Film: Taiping goes to Cannes

The film­mak­ers be­hind at the Marché du Film in Cannes. on their ex­pe­ri­ence

Esquire (Malaysia) - - MAN AT HIS BEST - Taiping Ada­gio Words by Ta­nia Jay­ati­laka “pasar”

Scene from Taiping Ada­gio, which was screened at the Marché Du Film at Cannes, ear­lier this year.

Award-win­ning Malaysian film­mak­ing duo John Cho and Benji Lim clearly get a kick out of com­par­ing their Marché du Film ex­pe­ri­ence at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in May, dur­ing which films from all over the world are screened and sold on a daily ba­sis, to that of a “pasar”.

In truth, the com­par­i­son isn’t far off the mark. The Marché is an in­ter­na­tional film mar­ket that at­tracts over 10,000 par­tic­i­pants—film­mak­ers, in­vestors, vis­i­tors—who come to­gether to net­work, pre­view films in the fi­nal stages of com­ple­tion, so­licit fi­nan­cial sup­port for pro­jects and seek dis­tri­bu­tion for com­pleted films.

It was for this gath­er­ing that Cho and Lim’s fea­ture film, Taiping Ada­gio, was se­lected for screen­ing along­side four other Malaysian films un­der the “Malaysia Goes to Cannes” pro­gramme by the Na­tional Film Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion of Malaysia (FINAS).

“FINAS has been try­ing to re­vive the Malaysian film in­dus­try through a lot of ef­forts,” says Cho, Taiping Ada­gio’s di­rec­tor and lead writer. “They bought a slot in the Marché sched­ule and de­cided to show five films that were com­plete or about to be com­pleted. We sub­mit­ted our film for con­sid­er­a­tion and, af­ter about two weeks, we got word back that we had been se­lected.”

They say their time at the Marché was un­like any other, de­spite the fact that nei­ther Cho nor Lim are new to the film­mak­ing scene. While Cho has won best short film awards and prizes at film fes­ti­vals like the 2015 Fes­ti­val Filem Malaysia Ke-

27, the Sundance Chan­nel Shorts and the 2009 BMW Shor­ties (Malaysia), Lim, the film’s pro­ducer, has co-di­rected films like the Joshua Tapes (2010) and Cuak (2014).

“It’s a very weird thing. I’d never been to a film screen­ing like that be­fore. You’re play­ing [the film] to pro­gram­mers, buy­ers, Malaysians in­ter­ested in Malaysian films, and peo­ple who maybe got con­fused and just went into the hall, since it was an open screen­ing,” Cho quips.

He con­tin­ues: “It was hard to gauge what the gen­eral re­ac­tion was to Taiping Ada­gio; it was more like a busi­ness screen­ing. We tried not to put too much pres­sure on our­selves to fi­nalise any­thing. Pro­fes­sion­als had told us that many trans­ac­tions con­cluded at Cannes were ac­tu­ally ne­go­ti­ated over the course of a whole year. As new­com­ers, we just soaked up the at­mos­phere and tried to un­der­stand ev­ery­thing. It was re­ally an eye-opener.”

“It was an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Lim adds light-heart­edly. “You’re sit­ting at a ta­ble by the beach, and there are all these well-dressed peo­ple stand­ing around. Half the time, I’d be there with a beer in my hand, think­ing, ‘I so do not be­long here.’”

At this point, Cho steps in and mo­men­tar­ily aban­dons his “pasar” metaphor for an­other com­par­i­son al­to­gether: “We felt like we were right in the belly of the beast: the main mar­ket­place was in a mul­ti­level au­di­to­rium with sev­eral pavil­ions out­side for in­ter­na­tional co-pro­duc­tions. The front was this glo­ri­ous red-car­pet en­trance with steps and a huge hang­ing poster stat­ing ‘Cannes

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