AN ailing father lives in his own world. He reconnects with his deceased wife through a small radio, much to the disapproval of his adult son who has returned from the city to take care of him.
The touching relationship between a father and son depicted in the 11-minute Malaysian short film My Ba’s Radio touched many hearts around the world.
It won for Best Short Film at the Mantova Lovers Film Festival in Italy in 2019 and has since travelled to film festivals in Japan, France, India and the United States.
theSun recently met with 26-year-old filmmaker Victor Chen Yee Fei, who revealed what inspired him to craft the moving tale.
Is it true that the film is loosely based on real-life events?
“Yes. I lost my father [when I was] 18. He was coughing blood and was immediately admitted to the hospital. Two weeks later he passed away.
Later we found out that he was suffering from stage three lung cancer. He was only 56. Too young to die.
“My father and I were very close when I was young. We played football and swam together. My father brought me to see my first film in the cinema when I was seven. But when I became a teenager, we grew apart. I found it difficult to talk to him.
“I regret that I could not bridge the gap with my father before he died. I decided to make a short film based on my relationship with him, while throwing some fictional elements into the story. The short film is my way of dealing with the pain of losing my father.”
You shot your film in your father’s hometown of Semenyih, in the house where your father grew up.
“Yes. The house is 60 years old. My grandfather had stayed in the house since he was six years old. The house now belongs to one of my aunties.
The house has an indoor well, and has hidden passages which were used to hide children during the Malaysian race riots of 1963.
“My aunty has plans to do major renovations on the house, and I wanted to capture the house my father grew up in on film before the renovations were carried out. I am trying to convince my aunty to keep the indoor well.”
What is the next project you are working on?
“For my next project I am going to focus on my relationship with my mother. She held the family together after my father’s death. I am very close to my mother.
“In 2015, I went to intern at [a film studio overseas]. I was separated from my mother. I want to explore the challenges that a mother and son go through when they get separated. Subconsciously, it is preparing me for the day my mother and I may be separated [permanently].
“I am going to present the story in an animation format. I have never done animation before. It will be interesting to explore this format of storytelling. I am consulting Hassan Muthalib, who is known as the father of animation in the Malaysian film industry, for this project.”
What changes would you like to see take place in the Malaysian film industry?
“Most Malaysian audiences are only exposed to Hollywood and mainstream films. I went to [film festivals overseas] and have seen teachers bringing schoolchildren to watch films. The students are exposed to different genres of film. I would like to see the same thing taking place here.”
Who are the filmmakers you admire?
“Wong Kar Wai is my first love. His Chungking Express impressed me. It was a guerrilla filmmaking style. He showed how films do not need big cameras. You just need a humanistic story.
“The other filmmaker I admire is Terrence Malick. I really loved his Tree of Life. His films are self-discoveries with elements of spirituality and the supernatural.”
Do you have any Malaysian filmmaker whom you admire?
“(The late) Yasmin Ahmad. She was a gentle and loving soul ... Her stories were always genuine. She liked to say ‘Not everyone is born creative. We became creative by observing other people.’ I like observing everything around me.”