Identity, incomplete understanding and urban poverty are among the many themes touched upon in “Oasis of Now,” which is set to make its debut next month in the prestigious New Currents competition section of the Busan International Film Festival.
The story revolves around a mother and a daughter who inhabit the invisible corners of an old apartment block in Kuala Lumpur. They meet in the stairwells, play furtive games and snatch moments of shared happiness, before slinking off to their separate homes. The mother thinks she is doing the right thing, but it is not clear that she has the full picture.
“Oasis of Now” is the feature debut of Chia Chee Sum, a Malaysian director and producer who joins a growing crowd of Southeast Asian filmmakers quietly boosting the region’s profile and reputation for high quality, low budget art filmmaking and making use of a pan-regional production methodology.
“Oasis of Now” bears the hallmarks of the Euro-Asian projects market, development labs and indie support system that has created an underpinning for independently-made art films in a region where government support is modest and local box office support is still thinner.
It was developed at SEAFIC (winner of the SEAFIC Award), a now defunct year-long lab based in Thailand, and presented at the Talents Tokyo, SGIFF Southeast Asian Producers Network, Berlinale Talents Project Market and Torino Film Lab Next – Audience Design Workshop. Additionally, Chia is an alumnus of Busan’s Asian Film Academy.
The film received funding from Malaysia’s MyCreative Ventures, Singapore’s IMDA/Singapore Film Commission, France’s CNC, the Berlinale World Cinema Fund, Purin Pictures, Talents Tokyo – Next Masters Support Program, and the Locarno festival’s Open Doors program, where it won the Prix Arte Kino International Award.
Structured as a private three-nationality co-production, “Oasis of Now” is produced by Malaysian firms theCommonist and Afternoon Pictures, along with Singapore’s Akanga Film Asia and France’s La Fabrica Nocturna Cinéma. Both Fran Borgia (Tiger Stripes”) at Akanga and Xavier Rocher at Nocurna Cinema have dozens of indie films to their credit, including this year’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time, by Jow Zhi Wei, a Singapore-Taiwan-France-Portugal co-production that premiered in the Berlinale Generation 14plus competition.
Shot by Spanish’s cinematographer Jimmy Gimferrer (“Tiger Stripes”) and accompanied by work of music composer Teo Weiyong (winner of the Golden Horse for Yeo Siew Hua’s “A Land Imagined”), Chia’s picture makes use of a mixed cast of professional, first-time and non-professional performers and the residential block that the director previously lived in.
Watch the trailer for “Oasis of Now” ahead of its New Currents debut: https://youtu.be/EYfj65AS7bs
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