Malaysian director Edmund Yeo has won the Best Director award at the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) in Japan.
He is the first Malaysian filmmaker to win the award at the prestigious film festival.
The 33-year-old Yeo received the award for his work in the film Aqerat, a film about a desperate woman who gets involved in a human trafficking ring.
Yeo came up with the story after reading news about mass graves of people thought to be mainly Rohingya human trafficking victims, which were discovered near Malaysia’s border with Thailand in 2015. The movie stars Daphne Low and Howard Hon Kahoe.
Yeo was honoured with the award at the closing of the festival held in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo today. During his speech, a visibly emotional Yeo dedicated the award to his crew, whom he called his “Aqerat family”.
“We had a very small crew, less than 20 of us. So we were like a family,” he said. “We were all multi-tasking. My line producer was also the assistant director, and also the production designer… and my lead actress Daphne had to write the poems for the film. Most of the crew members you saw also appeared in the film as actors and extras!”
“We were shooting together in the rain and shot the film in 12 days. It was an amazing experience because we were shooting in the rain and it was the monsoon season… it was an adventure!” he recalled. “The reason I’m standing here is because of my cast and crew.”
Earlier, Low was also announced as one of four winners of the newly introduced Tokyo Gemstone Award, which honours up-and-coming actors and actresses in the festival.
“Daphne is my muse. We’ve been working together for the last four years. When she came up to get the award I was almost crying!” said Yeo in his speech.
This was not the first time one of Yeo’s films is competing at TIFF. In 2014, River Of Exploding Durians, also starring Low, was also showcased at the festival three years ago. Several of his short films have also been featured in past years as well.
Besides Aqerat, Yeo was also involved in Yasmin-san, a 70-minute documentary about late filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad that was also showcased in this year’s TIFF.