ANWAR JOHARI HO is a Malaysian filmmaker of Bajau-Chinese descent from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The 24-year-old lad has a Masters in Film. He graduated from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.
Last year, his debut short film Forget Me Not premiered at the prestigious Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Festival 2019 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
The 17-minute short film in Mandarin and Cantonese earned the Best International Short award at Jaffna International Film Festival 2019 in Sri Lanka, and Best Sound Design at Seashorts Film Festival 2019 in Malaysia.
Forget Me Not is a romantic drama period piece set in late 1990s London. Told in three parts, over three different nights, and in three different years; the story revolves around a romantic encounter between a Malaysian Chinese and a Chinese mainlander who are both immigrants working in London. Anwar is currently working as an in-house film director at Stardust Media Sdn Bhd.
What motivated you to become a filmmaker?
“I have always enjoyed film since I was young. But it never occurred to me that I would be making films in my adult years.
“I was studying for a law degree in United Kingdom. Pursuing the law degree was not my first choice. I wanted to be a writer or a journalist. I wanted to tell stories. I was still searching for my goal in life.
“After completing my law degree, I pursued a Masters in Film. I can tell stories through films. I also love photography. I though it would be great to put my photography skills into moving pictures.
“One film that I watched while I was studying law was Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild. I was completely enthralled by the movie and the way the director chose to tell the story in the most interesting manner. The movie pushed me to learn more about filmmaking and to tell my own stories.”
You have just shot your second short film. Tell us about more about your new project?
“This 15-minute film was shot in the place I was born and raised (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah). The film has not premiered in any film festival yet. The story centres on an Indonesian immigrant who is spending his last day with his Sabahan girlfriend before she flies off to Japan. The short film explores the relationship between an immigrant and a citizen of the country.”
What kind themes have you been exploring in your works?
“Currently I am exploring the theme of displacement. The theme is close to my heart. I have been away from my home for a long time. I have been in the United Kingdom for the last six years. Currently, I am working in Kuala Lumpur. When you are away from the place you call home, you feel some kind of displacement.”
What are your future plans? Where will we see you in five years’ time?
“Hopefully directing my first feature film. The story has been playing in my mind for the past five years. It will be a love letter to my hometown Kota Kinabalu, and my childhood years. My dad is a Chinese Muslim while my mum is ethnic Bajau. Sabah is so different from West Malaysia. I could not explain the difference in words. All I can say is we are just different.”
What kind of challenges do you face as a Malaysian filmmaker?
“The stories I want to tell are not really commercial, so it will be difficult to get funding for my films. Some of the audience might even find my movies to be slow. I must get a producer who believes in the stories I want to tell.”
Are there any Malaysian filmmakers you admire?
“Yasmin Ahmad. The way she told her stories are the way I want to tell my own stories. Her works resonate with my heart. I also admire Edmund Yeo (director of 2017’s Aqerat) because the emotions in his works are subtle and effective.”
What advice would you give to aspiring young filmmakers?
“Read as much as you can. Reading helps you to get inspiration for your movie. Also, watch movies from all kinds of languages [or countries]. Never miss the opportunity to work on a film set, even though you might be a runner in the production. When you are on the set, just observe and learn. The most important thing is to tell stories that are close to your heart.”