THE Covid-19 pandemic encourages us to practise social distancing. We have less communication with our colleagues, classmates, friends and lovers. We use modern technology such as the Zoom app to stay in touch with our loved ones.
In the spirit of this new normal, filmmaker Andy Darrel Gomez used Zoom to direct a 16-minute short film called The Dogs.
Shot last June, it will be screened at the Cinema Del Cefalu festival in Italy, in June.
The story centres on a Zoom conversation between two young lovers named Nigel and May. Like us, the couple also face restrictions because of the pandemic. The film shows the tension and sometimes humourous moments encountered by the love birds.
“Art is always a response to what is happening around us,” said the 31-year-old filmmaker, who is a lecturer in the Department of Performance and Media at Sunway University.
“We are currently adapting to the changes that the pandemic has brought to our lives. We are going through some kind of transition. I captured the emotions of this transition between the couple in my film.”
Gomez does not deny that there are times the audience might feel the couple are using each other as a coping mechanism to adapt to the changes of their new atmosphere.
“You might be questioning if the couple are really in love,” said the filmmaker, who was born in Malacca and raised in Kuala Lumpur.
While shooting the film, the actress Geraldine Piong was staying in her grandmother’s house in Kajang while the actor Nigel Zhen was in his hometown in Miri, Sarawak. Both are students who are set to graduate this month with a diploma in performing arts.
“I was shooting their actual room,” said Gomez, who is an English Linguistics and Performing Arts graduate from University Putra Malaysia.
He asked his actors to send pictures of their rooms and he sculpted his narrative based on the things he found in their rooms.
Gomez was active on stage and screen and some of his prominent stage works include Veil at the launch of the Yasmin Ahmad museum in 2014 and Tiga, supported by the Five Arts Centre in 2017.
In cinema, he works predominantly as a writer and actor where some of his short films were screened at film festivals in Japan and the United States.
“Right now, I would like to balance myself between teaching film and telling stories through filmmaking.
“I cannot choose between the two. I believe both has the same aim. Teaching allows me to make my students become critical thinkers while filmmaking also allows me to make my audience become critical thinkers.”
On the short film, Piong said she knew her lecturer was dabbling in something experimental.
“I fully trusted him with the project and I also trusted myself to say yes to the opportunity,” said Piong, who also aspires to be a filmmaker.
About her role, Piong said: “I think she brings the emotional baggage from her past into the current relationship. I feel everyone can connect with her. Sometimes, we find difficulty cutting ties with our past.”
Piong, who is a freelance photographer, said she loves telling stories through images, adding: “Filmmaking makes my life purposeful.“
Zhen said he was excited about the prospect of being a part of the project, and that he could easily relate to his character.
“I have dealt with loneliness and puppy love in the past. My character can be self-absorbed and has a lot of attachment issues. But I have grown since and am no longer like my character.
He added that many couples were faced with break-ups during the lockdown period.
“I believe the fact that they cannot see each other physically takes a toll on their relationship.”
Like Piong, Zhen also wants to be a filmmaker. He said he would love to try his luck outside Malaysia, in the film industries in Thailand and Brazil, and gain new perspectives in filmmaking in the process.