Edmund Yeo Makes In-Person Tokyo Festival Visit for ‘Malu’ Premiere

© Kuan Pictures, Asahi Shimbun, Indie Works, Mam Film

Due to ongoing travel restrictions, overseas guests have been in short supply at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. Malaysia’s Edmund Yeo is a rare exception.

The filmmaker endured two-week quarantine in order to attend the world premiere of his “Malu,” a film which tracks a long-lasting discord between beautiful sisters, and unfolds in Malaysia and Japan. Yeo also gets to prepare for another upcoming shoot in Japan.

Variety: Does it feel surreal or strange to be in Tokyo at the moment?
Things are really normal here. Aside from the fact that everyone’s wearing a mask, it feels the same.

“Malu” opens in Japanese cinemas next week. That’s a first for you, isn’t it?
It’s very exciting. My films have never even been shown in Malaysia, due to censorship, and the fact that they were arthouse stuff. And unlike Japan, there are no arthouse cinemas in Malaysia.

Has the pandemic changed how you want to approach your work?
After what happened to us this year, it made me want to make more films about human connections. It was really inspiring to see how Japanese directors have been doing all these Zoom films.

You worked with editor Tina Baz on “Malu.” The film’s structure is very fluid, but did she give you new perspectives on how to stitch it all together?
She kept the film more focused, emotionally. There were a lot of sub plots and side characters that were cut off. When she made those suggestions, I was like, “Oh my god, are you sure? I nearly died shooting that scene!”

How did you find working with actor Nagase Masatoshi?
He thinks like a filmmaker too. “In your previous scene, we did this, so if I do this now, are you sure it won’t be tonally jarring?” He was really precise. That’s how I always enjoy filmmaking: it’s sort of like a jamming session, improvisational jazz.