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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 26 — Japan-based Malaysian filmmaker Lim Kah Wai shares his dream of a better future in a new world “where cherry blossom trees will always be in full bloom” in Come and Go, the final installment of his trilogy set against the backdrop of Japan’s second-largest city of Osaka.
Come and Go, a continuation of his two previous movies New World and Fly Me to Minami made 10 years ago, is Lim’s most ambitious movie so far and it depicts the struggles of local and foreign workers as they strive to achieve their dreams in a country facing a boom in its tourism, film and even halal industries.
Lim is very excited as the film has been selected to be presented at the 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), which will take place from October 31 until November 9.
“The festival is an opportunity for me to showcase my film to the Japanese audience (on the big screen) since most cinemas in Japan have reopened after the easing of the lockdown imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he told Bernama in an interview recently.
Lim had returned to Kuala Lumpur for Chinese New Year in January this year and was “stranded” in the country following the enforcement of the movement control order in March. He returned to Osaka, where he is now mostly based, earlier this month.
Lim, 47, graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Osaka University in 1998. He worked in Tokyo for six years before quitting his job to study directing at the Beijing Film Academy in China. He has so far made eight films, including the trilogy.
Lim won the Audience and Technical Contribution Award by Cineastes Organisation Osaka for the first instalment of his trilogy New World which is based on a Chinese tourist’s experiences of a Japan she has never known before and is set against Osaka’s history and charm.
Eight short stories
Come and Go, which is vying for the audience award at TIFF, features eight stories — filmed against the backdrop of the mesmerising beauty of the brief cherry blossom season — and 14 principal pan-Asian characters hailing from Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Japan.
The movie depicts their struggle to find solace in the business district of Umeda in contemporary Osaka where they work but all of them share the same dream of a better future.
“That’s the reality of life (now) as people, irrespective of whether they are Japanese or foreigners, grow more introverted and obstructive without any care for political issues or other issues affecting society as their main aim is to make more money.
“We live in a parallel world since we all have our own problems and our own lives,” he explained.
On the difference between Come and Go and his earlier two films, Lim said his latest movie shows Osaka as a more vibrant cosmopolitan city compared to 10 years ago.
“The city is a magnet for business executives and more foreigners are working there too. Tourism has been booming too, spurred by AirAsia flights to Japan,” he said.
He said although Osaka as a homogenised city in Japan has opened up to foreigners — especially with the influx of foreign workers — cultural and social barriers still exist.
“Most of the characters and episodes in Come and Go are based on my own observations and experience of the dreams and goals of both the Japanese and foreigners, including the social skeletons,” Lim enthused.
The short stories in Come and Go — directed, written and edited by Lim and with a running time of 158 minutes — features a travel executive from Malaysia on a business trip to Japan; a refugee from Nepal who works in Japan to build his dream of owning a restaurant; a student from Myanmar working part-time; a migrant worker from Vietnam; and a tourist from China.
It also portrays a Japanese girl who has to work as a nude model to make ends meet, a porn video director from Okinawa, a porn addict from Taiwan, a Japanese police detective, a Japanese language teacher and a half-Japanese, half-American odd-job worker.
As the Japanese and foreigners grow more indifferent towards one another, it is only apt that the film opens with a discovery of the skeletal remains of an elderly Japanese woman whose body lies unnoticed for months in her own home.
On the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on cinemas, Lim said in Japan, the people are now trying to get their lives back in order after a prolonged period of deflation and falling consumer prices, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, and they are now realising the importance of cinemas and the film industry in their lives.
“Dreams are blossoming again after a period in the doldrums, and people are (beginning) to enjoy watching films in the cinemas.
“I think this is the same trend in China, America and Europe with the reopening of cinemas after a period of lockdown due to Covid-19,” he said.
While in Malaysia recently, Lim went backpacking across Sabah and Sarawak for one-and-a-half months after the movement restrictions were eased, looking for inspiration for his next film which is likely to be set in either one of the Bornean states.
“I am thinking about a suspense thriller set in a beautiful seaside in Sabah or Sarawak. Hopefully, I can complete the script next year and approach some producers and make it happen,” he added.
Outside Asia, this adventurous filmmaker has made films set in the Balkan region in Slovenia and Croatia and is now ready to explore Turkey. — Bernama