Malaysian cinematographer wins awards at international film festival

  • Movies
  • Friday, 03 Jul 2020

Ong Rui Jiang lines up a sunset shot for ‘Patroon’. Photo: Mario Michael Gonsalves

It was during the height of the pandemic that Malaysian director of photography, Ong Rui Jiang - who currently lives in London - learned that the Dutch film he had worked on, Patroon, received recognition at an international film festival.

The short film won the Best Cinematographer Of The Month as well as Best Cinematography For A Short Film at the Asian Cinematography Awards 2020 in Manila, Philippines.

"It was bittersweet," said the 25-year-old in an email interview of the win.

"It was at the time when the coronavirus situation had worsened in the European Union and everyone was scrambling into their newfound lives in lockdown.

"I guess the win did not hit everyone as much as we wanted it to because we just lost all our jobs for the next few months, and were internally confused as daily lockdown rules were changing by the hour and day."

However, Ong added, he's happy especially since the wins give everyone involved accreditation for future projects.

Cinematographer Ong Rui Jiang takes an exposure reading for a sunny scene. Photo: Mario Michael GonsalvesCinematographer Ong Rui Jiang takes an exposure reading for a sunny scene. Photo: Mario Michael GonsalvesBesides these two awards, Patroon was also recognised at Netherlands' HKU Awards, Netherlands Film Festival, New York Cinematography Awards and Prague International Indie Film Festival 2020.

Patroon which Ong described as a film that explores "the discrimination of young Dutch-Caribbeans in the Netherlands" is directed by Mario Michael Gonsalves.

Ong first met Gonsalves when both were attending a summer music video course at the University of South California Film School in 2015. They kept in touch while choosing their respective fields, Ong in cinematography and Gonsalves in directing.

Ong shared: "When Patroon came into pre-production, Mario sent me the initial script which I thought was a very personal and authentic piece of writing about his experience as a Dutch Carribbean youth in the Netherlands.

"At that point in time, I was starting to push my work towards more socially impactful projects that were in line with my values. As such, it didn’t take long for me to say yes."

The two have also worked together on the music video More Than OK by Dutch artiste R3HAB, featuring Clara Mae and Frank Walker.

A former national athlete on the Malaysian National Water Polo Team from 2010 to 2012, the Melaka-born went to New York to finish his last two years of high school there. From there, a pre-college course in filmmaking led him to apply for filmmaking courses to universities.

"The decision to pursue filmmaking was one of the riskiest but best decision I have made to date," said Ong, who graduated from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts in 2017

A scene from the award-winning short film 'Patroon'.A scene from the award-winning short film 'Patroon'.

He knew he wanted to be a cinematographer when he was doing an internship in Los Angeles. "(There) I connected with a gaffer and a camera operator who took me under their wings and opened my eyes to the world of high end Film and TV productions."

After graduating, Ong moved to Los Angeles and worked on voluntary basis and as a freelancer, establishing as many contacts as possible. This led to some paying gigs like shooting music videos and commercials.

"I worked with companies such as Vogue, ESPN, Tiffany & Co, and on the TV series, Lethal Weapon S2. Other productions include music videos with talents such as Nicki Minaj, Drake, Elle Fanning and Big Sean."

Ong working behind the scene before a shoot. Photo: Sebastian KoudijzerOng working behind the scene before a shoot. Photo: Sebastian KoudijzerOng is now based in London, where he is looking to create new long-term creative partnerships with upcoming directors, and at the same time working as a camera technician.

When asked what the win means to him personally, Ong replied: "The win means a lot to my career.

"As I started picking up jobs in April after a bleak month in March, the coronavirus hit and I lost a number of jobs. These wins give me at least the exposure and accreditation I need to push my career once the industry gets back in motion.

"Artistically, the win also means that I did the right thing by choosing the right stories to shoot. As this was my first professional narrative, it also meant a lot to receive this kind of acknowledgement."

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