After winning the Platform prize in Toronto in 2018 with his “Cities of Last Things,” Malaysian director Ho Wi Ding’s latest effort “Terrorizers” will get its premiere at the Canadian festival this month. It boasts shock value, stylish delivery and a director who has done his time serving convention and is now desperate to break the rules.
“Cities” was a three-part film in reverse order that enthralled some audiences – the Platform jury called it “deeply moving” – and infuriated others, who felt that the reverse chronology sub-genre is somehow the unique preserve of Christopher Nolan.
The twisty new picture, with multiple narratives about love, desire, envy and revenge, has similar potential to become a talking point that entertains and divides.
“ ‘Terrorizers’ is about a public slashing incident committed by a young man. It is about what happens before and after the event, and about the other five characters with whom he crosses paths,” says Ho.
The Malaysia-born, New York Film School-educated, Ho is something of a multi-genre character himself. As his career has taken him from commercials to Silicon Valley and on to feature film, Ho has become a nomad, basing himself alternately in Taiwan, Beijing and Bangkok. (Exhaustion after multiple trans-Pacific trips and three quarantines means he won’t be traveling to Toronto with the film.)
Ho’s feature debut was comedy drama “Pinoy Sunday,” a much-admired fish out of water tale about the plight of Filipino workers in Tokyo. It boasted an unimpeachably linear narrative structure. He followed that in 2015 with “Our Sister Mambo,” the loose adaptation of two classic 1960s movies from the Cathay stable.
Thereafter, news junkie Ho clamored to start messing around with structure.
“When you read the news headlines, you get the gist of what led up to the event. But as the news story progress, you are given more perspective about the past and often the news you previously read no longer appears to be the truth.” Something similar need to happen in film, Ho believes.
“As I get older, I find myself getting bored by the film world: its purposeful narrative, specific genre, protagonists, heroes, three-act structures, and so on. In this increasingly complex world, life has more interesting stories that any movie can offer,” says Ho.
“Movies stress the high drama of extraordinary events. Real life heightens the transitional moments between events. [In the movie industry] tragedy or catastrophe becomes a hook for a marketing trailer, or is labeled as a climax of the movie, as if the movie is only in service of “climax”. The series of moments before the tragedy and aftermath are what I find most interesting and most true-to-life.
Ho’s trailer for “Terrorizers” can be found here.