Film: Taiping goes to Cannes
The filmmakers behind at the Marché du Film in Cannes. on their experience
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