All posts filed under: On the Radar

Dandelion and spores flying across blue skies | Where my Heart Leads

A Film Festival fosters inclusivity

In a breezy corner of a mall-slash-hall, 20-30 seat-long rows arched before the stage. Neighborhood folks came in their homewear, kids and sometimes grandparents in tow. When they advertised this as a community screening, it truly was a community screening. A little girl climbed up on stage to play during the screening, yet nobody was too fussed to haul her off. The film continued to roll, the little girl played for a bit and climbed down of her own accord eventually. I was surprised by the large turnout for a niche film, in Malay. It drew a large crowd of at least a hundred. REDHA, based on a true story, enraptured the audience as it tells the gripping, yet moving journey about a family rising above the harsh realities of raising a child with Autism. Thanks to superb acting, I couldn’t be sure if the boy who plays the main character was autistic or if he was acting. Turns out the young actors Harith Haziq and Izzy Zulkhazreef shadowed autistic children to help them get …

Portrait photo of Isamu Noguchi by Mimi Jacobs 1977 | Where My Heart Leads

Meet Noguchi: Design & Art for a better world

Prologue Twenty years ago, I first saw Noguchi’s work at his museum in New York. I assumed he was Japanese or Japanese-American by the name. The Japanese aesthetics infused his works – the stones plucked from a zen garden, the minimalist forms helped corroborate my assumption. Skip forward a couple years, I went to Paris for training at my first job in a French cosmetics company. With a couple days to explore the city, my boss recommended that I check out the Pompidou Centre.  Nothing at the Pompidou struck a cord. At the doorstep of the industrial facade of the Pompidou however, sits a quaint, nondescript structure. It’s the Constantin Brancusi atelier. Brancusi (1876-1957) was a self-taught sculptor. Legend has it that he walked on foot from his hometown in Romania to France.  One enters the atelier and follows an elliptical trajectory circumventing a cluster of Brancusi pieces, separated by glass. Brancusi’s sculptures are magnetic. I had found myself encircling his works at the MOMA as if looking harder might enable a deeper connection. A …

What shocked me about the world as I knew it

It was like a revelation. A shocker – my life as I had known it has been like a frog living at the bottom of the well. The revelation came about thanks to Michael Moore’s heartful film Where to Invade Next. He takes us on an ‘invasion’ to ‘steal’ the best ideas of ways of life from other countries. Growing up in Hong Kong with access to information, learning amongst “great minds” in the US, and travelled a decent bit – I thought I had a fair understanding of the world. It was not until Where to Invade Next that I realised I held a limiting perspective on how life can be. Eye-opening ways of the world In Norway, prisoners run their own prisons and even have keys to their own ‘cells.’ Meanwhile in Portugal, all recreational drugs are legal. And as a result of legalisation, drug-use actually dropped! In France, children are served four-course meals at school everyday. And in Finland, some of the high-scoring students in the world don’t grow up with homework …

Alain Ducasse secret sauce

Alain Ducasse may be known for his Michelin stars, but he is so much for than a chef. Food is ephemeral. You can have a great dining experience, but it’s “Ichi Go Ichi E” (一期一会)as the Japanese say. Every occasion – the people-place-and-time is unique – can never be replicated again. So, cherish the experience. Recognise it and be in the present. Unlike architects who have monumental masterpieces for future generations to experience, or film-makers, novelists whose work can be savoured by future generations. With chefs and their creations, it’s for the now. Message in food Food is powerful, because it’s so primary. Regardless of background, people can appreciate food. Food brings people together. In celebrations as well as troubled times, offering sustenance and relief. In one of my favorite Romance films – A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story, the palace head chef is tasked to create a meal for the leaders of the warring factions. The chef and his wife-partner understood the enormity of the task. Cutting no corners, they traversed the …

Thailand's King Bhumibol legacy | Where My Heart Leads

Thai King Bhumibol: Inspiring Nations

On a recent trip to Bangkok, I got a different taste of Thailand. Instead of the shopping and eating, we visited some sites. I visited the huge reclining Buddha at Wat Pho (sounds like “What For?”) with intricate mother of pearl inlays and en route swung by an amazingly well-kept temple site Wat Arun. Walking through the intricately-built and colorful Wat Arun temple grounds just a couple ferry stops from the main commercial area, I was struck by the fact that Thailand, some few hundred years ago, had preserved such wealth of culture, riches, and know-how evident from the well-kept structures and temples at the grounds of Wat Arun. Upon further investigation, Thailand is the only South East Asian country not colonised by European powers. Thanks to their King’s determination and the unity of the country – the royal family and nobles practically emptied their cofers that they had saved over two generations to pitch in and pay up in defending their nation. The Upbringing of a Statesman But my focus is King Bhumibol, the …

Havana Divas in full stage costume | Where My Heart Leads

Unexpected Encounters: Havana Divas and Chinese diaspora

Little did I know, that I was in for a treat with the Havana Divas that evening. I probably was not the only one with question marks over my head when we saw two westerners, age 80+ singing and performing Cantonese Opera complete with gestural expressions. You see, unlike Italian Opera, which is relatively ‘mainstream’, Cantonese Opera is a rare specimen that I had believed only existed in my part of the world. As Cantonese Chinese myself, I had not watched even one performance before that night. They were impressive – not only because of the authenticity of their performance, which was surprisingly true to the art. (The way they pronounced the words, and the way they sung, you feel they were bringing through customs of a different era.) But their story offers a window into the Chinese histories of diaspora. Caridad Ho age 87 and Georgina Wong age 89 hail from Cuba, halfway around the globe and are living links to another era.  Their expressive and genuine ballads enraptured the audience. After a moving performance, the two …

Book cover of I.M. Pei A Profile in American Architecture | Where My Heart Leads

Salute to IM Pei

“To have something that lasts, means that you’ve really gotten hold of the essence of things. The only thing that can last is really the essence. Otherwise, it’s transitory, it’s fashion.” – IM Pei My intrigue with IM Pei began with his short two-minute appearance in Louis Kahn’s documentary “My Architect” a documentary where Kahn’s son catalogue the life of his father. It was the first ‘video’ I saw of Pei. It surprised me by how frank and honest he was, how funny he seems and most of all – for someone with Pei’s renown and level of success, he had much praise and respect for Kahn. In the documentary, IM Pei recounts sitting next to Louis Kahn at some event. The two chit-chatted and Pei praised Kahn for the Richards laboratory, which he thought “was really a marvellous group of buildings. “Those building are really one of your best.” To which Kahn responds, “Ah, the best is yet to come!“ From that little exchange, it seemed the two hit it off. Later in the interview, Kahn’s …

Director/Star Justin Chon (credit: George Ko, Giant Robot Media) | Where My Heart Leads

Justin Chon: ‘Strangebird’ on radar

“Do you want to watch gook?” my brother asked. “What’s it about?” “LA riots.” (LA riots? Never heard of it.) “Oh. No thanks.” As he was getting gook to play on tv, I looked it up. Halfway through the trailer, I called out from my room, “Ok, I’m watching. Start from the beginning, please.”  The film plays, I’m like, hey this guy looks familiar. He’s the YouTuber. Justin Chon felt like a ‘strange bird’ – quirky, yet real in his YouTube videos. He looked Asian, but wasn’t your ‘typical’ Asian kid – you can’t quite put a finger on him. In his older YouTube intros, against, fun, child-like music he peeks out from a plastic dumpster, flips open the dumpster lid and leaps out with a bouquet of colorful balloons in one hand and a big, wide grin on his face. As if he’s going to “litter” the world with colorful balloons in ways you wouldn’t expect. gook was refreshing gook was refreshing. The storyline was refreshing. The cast was Korean Americans and African Americans. It …