lights a powder keg in a small Louisiana city. What starts out as a schoolyard incident is fanned into a war when Cassie turns to her brother, Gator (James Franco), the local drug czar, to help restore some of the family pride she feels has been hurt by the mysterious new guy (Jason Statham) in town.

It wasn't hard for Bosworth to build a back story for the character. The actress spent her teen years living in the small town of Cohasset, Massachusetts.

"I know what it's like to be alone, in your room, at 15 and trying to figure out a way to have your dreams fulfilled. All I have to do is look around and think what might have happened if I didn't get the life I have," Bosworth says.

It's been a good acting life so far. Since being cast in the 1998 film, The Horse Whisperer, she's gone on to earn high praise for her work in Blue Crush, Wonderland and Superman Returns.

Bosworth used a wardrobe trick she learned from costume designer Ann Roth while filming The Girl In The Park to build her Homefront character.

"Cassie is someone who has been abusing herself for a long time. I decided she would have only one or two changes of clothes. She would wear the same jeans she's probably been wearing for weeks and a shirt she picked up off the floor," Bosworth says. "Ann Roth taught me how informative wardrobe can be. My character wore a leather coat and we turned it inside out and wrote telephone numbers and names all over it. She was always on the move and this was a way of painting her life with the wardrobe."

The rest of Bosworth's transformation to play Cassie included wearing no makeup and letting her hair get dirty. The look helped her show the honesty of the character. The main truth Bosworth saw about the role was this is a woman who has far bigger concerns than her looks.

Her transformation not only won over the director, but her fellow actors.

"I was blown away with what Kate did. I mean she is a mile away from this Cassie character she portrays," Statham says.

"She really embodied this part, she did her homework and she put together a stunning performance. We were all like, 'WOW, is that Kate?' You know, she blew everyone away." – The Fresno Bee/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

 Homefront is playing in cinemas nationwide now

Hang on, Firestorm's coming!


Firestorm is as explosive as it gets when it comes to crazy stunts.

ACTORS doing their own stunts in movies is nothing new, but in Firestorm both of its main stars, Andy Lau and Gordon Lam, seemed to be flirting with danger.

The two crashed into each other in several vehicle collisions. They leapt off an exploding building. They hung on to speeding cars. They tumbled down several flights of stairs in a fist fight. They wrestled atop a wire panel suspended between two buildings.

It looked like the most dangerous movie they had ever made, yet the pair brushed aside concerns for their safety.

"That was really easy; it was all wire-work," said Lau, before adding, "Stunt work is no longer as dangerous as it used to be when I first started making movies. Now, we have three or four sets of wires attached to us. In any case, we run the risk of meeting with all sorts of accidents in our daily lives. But, on the set, we film all these stunts and action sequences under tightly-controlled situations."

While dangerous stunts did not faze Lam, there was another major challenge for him while shooting Firestorm – chilly weather. "Having to adapt to filming in the cold was quite tough. Even more so than doing the stunts, which was not a problem because we were properly prepared and had all the safety measures put in place," he noted.

Lau and Lam were in Kuala Lumpur last week to promote their movie Firestorm, which has all the elements of a 1980s HK action flick.

Playing a hardboiled senior police officer who is forced to examine his moral stand, Lau, 52, spoke about the yin and yang of the main characters.

"Our movie revolves around the premise that a good man may be pushed to flout the law due to certain circumstances. Similarly, a bad guy, may be compelled to do good."

Commenting on his role as an ex-con desperate for redemption, Lam, 46, shared that the plotwill give the viewers something to think about. "It's not just action and special effects; the audience can look forward to some issues to reflect upon.

"When I first read the script, it was the conflict within my character which held the initial attraction. Following that, how he deals with this conflict and how the decision he makes in a moment of desperation affects the eventual outcome. That was what I liked about the script."

Written and directed by Alan Yuen, Firestorm was made on a US$20mil (RM64.5mil) budget.

Speaking as a producer, Lau praised Yuen's screenplay. "With such a solid storyline, we hoped to best complement the plot with corresponding visuals. So, my focus was more on the technical aspects. Since the director was an experienced writer, the script was already in good hands. Our only concern was to bring out the best in our roles," said Lau. Firestorm is the 146th movie in Lau's illustrous career!

When asked for his memorable scenes, Lam said it he enjoyed filming with mainland Chinese actress Yao Chen.

The 34-year-old actress is best known as the queen of Weibo (Chinese equivalent of Twitter) with 58 million followers.

Citing the scene where Yao shaves his hair with an electric clipper, Lam said: "I think it is very romantic when a woman cuts your hair. That is because she hopes to help you get a fresh start. Though I may not have experienced this myself, I feelthis is a significant indication of how deep her love is. So, I really like that scene a lot."

The movie also stars Philip Keung, Kenny Wong, Oscar Leung, Michael Tong, Vincent Sze, Terence Yin, Sammy Hung, with special appearances by heavyweights Hu Jun and Ray Lui, as well as cameos by Michael Wong, Wong Cho Lam, Alex Tsui, Eddie Cheung, and Hayama Hiro.

Aside from being the opening film at Screen Singapore last week, Firestorm is also set to open the 56th Asia Pacific Film Festival to be held on Dec 13 in Macau.

* Firestorm explodes into cinemas nationwide tomorrow.


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