More than just about cars, the BMW brand has been a much appreciated supporter of the local arts scene. The BMW Shorties is Malaysia’s longest running and most prestigious short film competition.
Slightly more than 10 years ago, the success of the late Yasmin Ahmad got the attention of not just the people at BMW Group Malaysia, but also the ones at the company’s headquarters at Munich, Germany. The BMW Group believes that there are many young talents in Malaysia who can produce great films but they lack the platform and support to showcase their work, and that was the impetus to the BMW Shorties.
In the same way BMW’s The Hire - still the world’s most successful branded Internet short film – does not impose rigid expectations on the film makers hired to produce the film, the BMW Shorties contest imposes no rigid rules on the participating film makers.
The films doesn’t have to revolve around BMW, or even cars. In fact, there are many scenes in the finalists’ films where cars made by other companies are clearly visible.
The contest doesn’t just aim to give financial reward to the winning film maker, but also professional guidance on his/her next film project.
This year’s edition of BMW Shorties saw the highest number of finalists and submissions in the contest’s ten year history, with 12 films selected out of the 115 films submitted to the jury.
‘Hawa’, a short film by Tan Ce Ding has emerged as the Grand Prize Winner. He will be receiving a production grant of RM 75,000 from BMW Group Malaysia alongside guidance and mentorship from the panel of judges to produce his next professional short film.
Tan is a fine example of a persevering young man, as he has been a contestant since 2010, has been placed in the Top 10 Finalist five times but has never won the competition until now.
Set in a post-apocalyptic zombie-plagued Malaysia, ‘Hawa’ tells the story of friendship between Hawa, a girl who has been infected by a zombie bite and a carefree boy named Meng. Through the clever use of symbolism, Director Tan Ce Ding effectively communicates the nature of the journey of friendship – specifically its vulnerability to the toxicity of social issues which is likened to a zombie pandemic in the film threatening the friendship between Hawa and Meng.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Tan Ce Ding, Director of ‘Hawa’ said, “After several years of participating in the BMW Shorties, I am thrilled to have finally won the Grand Prize together with a team who believed in a story as bold as ‘Hawa’ and successfully retold it through passion and excellence. When the theme ‘Journey’ was announced, we decided to pursue a short film which not only entertains but also shares the journey human relationships undergo – the threats it face and its persistence to triumph in spite of.”
Tan elaborated that the symbolism used in ‘Hawa’, saying that the zombie outbreak can be interpreted as anything which threatens the bond between individuals.
“Just like the zombie pandemic which came between Hawa and Meng, ill-conceived ideas are like diseases infecting our society – posing risks to human relationships conceived out of goodwill. But more than exposing the frailty of human relationships, we wanted to remind the audience to appreciate and fight for the humanity within all of us – that inherently, we seek to bond with one another in spite of social issues threatening to separate us. And in the short film, we see just that in the persevering friendship between Hawa and Meng”, says Tan.
Told through dialogue sparse scenes, ‘Hawa’ provokes a potent blend of emotions on top of relaying bold themes through ingenious symbolism and competent filmmaking – all of which forged a lasting impact in the judges’ deliberation room this year.
Lina Tan, who has judged in the BMW Shorties for the sixth year, said, “In all my years of judging, ‘Hawa’ has exceeded my expectations as not only a competent genre film but one which is bold enough to assume a Malaysian flavour. The seamless amalgamation of a blockbuster-level theme like a zombie outbreak together with a raw Malaysian setting to tell the story is what sets it apart from the other entries.”
Filmmaker Nadira Ilana, who joins the BMW Shorties’ judging board for the first time, commented on the use of symbolism in a dialogue-limited script, “As seen in ‘Hawa’, the use of symbolism is a powerful storytelling tool due to its ability to provoke thoughts covertly and hence with impact. The story of ‘Hawa’ is one of great maturity and nobility because it infects the audience with ideas with a hope to incite change. At the same time, it does not compromise on entertainment or room for the imaginative to derive deeper meanings.”
Fellow judge and acclaimed filmmaker Liew Seng Tat reciprocates praise for ‘Hawa’, saying, “The attention to specifics in the production design for ‘Hawa’ is exceptional. For example, props like the green toy soldiers positioned near the barred windows of Hawa’s bedroom conveys the girl’s yearning for protection against zombies. Props which seem to lie about randomly throughout the short film in truth were key in sustaining the dire atmosphere of a plagued world whilst helping to narrate the story.”
Meanwhile, celebrated sound editor and guest judge Lee Chatametikool remarked on the sound design of ‘Hawa’, “Sound design, in the case of ‘Hawa’, is impressive as it helped evoke emotions the director and scriptwriter desire in the audience. Audibility was tailored to draw the audience into a deep empathy which in turn equips them to identify with not only the main characters but to internalize the core themes in the short film.”
Commenting on the overall impression on ‘Hawa’, Singaporean producer and guest judge Yuni Hadi said, ‘Hawa has all the makings for an award-winning short film. It has compelling visuals and cinematography, thoughtful production design, evocative soundtrack, and above all, a powerful story. It is truly a creation deserving of recognition – both locally and abroad.”
On top of the Grand Prize honour, ‘Hawa’ also took home the awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Sound Design. The production was also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Actor, and Best Actress.
The BMW Shorties Grand Prize Winner and Finalists short films can be viewed on the BMW Shorties website (www.bmwshorties.com.my). For more information, visit the BMW Shorties Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BMWShorties.